Navies of the Second World War: Royal Netherlands Navy

Title Navies of the Second World War: Royal Netherlands Navy
Rating Fair
Author H.T. Lenton
Publisher Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd, London
Year first published 1967
Series Navies of the Second World War
Binding Hardcover with dust jacket
Content 160 pages
58 black white photos
10 drawings

H.T. Lenton′s fingerprints appear on a multitude of reference projects, as he was a primary figure in the explosion of naval publication beginning in the 1960′s. This book (1967) is a worthy example-small enough to fit in one′s pocket, it nevertheless manages to provide an extensive survey of the vessels serving under the Dutch flag. Like the other volumes in this series, it features a concentrated mass of data, with as many statistics per page as ink and paper allow. Still, the reader should expect no great depth of detail, and the absence of a bibliography will disappoint some researchers.

In a straightforward roll call of Dutch naval units, Lenton begins with the major warships, providing the "vital statistics” common to such references: displacement, dimensions, and crew size, along with specifics on the machinery, shipbuilders, launch date, protection, and weaponry. Snippets of text summarize the genesis of the major designs, and little effort goes toward providing a practical assessment of the ship′s features. There′s no information on the performance of Dutch weaponry (in fairness, even now such data remains elusive), and aids like schematics of armoured vessels are lacking. Operational histories rarely extend beyond a notation of the ship′s ultimate fate and a mention of the primary wartime modifications. This latter will prove inadequate to modellers, who will also find the illustrations marginal in value.

As the book turns its attention to humbler vessels-the small craft, auxiliaries, and support ships-the text becomes more meagre. While information on support ships is one feature that makes the book valuable to someone already owning a copy of Conway′s, the presentation does not create any coherent picture of the navy′s disposition or capability. It is little more than a list. Meanwhile, the tabular data becomes sketchier and shakier amid the lack of definitive primary sources. For example, several auxiliary warships are listed as returning to commercial ownership post war when in fact they failed to survive that long.

My focus on the book’s shortcomings should not overshadow the fact that it accomplishes its primary goal, to present a handy guide to the specifications of all Dutch vessels. In this regard, the worst that can be said of Lenton′s data is that it shows some need for refinement in light of subsequent research, and indeed Lenton himself corrects some mistakes with his own British and Empire Warships, as pertains to Dutch units operating out of Britain after 1940. So although more recent books excel this one in reliability, Lenton retains the credit due a trailblazer.

Review by Richard Worth, October, 2001.
Author of Fleets of World War II: Design History and Analysis for Every Ship of Every Navy.
Co-author of On Seas Contested: The Seven Great Navies of the Second World War and To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War.

This review was first published on the website (no longer existent).

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