Book Review: British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development and Service Histories


by David Hobbs

Naval Institute Press, 2014. Pp. 384. Illus., diagr., appends., biblio., index. $85.00. ISBN: 1591140749

British and Commonwealth Aircraft Carriers

Naval historian Hobbs, author of such works as A Century of Carrier Aviation and The British Pacific Fleet, gives us a comprehensive history of the evolution of the aircraft carrier in the British and Commonwealth navies. 

Hobbs covers every conceivable type of “aircraft carrier,” from the earliest days of naval aviation to the present. This begins with airship support vessels in the early years of the twentieth century and continues on through two world wars and the Cold War to the most recent fleet carriers of the Queen Elizabeth class. For each type of ship, even World War II “Merchant Aircraft Carriers” and the Habbakuk project, Hobbs has design, construction, and technical details, followed by an outline history of each ship in the class, which provides a roughly chronological account of British and Commonwealth naval aviation in action since the onset of the First World War, during which the Royal Navy made the very first carrier air strikes.  Coverage of operations in World War II will probably be particularly informative for American readers, given the great neglect of British carrier opeations in the war on this side of the pond. 

Hobbs interweaves his treatment of the various types of carrier with chapters on the evolution of carrier aircraft. In addition, and rather unusual for works of this type, he includes chapters comparing British trends in carrier design and technology with developments by the other naval powers, notably the U.S. and Japan, but also France, Italy, Russia and more. 

A host of pictures, plans, and diagrams supplement a clear, well-written text, making British Aircraft Carriers a valuable resource for anyone interested in naval and aviation history.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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