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Graf Spee, Schamhorst and Disguised German Raider - By G.H. Bennett. The war mission of the German surface fleet included keeping the Royal Navy out of the Baltic.

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Graf Spee, Schamhorst and Disguised German Raider - By G.H. Bennett.

The war mission of the German surface fleet included keeping the Royal Navy out of the Baltic. War against British commerce was the primary task of the German submarines, who hoped to strangle Britain's imports of food and war materials. 

Disguised Auxiliary cruisers could sidle up to merchant vessels undetected as they were flying a neutral flag, similar to 17th century pirate ships. Completion of disguised ships was difficult and took its toll on the German dockyard workers and crews, sailing in waters dominated by the Royal Navy. 

The Battle Summaries chart how the Royal Navy dealt with the threat of these raiders of 70 years ago.

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Contemporary, WW2, Royal Navy Battle Summaries - a useful and informative primary resource

What isn't apparent from the product description is that this volume contains the text and maps from contemporary, WW2, Royal Navy Battle Summary reports. The text of three summary reports is reproduced -

Battle Summary No.26 - The Chase and Destruction of the Graf Spee (85 pages);

Battle Summary No.24 - The sinking of the Scharnhorst (56 pages); and,

Battle Summary No 13. - Actions with Enemy Disguised Raiders (50 pages).

It is not often that one can read a contemporary, official, account of now-familiar actions. In the part of the book that covers the search for the Graf Spee, we read about the search based on the information the searchers had to hand at the time. The part of the report that records the voyage of the Pocket Battleship does provide a perspective from the 'other side of the hill', but reading about why RN and French ships were deployed to certain areas; and about the calculated risk that Commodore Harwood took in heading for the mouth of the River Plate, is very interesting. One senses the difficult decisions facing the Admiralty - whether to escort this or that vessel or convoy, or to concentrate to look for the enemy raider, with the risk that lone ships would be intercepted by the Graf Spee.

The account of the Battle of the River Plate itself is one of the best I have read. The maps - reproduced from the original reports - are well-presented and detailed.

There is similar coverage of the Battle of the North Cape; and of the search by the RN for enemy raiders. Apparent from the latter report is the real risk the raiders posed to the RN Cruisers looking for them. The level of risk is attested to by the sad loss of HMAS Sydney, which engagement (with the raider 'Kormoran') is also featured in this book, along with many others.

Recommended for anyone who has in interest in the battles featured, or in the RN in WW2 more generally. Very good value too.

The reports are the formerly classified (CONFIDENTIAL, in this case) Royal Naval reports, written to provide RN personnel with details of engagements and operations from which lessons could be learned.