Book Review: Battleship Ramillies: The Final Salvo


by Ian Johnston & Mick French, editors

Barnsley, Eng.: Seaforth / Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014. Pp. 256. Illus., notes, index. $47.95. ISBN: 1848322070

A British Battleship in the World Wars

A unit of the rather poorly designed “R” Class, Ramillies joined the Royal Navy in 1917 and served well, albeit rather obscurely, through the Second World War, by which time she was very obsolete. This volume was put together through the efforts of the Ramillies Association, composed of veterans and fans of the old battlewagon.

Battleship Ramillies: The Final Salvo consists of memoirs, diary entries, and reminiscences, and gives us a look at shipboard and Royal Navy life in the words of the ship’s veterans – among them Prince Philip, who served in her as a very young officer – and some of their spouses. Although there is a good piece on the ship’s World War I actions written by a Great War veteran, the bulk of the book deals with the ship’s World War II career. 

During the Second World War Ramillies served primarily as a convoy escort, running U-boot gantlet in the Atlantic numerous times. She also fought in the Battle of Cape Spartivento and provided gunfire support for the landings and campaigns in Normandy and the South of France. 

Rather than presenting a “Big Picture” perspective this is about individual experiences of wartime service in the Royal Navy and the routine of naval life, with a great deal about the minutiae of ship’s routine, slang, improvisations, shore leave, customs, and so forth; the sort of things that hardly ever turn up in the literature. 

Battleship Ramillies: The Final Salvo will be particular value for anyone interested in service life or the interior life of a battleship in the final decades of British naval supremacy.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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