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NAVY NEWS, MARCH 2010 45
Past and present imperfect
IN 2007 Geoff Puddefoot
published an interesting
The Grove
and useful book, No
Sea Too Rough, on the Review
vital role the Royal Fleet
Auxiliary played in the some of which appeared in his
Falklands Confl ict.
previous work, are not set against
Although it had its blemishes,
an informed analytical historical
not least a lack of properly-
narrative.
’pitz battles
constructed paragraphs, it did fi ll
The bibliography contains no
a gap and contained much original
work on post-war defence policy or
material, writes Prof Eric Grove of
one which sets naval development
HAVING provided us with the University of Salford.
against the general policy context.
arguably the most balanced The author’s style, with
RFA development as described
account of the life and death of an emphasis on lengthlengthyy
by the author tends to take place
Germany’s most famous warship, quotations from participants,icipants,pants,
in something of a policy
Swedish authors Niklas Zetterling worked adequately enough ely eneenough
vacuum.
and Michael Tamelander perhaps in a description of a single on of a single
There is no in-
predictably tackle the fate of her campaign.
depth discussion
sister. Sadly, howevever this er this
of the reasons
The story of the Tirpitz lacks methodology ffaaiails ls
developments did
the drama of her older sister when applied to a to a
or did not go the way
Bismarck – she sortied on a wider canvas, as is iss
they did.
handful of occasions, only fired demonstrated by by
What background
her guns in anger once and never this new book
there is too often consists
sank a single ship. which attempts a
of general historical
But that does not mean there history of the RFA
material, for example on
is not a great deal of incident since 1945.
the Suez Crisis, that does
in Tirpitz: The Life and Death The RFA has played ed a d a
not really have a place in a
of Germany’s Last Super vital role throughout the post-t thee post-
book of this type. What policy
Battleship (Casemate, £19.99 war period, indeed an increasingly an inncreasingnglgly
discussion that does appear is
ISBN 978-935149-187). important one as the Royalal Navy’s
usually superfi cial and not very
Tirpitz was the largest global chain of bases has had to
well informed.
battleship built by a European be given up and afl oat support
There are some signifi cant
● Fleet tanker RFA Wave Ruler sails away from HMS Cornwall after conducting a replenishment at sea
Navy. Only HMS Vanguard, has become the foundation of the
errors. The important Kuwait
during anti-piracy patrols east of Suez in late 2009 Picture: PO(Phot) Owen King, FRPU East
Britain’s last castle of steel, could fl eet’s strategic mobility.
operation which did so much to
have outgunned her – although A young warship enthusiast
vindicate the Admiralty’s ideas The author has, like others, within his capabilities. This is sad in a book from a
the ‘superiority’ was minuscule such as myself in the early 1960s
on power projection took place in gone from Conway to Seaforth for The main strength of The Fourth maritime historical publisher
(381mm main guns as opposed wondered why so much was
1961 not 1960. Also it is hardly this book. The latter’s copy editing Force is the comprehensive and with a growing and generally well
to Tirpitz’s 380mm).
being spent on tankers as the
correct to say that the fl eet was would, it would seem, sometimes very useful 37-page section of earned reputation.
Vanguard didn’t arrive on
more combatant fl eet reduced in
being deployed on an “increasingly leave a great deal to be desired. ships’ data tables which cover the I should probably have bought
the scene until 1946. From the
numbers.
global scale during the 1970s”. The author, we are told, was entire RFA fl eet since 1945. the book for the reference section
moment she was commissioned
Later it dawned that without
There are also gaps, notably apparently ‘trained as a teacher’. It would have made sense to alone, but less committed readers
in 1941, there was nothing
such logistical assets the carrier
on the genesis of the ‘Fort’ class Not of English it would seem, as fully illustrate these in a central need to consider whether it is
to challenge head-to-head
and amphibious groups could not
AORs with their integral role in the tendency to avoid constructing reference section complemented worth £25.
supremacy.
have been the fundamental factor
the Type 23 programme. The proper paragraphs seen in his last by a section of edited reminiscences Yet it does, however imperfectly,
Except that Hitler – who at
they were in the East of Suez
grand (if rather abortive) design book continues in the new work. and a more coherent policy fulfi l a timely purpose. It contains
least once commented that he
of operationally forward deploying The fi rst full page contains no introduction. strong evidence that the RFA
strategy of the time.
was a coward when it came to the
armed and operations room- fewer than ten paragraphs! No This would have greatly ought to remain as it is – as a
Even when the legions were
sea – stifled almost every attempt
equipped helicopter-carrying editor of mine (nor school English increased the book’s value, as closely-associated part of the
called home to European waters in
to send Tirpitz into battle.
RFAs with the new frigates in the teacher of the 1960s) would have would some more information Naval Service and not be hived off
the 1970s afl oat support remained
And when she did sail, it was
front line had as much to do with let me get away with that! and citation of the anonymous in privatisation.
crucial and it was absolutely vital
all rather underwhelming. Twice
the ‘Navalisation’ of the RFA in This is not just form, it hinders documentary sources claimed to Such would go against the
in the spring and summer she
to the Falklands campaign. It
the 1980s as the perceived lessons the book’s ability to make strong have been used in the very short positive effects of the evolution
sortied against convoys to Russia,
remains a key element in the UK’s
of the Falklands war that the and coherent arguments. bibliography. traceable in the author’s account
but retreated to harbour at the
strategic reach.
author stresses. Writing a book is like cooking. Having just been marking of the RFA since the 1980s.
sight of enemy aircraft.
A full history of the post-war
This is not to say that the book It requires good ingredients but undergraduate dissertations I We are told on the dust jacket
The only other offensive
RFA would therefore be a work
is without interest. The numerous even the best require preparation could see in the book many of the that the author is preparing
action was the pummelling of the
of great importance but sadly
quoted reminiscences from RFA and attention to the cooking characteristics of such works, an another book to cover the RFA
remote island Spitsbergen.
Puddefoot’s new The Fourth
personnel shed interesting light on process itself if the result is to be apparent inability to use sources before 1945.
For the remainder of her
Force: The Untold Story of the
the developing nature and duties of both digestible and satisfying. to construct an argument rather It is to be hoped that he takes
career, Tirpitz was the anvil, not
Royal Fleet Auxiliary (Seaforth, the RFA and what life was like in It is such a pity that the Seaforth than just quote them as well a bit more time to broaden his
the hammer as (respectively)
ISBN 978-1-84832-046-8) does it. They needed a more informed people, whose recent output I as a tendency to make errors reading and to refl ect on his sources
submariners in X-craft, then
not provide it. commentary than that provided, have justly praised, did not try to and produce shallow analysis to produce something rather better
carrier-borne aircraft and finally
The long sections of however – and much better copy persuade the author to produce a because of limited knowledge and than this seriously-fl awed volume.
RAF heavy bombers tried to
reminiscences of RFA personnel, editing by the publisher. rather different kind of work, more background research. The subject deserves it.
eliminate the threat of this ‘fleet
in being’.
Using the Tirpitz’s records
(many of which amazingly
survive), the authors show
conclusively that by the time the
battleship capsized in November
1944, she had long since ceased
Heads and tales
to pose a threat.
We commented in our review
of the duo’s previous work
BOOKS on the collective v
guides us through this museum’s nating subject of ship names and ting subject of ship names anding subject of ship names and through his painstak-throughthrou collection in Kent, and the
that a book written in English
subject of ship’hip’s
important collection of surviving the task of the fie task of the fi gurehead gurehead carcarver, ing research in both ing re Devonport Dockyard collection).
by two Swedes did result,
figureheads ––
fi gureheads and other related before shifting to the historfoore shifting to the history of y of local and nalocal tional The Warship Figureheads of
understandably, in some unusual maritime carvingsg . the Pe Portsmouth collection with its archivarrch es, the admi- Portsmouth is a fascinating look
phrasing at time. both Naval and and The surThe viving fiviving gureheads are formmaation as the original dock- ral has been able ral at a wonderful and interesting
That’s certainly far less evident
merchant – araree
publishedpubpublished in chronolog i ical yard museum durrdd museum during the fiing the fi r rsst t to fitoo fi nd the original part of our rich naval heritage, it
in the Tirpitz book (although the
relatively raree..
ororder, from the quararter of the 20th Century. carcarver’s designs would be encouraging to hear that
copy editors somehow managed
Books on the the he
brooding head ThirThirty-six of the museum’ty-six of the museum’s s and sketches – it’annd s other publications are in hand on
to lose the last 50 source notes
more specifi c and ndnd
oononly of HMS most imporost important fi gure- gure- interesting to see intere the subject of the other important
covering the battleship’s sinking
detailed subject jecct
WaWarririor – a heads are descraads are describedibed in in a number of sig-a n collections. This book is a great
– infuriating to heavyweight
of British Naavavaal l
witwwitness to both ness greaeat detail,t detail, one page one page nifin cant varia- leap in the right direction, and will
historians, if not to the lay
fi gureheads areare e
ththe Bahe ttles of proovides inforvides information of tion of tions from the t I hope encourage others to study
reader...).
rarer still.
thethe Saints and e the ve vessel’s history from y from carc ver’s original and understand the importance of
Indeed, Tirpitz is a bloody
Retired Rear ar
CopCopenhagen before opp launch to its ultimaunnch to its ultimate te ideas to the fii n- these wonderful carvings, not only
good read and a very good
Admiral David
beibeing taken to pieces n fate ae at the hands o the hands of f ished caris ving. as works of art, but as surviving
overview of the war in the
Pulvertaft has
in inin 1857;1 of its huge the ship-breakere ship-breakers, On the books’ icons of an age of power and
northern theatre – the Arctic confi dence.
Convoys and German attempts to
been researching hing
fi g gurehead only the ure complemented by mplemented by opopposite page can
thwart them.
British fi gureheads for more ds for moreore
heahead and neck wd ere a historhistoryy of the of the bebbe found Kevin
saved ed for posterity – fi gurehead urehead itselfitself. DeaDeans’ans evocative
Like the Bismarck volume it’s
than 15 years, dururing which timing which time time
toto the charthe c ming female Wherevherever pos-er pos- watwatercolour paintings,erc
exceptionally balanced; there’s no
he has been able to build up a a
fi gurehead from HMS sible the name lle the name pproduced oroduc ver many
tubthumping which you might
vast collection of related material,
EspEspiegle (ie pictured; evidently an of the carthe carver hourss in the museum’ in s
find from a British author or
writes fi gurehead historian Richard
inspiration for Batgirl – Ed), a or carcarver’s s mmain gallerain gall y, showing the
vae victis tone prevalent in much
Hunter.
sloop built in 1900; one of the workshop is rkshop is diverssity in both subject ity
German WW2 history.
For the past two years with
last traditional fi gureheads to be listed and ed and aand style of carnd style ving, from
The Brits – the X-craft crews
Southsea-based artist Kevin Dean
carved and fi tted for a vessel of the in sevsever-er- tthe delicahe delicate and feminine
especially – are shown to be
he has have been working on a
Royal Navy, a fi tting swansong for al cases,cases, RRooyaal l AdAAdelaide (a yacht
exceptionally brave and skilful;
project to redress this situation and
a tradition of carvings on the bow of 1of 1833 and one of the 833
the maps show just how difficult
as such should be congratulated
of British warships going back to ssmallest fimallest fi ggureheads in the
it was to get at Tirpitz with the
on The Warship Figureheads of
the early 16th Century. collecticollection),on) to the vast bust
midget submarines.
Portsmouth (The History Press,
The Warship Figureheads of fi gurehe gurehead of HMS ad Asia
And despite the damage
£25 ISBN 978-0752-450766), an Portsmouth is more than a catalogue built in Bombauilt in Bomo y in 1824.
inflicted on his ship by the invaluable and must-have addition of an important collection. The fi rst This book is a celebraThis booko tion
X-craft, Tirpitz’s CO Kapitän zur to the library of any true fi gurehead three chapters of this book follow of the survviving fiiv gureheads
See Hans Meyer comes across enthusiast – or anyone interested the development of the fi gurehead aatt Portstsmouth which sm
as a man of honour. He ordered in the rich Naval heritage of the in the Royal Navy from the fl eet of rerepresents one of the four presents on
the captured submariners be well United Kingdom. Henry VII and the Mary Rose to major collections in the United major collection
treated: “Give them food and Published in association with its demise towards the end of the KKingdom (the otheringdom (the o s being the
allow them to sleep. They have the National Museum of the Royal 19th Century. National Mtional Marariitime Museum,t
deserved it.” Navy in Portsmouth, the author It then moves on to the fasci- ChaChatham Hitham Histotham Historic Dockyard
0045_NN_Mar.indd 145_NN_Mar.indd 1 119/2/10 15:35:389/2/10 15:35:38
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