BOOK REVIEW | Clash of the Capital Ships: From the Yorkshire Raid to Jutland

BOOK REVIEW | Clash of the Capital Ships: From the Yorkshire Raid to Jutland

This is an interesting but rather over-long approach to a well-known and very important naval battle. However, despite the excessive detail incorporated in this very usefully analytical take on World War I's biggest and most important action at sea, there is, if you have sufficient patience, much to be learnt from it.

As the book clearly shows, even the senior German and British participants who survived the battle, as well as some of their bosses, learnt much from it. The Germans, particularly, gained a very deep appreciation of the enormous destruction, both human and materiel, that inevitably results from a brutal slugging match between two massive fleets of capital ships. It must have had a major influence over Hitler's extreme reluctance to effectively use his High Seas Fleet in World War II only a quarter of a century later.

While the British clearly won the battle, they achieved that win while beset by numerous handicaps. Their big gun ammunition and torpedoes were deficient, to put it mildly. Some of their ships' armour plating was inadequate and their ammunition handling, simply dangerous. Probably worst of all was the destructive meddling of the Admiralty "Lords" back in London. Their inability or refusal to pass on important intelligence was disgraceful.

While criticised for, in some cases, over-cautiousness and, in others, excessive-aggressiveness, the admirals at sea on both sides were probably well-balanced. This helped make the battle a "close run thing" and, while nothing like the simultaneous land battles in Flanders, one that was grievously wasteful of men and ships.

This is a very well researched and well-written account of one of history's most important naval actions.

Author: Eric Dorn Brose

Available from The Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, USA.

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