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Pen & Sword Book Reviews

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This is the sixth review of the best books focusing on WW2 naval history. I hope you find it of value, and many thanks to Pen & Sword.

Price £22.50 (sale price)

Publishers Blurb

During the Second World War navies developed low visibility camouflage, applied to both the vertical and horizontal surfaces of their ships, in order to reduce visibility by blending in with the sea, or confuse the identity of a ship by applying obtrusive patterns. In this volume by maritime artist Mal Wright, all the paint schemes that adorned the cruisers, minelayers and armed merchant cruisers of the Royal Navy and Commonwealth are depicted in detail, along with discussion on changes of armament and electronics that effected the outward appearance of each ship.

Beginning with the older cruisers, the book goes on to cover all the other cruiser classes taking in heavy cruisers, prewar cruisers, prewar and wartime cruisers; a large part also covers minelayers and armed merchant vessels (AMCs). Where possible both sides of the ship are depicted. With 800 full colour illustrations, arranged by ship type rather than camouflage scheme, this book concentrates the clearest possible information into a single volume to provide a one-stop reference source.

Many schemes would be difficult for any reader to unearth other than with the most intensive research, so this work is an invaluable tool for historians, collectors, modelmakers and wargamers.

Site Review

As the author explains in his introduction, understanding camouflage design is an inexact science. It is subject to immense variation due to a range of factors. These include the availability of paint, the human beings who mix and apply it, and the difficulty of assessing colour from the photographs available. One of the human elements he describes as 'TLAR', someone looks at a paint mix and says, "That looks about right".

It is a tribute to the author that he has overcome all these difficulties to produce this book. The research involved must have been prodigious. The subject has been done before, and of course the name that comes to mind is Alan Raven. I think this book builds on earlier works as it covers every British and Commonwealth cruiser, each of their changes in camouflage and equipment upgrades, together with a short history of the events in the life of the ship. Each camouflage change has an associated drawing, with port and starboard shown if they are different. There are around 800 drawings which are clear and high quality.

One minor reservation, the book is the same format as Volume 2 covering the capital ships, (which is also highly recommended!). Volume 2 has 2 drawings per page. Volume 3 because of the much higher number of ships and camouflage design changes, has had to compromise on 4 drawings per page, with a consequent reduction in impact. This is a shame, but a reasonable decision to control cost.

This is an essential reference work containing an immense amount of information for both ship modellers and anybody with an interest in the subject. It is currently on offer. I recommend it.

Next Month's Book Review

For some years contributors to the site have been preparing drawings of WW2 ships. The principal difficulty has been the availability of accurate plans. This book publishes the official plans from the collections of the National Maritime Museum. So is it problem solved?

Previous Reviews

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