Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

10 Greatest Ships of the Royal Navy by John Ballard

Except for possibly the legions of Ancient Rome, no military force has ever left an imprint as large as the Royal Navy.

Royal Navy - Microsoft Word - Document1 Warspite engaged in shore bombardment off the coast of Normandy

Napoleon and Hitler's armies both rampaged across Europe bringing destruction and death to the continent until grinding to a halt on the frozen Russian steppe. Yet for all the power they wielded even these two tyrants failed to shape or change the world as drastically as Britain's Senior Service.

Like the Romans, the Royal Navy carved out a vast empire that created many of the countries, governments, institutions, laws, treaties and alliances in existence today.

Royal Navy - Microsoft Word - Document1 Hood at Scapa Flow in 1940 (Michael Pocock, MaritimeQuest.com)

In the early twentieth century, First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher wrote that 'the British Empire floats on the British Navy.' Now this might, to twenty-first century ears at least, sound like the pompous nationalistic boast one could expect from an Edwardian establishment figure, but it wasn't simply a boast - every word of it was true. More than a quarter of the world flew the Union Flag and was run from London because the Navy gave Britain mastery of the seas and oceans and therefore control of the international trade and supply routes.

Nowadays we often read about and watch television programmes on individuals who changed the world, but no one person has created a wake as sizeable as the Royal Navy's. It was actually while reflecting on the BBC series '100 Greatest Britons' that I formed the idea for my book. It struck me that numerous people on that list - including Winston Churchill, Horatio Nelson and Queen Victoria - probably wouldn't even be on the list had it not been for the Royal Navy. Churchill guiding the nation to wartime victory, Nelson's triumph at Trafalgar and Victoria's position as the grand monarch of empire would all have been impossible without the British Fleet.

Royal Navy - Microsoft Word - Document1 Bulwark at Malta in December 1956 (Michael Pocock, MaritimeQuest.com)

So while we, quite rightly, honour our great individuals, I feel it's about time we celebrate the navy and ships that helped make them great.

Starting with HMS Victory and ending with HMS Invincible, 10 Greatest Ships of the Royal Navy tells the stories of, what for my money at least, are the most important vessels to have served under the White Ensign. Whether through war service, revolutionary design, versatility or a combination of all three, the ships featured put the stamp of greatness on the Senior Service.

I hope you get even a fraction as much enjoyment reading the book as I did writing it.

Royal Navy - 9781445646527

John Ballard's book 10 Greatest Ships of the Royal Navy is available for purchase now.