For over 40 years, Warship has been the leading annual resource on the design, development, and deployment of the world's combat ships. Featuring a broad range of articles from a select panel of distinguished international contributors, this latest volume combines original research, new book reviews, warship notes, an image gallery, and much more. John Jordan has been the editor of the annual publication for over 15 years, including the latest volume, Warship 2021, which publishes today. Today on the blog, he answers a few of our questions about some of the content in this year's edition and what he envisions for this iconic periodical's future.
This annual features an article on the royal yacht Victoria and Albert (III). Where do you think the line should be drawn for including ships that aren’t traditional combat ships?
Although not strictly warships, royal yachts were traditionally on the Navy’s list of active vessels, were manned by naval personnel, and were designed ‘in-house’ by naval constructors. Some, like the German Hohenzollern (II), were intended to be employed as armed merchant cruisers during wartime.
Victoria and Albert (III) was designed as a fitting counterpart to the prestigious new royal yachts completed for the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Russian Emperor Aleksandr III in the mid-1890s. Queen Victoria was no longer the naive 18-year-old who had come to the throne of the United Kingdom in 1937, but the figurehead of an empire ‘on which the sun never set’, and was emotionally scarred by the loss of her beloved Prince Consort Albert. She had become wilful and obstinate, and the Court, via the Prince of Wales, expected to have a considerable say in the layout and furnishing of the royal apartments of the new yacht, and in other specific arrangements to suit the Queen’s needs and whims. This led to significant changes to the original design and complicated the weight calculations. When completed the ship proved to be unstable, leading to extensive (and costly) modifications. The Navy’s distinguished Chief Constructor, Sir William White, felt compelled to resign, the royal yacht being the only stain on an otherwise unblemished reputation.
The episode serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of tinkering with designs at the building stage, and thus has considerable relevance to the design and construction of warships.
Are there any subject areas that you’ve got in this issue that you want to commission more of, or find of particular importance?
We don’t generally commission articles; they are generally proposed by potential or existing authors. Once a particular subject is agreed with the editor, the contributor will often suggest a follow-up, which might be chronological but could equally well be thematic. This does make it more difficult to achieve a balance of coverage, and I am particularly conscious that we have published very little on the US Navy for quite some years. However, attempts to commission articles to fill these gaps are rarely successful, as authors generally see Warship as an opportunity to write about something that they are ‘into’ at the moment and for which they have conducted in-depth research, and the results (as with the Victoria and Albert article above) are often surprising. A key to the success of the annual over the years has been the variety and quality of the writing.
This year’s edition features The Small Cruiser in the Imperial German Navy (Part II), are there any features that you would like to explore over several years?
Again, this is very much down to the way the author wishes to approach a particular subject. Some individual warships (or classes) benefit from being treated on their own because they were innovatory or met an unusual requirement (see Sergei Vinogradov’s article on the Italian battleships Italia and Lepanto in Warship 2020). Others are better dealt with in the context of broader lines of development. Dirk Nottelmann, author of the series of articles on ‘small German cruisers’, was particularly keen to take this approach when we discussed possible articles on the pre-WWI German Navy, as each of the light cruiser designs adopted for operation with the High Seas Fleet represented an incremental improvement (in terms of number/calibre of the guns, protection scheme and propulsion machinery) on the last.
The lead article of this year’s annual is one by regular author Stephen McLaughlin on the Soviet ‘super-battleships’ of the Sovetskii Soiuz (Project 23) class. Steve’s research for this article led him to suggest a follow-up on the abortive Project 23 bis and Project 24 designs drawn up by the Soviets following the laying down of the earlier Project 23 ships, which we will be publishing in Warship 2022. This led in turn to a proposal for a ‘prequel’ on the earlier Italian designs by Ansaldo for a Soviet 16in-gun battleship, which we hope to publish in Warship 2024.
Do you have any favourite photos in this year’s annual, and why?
There are many good-quality and unusual photos in this year’s annual, the stand-out articles in this respect being those on the small German cruisers, the French FLF ‘stealth’ frigates, and the photos of the French battleship Carnot from the extensive personal collection of author Philippe Caresse. Many of the photos and plans of the uncompleted aircraft carrier Aquilaare previously unpublished, having been uncovered in the Italian archives by author Michele Cosentino.
Order your copy of Warship 2021 now to read more!