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HMS Rodney (Paperback)

Slayer of the Bismarck and D-Day Saviour

Maritime D-Day & Normandy Royal Navy Naval Warfare WWII

By Iain Ballantyne
Imprint: Pen & Sword Maritime
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781848848702
Published: 23rd May 2012
Last Released: 26th February 2021


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The Royal Navy battleship HMS Rodney was one of the most famous warships of the Second World War and remains a legend in the pantheon of naval history. In May 1941 Rodney turned Bismarck, the pride of Hitler's navy, into twisted metal, then participated in hard-fought Malta convoys and later supported the D-Day landings. Rodney's vital role, via formidable naval gunfire support, in breaking the morale of German troops during the battle for Normandy, is outlined here. Through the eyewitness accounts of her sailors and marines we discover what it was like to live and fight in a battleship at war. We learn of the many famous fighting admirals who served in, or commanded, Rodney, including Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham and Admiral Sir John Tovey. The stories of previous British warships to carry the name Rodney, dating back to the 1750s, are covered too, including the vessel that took on the batteries at Sevastopol during the Crimean War. In addition to a fresh perspective on Bismarck's destruction, the author seeks to present new insights into the inter-war mutiny that saw Rodney dubbed 'the Red Ship' and a bomb hit in 1940 that nearly destroyed her. There is even an account of how a group of HMS Rodney's sailors took part in a trailblazing British commando raid. It all makes for a thrilling, epic account of naval warfare.

As featured by

Model Boats, May 2020

Extract taken from HMS Rodney and Warspite to mark D-Day anniversary.

Warship IFR, July 2019

A well-research book about the famous Royal Navy battleship HMS Rodney. Nicely flowing text and new insights makes this a 'must-read' book. Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here.


Just four years after entering service, the battleship Rodney found herself at the centre of the Invergordon Mutiny during which she became known as 'The Red Ship'. Despite that inauspicious start, she went on to become one of the most famous ships in the fleet.

Her story is vividly brought to life in this book in the Warships of the Royal Navy series by a host of eyewitness accounts which highlight what it was like to serve in a battleship in both peace and war.

Ships Monthly

Ballantyne begins with a brief account of the eponymous admiral and previous ships of the name. He then explores the background to the battleship’s design and construction between the wars. Technical data is covered in detail, but the author’s vivid style ensures that the narrative is never dull and conveys something of the power and majesty of these vessels. He also covers the wider context, explaining the effect of various inter-war treaties on ship construction. Colour is also provided by interweaving accounts from members of the ship’s company throughout the story.

Among the accounts of major and minor actions, one of the book’s strengths is its coverage of life on board. These stories capture the spirit of the officers and ship’s company, whether under air attack on the Pedestal convoy to Malta or on a run ashore in Gibraltar.

Well-illustrated with black and white photographs and drawings, the book also contains reference notes, indicating the depth of research. However, the text would have benefited from careful copy-editing and the price of £16.99 seems high for a relatively slim volume. In summary, though, this account is recommended for its dramatic portrayal of a ship and her company who were in the thick of the action throughout the war.

The Naval Review
 Iain Ballantyne

About Iain Ballantyne

Iain Ballantyne was educated at Portsmouth Grammar School and has long had a deep interest in Naval history. As a defence reporter on the Plymouth Evening Herald he often went to sea. He is now editor of the naval affairs magazine WARSHIPS International. He lives in Plymouth. He is the author of Warspite (Pen & Sword).

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