The Historic Warships
Traditional and Historic ships and sailboats

Inside Books

Warship Books

Boating book reviews:


This site outlines the Popular and required books about the International Historic Ships and Warships, Register of Historic Ships and Literature In this area.

Warships of the Napoleonic Era

By Robert Gardiner

warships of the napoleonic eraThis is the first book in the "Blueprint Series", which is designed to use the unrivalled archive of original plans at the National Maritime Museum. Warships of the Napoleonic Era reproduces plans of all the principal types of vessels employed during the period from the three-decker down to the humble flat-bottomed boat used in dockyards. Nor is it just British ships that are featured; plans of vessels from most of the major European navies are included, and also those from the USA. Most of the draughts in the book are sheer or sheer-profile plans and are intended to convey the basic characteristics of the ships for easy comparison.

The accompanying text by Robert Gardiner describes the function and development of each type of vessel and is enlivened by the occasional anecdote and, as we have come to expect from the author, is a model of its kind, being both easy to read and scholarly. More books in the Blueprint Series are promised: if they maintain the standards set in Warships of the Napoleonic Era they should build into a collection of real importance.

available in Amazon

Legacy of Smoke A Story of the Bristol Channel

By John Gilman

Legacy of SmokeSet around the Bristol Channel from the mouth of the Avon to Lundy Roads, Legacy of Smoke is the third novel in Gilmanís Deckchair Books Series, each of which is set in a popular seaside resort. This story, longer than previous ones, traces the fortunes of a Somerset family from 1917 to the 1960s, from the great days of the resorts of that coast through World War Two and beyond.

Love, death, nostalgia, itís all here. The vessels that sailed the Severn, from the last days of sail to the convoys of shipping that ran the gauntlet of U-boats and enemy aircraft, weave their way in and out of a story that beautifully captures the mood of those years, and the authorís feeling for the spirit of the place against which the action takes place shines through on every page.

not available in Amazon

Alphabet of Boats

By James Dodds

Alphabet of BoatsThis super little book is illustrated with robust linocuts by James, who also wrote the brief text.

First conceived as a teething book for his son and daughter, the original consisted of six East Coast boats printed onto wood and bound by a spliced rope ring - as his children grew and cut their teeth, the idea of an alphabet grew. So if your little ones - even your bigger ones - want a simple guide to vessels from Ark and Bawley through to Yawl and Zulu, look no further. As for the work of James Dodds, the marine artist, keep a weather-eye out for it and watch these pages too, weíll be doing a profile on him sometime in the future. In the meantime, you can find out more about James Dodds" work on his website:

available in Amazon

The Search for the North West Passage

By Ann Savours

Search for the North West Passage The idea that there might be a sea-route connecting the North Atlantic with the North Pacific first gripped Britain in the 16th century. What drove the idea forward at this time was not the thirst for knowledge but the thirst for wealth. These early voyages failed of course, but they did lead to the founding of the Hudsonís Bay Company and the opening up of Canada and, as a by product, an increased knowledge of the Arctic Seas.

In addition, Cook charted the North-West coast of America as far as Icy Cape on his third voyage of 1776-80, but where he had been led to expect open sea by the Hon Daines Barrington, a fellow of the Royal Society, he found only ice. The long peace, coupled with a desire to find something for the Royal Navy to do, meant that the quest for the North West Passage really got going in the 19th century. A need to correct the "defective geography" and to ascertain whether a passage existed at all was seen as a "peculiarly British object" , and if science were not enough to convince those who held the purse-strings, it was pointed out that a shorter "polar route" from London to China would yield worthwhile economic dividends. Thus the century saw the expeditions of Parry, Ross and Franklin, the latterís loss, and the fascination this tragedy engendered; the expeditions of Kennedy, Belcher, Inglefield and Kane and McClintockís successful search for some kind of answer to the Franklin mystery.

Ann Savours, an expert on the history of Polar exploration, has used the diaries, letters and narratives of the explorers to write a fine summary of this fascinating quest. This is history brought to life in a very readable way. The book is well illustrated with contemporary pictures and prints, many of which have never been published before.

available in Amazon

Severn Traders. The West Country Trows and Trowmen

By Colin Green

Severn TradersColin Greenís study of the trow is a very fine book indeed. The author has brought together a vast amount of information on the vessels, dealing with their origins and evolution; the economics of their trade and the freights they carried; how they were built, and the ports, harbours and waterways to which they traded. All this has been rigorously researched, yet the author has managed to convey the results of his labours in a style that is highly readable, and when recounting tales of those few men who survive who worked the trows, both entertaining and sensitive. And, if all this were not enough, the book is awash with superb images, mainly photographs from the early years of the last century, but also including some fine old prints and illustrations by Edward Paget-Tomlinson.

In short, the trow is lucky to have found an historian of the caliber of Colin Green - letís hope he turns his attention to the other sailing vessels and ports of the somewhat neglected "Severn Sea". More than the history of the vessels however, we are lucky to have had the stories of the men recorded. The passing of the trow is lamentable, but the loss of the human qualities they brought out in the crews who worked them is a greater loss by far. As Green writes of the trowmen: íThey did everyday things which now take our breath away....."

not available in Amazon

The Crew

By Tom Peppitt

The CrewThe story of the seamen who manned Britainís tramp ships in the closing years of the coal burning era is here told in a series of vignettes. Itís not a glamorous tale: these accounts of the lives of firemen, cooks, mates, coal trimmers et al, tell of ordinary men doing, in the main, humdrum jobs in ships that went about their business quietly and without getting into trouble. Tom Peppitt tells it like it was, warts and all, and as a result the book has a gritty realism that some, in these politically correct times, might find offensive.

Tough: this is great stuff, and the author tells it with a clear eye and with no excuses.

available in chaffcutter available in Amazon

Dear Daughter The Messenger Letters Voyages of a Sailing Ship Captain

Edited and Introduced by Graham Hindle

Dear Daughter The Messenger LettersDuring an eight-year period in the 1890s Captain Tom Messenger wrote a kind of "personal log" in the form of letters to his daughter, first as mate on the ship Dunboyne, then as master of the barques Ladas and Midas, in which he describes voyages that took him all over the world.

This is not a book that deals with what might be termed the technical side of getting a big square-rigger across the oceans of the world, it is, after all, a series of letters to his young daughter, but rather it is a more "home-spun" account and as such throws light on an often overlooked part of sea-faring under sail. It shows that the commanders of the big square-riggers were not just hard men, they often had a softer, more human side too, in short, they were family men. For all that, there is a lot about ship-board life, days of gale and calm, encounters with sea serpents, whales and sharks, icebergs and fogs, all told in prose that is simple yet strangely moving - all the more moving, in fact, when one knows that Captain Tom Messenger was lost whilst on passage from Nagasaki to Portland, his last written words being found in a bottle washed up near the Columbia river: "Brit Barque Midas, ballast shifted, all in small boats. First Mateís boat capsized, will all drown.....í

ABC of Boat Bits

Linocuts and words by James Dodds

ABC of Boat BitsThe latest little opus from the talented James Dodds is sub-titled "An Introduction to Sailing a Winkle Brig" and was born out of James teaching his children how to sail. And so you have an A for anchor, aft, about! and ahoy, right through to Y for yacht and Z for zig-zag.

As usual, the book is awash with superb linocuts that somehow manage to be both informative and delightful little works of art in themselves.

A book to go with the artistís Alphabet of Boats.

available in Amazon

The Rhythm of the Tide

By Jeremy Thomas

The Rhythm of the Tide Sub-titled "Tales through the ages of "Chichester Harbour", this delightful book takes the form of a series of snapshot tales about Chichester Harbour from Roman times to World War II. It is history, but not as we know it, for it is history as fiction, a kind of re-imagined past; a fiction based on fact. Here, for instance, the author writes in Chapter 2, called "Viking": "Old Hob knew one thing for sure. Cnut might be a powerful lord. But he had a lot to learn about the Harbour. Hob had to laugh: why, the man had tried to master the sea. Hob had watched the whole thing from his punt. What a carry on!" No school history was ever like this - worse luck.

Jeremy Thomas has done the research and then subsumed it into an entirely convincing series of tales, all beautifully written in an unaffected style. And between each chapter there are sections that look at some aspects of the harbour - short, evocative, with titles like "The Tide", "The Bass", and "The Mud", and the occasional piece that seems to have a more personal theme as though based on something from the authorís past - indeed, both the sections called "Prelude" and "Envoi" would appear to be based directly on the authorís childhood. Words are complemented by fine colour photographs by Iain McGowen and some well-chosen drawings by various artists. In short, Jeremy Thomasís book is both delightful and original and it deserves a wider readership than just the obvious local audience.

available in Amazon