British Cruisers of the Victorian Era by Norman Friedman

By Norman Friedman

Progressively evolving from crusing frigates, the 1st glossy cruiser isn't effortless to outline, yet this booklet starts off with the earliest steam paddle warships, covers the evolution of screw-driven frigates, corvettes and sloops, after which the succeeding iron, composite and steel-hulled sessions right down to the final armoured cruisers.

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For most of the ships in this book, rigging and/or sail plans survive, but where they did not, the masting and rigging was deduced from that of the closest contemporary classes and from photographs. Thus the availability of high-quality photography is vital to producing plans as accurate as possible. For the first volume in this series, there was ample aerial photography, but aerial views of Victorian era ships are, understandably, extremely rare. Thus details of equipment and deckhouses behind the characteristic midships bulwarks of the ships of that time are dependent on the surviving plans, a few on-board views, and photographs of contemporary ship models.

The considerable volume of the program to build small cruisers (frigate down to gun-vessel) during the 1840s and 1850s suggests an attempt to maintain the small-ship force which in the past had escorted convoys. In 1858 Surveyor Captain Walker commented that the size of the French steam frigate force, roughly equal to the British, suggested an intent to conduct trade warfare, and he decried the inability of the Royal Navy to concentrate its forces in the Channel due to the need to protect British trade as well as British possessions overseas.

Once Britain had Gibraltar, she gained control (at least in theory) of the outlet of the Mediterranean. Any potential enemy with bases outside the area blocked by the British Isles and Gibraltar presented a new and potentially devastating threat, particularly to British trade. At the least it was a much more expensive threat to counter. That was certainly the case with the United States, whose naval policy through most of the nineteenth century was to be prepared to counter Britain, her traditional enemy, with a combination of trade warfare and coast defence.

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