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British Town Class Cruisers (Hardback)

Southampton & Belfast Classes: Design, Development & Performance

Seaforth

By Conrad Waters
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 363
ISBN: 9781526718853
Published: 18th November 2019

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Entering service between 1937 and 1939, the ten British ‘Town’ class cruisers were the most modern vessels of their type in the Royal Navy when the Second World War began. Built in response to large 6-inch gunned cruisers in the US and Japanese Navies and primarily designed for the defence of trade, they saw arduous service in a wide range of roles, playing a decisive part in victories such as the Battle of the Barents Sea and the destruction of the German Scharnhorst at the North Cape. The cost was heavy: four of the ships were lost and the other six all survived heavy damage, in some cases on more than one occasion.

In this major study, Conrad Waters makes extensive use of archive material to provide a technical evaluation of the ‘Town’ class design and its subsequent performance. He outlines the class’s origins in the context of inter-war cruiser policy, explains the design and construction process, and describes the characteristics of the resulting ships and how these were adapted in the light of wartime developments. An overview of service focuses on major engagements, assessing the extent to which the class met its designers’ expectations and detailing the consequences of action damage. Concluding chapters continue the story into the Cold War era, examining the modernisation programme that kept the remaining ships fit for service during the 1950s. Heavily illustrated with contemporary photographs and drawings by A D Baker III, John Jordan and George Richardson, British Town Class Cruisers provides a definitive reference to one of the Royal Navy’s most important Second World War warship designs.

Heavily illustrated with contemporary photographs, original plans and specially commissioned drawings, this book provides a definitive reference to one of the Royal Navy’s most important Second World War warship designs.

Model Boats, February 2020 – reviewed by John Deamer

A magnificent, richly illustrated book with an excellent collection of plans and diagrams. An in-depth study on the characteristics, modifications and operational history of these vessels.

We hope that the author will take out new volumes dedicated to Dido-class anti-aircraft cruisers and the derivatives of this class built during the conflict.

We have not found any negative aspects and can only recommend it without a doubt. Essential in the library of any fan of naval history.

Read the full Spanish review here

Blog Naval

The book follows on from the recent gold rush of naval histories from this publisher. I put these books on a slow burner – browsing the snaps and working my way periodically through the serious stuff. It is a reference book, but it is also a Sunday afternoon armchair with a cup of tea experience… especially when my favourite football team is three nil down at half time and I have to turn the tv off for sanity’s sake.

This has been a fantastic year for Seaforth books and this last instalment is an absolute gem. I fully appreciate I approach it from a somewhat shallow aiming point, but I do learn stuff while loving the imagery. More serious naval buffs will be as happy with it as I am. Highly recommended.

Read the full review here

War History Online, Mark Barnes

We are in front of an authentic "major" book that, in the usual sober and elegant format Seaforth Publishing works, combines exhaustiveness, in-depth analysis and uncommon iconographic qualities creating what we are sure will become a "classic" in naval publishing, on the line of many books of an absolute level that preceded it, always from Seaforth.

STORIA militare, January 2020

The book is an excellent study of how the original staff requirement produced ships that proved capable of accepting the weight and volume of additional new equipment including radar, close-range armament and action-information centres that were unknown at the time it was written. HMS Sheffield, for instance, was the first ship in the RN to be fitted with radar. They were also adapted post-war to feature improved accommodation and those that survived saw a total of two decades of service in an era that saw unprecedented levels of change in the size, composition and deployment of the RN. This book is the best case-study of a specific design that I have read, setting a high standard which must be considered the bench mark against which future descriptions of warship types should be judged. I have no hesitation in recommending it to a wide readership.

Read the full review here

Australian Naval Institute

Featured 'ON THE BOOK SHELF' with Neil Smith

Wargames Illustrated, December 2019

Author article 'HMS Belfast' as featured by

Ships Monthly, September 2019

About Conrad Waters

Conrad Waters, a barrister by training and a banker by profession, has had a lifelong interest in modern navies about which he has written many articles. He also compiled the annual review of navies for the journal Warship and was the founding editor of Seaforth World Naval Review.

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