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Reviewed by the S11bmari11e Research Center.

Americans interested in submarine history should consider adding to their library a reference book on British submarine development that is comprehensive and detailed. First written and illustrated in 1982, Royal Navy’ Submarines, 1901 to the Present Day has been brought up to date to include the newest Astute class British nuclear submarines. Detailed information and exceptionally well-drawn cut-a-way diagrams give a complete understanding of each British submarine design through 2008.

American submarine development followed transitions in propulsion, tank and compartment arrangement, weapons and fire control. It could be said that improvements in American submarine design was reasonably linear, at least when compared to that of British submarine design. For example, while Americans moved away from gasoline engines to Diesel engine propulsion, the British built submarines driven by steam. Despite the difficulties of sealing the hull and increasing the diving time, the British pursued this improbable design on the theory that no other type of propulsion could render a submarine capable of keeping up with its fast-moving surface fleet. As in America, submarine design was based on the premise that submarines were only useful as reconnaissance for the surface fleet. In order to fulfill that mission surface speeds took on an importance that subverted the more lethal quality of remaining undetected and striking with surprise.

In other respects the British Navy pursued a submarine building program that has been divergent from that of its American counterpart. This included a much more vigorous program of miniature submarine design primarily focused at the destruction of Germany’s Second World War battleships while lying at anchor.

The great successes of the American Fleet Type submarine during the Second World War was matched by those of the T-Class British submarine. These boats were similar in size to Fleet Type boats but had several innovations not found in their American counterparts. These included binocular periscopes and collision bulkheads in the forward torpedo rooms. The T-Class boats had an impressive score against both Japanese and German ships.

Just as no serious submarine library is without Norman Friedman’s two-volume work, U.S. Submarine Through 1945 a11d U.S. Submarines Since 1945 so should such libraries not be without this fully illustrated reference volume on British submarine design. The 133 page, hard-bound book can be purchased by ordering the book via the Pen and Sword website www or via Casemate email The book can also be purchased through or by any bookstore.


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