- Book reviewer
- History - general, Ship design and development, Book reviews
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Royal Australian Navy – a History
Edited by David Stevens, published by Oxford University Press.
First published in 2001 as a hardback version, reprinted several times and so well liked that it has now been published as a paperback version, much cheaper than the hardback.
Reviewed by Peter Dawson
David Stevens and five other naval historians wrote the history in this book running from 1901 to 2001. Each served in the RAN, knows the navy well and covers a particular time period. In 1901, the RN was the most powerful navy in the World, ‘Britannia ruled the waves’ with Australia part of the British Empire and the RAN forming part of the RN, but much happened between 1901 and 2001 and enormous changes occurred. These things are intellectually described and analysed in a way that cannot tell everything but shows beyond doubt the significant value of the RAN.
David Stevens wrote about the 1901 to 1918 period with the genesis of the RAN and the naval history of WWI. The intricacies between 1919 and 1939, with the battlecruiser Australia being scuttled followed later by rearmament in preparation for WW2, is related by Jason Sears.
James Goldrick describes the outstanding participation of RAN ships in the war against Germany and Italy between 1939 and 1941 as well as those in the war against Japan between 1941 and 1945, following the destruction of US forces at Pearl Harbour. After WWII the RAN became different with unstable circumstances, changes in technology and in UK strength.
Alister Cooper relates RAN history from 1945 to 1972, all about the Korean War, aircraft carriers, changes in ties with the RN and the Vietnam War which ‘had a positive impact on the RAN’s operational effectiveness’.
Peter Jones covers the 1972 to 1991 period heading for self-reliance, with the era of aircraft carriers coming to an end and weakening the RAN, although helicopter-capable frigates were being acquired, with development of naval infrastructure in WA and plans being made to replace the Oberon Class submarines.
The final period, an ‘Era of Defence Reform’ 1991-2001 is described by Kathryn Spurling with the introduction of an advanced class of coastal minehunters and of the ‘Collins’ class of submarines. The book contains a vast amount of information, well told and supported by many photos, diagrams and a comprehensive appendix.