British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development and Service Histories
By David Hobbs
Hardcover in dustjacket, 400 pages, heavily illustrated, gatefold plans
Published by Naval Institute Press January 2014
Dimensions: 9.8 x 1.0 x 11.2 inches
This is a massive large-format book that covers a lot of ground – the history of aviation ships in the Royal Navy. It details every RN aviation effort from the earliest trials with floatplanes and take-off platforms mounted to warships through to the recently commissioned Queen Elizabeth class of today.
Each class of ship is treated to its own chapter. The ship’s design and specifications are described along with any modifications which may have occurred during her career. Then the ship’s operational history is detailed. An interesting and very useful touch is the inclusion of the composition of the ship’s airwing at various times which lists the squadrons assigned and aircraft types.
The book also devotes chapters to comparing the carriers of the Royal Navy with their foreign contemporaries, not surprisingly these are mostly American or Japanese types, with a few nods to the French. The designs and equipment of each are compared showing the influences the various navies had upon one another and these are fascinating.
While the majority of the carriers covered are familiar to students of military history, the more obscure types are not forgotten. The MAC ships are prime examples. These were cargo ships or tankers which were modified by adding flight decks while still retaining their ability to transport cargo. They were able to support 3 – 6 Swordfish for anti-submarine protection of convoys. An even more unusual concept was Project Habbakuk which was intended to be a massive unsinkable aircraft carrier made of ice. While this was attractive on paper, the impracticability of actually constructing this vessel prevented her from ever seeing service.
The book is very well illustrated throughout with several photographs which were new to me. The center section features general arrangement builders’ drawings of various carriers. Here the internal details are shown in profile, the star of which is a double-gatefold profile of HMS Ark Royal.
Altogether a fascinating history of Royal Navy aircraft carriers which I can recommend without hesitation and an outstanding reference to add to your collection. I purchased my copy online at a substantial discount from Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers.