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World War Two at Sea

World War Two at Sea
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Jeremy Harwood

World War Two at Sea

Conflict on the Oceans – 1939 to 1945

Jeremy Harwood

As soon as war broke out in September 1939, the conflict at sea began. It raged without respite until the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan just under six years later. World War Two at Sea retells the naval history of the war, covering all things from submarine warfare in the Atlantic to major operations in the Pacific during World War Two.

The coverage is arranged chronologically, starting with the sinking of the British passenger liner Athenia by a German U-boat just hours after war was declared and concluding with Operation Ten-Go, the last desperate attempt by the Japanese to defend Okinawa and the sinking of the Yamato, the world’s last and biggest super-battleship. Throughout, decisive battles and engagements are fully explored.

Along the way, there is coverage of some of the lesser-known aspects of the conflict. When it comes to unusual and secret weapons, you’ll find out about maiale, X-craft, kaiten, probe the mysteries of asdic, sonar and radar, and discover much, much more.

Fully illustrated throughout with a fascinating mixture of historic photographs, maps, charts and specially-devised diagrams, World War Two at Sea is compelling reading and essential reference. Above all, it demonstrates how vital it was for the war at sea to be won as an essential preliminary to the land and air campaigns that brought about final victory.

About the Author: Jeremy Harwood studied history at Christ Church, Oxford, where he won an Open Exhibition and, in his final year, was awarded the Sir Keith Feiling Memorial Prize as the top history undergraduate of his year. He is the author of World War Two from Above (Exisle).


Format:  Hardback (PLC with jacket)

Measurements (height x width mm):  220 x 250 mm (landscape)

Illustrations (N/A, B&W, Colour):    Colour


The Great Circle, December 2015

Subtitled ‘Conflicts on the Oceans, 1939 -1945’, this book is divided more or less
chronologically into four sections: ‘Beginnings, Global Warfare, The Turning of the Tide and
Endgame’. Within these sections, there are accounts of most of the well-known sea actions
of World War Two – and some that deserve to be better known.
The book begins with a lucid short discussion of the effects of the 1922 Washington Naval
Treaty and the long depression of the 1930s on naval armament, particularly that of Britain,
which led the Royal Navy to be unprepared for war - and with the early defeat of France and
the 1940 entry of Italy into the war, the balance swung drastically against the British. This
was remedied essentially by the vast industrial power of the United States, and the vital
campaigns of the mighty US fleets in the Pacific Ocean are chronicled: the battle of the
Coral Sea, the first-ever conflict where the opposing carriers of Japan and the USA never
saw one another; of Midway which swung the balance of power against the Japanese and
the subsequent operations of the American Fleets as they smashed their way towards the
Japanese mainland; the Guadalcanal landings; the disastrous battle of Savo Island which saw
the Australian cruiser Canberra and three of its accompanying US cruisers sunk by a
powerful Japanese fleet; the sheer power of the American ‘island-hopping’ campaigns
thereafter as their sea-based forces took island after island.
But these campaigns, carried out by the greatest sea fleets that ever existed before or since,
are not detailed in the same way as those in the Allied war against Germany. Nor does the
full strategic picture emerge; for example the sea operations relating to the US Marines
landing on Guadalcanal in August 1942 are outlined, but no attempt is made to outline their
vital effect on Japanese rethinking of the Papuan campaign being concurrently waged,
mainly by Australians. Nor indeed are the campaigns of General MacArthur or the
Southwest Pacific area incorporated with those of Nimitz and Halsey further north.
The main features of the European sea war are competently covered: the early brilliant
efforts of the German U-boat commanders Prien, Schepke and Kretschmer; Graf Spee and
the battle of the River Plate; the sinking of Bismarck and Scharnhorst; the fierce sea war of
the Atlantic and Arctic convoys; the Mediterranean war and defense of Malta; the US
landings in North Africa and Sicily. Some of the lesser-known occurrences, with long-lasting
effects, are also noted, for instance the 1940 sinking of the German battleship Konigsberg
by British Skua dive bombers: ‘She was the first major warship to be sunk from the air’ notes
the author, but by no means the last. Air power proved its dominance with the 1941
sinkings of the battleship Prince of Wales and the Repulse by Japanese bombers, and the
American campaigns in the Central Pacific were won by air power. As Chester Nimitz,
probably the pre-eminent naval commander and strategist of World War Two is quoted
here as saying: ‘Battleships are the ships of yesterday, aircraft carriers are the ships of today
but submarines are going to be the ships of tomorrow’. He himself proved the first and
second of these points; the third, luckily, remains untested.
Of particular interest to Australians are the sections on German commerce raiders, including
Atlantis which sailed around Australia laying mines and sinking ships and Kormoran which
sank the cruiser Sydney in a mutually destructive exchange of fire, resulting in the tragic loss
of all of Sydney’s crew. There is also a section on the small craft of the war: German S-boats
(called by the British, for no apparent reason, ‘E-Boats’); British and US Motor Torpedo
boats (but no mention of those stationed in north Australian waters); and special craft, such
as human torpedoes. There’s no mention, though, of the British development of
submersible canoes – the ‘Sleeping Beauties’ – perhaps because their design was strong in
youthful enthusiasm and weak in commonsense. Overall though, it’s a fitting volume to
introduce a casual reader to the naval warfare of the Second World War.
Alan Powell
Emeritus Professor of History
Charles Darwin University

“these books are well written, adorned with large numbers of photographs, many seldom seen before”

Exisle Publishing Great Circle World War 2 at Sea

Australian Warship, December 2015

“Kudos is due to the author, Jeremy Harwood, for his brilliant research and for his clear and concise writing style”.

Exisle Publishing Australian Warship World War Two 2 At Sea

The White Ensign, Journal of the Naval Association of Australia, October 2015 

“Kudos are due to the author, Jeremy Harwood, for his brilliant and detailed research and for his clear and concise writing style.  While the text is well worth the read, the photos are outstanding.”

The Daily Telegraph, September 2015

“How the Allies managed to come back from the brink of Maritime destruction, is a fascinating story told succinctly, yet comprehensively in this richly illustrated book”

Daily Telegraph World War two at sea Exisle Publishing

Military Books Australia, August 2015

"will appeal especially to naval warfare enthusiasts."

Military Books Australia World War Two at Sea Exisle Publishing


The Senior, July 2015

From the impressive cover photograph, taken from the deck of a warship, to maps, charts and comprehensive text inside, World War Two At Sea is a must for all military history enthusiasts.”

Exisle Publishing World War Two At Sea The Senior

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