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British Submarines in Two World Wars – Norman Friedman

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Seaforth Publishing, 2019, ISBN 978-1526738165

Norman Friedman needs no introduction. He is continuing his British naval series which has covered cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers since the late Victorian period to the current day. This is the first of a two-volume set on British submarines.

This book covers everything from the Holland No.1 to the last of the Second World War designs and the origins of the 1945 Programme submarine which was modified after the end of the war to investigate the Walter HTP turbine. Vickers export designs are also covered in one chapter. As with all of Friedman's books he covers the technical along with the political and the strategic. The text is well written, some reviews have noted some typos etc. but that seems par for the course these days in all books (I am only a few chapters in so far and so far its seem reasonably well edited so far). The text is backed up by copious endnotes, many of which are almost mini-essays in length! One difference from his earlier books in the series is the inclusion of far more original plans, including a colour gatefold section in the centre of the book. This is the fruit of Seaforth's scanning campaign for its other recent titles focused on the plans held at the NMM. While an A.D. Baker III line drawing is always lovely to look at, its great to be able to see the original plans in their glory. Submarines being of smaller size suit the page better, of course some are reproduced a bit on the small side to easily read the labelling and some loss by guttering is hard to avoid.

After finding a few errors in his Cruiser's book I do tend to take Friedman more cautiously, but the text seems well researched so far from what I can tell. This volume struck my eye because good quality books focusing on the main wartime submarines classes as a whole have been rather harder to come by, so this is a welcome addition to the library. I can't wait to see what volume two covering the post-1945 era will unveil. Hennessy and Jinks certainly did a good job but they are not naval historians per se and it will be good to see what projects and design studies Friedman has unearthed.
 

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