- Reviewed by
John Reeve is Senior Lecturer and Osborne Fellow in Naval History at the University of New South Wales. David Stevens is the director of Naval Historical Studies in the Royal Australian Navy's Sea Power Centre. In 2001 Reeve and Stevens published a book treating the rise of Australian naval power. In their latest collaborative work, they have assembled a collection of very diverse essays that range in subject matter from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. Most originated as papers presented at a conference on naval history in Canberra in 2001. The seventeen contributing authors in the book are of diverse backgrounds and nationalities, but the overwhelming majority of them (thirteen) are from Australia. The essays have in common the individual and group experiences of twentieth-century naval warfare, and the unifying theme of the book is its discussion of the human dimension in naval battle. The book is a useful addition to scholarly collections of naval history.
Reeve and Stevens divide their book into three parts. Part I, "Setting the Stage," consists of two chapters. Reeve opens with a discussion of the anatomy of the face of naval battle; it is followed by a chapter on operational command at sea.
The heart of the book is Part II, "Aspects of the Face of Naval Battle." It consists of fourteen very diverse chapters covering such subjects as the Chinese in the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War; Admiral Maximilian Spee and the German East Asia Cruiser Squadron in 1914; Australian sailors in the period 1914-2001; the treatment of casualties from the Emden-Sydney action; the evolution of the aircraft carrier; the relationship of his naval service to the [End Page 973] fiction of prolific Australian novelist James MacDonnell; and World War II recollections of a crew member on an Australian cruiser in the 1942 Battle of the Java Sea, of a machinist's mate on U.S. submarines, and of the captain of the Australian cruiser Sydney in the 1991 Gulf War. Part III contains three chapters treating perceptions of the enemy in modern naval battle, stress in war, and the face of future naval battle. The editors have also included in the book many previously unpublished photographs.
Too often naval warfare is seen as driven primarily by technology. As is true on land, technology continues to change while human issues and leadership have remained much the same throughout history. As the essays in this book all demonstrate, vision, courage, teamwork, and dedication are as important today as they were in the Age of Fighting Sail or in World War II.