Pen & Sword Books

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Ocean Class of the Second World War

The Ocean Class of the Second World War written by Malcolm Cooper

and published by Seaforth Publishing - £30 - Hardback - Pages 216

They entered the vanguard of the Allied shipping effort at a time when the German U-boat

threat was at its most dangerous, and British shipping resources were stretched to the limit.

They were deployed in the North Atlantic, on the long supply routes around Africa to the

Middle East, in the Russian convoys, in operations in support of the invasions of North

Africa and Italy and the land campaigns which followed, in the D-Day landings and later

amphibious operations on the south coast of France. Finally, some of the class joined an

invasion force making its way towards Malaya when Japan surrendered in August 1945.

The Oceans paid a heavy price for these accomplishments, one third of the class being

lost to torpedoes, bombs or mines in places as far apart as the Florida coast, the Norwegian

Sea, the Bay of Algiers and the Gulf of Oman.

While these achievements alone would merit an important place in histories of the war at sea, the impact of the Oceans stretched far beyond the direct contribution of the ships themselves. The yards where they were built also served as models for a series of new American shipyards, designed to mass produce cargo vessels with such speed and in such volume as to completely reverse the mathematics of attrition, which had run so badly against the Allies into 1942. Even more important, the Oceans’ blueprints were used as the basis for the American Liberty ship, the 2,700-strong fleet which finally tilted the balance of the war at sea decisively in the Allies’ favour and went on to underpin the post-war renewal of the world merchant fleet.

This comprehensive new history, based on extensive archival research and lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, restores the Oceans to their rightful place in history. The ships’ design antecedents are explained, and their ordering, financing and construction are analysed in full. Wartime operations are covered in depth, by theatre and with full details of war losses and other casualties. The book concludes with an assessment of their subsequent peacetime careers and a comparison to other war-built designs. This is a model history of a highly significant class of ship.

The Ocean Class of the Second World War was certainly an interesting book, and a very comprehensively published book. This book looks at the cargo type sea-going ships, the book goes on to explain how Britain had a minimum number of these and so had to try and get a good number of these made as the country headed into WWII. The problem was that Britain had specific specifications it wanted, and where the US was the place to go, they were reluctant to build such ships. This would lead to the UK purchasing a number of yards in the US & Canada to build what they wanted specifically, and eventually, the US would come round to the British way of thinking and would eventually build similar ships to similar designs. The book is fully illustrated with photographs, pictures, plans, drawings and diagrams, the history, story and text supporting all this is informative and detailed. This book is a very good and easy read, one I quite enjoyed learning more about. A certainly recommended read.

Republished from 9th September.

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