German Battlecruisers of World War One

by Gary Staff
Reviewed January 2015
by Steve Wiper
Rejoice !  Long overdue.  Finally a encyclopedic approach on the topic of a ship type from the Imperial German Navy.  If you were a fan of the books by Raven and Roberts, "British Battleships of World War Two," or RA Burt's "British Battleships of World War One," then you will love this new book by Gary Staff.

First a little about Gary Staff.  Mr. Staff knows what he is talking about when it comes to the Imperial German Navy.  He has been studying this topic, first as an enthusiast and secondly as a historian for most of his life.  I consider him to be a leading expert on the topic, in the English language, which has not been covered very extensively up to this point.  Also, he is English bourn, but travels to Germany to perform his research, enabling him to do original research.  I consider his books published by Osprey to be the few worth obtaining from that publisher.  Overall, he takes a level approach to his interpretations of history, which is good.  I therefor recommend all writing by Gary Staff.

Covered in this book are the seven warships that were later called "Battlecruisers" by Germans.  During the "Great War," or World War One, as it was later known, Germans called these ships "Panzerkreuzer," or Armored Cruiser.  That being said, Germans also considered these ships to be "Fast Battleships," which when you look at their specifications, they really were.  All of this is explained in the first chapter.

Subsequent chapters each cover the individual warships, beginning with the von der Tann (Chapter 1), ending with unfinished Mackensen & Graf Spee (Chapter 8) and the Yorck class (Chapter 9).  Within each of the chapters on each warship is a wealth of information that up to this point in time was unknown to us in the English speaking world.  Many details of each warship are extensively covered, not only about the aspects of what the vessel was fitted with, but their subsequent modifications and an in-depth service history.  None-the-less, this is the most extensive writing of the history of these warships performed to this date in the English language.  You will be further educated more than before with the history of each warship.

The photos in this book are extensive.  Many that even this author has not previously viewed.  There are approximately 250 photos in this book.  More than a third are reproduced in a large format.  Reproduction quality is good.  Where I do have a gripe, is the overabundance of smaller photo reproduction that should have been larger.  There is a lot of space wasted in the way that the text was laid out, which could have been designed so as to allow more space for larger photo reproduction within the same number of pages.

The drawings in this book are good, but could have been better.  Simple PhotoShop techniques were not used to enhance the copy of original historic drawings presented.  They are good, but could have been much better.  Most of the detail drawings of weapons should have been reproduced in a larger size.  Again, as with the photographs, the arrangement of the text, using only 75% of the available page, reduced the potential space to reproduce many of the drawings in a larger format.  One last gripe with the drawings.  The side and top view span the center, or gutter of the book layout, with a small portion of each drawing lost into that area.  A simple separation of the drawing was all that was needed to alleviate that problem.

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Conclusion.  All in all, this is by far the best book ever compiled on the topic.  It is more extensive than the Raven & Roberts, as well as the RA Burt efforts on British warships, but remember this book only covers primarily seven vessels, and so it should be better, and it is !  One can only pray that Mr. Gary Staff is progressing with the same treatment on the German Battleships of the Imperial German Navy.  In this authors opinion, this book is a must have, if one is interested in the topic, and one should be, because after educating yourself with this book, you will understand the design of the German Navy for the Second World War.