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Steam Yachts at War (Hardback)

The Naval Deployment of British & American Yachts, 1898–1918

Maritime > Naval Maritime > Seaforth Publishing

By Steve R. Dunn
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781399059725
Published: 30th July 2024


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This is the story of how the luxurious steam yachts of the Victorian and Edwardian eras were transformed into weapons of war. These beautiful vessels were the ultimate status symbols of British and European royalty, American magnates, the landed aristocracy and the nouveau riche, but when wars came, in 1898 and 1914, they were quickly transformed into warships, and many of their crews became warriors rather than servants.

The US Navy was the first to recognise the potential of these elegant vessels. In the Spanish-American war of 1898, the USN – short of ships to operate a blockade of Spanish-owned Cuba – purchased twenty-eight of them and turned them into patrol craft and bombardment ships. In Britain in 1914 steam yachts became a stop gap navy, filling in for neglected investment in small craft. The USN followed suit in 1917. Their wonderful interiors were ripped out, antiquated guns and sometimes depth charges fitted, and their crews signed into the naval reserves. Around the coasts of the Britain and France, in the Mediterranean and the USA, Canada, these former luxurious playthings now attacked land positions and fought surface warships and U-boats. They interdicted blockade runners, escorted convoys, were used as depot ships, served as hospitals afloat and undertook a host of other functions. In all, some 300 yachts fought at sea.

This new book, lavishly illustrated with photographs and plans of pre-war and wartime steam yachts from a world now lost to view, tells their story and the stories of the men who served in them. It examines their peacetime origins and development, describes their owners and designers, and considers their naval deployment, the conditions under which the crews lived and worked, the many and varied duties assigned to the yachts, and their successes and failures together with the losses sustained.

In just a couple of generations these beautiful craft progressed from status symbols to instruments of war to complete extinction; Steam Yachts at War tells this compelling story.

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About Steve R. Dunn

STEVE DUNN has a special interest in the Royal Navy of the late nineteenth century and the First World War, and has written biographies and narrative histories, most recently BlockadeSecuring the Narrow SeaBayly's WarSouthern Thunder , Battle in the Baltic and The Power and the Glory, all published by Seaforth, and the last awarded a certificate of merit at the Maritime Foundation awards in 2021.

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