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From War to Peace (Hardback)

The Conversion of Naval Vessels After Two World Wars

WWII Maritime WWI Seaforth Naval

By Nick Robins
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781399009584
Published: 29th July 2021

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From War to Peace tells the story of the adaptation from White Ensign to Red Ensign, and to flags of other nations, of the numerous classes of naval ships mainly built during the two world wars and surplus to requirements with the advent of peace. It also describes ships sourced from the United States Navy and elsewhere that were converted for commercial use.

The most successful classes to transfer to the merchant service were the Hunt-class minesweepers of the Great War, Landing Craft, Tank, the salvage tugs of World War Two, and the wooden-hulled Fairmile launches which became familiar at seaside resorts in the 1950s and ‘60s; and, of course, the MFV classes that helped the fishing industry in the postwar years. The story includes the successful commercial conversions of many of the Flower and Castle Class corvettes and River Class frigates, notably the 1954 conversion of HMCS Stormont to a luxury yacht for the Greek shipping magnate Onassis. It describes why HMS Charybdis became a passenger liner in the Great War, and how HMS Albatross nearly became a luxury liner after World War Two, but in fact was transformed into a very unpopular emigrant ship and ended her days as a floating casino based at Cape Town.

The author reveals the military antecedents of numerous commercial vessels that many would have thought were built especially for the service that they later maintained, and it illustrates just how many Royal Navy vessels ended up in private ownership. And the question is asked: if the military had not built so many ships that were eminently suitable for commercial adaptation, would the technical development of merchant shipping have progressed at a faster rate than it did? The answer is a definite ‘no’, and is illustrated in several ways. It was former naval vessels that promoted the early development of the Ro-Ro ferry; former naval ships introduced numerous design innovations, for example, the raised foredeck common for so many years on salvage tugs, and, above all, stripped of their military hardware, ex naval ships provided opportunities for modest investment where otherwise there would have been none.

Copiously illustrated throughout, the book tells a fascinating story of invention and ingenious ship conversion, and of pragmatic adaptation in the financially stringent years after two world wars.

Nick Robins has done something unusual and fresh with this book. The book is most certainly about naval vessels, but with a really interesting twist. As a result, it is a refreshing and intriguing book to read.

Recommended for ANI members.


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Australian Naval Institute

This book looks at the next life of shipping vessels used in World War I & II, and it was amazing how many of these were able to have a second use and many of them in the leisure industry.

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UK Historian

Well illustrated with archive photos throughout, with not only some showing ships in their wartime form, but so many in their converted format of civilian service, and despite new superstructures, still clearly displaying their warship hulls. With the volume of surplus vessels after WW2 it is little wonder that they offered a cheaper alternative to building a new vessel from scratch and no doubt encouraged some commercial businesses to actually start up after the war. Fascinating reading and the photos add so much to show what happened to the many small ships that had seen so much suddenly found themselves out of a job as the war ended.

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Military Model Scene

Every ship has a tale to tell from the convoy escort duties of the Flower class and escort carriers before conversion back to peaceful tasking, to the Christina whose post war story is possibly more exciting than her wartime story. A fascinating story of how peacetime imagination enabled commercial shipping to successfully adapt warships after conflict.

Peter Wykeham-Martin, Warship World
 Nick Robins

About Nick Robins

NICK ROBINS, a geologist by profession, is acknowledged for setting maritime history within the bigger social and political picture. His books describe the evolution of a variety of shipping themes, ranging from tugs and tenders to excursion steamers and even cruise ships, recently covered in his The Cruise Ship: A Very British Institution.

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