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British Cruiser Warfare (Hardback)

The Lessons of the Early War, 1939–1941

Maritime > Naval > Royal Navy Maritime > Seaforth Publishing WWII

By Alan Raven
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 160
ISBN: 9781526747631
Published: 20th March 2019



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Cruisers were the Navy’s maids-of-all-work, employed in a greater variety of roles than any other warship type. Smaller, faster and far more numerous than battleships, they could be risked in situations where capital ships were too vulnerable, while still providing heavy gunfire support for smaller ships or anti-aircraft cover for the fleet. As such, they were in the frontline of the naval war from the outset – and from its first days, the fighting provided unexpected challenges and some very unpleasant surprises, not least the efficacy of air power.

Cruisers learned to deal with these new realities in the Norway campaign and later in the Mediterranean, partly through the introduction of new technology – notably radar – but also by codifying the hard-won experience of those involved. This highly original book analyses the first years of the war when the sharpest lessons were learned, initially describing every action and its results, and then summarising in individual chapters the conclusions that could be drawn for the many aspects of a cruiser’s duties. These include the main roles like surface gunnery, shore bombardment, anti-aircraft tactics and fighter direction, but also encompass technology like radar, asdic and shipborne aircraft, and even tackle more human issues such as shipboard organisation, damage control, the impact of weather and the morale factor. It also attempts to evaluate the importance of electronic warfare, intelligence and code-breaking, and concludes with a comparison between the performance of British cruisers and their Italian and German opponents.

Thought-provoking and sometimes controversial, this is a book that should be read by everyone interested in the Second World War at sea.

An excellent book, worth reading by anyone considering designing navies today, to fight tomorrows wars.

'The Navy' the magazine of the Australian Navy League

Overall, if you’re looking for a good book on the actions, big and small, performed by British cruisers in the first two years, plus knowledgeable essays on virtually all aspects of those actions, Raven’s British Cruiser Warfare will hit on all cylinders.

World at War magazine, #69

Taken together with his [Raven] other summaries and his detailed chronology, his book will serve as a valuable asset for decades to come for anyone interested in naval warfare during the conflict.

The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord, XXIX, No. 2 (Summer 2019) – reviewed by Mark Klobas Phoenix, Arizona

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Navy News

A fascinating, well researched and beautifully presented book by a highly acclaimed historian of Royal Navy warships which has been an absolute privilege to review.

Warships IFR, January 2020 - review by Gerry Northwood

"This book should be read by everyone interested in the Second World War at sea."

Marine News

It considers both the German and Italian Navies before we get to a closing section listing the various classes of British Cruisers of the period, with essential facts and figures about each one, and including some scale drawings. In addition to the inforative, and very readable text, it is supported by plenty of archive photos of a large number of vessels throughout the book. The lessons learnt in this early part of the war went on to be applied to operations later in the war. For anyone with an interest in WW2 naval warfare, this will be a helpful addition to your bookshelf of references.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

Published by Seaforth, this is a very high quality book with some superb photos, an extraordinary wealth of material balanced by perceptive summaries, and excellent value. I cannot rate this book highly enough and I now look forward to Volume II for the rest of the war!

Warship World, July/August 2019 – reviewed by PWM

This is a splendid piece of research, providing a detailed and accurate examination of the role of British cruisers during the first part of the Second World War, when the pattern for much of what was to come was set, and many of the hardest battles were fought or begun.

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History of War

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Model Boats, August 2019

This excellent book provides a refreshing change to the endless books on the Second World War at sea concentrating on battles, battleships, carrier battles, convoys and U-boats. I was greatly impressed by the sheer depth of detail in this book and must congratulate Alan Raven on the prodigious amount of research he must have carried out to achieve such a comprehensive and absorbing account of this neglected aspect of naval history.

John Roberts, Friends of the Royal Navy Museum, 2019

A comprehensive chronology of events from September 1939 to December 1941 which skilfully assesses the impact of such as surface gunnery, anti-aircraft tactics, ASDIC, radar, weather, damage and damage control, code breaking and intelligence to the outcome of operations from the British, Italian and German perspectives. This quality book is very clearly written, extremely well illustrated and packed with detail. It makes compelling reading and is highly recommended.

Military Historical Society

Oscar Parkes’ book on British Battleships is rightly seen as the benchmark against which any book on battleships should be judged and I would put Alan Raven’s book on British Cruisers of WW11 co- written with John Roberts in the same vein. His latest book is, in his words, an attempt “to marry actual events with the other factors that makes things work, or not work”, and it is a real gem.

Published by Seaforth, this is a very high quality book with some superb photos, an extraordinary wealth of material balanced by perceptive summaries, and excellent value. I cannot rate this book highly enough and I now look forward to Volume II for the rest of the war!

Peter Wykeham-Martin

Brilliantly written and illustrated, this is a rich and vital record of the early years of WWII from the point of view of British Cruiser warfare.

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Books Monthly

The author has offered interesting fresh insights into the maids-all-work warships during the early years of the war. – Highly Recommended

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I found this to be an excellent book which I recommend highly to a wide readership. It has obvious value to historians but contemporary naval professionals will find Raven’s description of evolution from pre-war assumptions to the harsh lessons of reality to be valuable. It is a book that stimulates the thought processes into how and why things happened; ships and weapons might have changed but the effect navies try to achieve with them has not altered greatly and much can be learnt from studying how our predecessors did things.

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Australian Naval Institute

Great book, well worth the money. Explains Admiralty thinking behind deployment of cruisers, their weapons, training, use of intelligence, deployment, action etc.
Opened my eyes to reasoning behind use of AMCs as auxilary cruisers instead of regular cruisers .in certain areas albeit they are not actually covered by the book.

Amazon Customer

The book carries many photographs of cruisers, pertinent to their time, showing variations in fit as the war progressed, and four pull-out deck diagrams of Norfolk, Exeter, Sheffield and Jamaica. The overall production standard is very high as one comes to expect from Seaforth. 10 1/2" x 8 3/4". A valuable addition to anyone's naval history library.

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

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WW2 Today

In the hundreds of book reviews I have written I don’t believe I have ever used the accolade excellent. Unreservedly this book is excellent... To anyone with a slight interest or a lot of knowledge I cannot commend this book too highly.

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Clash of Steel

With its accurate chronology, although obviously focused on the cruisers, and with its even more detailed sections that cover all aspects of a British cruiser, cannot be missed in the collection of fans of Naval history.

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Old Barbed Wire Blog

An impressive work by a well known expert on the Royal Navy... For anyone interested in British cruisers, this volume is a must, and a worthy companion to the earlier Raven and Roberts volume.

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1250 Scale

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Wargames Illustrated, February 2019

About Alan Raven

ALAN RAVEN is the well-known co-author of British Battleships of World War Two and British Cruisers of World War Two, both classic works in the field. He was also the leading light in the publication of warship monographs in the Ensign and Man’oWar series.

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