Saturday, August 29, 2009

Aircraft Carrier Victorious

Anatomy of the Ship Series
By Ross Watton

London: Conway Maritime Press, 2004 USA and Canada: Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004. Reprint of 1991 edition. ISBN 0851779964. 160 pages (11 of narrative text), 26 large photographs, approx. 500 line drawings (USNI cites "128 pages, 250 illustrations"). Hardcover. 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches. $42.95 US
Reviewed by Michael C. Potter (March 2005)
One way or another aircraft carriers embody or exploit very nearly every technological discipline that man has devised. Aircraft Carrier Victorious provides, literally, a highly detailed view of the Royal Navy’s largest warship to serve actively both in World War II and in the 1960s fleet. HMS Victorious is perhaps most famous for her first combat operation when her Swordfish aircraft damaged the Bismarck in the North Atlantic and aggravated the wastage of fuel that exhausted the fleeing battleship. Lt. Cdr. Eugene Esmond, RN, who led this attack, later earned the Victoria Cross posthumously for leading a similar strike from a land base against the fleeing Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Victorious was very active throughout the war in every theater and earned ten battle honors, little short of HMS Warspite’s record of twelve.Victorious was laid up in 1947, then inducted for modernization beginning in 1950. This lasted eight years. The ship was rebuilt from the hangar deck up. Equipped with an angled deck, steam catapults, a landing mirror system, modernized radar, and much else, she recommissioned in 1958 as practically an entirely new ship to operate contemporary jet fighters and bombers, helicopters, and AEW-ASW aircaft. She operated until 1967 when following a trivial fire after routine shipyard work, the government ordered her decommissioned. Many of her crew were transferred to HMS Hermes, then recommissioning.
"Anatomy of the Ship" series of books share a similar format of a short narrative text of the ship’s design features followed by highly detailed photographs and illustrations of the ship, her weapons, and her fittings. Modelers and naval enthusiasts find these books valuable, although modelers (e.g., this reviewer) would appreciate more data about painting.The initial text section covers the design of the ship and her reconstruction. One operation (Tungsten, against Tirpitz) is described. A chronology of key dates in the ship’s career follows.Unlike reprints of other books, in this re-issue all the photographs and drawings are razor-sharp. Aircraft Carrier Victorious covers both her wartime and postwar careers. The dust jacket cites "complete with 1/550 fold-out plan" but in this re-issue the plans are spread over two bound pages, and are not fold-outs as I understand this term. On the other hand, the book contains no fewer than four such large two-page plans, each of which has separate port and starboard elevations. Those plans cover merely her external appearance during her long career and literally only begin this book’s wealth of large, sharp, detailed drawings of this ship. General arrangement drawings alone span fully 30 pages.Her aircraft ranged from Swordfish biplanes to Buccaneer jet bombers that in RAF service fought in the Gulf War in 1991. Every aircraft gets multiple views at 1/200 scale, spanning 16 pages total. The ship’s mounted weapons are all detailed, including her huge Type 984 radar antenna (one of only three ever to go to sea) and her USN 3-inch gun battery, unique in RN service.A full narrative history of HMS Victorious appears in Neil McCart, The Illustrious and Implacable Class Carriers 1940–1969 (Chelthenham, UK: Fan Publications, 2000), and presumably in his HMS Victorious 1937–1969 (a book I have not seen).

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