British Light Cruisers

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British Light Cruisers. Leander, Amphion and Arethusa Classes. ShipCraft Number 31. By Les Brown. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2023. ISBN 978-1-3990-3056-4.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

One of the latest titles in Seaforth’s ShipCraft series, this book is aimed primarily at model makers but also contains well-researched details of the three classes’ design, development and modifications.

It also features detailed plan and profile drawings of individual ships and high-quality coloured drawings of illustrative paint schemes applied at various stages of the Second World War.  The 64-page book also contains 52 carefully chosen black and white images.

Les Brown has written a number of books in this series, and he follows his usual format by dividing the book into sections.  The first describes the design history of the three classes and the second gives a brief history of their wartime operations while serving with the RAN, RN and RNZN.  As well as the coloured illustrations of ships’ colour schemes there is a narrative passage that describes the camouflage schemes they wore at various times together with Admiralty references for the types of paint used and small blocks showing an exact colour match.  Another chapter describes the modifications that were carried out to introduce radar and heavier anti-aircraft armament as the war progressed.

For model makers there is a 13-page section that details every type of construction kit that has been produced of these ships as well as enhancements such as the wooden decks and etched brass details needed to produce highly accurate representations in a variety of scales.  Some of the kits appeared many years ago and are no longer be available through retail outlets but may well be obtainable through specialist sites online.  There is a 16-page colour section which showcases 10 models ranging in scale from 1:96 to 1:700 including both scratch-built models and those constructed from kits.  Two models of HMAS Sydney are featured, one of which is the 1:700 example featured in David Griffith’s best-selling book Ship Models from Kits.  The photographs not only show aspiring model makers what is possible but also give those with wider interests a very good idea what the real ships actually looked like in service.

The section describing the actions in which these ships fought is necessarily brief but does include a summary of the loss of Perth in the Battle of the Sunda Strait, the damage caused to Hobart by a Japanese torpedo and a longer description of Sydney’s loss.  Overall, this is an excellent publication that offers value in two ways.  It is, of course, a unique guide for anyone who might want to make a model of one of these cruisers but, in addition to that, it describes their development, armament, modification and success in operations.  Taken with other ShipCraft titles it, therefore, form part of a good reference source for warships of the twentieth century.  I thoroughly recommend it.

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