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Torpedo (ePub)

The Complete History of the World's Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon

Maritime > Naval Maritime > Seaforth Publishing

By Roger Branfill-Cook
Seaforth Publishing
File Size: 95.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781473842700
Published: 27th August 2014


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The torpedo was the greatest single game-changer in the history of naval warfare. For the first time it allowed any small, cheap torpedo-firing vessel – and by extension a small, minor navy – to threaten the largest and most powerful warships afloat. The traditional concept of seapower, based on huge fleets of expensive capital ships, required radical rethinking.

It had long been understood that the most effective way of sinking a ship is to make a hole below the waterline, but centuries of experiments had failed to produce an effective method of achieving this. After many false starts and developmental cul-de-sacs, the answer proved to be the 'locomotive' or self-propelled torpedo, which became a practical proposition in the late nineteenth century. This book is a broad-ranging international history of the weapon, tracing not only its origins and technical progress down to the present day, but also its massive impact on all subsequent naval wars.

Torpedo is the first dedicated study of this highly significant subject for over thirty years, a period in which much new information has come to light and the capabilities of the weapon itself have improved beyond recognition. Because of the crucial importance of the torpedo in naval history, this is a book no enthusiast or historian can afford to miss.

The torpedo – one of the most fearsome weapons ever created by man – is well worth its own history.

Forum Navale 2016 - Commander Per Edling

In his introduction Branfill-Cook acknowledges the size of the subject and states 'to tell the whole story in all its minor details would take a multi-volume work running to several thousand pages'. Thankfully the author avoids this by maintaining a clear, readable style; he knows when to go into detail and when to keep to the main facts and key points. This results in an interesting, informative and enjoyable book which will appeal to the general reader.

Warship annual - John Peterson

Overall, this is a well-written book, lavishly illustrated and clearly aimed at the popular end of the market: its size, format and many illustrations lend to it the appearance of a 'coffee table' book. Yet to think of this book in such terms would be most unfair, and it is a welcome addition to the rather limited coverage of the torpedo.

International Journey of Maritime History

An encyclopaedic overview and introduction to a vast topic.

Speed Readers

It is well illustrated throughout with photographs, diagrams and technical drawings... An excellent volume and highly recommended.

Marine News

Altogether a really interesting history that has been well thought out in how the story is told and profusely illustrated throughout with appropriate and well captioned illustrations.

Military Modelling

As featured in.


Excellently illustrated throughout, the book is completed with a most useful seventeen page appendix with detailed specifications of all service torpedoes.
Strongly recommended to all interested in the history of naval warfare.


While this is a relatively small book (256 pages including index), it does a very thorough job of covering the history of torpedoes, their delivery vehicles, and torpedo countermeasures. The writing style is crisp and to the point, and it includes the best collection of torpedo photographs that I have ever seen. I am a big fan of naval history and I found this book a real "page turner".

The subject of torpedoes is an immense one. The author acknowledges in the book's Introduction that a complete history of the torpedo would take thousands of pages. However, Branfill-Cook has done an excellent job of focusing on the key technologies and incorporating information from many sources, including the web.

Amazon Reviewer

A very well-researched, well-written and enjoyable read that tells the story of the torpedo, describing key developments and people from Robert Fulton’s pioneering work to rocket-powered super-cavitating Russian fish.

The quality of writing was excellent, and the information provided substantial and generally well-rounded. The author acknowledges in the introduction the difficulty of chronicling every torpedo development over the years, and does a great job (as far as this reader is aware) of discussing the key developments of this weapon, including torpedoes themselves, delivery systems, anti-torpedo defences and significant torpedo actions.

There’s a mix of technical data, operational information and some anecdotal human-interest information as well, and it all comes together very well.

There weren't many downsides, but it felt at times that material might have been cut for space (or perhaps planned but then not included for lack of time?), something reinforced by a reference in Chapter 6 to more information on the Mk 24 torpedo in Chapter 8, but there’s no mention of it in Chapter 8 or anywhere else outside of the reference table at the end of the book. At one point there’s a reference to colour photos (of HMS Ocelot’s torpedo tubes) when all of the pictures in the book are black and white.

It also felt the book could have benefit from a glossary. Covering technical terms spanning over a century, I had to hit the dictionary a few times. This isn't all bad - I now know what shellacking means in a formal, rather than football, sense!

These are no reasons not to pick up this book – it’s well-written and the content well-chosen.

Dave Long

About Roger Branfill-Cook

ROGER BRANFILL-COOK is a professional translator from French into English specialising in historical and military works, and a qualified battlefield guide. He has written numerous articles for specialist magazines and is both a novelist and an author of non-fiction books. He has recently helped create an English version of a major encyclopedia on FRENCH ARMOURED VEHICLES.

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