counting ships

April 23rd, 2009

Pelvin, Richard MR wrote: > UNCLASSIFIED > > _The Great Ships_ is a reprint of Peter C. Smith’s -_The Great Ships > Pass_, published, I think, by William Kimber in the ’70s. IIRC it was a > history of the last years of the British battleship. It was not reviewed > with overwhelming favour at the time, but I doubt Smith would make an > error as egregious as that.

I am sure that Peter Smith would not make such an egregious mistake, but I was surprised to see that the person who wrote the message to me would make it. I get several messages a week from Amazon mentioning new books in the fields–military history, culinary history, cryptography, etc.–that I have bought books in. Usually they are pretty accurate, as they should be. Unlike the hurried newspaper journalist who refers to the USS Bainbridge as a “battleship,” the promo people at amazon, like good bookstore clerks, try to convince you that they know about this book, and they think you would want it. My experience has been that if you buy a book about Mustangs, you will get promos for any new book about them, plus books about Lightnings and Thunderbolts, but not a promo for a book about SPADs.

So, I still wonder about that 70 number. The only time I have seen that number connected to the Royal Navy is this:

“Great Britain now has 23 cruisers. Jellicoe estimated the number of cruisers necessary for the protection of British seaborne trade to be an absolute minimum of 70, a figure not attained since 1919.”

This comes from Raymond V. B. Blackman, The World’s Warships, Hanover House edition, 1957. Bought in either 1957 or 58, it was the second warship book I ever owned. The first, acquired as a gift in 1956, when I turned 8, was Fletcher Pratt’s The Monitor and the Merrimac.

Jonathan Beard

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