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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.

With the heavy action seen by the Town cruisers so soon after their construction, it is fitting that someone so clearly devoted to telling their story as accurately as possible undertook this work, and it is doubtless that Waters’ scholarship will serve as a solid foundation for further research into the Royal Navy’s cruiser force in the Second World War and Korea.

The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, (Vol. XXIX, No. 4, Fall 2019)

This is the form of naval history that the publisher and author excel at. The large format, beautifully produced and presented book covers one of the most important classes of cruiser to serve the Royal Navy. – Most Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here

Firetrench

In keeping with the well-established Seaforth model for major texts, this large book is packed with superb illustrations, both original plans and drawings, photographs and diagrams, all linked into a detailed text based on extensive research in primary sources, including Admiralty correspondence, the Ship’s Covers series held by the National Maritime Museum and official American images from the many wartime visits these ships paid to American dockyards for action damage, repairs and refits. The ultimate history of an important class that saw action from Norway to the Eastern Seas, helped sink two German battleships, commanded the world ocean and supported D-Day is also the best preparation for a visit to HMS Belfast.

The Naval Review – reviewed by Andrew Lambert Kings College, London

A marvellous book which will interest naval historians and modellers alike, I can't imagine a more detailed work on them. The one extra thing I'd hope is that some of those who visit HMS Belfast on the Thames today will be inspired to read this book, and perhaps kick start that interest/fascination with the history of the vessel and her sister ships.

Read the full review here

Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

As featured in

Friends of the Museum of the Royal Navy

"The book is highly recommended. It provides the best history of a single class yet published."

As featured in

Battleship

Conrad Waters writes extensively for Pen and Sword on a variety of subjects. His latest book, on British Town Class Cruisers, is comprehensive and brilliantly written, an essential addition to the vast library of literature on Britain's navy and ships of the line.

Books Monthly

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 extensively. He edited the recent Navies in the 21st Century and has been the editor of the World Naval Review since its foundation in 2009. His interests extend to the historical and his book on British Town Class Cruisers was published in 2019.

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