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Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at… (2003)

de Robert K. Massie

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
8421618,963 (4.38)27
In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Dreadnought, elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of the Great War. The predominant image of this first world war is of mud and trenches, barbed wire, machine guns, poison gas, and slaughter. A generation of European manhood was massacred, and a wound was inflicted on European civilization that required the remainder of the twentieth century to heal. But with all its sacrifice, trench warfare did not win the war for one side or lose it for the other. Over the course of four years, the lines on the Western Front moved scarcely at all; attempts to break through led only to the lengthening of the already unbearably long casualty lists. For the true story of military upheaval, we must look to the sea. On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen. When war came, these two fleets of dreadnoughts-gigantic floating castles of steel able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away-were ready to test their terrible power against each other. Their struggles took place in the North Sea and the Pacific, at the Falkland Islands and the Dardanelles. They reached their climax when Germany, suffocated by an implacable naval blockade, decided to strike against the British ring of steel. The result was Jutland, a titanic clash of fifty-eight dreadnoughts, each the home of a thousand men. When the German High Seas Fleet retreated, the kaiser unleashed unrestricted U-boat warfare, which, in its indiscriminate violence, brought a reluctant America into the war. In this way, the German effort to "seize the trident" by defeating the British navy led to the fall of the German empire. Ultimately, the distinguishing feature of Castles of Steel is the author himself. The knowledge, understanding, and literary power Massie brings to this story are unparalleled. His portrayals of Winston Churchill, the British admirals Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty, and the Germans Scheer, Hipper, and Tirpitz are stunning in their veracity and artistry. Castles of Steel is about war at sea, leadership and command, courage, genius, and folly. All these elements are given magnificent scope by Robert K. Massie's special and widely hailed literary mastery.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 16 (següent | mostra-les totes)
There are many books about the first world war but few with an exclusive focus on the naval part. That makes sense since almost all suffering happened on land, but for anyone interested in the watery part this is a fantastic book.

Robert K. Massie has an earlier book which talk about how the British navy evolved in the decades and this is the natural followup.

Most of the war there was a standoff across the North Sea, where the German navy wanted to chip away at the British Grand Fleet and the British wanted to crush the German navy if possible. So most of the war there was posturing and attempts at setting traps but very few shots fired. When shots were fired, then suddenly a thousand men could you die in an instant, or nobody died.

This could easily be dry or dull but not in Massie's book. Every chapter has a topic, and they are more or less chronological, starting right before the war. We get to follow the people, Jelico, Beatty, Churchill, Asquit, Scheer, Hipper, Ludendorff and how they interacted or how they did not interact.

Some people come out of the book looking better than their contemporary reputations, some looking worse. One person that absolutely looks worse is David Beatty, the naval super hero of the time. The youngest admiral, the bravest admiral, always ready to charge the enemy. With more context we learn that he is better at public relations than running a fleet in battle. We also get to learn about all his failures in communications. This is in a time when radio (wireless) is just starting to be used and the range is not great and both jamming and direction finding its enemies. Most of the important signals therefore use signal flags and light signals, and sloppy handling of those can result in huge misunderstandings. And whenever such a huge misunderstanding happened, Beatty was responsible. The book specifically points out Betty's long time communications officer, who time and again fails to do his job without being replaced.

The book on the other hand paints a positive picture of John Jelico who at the time got a lot of flak from Beatty's PR machinery. Jelico was not the Patton, the Montgomery, the MacArtur, or the Beatty, who played the press to further their careers so when he got critizised he let the criticism stand and becoming "truth" even if it was not true. People that knew him, or knew the fleet, defended him, but not well enough to break through the Beatty propaganda ministary.

This is just a small story arc in the book though. The focus is on the action. The times when the battleships go to war. Be it at Dogger Bank, Galippo or Jutland.

Something that hit me is how Massie has investigated every decision, despite how wrong the decision was, and figured out why the person made it. Most of the time the reasoning is logical, even if the conclusions end up being the wrong one. The book starts with an action in the mediterreanen where a British captain follows orders and fails to pursue a fleeing enemy and tells the story about how strongly that captain was critizied. That background later explains how other captains fail in the other direction.

One area where I absolutely changed how I view the war is how the USA enters the Great War. We learn in school that the Germans torpedo Lusitania and the US joins the war on the allied side, but the story is much more complex and the sinking of Lusitania is just one factor, and a small one. In fact, there was even the chance of the US entering the war on the German side because the US was not happy with how the British stopped and seized American merchant ships.

I could write much more (submarines, the American entry into the war, blockades, convoys, the fleet actions in the Pacific Ocean and south Atlantic, ...) but if you have made it this far, this is clearly the book for you. Strongly recommended for anyone interested in military history, and I just wish I had not waited so long with reading it. ( )
  bratell | Dec 25, 2020 |
Solid account of the sea war between the United Kingdom's Royal Navy and the German Imperial Navy during World War I. Balanced, in that it points out the positives and negatives on both sides. The surprising thing is just how many mistakes the Royal Navy made, including design flaws and personality flaws, and they still won, though in some cases the margin for disaster was thin, indeed. Massie (well known for writing books on the Russian imperial family) does a good job, here. It might have been helpful to have had more maps to go along with specific areas of the text, my only quibble. Recommended. ( )
  EricCostello | Apr 6, 2020 |
Fantastic. A wonderful and engaging book from beginning to end. A blast for anyone that loves naval history in the slightest, and possibly even better for people who aren't, as they wont exactly know how it turns out. Feels like a novel, and Massie has a way with building tension. One of my favorite reads. ( )
  rdmhellyer | Nov 21, 2018 |
Castles of Steel is a lengthy survey of naval warfare during the Great War. Much of this material is available in specialist history books, Massie makes it accessible for the general reader. The writing is top notch maintaining your attention, for that alone it is worth the time. The subject matter is somewhat obscure and if Massie hadn't written it, I doubt I would have read a book of this length. It gives an impression of being a complete history of the Great War at sea, but there are many battles not mentioned or only in passing. Massie spends an inordinate time on British fleet commander politics, blunders and operations which gives the battles more flavor, but at the cost of fewer voices from the lower deck, other than body counts. The few actions I knew from previous reading were not covered: the Emden's raid on Penang, and SMS Königsberg in German East Africa. I was delighted to learn about Q-ships which I had never heard about before, a sort of naval version of the dog fight. The battle of Falkland was a vivid retelling, but the image of two ocean passenger liners slugging it out in the Caribbean will never be forgotten. Overall, naval warfare in WWI was limited compared to WWII though it did lay the groundwork for the next war. It was the Brits war to loose and they rightly played it close to the vest not taking much risk. The Germans did the same, but should have been more aggressive as they had nothing to loose in a big attack, and by the time they realized this it was too late. ( )
  Stbalbach | Sep 3, 2018 |
Fantastically well written but long book.. Calls it as it was - Churchill, once again, gets taken down for his lack of knowledge and his desire to take the credit even when not due.. I was unaware of how large (as in number of ships) some of the World War I were and the absolutely horrible conditions the sailors worked under. Jelllico, Beatty and other famous Admirals were are shown as the politicans they really were. ( )
  busterrll | Jul 20, 2018 |
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All nations want peace, but they want a peace that suits them.
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Referències a aquesta obra en fonts externes.

Wikipedia en anglès (114)

1918 in the United Kingdom

3rd Battle Squadron (United Kingdom)

7th Cruiser Squadron (United Kingdom)

Action of 19 August 1916

Action of 22 September 1914

Action of 29 February 1916

HMS Drake (1901)

HMS Essex (1901)

HMS Euryalus (1901)

HMS Firedrake (1912)

HMS Fortune (1913)

HMS Hawke (1891)

September 1914

Sir George Warrender, 7th Baronet

SM U-53

SMS Bremse

SMS Brummer

SMS Derfflinger

In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Dreadnought, elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of the Great War. The predominant image of this first world war is of mud and trenches, barbed wire, machine guns, poison gas, and slaughter. A generation of European manhood was massacred, and a wound was inflicted on European civilization that required the remainder of the twentieth century to heal. But with all its sacrifice, trench warfare did not win the war for one side or lose it for the other. Over the course of four years, the lines on the Western Front moved scarcely at all; attempts to break through led only to the lengthening of the already unbearably long casualty lists. For the true story of military upheaval, we must look to the sea. On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen. When war came, these two fleets of dreadnoughts-gigantic floating castles of steel able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away-were ready to test their terrible power against each other. Their struggles took place in the North Sea and the Pacific, at the Falkland Islands and the Dardanelles. They reached their climax when Germany, suffocated by an implacable naval blockade, decided to strike against the British ring of steel. The result was Jutland, a titanic clash of fifty-eight dreadnoughts, each the home of a thousand men. When the German High Seas Fleet retreated, the kaiser unleashed unrestricted U-boat warfare, which, in its indiscriminate violence, brought a reluctant America into the war. In this way, the German effort to "seize the trident" by defeating the British navy led to the fall of the German empire. Ultimately, the distinguishing feature of Castles of Steel is the author himself. The knowledge, understanding, and literary power Massie brings to this story are unparalleled. His portrayals of Winston Churchill, the British admirals Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty, and the Germans Scheer, Hipper, and Tirpitz are stunning in their veracity and artistry. Castles of Steel is about war at sea, leadership and command, courage, genius, and folly. All these elements are given magnificent scope by Robert K. Massie's special and widely hailed literary mastery.

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