10 Great­est Ships of the Royal Navy

By John Bal­lard

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

(Am­ber­ley, 160 pages, £15.99) This is a bit of a strange one. Of the hun­dreds of ships that have been built for or req­ui­si­tioned into the Royal Navy, how on earth do you choose just 10?1 If you asked a dozen mar­itime writ­ers you would get a dozen dif­fer­ent an­swers to that ques­tion. It is a brave au­thor who at­tempts this feat so I was in­trigued to see what the re­sult was. Picked for the con­tri­bu­tion they have made to var­i­ous con­flicts, for the way they changed naval his­tory or for the way they rev­o­lu­tionised ship­build­ing, some of the au­thors choices are ob­vi­ous – some much less so.

Grac­ing the cover of this book is John Bal­lard’s first choice and in­deed a ship that would make most peo­ple’s list – HMS Vic­tory. The book then cov­ers Royal Navy ships that served in most of the con­flicts at sea right up to HMS In­vin­ci­ble whose sale to Aus­tralia was can­celled so she could be de­ployed for the Falk­lands con­flict.

HMS War­rior makes the cut for her unique and his­tory-chang­ing iron-clad de­sign, HMS Dread­nought – the ship that changed the face of naval warfare – is also in­cluded. Less ob­vi­ous choices in­clude HMS Amethyst who found her­self caught up in the Chi­nese Civil War in 1949 and played her­self in the 1957 film ver­sion of events – The Yangtze In­ci­dent.

The book is ac­tu­ally well re­searched and il­lus­trated and ex­tremely read­able. If you had an­ces­tors who served on th­ese ships – or in­deed did so your­self – then this book will al­most cer­tainly be of in­ter­est.

It is prob­a­bly not one for the mar­itime scholar due to its sub­jec­tiv­ity, but as a gen­eral his­tory of the Royal Navy told via the story of its ships it is in­for­ma­tive, read­able and well put to­gether.

Janet Dempsey is a Records Spe­cial­ist at

The Na­tional Ar­chives, con­cen­trat­ing on

mar­itime and trans­port records

HMS is John Bal­lard’s first choice in his Top 10 great­est Royal Navy ships

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