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Clydebank Battlecruisers (Paperback)

Forgotten Photographs from John Brown's Shipyard

Maritime > Seaforth Publishing > Seaforth: Iron & Steel

By Ian Johnston
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 192
Illustrations: More than 200 b/w photos
ISBN: 9781399024891
Published: 12th September 2023


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Between 1906 and 1920 the Clydebank shipyard of John Brown & Sons built five battlecruisers, each one bigger than the last, culminating in the mighty Hood, the largest warship of her day. If Tiger is regarded as a modification of the Lion class design, this represents every step in the evolution of these charismatic, and controversial, ships. Like most shipyards of the time, Clydebank employed professional photographers to record the whole process of construction, using large-plate cameras that produced pictures of stunning clarity and detail; but unlike most shipyard photography, Clydebank's collection has survived, although very few of the images have ever been published. For this book some two hundred of the most telling of these were carefully selected, and scanned to the highest standards, depicting in unprecedented detail every aspect of the building and fitting out of Inflexible, Australia, Tiger, Repulse and Hood.

Probably more has been written about battlecruisers than any other warship type, and as modelmaking subjects they have a devoted following, so any new book has to make a real contribution. This pictorial collection, with its lengthy and informative captions, and an authoritative introduction by Ian Johnston, offers ship modellers and enthusiasts a wealth of visual information simply unobtainable elsewhere.

As featured in

Ships Monthly

"This book will appeal to those interested in the technical aspects of building large warships in the Fisher era, the functioning of commercial shipyards at their prime and who will relish the proliferation of photographs and other detail. A fine book..."

Read the full review here.

The Naval Review

“The pictures are amazing… an absolute gorgeous book…”

Watch here at 02:03:00


"The survival of this magnificent archive is remarkable. It depicts the state of British shipbuilding at its highest point of the past industrial age. The clarity and drama of the monotone large-format prints are a delight and may be enjoyed repeatedly due to the myriad details of shipyard which capture the eye with its complexity and drama. Ian Johnston has produced a fine tribute to the John Brown workers and the ships’ companies of the magnificient battlecruisers."

Read the full review here

Australian Naval Institute

As featured in

Cher Ami, GWSIG Newsletter – International Plastic Modellers Society (UK) – April 2023

The extensive and exhaustive captions, combined with a bibliography particularly referred to primary photographic and documentary sources, contribute to making Clydebank Battlecruisers a book of particular beauty and quality, absolutely not to be missed.

STORIA militare, November 2019

It is a shame that more photographic archives of this nature have not survived, but we can take heart that this one has and that Ian Johnston has done such a laudatory job in bringing them to light in a manner that allows for frequent and easy reference. If you are a serious student of this subject and era, this landmark book and its by now several companions are indispensable.

Read the full review here!

Speed Readers

Military technology changes very rapidly and particularly as it applies to warships. The first battlecruiser built by John Brown & Co was trialled in November 1908. The last of these magnificent ships ‘HMS Hood” trialled in March 1920. She was more than double the size of her original sister shop ‘Inflexible’.
Sadly, technology passed them by and two decades later they were largely outclassed. ‘Hood’ and ‘Repulse’, in particular, met tragic but quite different fates.
This book, though, does them proud. Brilliantly illustrated and with a very detailed text, it describes their conception, design, construction and trials.

Work Boat World, march 2013

Ian Johnston presents 218 of these fascinating images from the archive as a visual feast for the reader, first providing a brief history of the Clydebank yard.
Together with an informative appendix covering facts and figures (and profile drawings of each ship) there is much to read. It’s the high quality photographs though, that are the book’s tour de force.

Warships International Fleet Review

This book contains a remarkable collection of photographs taken by photographers working for John Brown & Sons, one of the main British builders of warships at the start of the Twentieth Century. This is a superb book combining some useful text on the ships and their construction with an amazing collection of pictures.

History of War

Although this is essentially a picture book, it is a cut above most illustrated volumes because of the very high standard of images reproduced and the story they tell of shipbuilding in the early 20th century.

Ships Monthly, October 2012

While this new publication is essentially a ‘picture book’, using rare and largely unpublished photographs from the John Brown archive, it is also much more than that, recording in detail not only the construction of the ships concerned.
The photographs, which constitute the primary focus of the book, are simply stunning, and are given plenty of space to ‘breathe’ by the book’s designer…
…overall content and otherwise excellent production values of the book. Clydebank Battlecruisers has to be on of the outstanding publications of the year, and anyone with an interest in the major ships of the grand Fleet or shipbuilding on the Clyde will want to own it.

Warship 2012

“This fascinating book delivers exactly what it says on the cover.
I found this to be an attractively presented book that is worth the cover price for the unique photographs alone; they show aspects of the shops that are not usually seen by anyone outside the shipyard. The well-researched data details about the design and construction of Australia’s first capital ship add significantly to earlier works on battlecruisers, balancing the images nicely. I recommend this book highly.”

Headmark Magazine

Splendidly illustrated with contemporary photographs, many never published before.

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 Ian Johnston

About Ian Johnston

IAN JOHNSTON is a well-known authority on Clydeside shipbuilding and the historian of both John Brown’s and Beardmore’s. His training as a graphic designer is to be seen in the superb choice of photographs from the John Brown collection in Clydebank Battlecruisers and A Shipyard at War. This new book is a labour of love as Ian’s father worked for Thermotank, whose achievements he felt deserved wider public recognition.

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