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Campbell, John. Naval Weapons of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002

ISBN 0-87021-459-4
403 pages

Acknowledgements and Sources; Publisher's Note; Glossary and Abbreviations; photos; charts; tables; diagrams; Index

   Along with a small number of other technical and specialist volumes such as the Conway series and Eberhard Rossler's The U-Boat, John Campbell's Naval Weapons of World War Two has long been recognized as one of the most important sources for detailed, accurate information about naval weapons systems.
   Originally published in 1985 (by Conway Maritime Press in the UK and NIP in the US), Naval Weapons has been out of print for years and the price of secondhand copies has climbed to the $300-400 range. Fortunately for everyone interested in this masterpiece, Conway and NIP finally reprinted it at the end of 2002. John Campbell died in 1998, so this is just a reprint, not a revised edition, but the breadth and depth of material remains unmatched.
   The book is organized primarily according to nationality:

Great Britain
United States of America
Japan
Germany
France
Italy
Soviet Union
Other Countries (including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, and Yugoslavia)

   Within each nation, the material is divided into several categories:

Naval guns
Torpedoes
Anti-submarine weapons
Mines
Bombs, rockets, and missiles

   Each of those categories is further sub-divided. For the British, for example, naval guns are organized this way:

Identification
Gun design
Gun mountings
Propellants
Projectiles
Development of fire-control
Low-angle control
High-angle control
Close-range HA control
Heavy calibre guns (16in - 13.5in)
Medium calibre breech-loading guns (9.2in - 4.7in)
Light calibre breech-loading guns (4in)
Medium calibre quick-firing guns (6in - 4.5in)
Light calibre quick-firing guns (4in - 3pdr)
Automatic guns (40mm - 0.30in)

   For each one of these sub-categories for each nation, Campbell thoroughly discusses everything there is to say about each system. Depending on the weapon, this information can range from a short paragraph to several pages. In most instances, the text for each weapon is accompanied by photos, a table giving technical specifications (such as bore, weight, length, length of chamber, volume of chamber, length of rifling, grooves, lands, twist, weight of projectile, propellant charge, muzzle velocity, working pressure, approximate life, maximum range), diagrams, etc.
   Here's an example of Campbell's text, in this case the German T5 Zaunkonig 1 homing torpedo, which should give a good idea of the amount of data provided:

   This passive homer, known to the British as GNAT, was intended to attack convoy escorts proceeding at 10-18kts. The torpedo speed was limited to 24-25kts for reasons of self noise so that it was unlikely to catch a ship doing over 18kts as the homing run was sinuous, and at below 10kts the target's noise would not be sufficient to activate the homing system. There were two varieties of T5, one with a flat and the other with a rounded nose. The first had four magnetostrictive hydrophones wired in pairs with a phase delay between pairs so that the maximum electrical output was for sound arriving at 25° to the torpedo axis. In the second a bakelite cap protected two hydrophones, each behind a funnel baffled to give maximum sensitivity at 25°. To give good acoustic transmission, cap and funnels were filled with glycerin and ethylene glycol. Both used an amplitude comparison system known as Amsel and the rudders steered to the noisier side.
   The system was virtually deaf abaft c70°, and if the sound was straight ahead both receivers gave equal voltages, so that the torpedo would run straight until it was passing the target when a very sharp turn was called for. The torpedo could not comply and missed astern, running out of contact. Two programmes were devised to avoid this and could be selected by a switch. If the relative bearings of the U-boat from target were 0-110° the 'Ahead' programme was used, and if 110-180° the 'Astern'. In 'Ahead', the first signal caused the torpedo to circle until it picked up a counter command. This brought it abaft the beam of the target from where it was expected to home normally. The rudder was locked amidships for two seconds each time the signal was lost, but the gyro course which would take the torpedo away from the target was never switched in.
   In 'Astern' after homing began, the rudder remained hard over as long as a signal was received. When the signal failed the rudder was locked amidships for about 2sec and then the original gyro course was held until a signal was again received.
   For the First 400m (400yd) the homing was inoperative and the torpedo followed the gyro course to give the U-boat a chance to keep clear, and as previously noted the pistol only responded to targets above. The homing distance varied very much, but 450m (500yd) was reasonable for a 15kt ship. To reduce bottom reflections the minimum depth was originally 90m (50 fathoms), but this was later reduced to 18m (10 fathoms) when T5 was issued to E-boats. Total weight of the torpedo was 1497kg (3300lb) and range 5700m (6230yd)/24-25kts. Maintenance was a serious problem as torpedoes were damp and difficult of internal access, and a T5 had 11 electronic valves, 26 relays, 1760 soldered or screw connections, and 30,000m (33,000yd) of wire. Much effort went into the development of the T5 including over 2500 test runs.
   U-boats initially carried two each, later four, and 640 were fired for 58 hits, whereas all other German torpedoes aggregated over 20% hits, though it must be noted that T5 was often fired at difficult targets, and that there were special allied countermeasures. When T5 was first used in September 1943, these were not in operation and three escorts were sunk and another damaged. It had been believed for a considerable time that acoustic torpedoes were on the way, and the design of a noise maker known as 'Foxer' was begun in late 1942. It began to be used after the above T5 attacks, but it was many months before all escorts had it. Foxer was a towed arrangement of metal rods which clanged together and, by German estimates, produced 10-100 times the noise of a ship. It was known to U-boat crews as the 'circular saw'. It spoilt the performance of the towing ship's sound gear, and the first models could not be towed at over 15kts, though this was increased to 20kts in later patterns.
   In addition speeds of over 18kts and of 8kts or less provided a good measure of protection, as the Germans had expected, but they had not foreseen an effective tactical counter known as 'Step aside'. On locating the surfaced U-boat, by radar or other means, the escort would turn back to place the U-boat 60 on the opposite bow, and continue this course for mile at 15kts, then turning to parallel the original bearing of the U-boat and covering a further mile before turning towards the U-boat and attacking.

   The dust jacket calls Naval Weapons of World War Two John Campbells's magnum opus, and that's absolutely right. This is a massive reference work that undeniably belongs on the shelf of every serious student of the naval aspects of the Second World War. Thanks to the recent reprints from Naval Institute Press and Conway, it's no longer necessary to shell out $300 for a copy, so there's no excuse for failing to grab one before these go out of print again and the price climbs back out of reach.
   Highly, highly recommended.
   Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Naval Institute Press in the US.
   Thanks to NIP for providing this review copy.

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Reviewed 2 February 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone
 

 

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