Treaty Cruisers. The First International Warship Building Competition

Published: March 16th, 2019     
Product Image
Author: Leo Marriot
Reviewed by: 
Luke Bucci, IPMS# 33459
Company: Pen and Sword Books Ltd
ISBN #: 1 84415 188 3 / 9781526748508
Other Publication Information: Softbound, 192 Pages, 60 b/w photographs
Price: $22.95

Thanks to Casemate Publishing & IPMSUSA for the review copy!

This book is also available in a hardback version (302 pages) priced at $55.00.

Casemate Publishers has reprinted a definitive review of the so-called "Treaty Cruisers" by Leo Marriot. The author has a long list of military books to his credit, focusing on WW2 ground actions and WW2 to modern naval subjects, including this title. He is known for an excellent book on the Titanic and The Universe, with illustrated views from the Hubble Space Telescope.

You get a 9.25 X 6 inches size paperback book with three Parts, 14 Chapters and four Appendices. Although the covers have a red tint, the book is completely B&W (no color) inside. The small print text is interspersed with B&W photos of ships, most of which are seen elsewhere, but there are a few rare ones. There are also small line drawings of profiles of ships. But mostly, this book is crammed full of text.

After WW1, all the Allied navies started an arms race of the then-ultimate weapons - battleships. Bigger, stronger, faster than ever before, these ships were so expensive at a time when a peace dividend was extant that their construction and maintenance costs were threatening countries' and the world's economies. All nations decided to embark on treaties to curtail runaway naval buildups, resulting in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, with additional refinements afterwards. This treaty set the Rules (the 1st Part of 1st Chapter of this book) that defined ship classes based on maximum gun size for battleships, and that generated two type of cruisers - heavy cruisers with up to 8 inch guns, and light cruisers with up to 6 inch guns. Limits on total tonnage per nation and per ship were imposed in order to make shipbuilding less expensive and stifle a runaway arms race.

This book follows the origins, designs, builds and operational histories (mostly WW2) of the 8 inch cruisers - the Treaty Cruisers. Part One covers the Introduction and the Naval Treaties. As the subtitle states, heavy cruisers had their own arms race to squeeze superiority out of strict limits. Because new battleship construction was pushed back to the mid-1930s, the heavy cruisers were the first postwar arms race, and closely followed by news media and the public. The trade-offs, ballyhoo, inevitable comparisons and cheating are exposed in these chapters. Part Two examines the treaty cruisers built by six nations - Britain/Commonwealth, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA. Part Three (The Final Test [Cruisers at War]) has six chapters covering the geographic areas of conflict with a final chapter reviewing the winners and losers. The Appendices cover each class's technical data, construction details, main battery characteristics and aircraft.

Part Two goes over well-known ground about the different requirements for each nation and how well they did (or did not) adhere to the Treaty limitations. The compromises and trade-offs in range, armor, speed and armament were well explained. The subject of Part Three - war records of heavy cruisers in regional theatres of WW2 were again something that has been gone over many times. There were a few new nuggets, but no surprises. What it does show is that the human factor was always more important than the particular strengths and weaknesses of each design. Most of the actions simply involved heavy cruisers along with other units, with the major heavy cruiser vs. heavy cruiser face-offs in the Pacific theatre. Part Two allows the reader enough detail to start making their own conclusions about picking the winners. But this section has been gone over numerous times, but at least with more clarity in this book.

The last chapter - which ships were best - was the part I was waiting for. Of course, history has spoken and we know the outcomes of which ships survived and did not. But the discussion was only a few pages and divided the field to conformists and non-conformists to the Treaty limitations, instead of all together - you'll have to read the chapter to see if you agree or not. I think it will be somewhat controversial for most readers.

Finally, I must say there were numerous editing mishaps - missed words, broken sentences, wrong verb tenses, non-italicizations, non-capitalizations and other proof reading omissions on almost every page. Being an author myself,  if I saw how this turned out I would have been very disappointed.

Summary

This book is not a resource for modelers building ships, as the photos are small and of low resolution. The line drawings are also small and look like all other line drawings - nothing distinctive. But Treaty Cruisers is an excellent background for understanding why heavy cruisers came out the way they did. Treaty Cruisers is not a fast read and gives the reader good bang for the buck in time spent. I was a little disappointed at the brevity of the last chapter, considering the large amount of research that went into the book up to this point, but most of the direct comparisons were already presented in the operational theatres of war section. Another issue I had was that this was a reissue of a fourteen-year-old book. If that had been made clear it would not have changed my mind about wanting to read the book, but I also wonder if additional information has come to light that would have added to or changed some of the material.

  • Front Cover
    Front Cover
  • Back Cover
    Back Cover
  • Bolzano Photo
    Bolzano Photo
  • Algerie Line Drawing
    Algerie Line Drawing

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