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British Submarines in Two World Wars (Hardback)

WWII WWI Seaforth Submarines Naval

By Norman Friedman
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 432
Illustrations: 300
ISBN: 9781526738165
Published: 24th June 2019


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Although the Royal Navy did not invent the submarine, Norman Friedman’s new book demonstrates how innovative the service was, to an extent which few will recognise. Its submarines performed well in combat in both world wars, and often in unheralded ways. Few will be aware that in 1914 Britain had the largest submarine fleet in the world, and that at the end of World War I it had some of the largest and most unusual of all submarines – whose origins and design are all detailed.

During the First World War they virtually closed the Baltic to German iron ore traffic, and they helped block supplies to the Turkish army fighting at Gallipoli. British submarines were a major element in the North Sea battles, and they helped fight the U-boat menace. These roles led on to British submarine operations in World War II. Readers will be aware of the role of US submarines in strangling Japan, but perhaps not how British submarines in the Mediterranean fought a parallel costly but successful battle to strangle the German army in North Africa. Like their US counterparts, interwar British submariners were designed largely with the demands of a possible Pacific War, although that was not the war they fought. And the author shows how the demands of such a war, which would be fought over vast distances, collided with interwar British Government attempts to limit costs by holding down the size (and numbers) of submarines. It says much about the ingenuity of British submarine designers that they managed to meet their requirements despite enormous pressure on submarine size.

As in other books in this series, the author demonstrates how a combination of evolving strategic and tactical requirements and evolving technology produced successive types of design. The Royal Navy was always painfully aware of the threat enemy submarines posed, and British submariners contributed heavily to the development of British anti-submarine tactics and technology, beginning with largely unknown efforts before the outbreak of World War I. Between the Wars British submariners exploited the new technology of sonar (Asdic), both to find and attack enemies and to avoid being attacked themselves. As a result, they pioneered submarine silencing, with important advantages to the US Navy as it observed the British. And it was a British submarine that pioneered the vital postwar use of submarines as anti-submarine weapons, sinking a U-boat while both were submerged. This feat was unique.

Heavily illustrated with photos and original plans, this new volume from Norman Friedman, incorporating so much original analysis, will be eagerly awaited by naval historians and enthusiasts everywhere.

No-one can understand British submarine design and development in the period without reading this landmark book.

Navy News

This book is a well-illustrated, all-encompassing study. Friedman’s work shows the RN to be a lot more innovative in the field of submarine warfare than I previously thought. 5/5 anchors/mushroomheads.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

"The over-riding impression gained from this book is the extraordinary rate and breadth of development of the submarine from the first Holland boats of 1901 to the A class of 1944."

Reviewed by

Peter Wykeham-Martin for Scuttlebutt

I tried to find negatives, as positive reviews are quite dull, but really couldn't...

Well worth the price.
Would make a cracking Christmas pressie.
Seaforth do it again.

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WW2 Talk

Its a sumptuous and highly illustrated look at the development and use of subs in the Royal Navy.

The Armourer, November 2019

This is one of those glossy heavyweight volumes that practically jumps off any real bookshelf begging you to buy it. Over 350 pages of densely packed text, copious line drawings, builders’ drawings in full colour and many, many rare monochrome photographs are backed up by an incredibly detailed bibliography / notes section. The latter would be of great assistance to any scholar wanting to consult the source documents - or the mad keen reader not satisfied by the level of detail in this fabulous book. I can’t think there’d be many such dissatisfied readers though!

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Damien Burke, author of TSR2 - Britain's Last Bomber

This is an outstanding title and its quality, depth of coverage and production means we have no hesitation in awarding it our coveted SMN 5-Star Rating!

Watch the full video review here

Scale Modelling Now

From an established naval historian, the definitive book on British submarines in two World Wars. The Germans may have received the prominence in naval history for submarines, but the British had the largest fleet with the USN deploying the largest wolf packs – Most Strongly Highly Recommended.

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This book was a real eye opener for me. I thought I knew quite a lot about submarines but my knowledge paled into insignificance when found the wealth of information before me. Here is a book that tells you all you need to know about submarines. One could probably build a period submarine with little more than the plans and descriptions here laid out. But the book is more than a technical manual. The thinking and attitudes which under pinned the planning and the execution of the Royal Navy’s submarine strategy are well described... There is no dross, ‘all meat and no gravy’ as my grandfather would say.
This is a rather special book and we highly recommend it.

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Clash of Steel

This unique and fascinating book takes us through an amazing array of facts, figures and photographs of British submarines and their deployment in the two 20th century world wars. Lavishle illustrated with photogaphs and technical drawings, this amazing large-scale book delves deep into their history and their technical details which will delight anyone with a passing interest in these incredible vessels.

Books Monthly

Will be eagerly awaited by submarine modellers, naval historians and enthusiasts everywhere.

Model Boats, September 2019 – reviewed by John Deamer

Norman Friedman's book on submarines was a voyage of discovery [excuse the pun].

One imagines a submarine is a submarine, one is just like another but the wealth of information, detail, drawings in British Submarines in two World Wars, show how misinformed one can be. The Thetis I remember, went on sea trials off the N Wales coast shortly after launch in about 1937. She went down and never came up. Well she did because later they raised, made her seaworthy, renamed her and went into war service. Later in years when writing books on SOE in the Fast East in WW ll, I wrote on the daring deed of some T- Class vessels such as the Tally Ho working with Special Forces.

Writing gives one the privilege of meeting special people, one was an agent with MI6 during WW. He parachuted into the Malayan jungle near Penang to gather intelligence on Japanese shipping and transmit it back to Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. Contacts brought word that the Azhagar, a Japanese cruiser, was preparing to leave. An urgent signal to Ceylon brought the British submarine, Trenchant,'poste haste' to sink her in the Malacca Straits. Meanwhile another submarine Tally Ho was in the Malacca Straits to land a British agent from SOE. The sinking of the enemy cruiser brought Japanese anti submarine patrol boats to the area. They missed Trenchant but discovered the Tally Ho on the surface at night, She was rammed but survived: the mission was cancelled and limped back to Ceylon, lopsided.

There must be many stories waiting to written. Each vessel and support vessels has an history just waiting to researched!

Richard Gough, Military Author and Historian

British Submarines in Two World wars is a magnificent achievement which belongs on the bookshelves of submariners past and present as well as all those fascinated by the ‘submarine boat’.

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Australian Naval Institute, Tim Coyle

As with all Friedman’s books, this title is based on impeccable scholarship and analysis. For me the most valuable aspect of this is his revealing the actual decision-making processes behind the designs, the economic, political and professional pay offs that resulted in the appearance of the warships that we now know so well. On the way he brings to light much information that few will be aware of, such as the fact that in 1914 Britain had the largest submarine fleet in the world. And at the end of World War I it had some of the largest and most unusual of all submarines – whose origins and design are detailed by the author.

Read the full review here

Julian Stockwin Blog

The remarkable photos form part of acclaimed naval historian Norman Friedman's British Submarines In Two World Wars, a hugely in-depth summary of the evolution of underwater conflict and its role in the greatest wars of the 20th century.

Mail Online 27/5/19

A magnificent volume of high quality photographs, drawings and text that is a cornerstone for research and understanding of the role of the submarine in the two world wars. A stunning piece of work.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
 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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