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British Destroyers (Hardback)

From Earliest Days to the Second World War

WWII Seaforth: Iron & Steel Seaforth Royal Navy

By Norman Friedman, Plans by A D Baker III
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781848320499
Published: 30th October 2009
Last Released: 6th March 2017


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In the late nineteenth century the advent of the modern torpedo woke the Royal Navy to a potent threat to its domination, not seriously challenged since Trafalgar. For the first time a relatively cheap weapon had the potential to sink the largest, and costliest exponents of sea power. Not surprisingly, Britain's traditional rivals invested heavily in the new technology that promised to overthrow the naval status quo.

The Royal Navy was also quick to adopt the new weapon, but the British concentrated on developing counters to the essentially offensive tactics associated with torpedo-carrying small craft. From these efforts came 'torpedo catchers', torpedo-gunboats and eventually the torpedo-boat destroyer, a type so successful that it eclipsed and the usurped the torpedo-boat itself. With its title shortened to 'destroyer', the type evolved rapidly and was soon in service in many navies, but in none was the evolution as rapid or as radical as in the Royal Navy

This book is the first detailed study of their early days, combining technical history with an appreciation of the changing role of destroyers and the tactics of their deployment. Like all of Friedman's books, it reveals the rationale and not just the process of important technological developments.

Friedman’s ‘British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War’ is a remarkably clear and lucid work on the early development of surface combatants – describing complex and sophisticated development activities in ways that should be understood by any professional or keen amateur. It is both a good read and illuminating. It is a work that helps us understand how modern surface combatants evolved into what they are today and helps us better understand warship design in a world where a sea fight is expected rather than a rare occurrence. ‘British Destroyers’ is highly recommended for the Australian audience.

Read the full review here

The Australian Naval Institute, Gregory P. Gilbert

if I had to choose any one book on the subject it would be this one. It is not only valuable for its technical pages and for its history of the people as well as the ships, it is also a rarity among this type of book for being highly readable just for the story. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the story of the "footsoldiers" of the Royal Navy.

Read the complete review online here.

Israel Book Review

This book is the first detailed study of their early days, combining technical history with an appreciation of the changing role of destroyers and the tactics of their deployment. As well as Friedman’s excellent narrative, the ship plans by A D Baker III and drawings by Alan Raven are to be thoroughly commended. A classic.

Read the complete review here.

Julian Stockwin action-adventure historical fiction

A large book offering a comprehensive study, with many line diagrams by A.D. Baker III and interesting photographs. These complement accounts of all the destroyer classes, from the very first torpedo boats through to the torpedo boat destroyer phase to destroyers of the world wars. There are many excellent photographs, with lengthy captions to highlight salient points. The main text is complimented with any notes and class data at the back of the book, which is very useful. This is possibly the best book that I have read on the history of British Destroyers from 1880's. It is a must for anyone interested in the evolution of RN destroyers of that era.

Warships International Fleet Review - Dec 2011

Just like all of Norman Friedman's books this excellent volume, which is the end-product of meticulous research into primary sources, combines technical history with an understanding of the evolving role(s) of destroyers as well as the rationale and tactics of their deployment. Th book is extremely well illustrated throughout with superb black and white photographs as well as line drawings by AD Baker III and Alan raven. I have no hesitation recommending this outstanding book to all those interested in the evolution of the British destroyer from the original concept to mid 1930's. Excellent value for money - a must for the bookshelf.

Marine News - August 2011

A D Baker deserves considerable credit for his contribution to the very high quality of this book. His drawings are simply brilliant. A treasure of a book' All the usual scholarly thoroughness of Friedman combined with the works of art of Baker. Naval history simply doesn't get better. This beautiful book does them great credit.

Baird maritime - December 2011

An unrivalled balance of authoritative description, in-depth analysis, technical data and detailed illustration to make it the undoubted definitive history on British destroy design. It more than equals its publishers claim to be essential reading for any maritime or naval enthusiast.

Warship 2011

Norman Friedman is very well known in the world of naval history. He has written many books on a variety of naval subjects. Your reviewer suspects, though, that destroyers are his favourites.

A D Baker is less well-known but he deserves considerable credit for his contribution to the very high quality of this book. His drawings are simply brilliant. All up, therefore, we have a treasure of a book. All the usual scholarly thoroughness of Friedman combined with the works of art of Baker. Naval history simply doesn't get any better.

Of course, the subject also helps. Britain's destroyers have been wonderful and exciting little ships, particularly in the early days. This beautiful book does them great credit.

Work Boat World
 Norman Friedman

About Norman Friedman

Norman Friedman is a strategist known for his ability to meld historical, technical, and strategic factors in analyses of current problems. He has frequently appeared on television, and he has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on naval topics. His forty books include, for Seaforth, two-volume histories of British cruisers and destroyers, a history of naval gunnery in the battleship era (Naval Firepower), a history of naval anti-aircraft gunnery during the two World Wars (Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery), World War I Naval Weapons, and, most recently, Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology. A history of British battleships is currently in preparation. All of these books are based largely on primary documents created by the Royal Navy and related organizations. As a result, they tend to shed new and sometimes surprising light on what might seem to be well-understood events and developments. All of them reflect Dr. Friedman’s interest in the way in which national strategy and policy and technology intersect. Dr. Friedman has also contributed articles on current naval technology to the annual Seaforth Naval Review. He wrote a series of design histories of U.S. warships, ranging from aircraft carriers to small combatants, based on U.S. Navy internal papers, five editions of a guide to world naval weapon systems, and accounts of trade-offs in warship (including submarine) design and naval radar technology. Other topics range from the role of space systems in naval warfare, the character of modern naval command and control (network-centric warfare), recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to histories of the Cold War, to naval strategy and to naval technology, including the possible role of unmanned (but armed) aircraft in carrier operations.

Dr. Friedman’s Cold War history, The Fifty Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War, won the 2001 Westminster Prize as the best military history book of the previous year, from the British Royal United Services Institute. To date he is the only American to have been so honored. His Seapower as Strategy won the Samuel Eliot Morrison prize awarded by the Naval Order of the United States in November 2001.

After receiving a Ph.D. as a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, Dr. Friedman spent eleven years at a New York think tank, the Hudson Institute, headed by Herman Kahn, who was famous both as a futurologist and as a strategist. Much of his work there involved writing scenarios for possible future conflicts -- many in places which are still of great interest, such as Korea. Scenario-writing demands the ability to focus on the essentials of a situation, and on the forces likely to drive it. Dr. Friedman left Hudson as Deputy Director for National Security Studies. He then spent a decade as in-house consultant to the Secretary of the Navy. Among his projects for that office was a series of studies of likely future developments in various areas, beginning with the fundamentalist Muslim uprising then enveloping Algeria, and including likely developments around the Indian Ocean. Other projects included a contribution to the formulation of post Cold War U.S. naval strategy and participation in a study of the future of U.S. surface warships. Dr. Friedman served as futurologist for the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in 2002-2004. In 2013 he wrote a history of the MRAP (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected) vehicle program as a study in successful rapid (unconventional) procurement, under contract to the MRAP Joint Program Office. He has also written an official history of U.S. Navy air defense missile systems (including anti-ballistic missile systems).

Topics Dr. Friedman has studied under contract to government agencies and to major government contractors have included the nature of future naval warfare, the defense transformation effort (as reflected in attempts to develop network-centric types of warfare), naval command and control as a model for network-centric warfare, the development of U.S. and British aircraft carriers (for the Naval Sea Systems Command and for the Office of Net Assessment, respectively, the latter as a study in defense transformation and the adoption of foreign innovations), missile defense, the future shape of the U.S.Marine Corps, the contribution of the U.S. Coast Guard to homeland defense, the future of the U.S. aerospace industry, the potential development of precision weapons, the U.S. industrial capacity for industrial mobilization, U.S. strategic targeting strategy and competitive policies, scenarios for conflict in Europe and Asia, the cost of current and future naval aircraft, nuclear proliferation (incentives and deterrents), prospects for torpedo countermeasures, the possible future shape of mine countermeasures, and the tactics of long-range anti-ship missiles, The naval missile study, conducted at the Naval War College, contributed towards the U.S. Navy’s technique for targeting anti-ship Tomahawk and was an early example of network-centric warfare. The paper which resulted from this study was said to have been very influential in the navy’s adoption of what amounted to network-centric concepts.

Dr Friedman served on the 1989 U.S. Navy study of future surface combatant characteristics and later on a navy panel reviewing U.S. Navy R&D on ship hull and machinery topics. He gave the keynote address to a classified ONR meeting on the future of surface combatants, looking out 25 to 50 years and taking Moore’s Law into account in evaluating the likely prospects of stealthy ships. During 2010 Dr. Friedman contributed to a National Academy of Sciences study of the future of shipbuilding in the United States.

Dr Friedman has lectured widely in forums such as the U.S. Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Air War College, the Australian , British, and Canadian junior and senior national staff colleges, the Royal United Services Institute, the British Ministry of Defence, and at a series of seminars for the Naval Air Systems Command managed by the University of Virginia. In the fall of 2002 Dr. Friedman served as the Royal Australian Navy’s Synott Professor, lecturing on seapower in several Australian cities. He was keynote speaker at Royal Australian Navy historical conferences, in 2009 on the theme of Commonwealth naval cooperation and in 2013 on World War I as a maritime war. In 2014 he was a keynote speaker at the Royal Navy Museum conference on the Anglo-German Naval Arms Race leading up to World War I.

For some years Dr.Friedman was Visiting Professor of Operations Research at University College, London, concerned mainly with the formulation and consequences of ship operational requirements. For about thirty years Dr. Friedman has presented numerous commercial lectures (for defense and and naval professionals) on various defense topics. A hallmark of these lectures is their firm grounding in current international political and social trends, rather than simply in technology or in military considerations.

Dr. Friedman writes a monthly column on world and naval affairs for the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. His writing has appeared widely in periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Naval Forces, Military Technology, Jane’s Navy International, Jane’s International Defence Review, Joint Forces Quarterly, Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, and Naval History.

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