- Published on Sunday, 01 April 2012 00:01 Robin Jenkins
County Class Cruisers
Published by Seaforth Publishing U.K. Price £14.99 from Pen and Sword
ISBN 978-1-84832-127-4 Softback 64 pp Illustrated 30.2 x 21.6 x 0.9 cm
Following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921, the major naval powers agreed to several limitations in the size and number of ships their navies would comprise of. One of the major decisions taken was in the area of cruisers; there was no decision on the total tonnage of the combined cruisers in a fleet, but no cruiser would diplace more than 10,000 tons or be armed with any weapon larger than 8 inch guns. It was from this original blueprint that the 13 vessels of the "County" class were built in the late 1920s for the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy.
Immediately identifiable by their triple funnel design, they were a class of vessel that were well-known throughout the world during their service. No two vessels were identical, a rarity in pre-WW2 ships built in such a large number. They were basically built in 3 groups – the Kent Class (Berwick, Cornwall, Cumberland, Kent, Suffolk, Australia, Canberra), the London Class (Devonshire, London, Shropshire, Sussex) and modified London Class (Dorsetshire, Norfolk); Australia and Canberra were built for the RAN.
Many refits and modifications were experienced by this group of cruisers, both prior to WW2 and during the war years, including the introduction and sometimes removal of hangers and catapults. Only the London was fully rebuilt, emerging looking like another class of vessel completely with 2 vertical funnels. The wartime exploits of the class were varied, though all saw serious action: Cumberland famously raced to the aftermath of the battle of the River Plate; Berwick fought in (and was damaged in) the Battle of Spartivento; Suffolk was damaged by Stukas off Norway and later shadowed Bismarck after she had sunk HMS Hood; Cornwall sank the German raider Pinguin; Australia fought with 3 Vichy French destroyers off Dakar; Devonshire caught the German commerce raider Atlantis, which lead the latter being scuttled; Shropshire suffered serious bomb damage whilst under repair in Glasgow docks; Dorsetshire and Norfolk were involved in the sinking of Bismarck, the latter also being involved in the sinking of the Scharnhorst. Three of the class were lost in action, all in the Far East in 1942: Cornwall and Dorsetshire were sunk together by Japanese "Val" dive bombers from three IJN carriers off Ceylon, and HMAS Canberra was one of several Allied cruisers attacked and subsequently lost at Savo Island, near Guadalcanal, when 5 Japanese cruisers sprang a surprise attack at night.
Like many UK modellers, my first experience of this famous class of ships was via the mid-1960s Airfix release of HMS Suffolk in 1/600th scale. Respendent on the original box in a "China Station" scheme of white hull and buff upperworks, it has been reissued several times. There have been many smaller scale models of the class from a wide variety of model companies over the years since then, many more detailed and in resin. Somehow, the classic 1/350th larger scale has been almost ignored, with only a poor quality older multimedia kit of Norfolk from Iron Shipwright being launched to market.
The latest Shipcraft modellers' reference is a full coverage of the County class cruisers. There has been plenty of coverage of he class in general cruiser books or 'vessels of the Royal Navy' type books, but a single volume on the class has been long overdue. Thankfully, Les Brown has not disappointed; this is a truly excellent reference, following as it does the standard Shipcraft format: a general introduction to the class, the major constructions and refits, description of each vessel and its wartime activities and modellers' sections on appraisal of all kits and extras along with a large photo-gallery of excellent standard models and a selection of colour profiles.
My choice of extracts from the book are as follows: a selection of photos from the sections on Dorsetshire and Norfolk (below);
some excellent colour profiles of Suffolk and Berwick (above); a selection of photos of what I personally consider to be the best model ever released in any scale of the class, the White Ensign 1/700 Sussex (below);
and finally, completed models of the 1/700 HP Models London (after modification in its 2-funnel appearance) and the 1/700 Combrig HMAS Australia (above).
I could find no real fault with the book and at under £15.00 is priced fairly for the quality within. It was both enjoyable and informative.
So What Do We Think?
The Shipcraft range has established itself as one of the best series of books in current publication for modelling naval reference, and this latest book continues that trend. I highly recommend it to all fans of Cruisers or warships of the RN and RAN during the period 1925 – 1945.
A long-overdue reference on a neglected subject
Our thanks to Pen and Sword for the review copy. To purchase directly, click THIS link.
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