Big Gun Monitors: Design, Construction and Operations 1914-1945
Ian Buxton

After it was first published some 30yrs ago, this title has remained at the pinnacle of its subject matter and commanded keen prices when it appears on any auction site or second-hand bookshop. This very welcomed new edition by Seaforth has only enhanced this titles reputation with an additional fifty photographs, revised and extended text (an extra 15%), all bound into a very attractive large format book.

The book is broken down into easily definable chapters, some 11in total based mainly on the various class sizes of Monitors. A brief introduction in Chapter 1informs us of how the British requirements for Monitors came about and in conclusion by 1916 a fleet of 35 existed with guns ranging from 6in to 15in and that in total some 40 vessels were to see action in WW1. As mentioned earlier each Chapter is mainly based around a particular Monitor class and as such the narrative structure is the same within these chapters. The construction phase is detailed with many line drawings, pictures and tables. These tables give information ranging from build cost breakdowns to technical data. The author then proceeds to detail the operational activities of each Monitor, from the well known actions off the NW European coast and Dardanelles, to the lesser known actions off the Greek Islands, Russia and the defence of the Suez Canal. The post WW1 careers of those vessels left neatly rounds out there individual histories.
Roberts also looks at the actions of the ex-Brazilian River Monitors and ex-Norwegian Coast Defence Battleships when they fought under the White ensign.

Chapters 8 & 9 deal with the inter-war years & WW2 the requirements & construction thereof new British monitors are discussed at length. After which the service histories are laid out and analysed in detail.

Chapter 10 is an excellent resource about the gunnery on the various Monitor classes, including the 18in guns used in WW1. Numerous tables and inline drawings augment the authors words which help liven up the technical aspects. A sub-chapter gives us an interesting insight into Bombardment techniques undertaken by the various Monitors and how these were developed and refined from WW1 and through WW2.

This book in its first inception became the benchmark and this updated edition has only served in concrete its place as the authority on its subject matter. The production quality is excellent, with the narrative easy on the eye whilst invigorating ones desire for knowledge through its depth and detail. No matter what rating system one was to use this book would get a maximum score.

(Reviewed by Andy H)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

Buy the book using the links below and you help support the site: