It is not very often that you come across a newly published book that you can feel confident will become the publication in the field for reference. Tonight we are taking a look at one such book. Published just in time for Christmas 2014, Royal Navy Uniforms 1930-1945, is by respected military author Martin J Brayley. A brief glance at the sources I use for this blog will show that Mr Brayley’s books make up a sizeable proportion of the material I use for writing these posts. With a Brayley book one expects great detail, an easy style making reading a pleasure and numerous photographs to illustrate the text. I am happy to say that this book delivers on all these points:The subject of Royal Naval Uniforms of the Second World War has been sadly neglected over the last seventy years. Most authors include a brief chapter in wider works on the Royal navy in WW2, but detailed study of the garments themselves, regulations and scales of issue and the various orders of dress have been absent from our bookshelves. This book then addresses this need and is logically set out in 160 pages with a number of parts covering Officers’ uniforms, Ratings’ uniforms and then a section on specialist clothing and other accoutrements. The chapters are:
- Officers’ clothing and effects
- Class 1 and III Ratings’ clothing and effects
- Class II Seamens’ clothing and effects
- Battledress and tropical clothing
- Miscellaneous clothing
- Personal effects
- Substantive and non-substantive insignia
Each section starts out with a brief history of the uniforms and the regulations regarding the uniforms, before a detailed look at each order of dress:
The book is packed with both period photographs, reconstructions and detail shots of the various uniforms. On the whole these illustrate the text very well; however in a couple of cases, with reconstructions of some of the overalls, the contrast in the photograph is not sufficient to allow all the detail to be seen. I suspect this has more to do with the nature of the actual uniform than it being any fault on the part of the photographer, but it does make seeing some of the detail referred to in the text more difficult. The weakest area of the book is that on specialist clothing and accoutrements, many items are only illustrated through period photographs and some are only referred to in the text. I imagine that this is due to the difficulty in tracking down either original items to photograph or period photographs and again it must be emphasised, despite this, the range of items the author has pulled together is remarkable.
The book does not contain any uniforms from the WRENs, however as these have already been covered in the same authors book on Women’s uniforms of WW2 this is not a problem. The text is readable, and despite great detail of the history and development of the uniform since WW1, the author manages to make it interesting and informative and I read the book cover to cover over a weekend with pleasure. With a RRP of £25 this harback book falls into the mid-price range of militaria books, cheaper than Schiffer’s tomes (not always that good even with the high price tag) and more expensive than the standard Osprey book, but of far higher quality and depth than the latter. With deals on Amazon it should be possible to purchase a copy for under £20 and I for one would heartily recommend picking up a copy. The author is apparently now working on a similar work for the RAF and I cannot wait for its publication. This book has a proud spot on my reference shelf and will be referred to many times I’m sure as I write post for this blog.