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An encyclopedic description of British aircraft carriers

British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development and Service Histories - David Hobbs

This is an encyclopedic book in the truest sense of the term. What David Hobbs, a former naval officer and curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, has done in it is provide a description of every ship conceived by the Royal Navy over the past century to launch and support aircraft as a primary part of its mission. This requires him to define some parameters for the sake of manageability -- vessels such as battleships, for example, which were equipped with a floatplane or two for scouting purposes, were left out. Nevertheless, his scope is vast, encompassing not just aircraft carriers but seaplane tenders, "merchant aircraft carriers," maintenance carriers, and LPHs. For each he provides a description of the development of the design followed by a breakdown of the service history of each vessel in its class, which he compliments with a generous selection of photographs from his own extensive collection. Nor does he stop there, as he devotes chapters to designs that were never built (including one about the amazingly off-the-wall Project Habakkuk) and to parallel developments in other navies, showing how these vessels and the ideas they embodied shaped British concepts about the design and role of carriers. All of this makes for a book that a worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in the history of the Royal Navy or of carrier aviation more generally, providing as it does a wealth of material that better understands the evolution of these vessels but their role in the Royal Navy and the broader challenges Britain faced as a naval power over the last century.