|Steel Fleet||Scouring the Seas Annotated bibliography|
Bryan, The Hunters and the Hunted,
Pen and Sword, 2011
Though perfectly satisfying to have a new hardcover on this subject several shortcomings detract from a book that might otherwise have been a historical classis. Well written, the book is engaging when at its strength, describing the voyages of the various raiders and their commanders. There is an appreciation of the personalities involved and competent presentation of tactical issues arising from encounters with the enemy; weather, logistics, readiness and the fighting value of respective vessels. That most of the book is devoted to these accounts makes it an interesting read and a worthwhile addition to one's library.
For the naval wargamer there are suggestions for hypothetical scenarios among the details of individual voyages, such as these near encounters with the ill-fated SMS Karlsruhe in 1914:
That's not to say this information isn't often available elsewhere; it usually is. The exploits of most of the German warships are dealt with in other naval histories while William Putnam's The Kaiser's Merchant Ships in World War I gives a more detailed and comprehensive account of the German armed merchant raiders. Nonetheless the evenly balanced coverage of seldom presented material, such as the voyages of the SMS Karlsruhe and the SMS Königsberg, are gratifying. Unfortunately the author doesn't seem as comfortable with the global political or strategic context and is not reliably erudite or subtle with these topics. It is suggested, for example, that von Spee's intention to seek a decision with Cradock at Coronel was dismissive of commerce strategy when there are ample published insights into von Spee's thinking; including the notion of his "fleet-in-being" as a potential weapon of strategic commerce warfare. That this may have been flawed strategy is not the point.
This edition also betrays evidence of inappropriately frugal production; the maps are poorly reproduced from material in the public domain, there is no bibliography and the index seems an afterthought. There are also a number of obvious typographical errors in the text. One hopes this is an aberration in the clearly evolving business model of Pen and Sword Maritime. Unlike other recent published works of theirs on similar topics, this edition seems to have suffered from excessive editorial economy in spite of an interesting subject and an obvious investment in otherwise good physical book quality.
Shaun Appleby 05 August 2014
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