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British Coastal Forces

...Two World Wars and After, from Seaforth

Title: British Coastal Forces
Author: Norman Friedman
Publisher: Seaforth Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-3990-1858-6

Covering 'Two World Wars and After', a new large format book from Seaforth Publishing. A 400-page hard-cover title, though also available in e-book formats.
Spread over 14 chapters, it starts with historical background and the Royal Navy developing their early fast patrol boats. The earliest ones were designed to make the best use of the torpedo, without a large warship to carry them. There was also a requirement for the Coastal Motor Boat (CMB) for a variety of duties. The first MTBs were used in WW1, an example of which is shown that is still on display at the Imperial War Museum site at Duxford. Then there were the fairly small number of boat builders who specialised in this type of craft. They form the subject of chapter 2, providing background to Thorneycroft, British Power Boats, Vosper, Fairmile plus a couple of smaller companies. After WW1 there was a slump in demand but that increased as war approached once again. As well as the MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) and the MGB (Motor Gun Boat), there were plenty of other uses for these craft, such as harbour defences, ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) and Mine Countermeasure roles. All these are covered, along with how they were used to counter the threat from the German E-Boats. Different types of engine were used over time, including petrol, diesel and steam turbine. One design that was trialled as far back as 1939 which I didn't know about before, was a hydrofoil, although it wasn't pursued at the time. Another example of special boats include MTB 74, which was modified to have the torpedo tubes fitted on the foredeck, to help get them over obstacles in the assault on St Nazaire. As well as less heavily armed boats there are chapters devoted to the employment of Coastal Forces during the Normandy campaign as well as their use post-WW2. There is also an Appendix looking specifically at the Air-Sea Rescue boats used by the RAF, who fulfilled such an important role. As well as the detailed text the book is highly illustrated throughout with a host of archive photos, with plenty of detail to be seen, plus a large number of the magnificent scale plans drawn by the late John Lambert.
Put all this together and it is difficult to try and give you an idea of just how much there is in here in just a short review. Author Norman Friedman is well known for his fine books on naval history, and this one is no exception. The level of detail is quite fantastic, both in the main chapters as well as the additional content you find in the Appendix and the full listing of the many boats that were in service over the time dealt with by the book. That list alone fills 24 pages. I believe this will be the go to reference on the subject for many years to come. Recommended without any hesitation.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.


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