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DOCUMENTARIES

The Battleships

By Richard Moore

This is a fascinating documentary series for those interested in history, and navies in particular, and traces the rise of one of the most powerful weapons devised by man - the battleship.

From the launch of the first battleship - the Mary Rose - in the time of England's Henry VIII, right through to the Gulf War, empires have used the floating gun platforms as objects of power and prestige.

Bigger, better, faster, stronger became the catchcries of imperial navies and the constant need to remain technologically ahead of rivals led directly to the arms race that helped cause World War I.

The series is split into four episodes of about 50-minutes - A Thirst For Blood and Iron (1800-1906), Clash of the Dreadnoughts (1906-1916), The Darkness of the Future (1916-1939) and Terror From Above (1939-present day) - covering the major episodes in the chronology of battleships.

Britain's Royal Navy figures heavily in the series as its early rivalries for naval supremacy over France, Spain and Holland set the tone for its ability to not only protect itself from invasion, but also project its influence around the world.

To do this Britain had a doctrine of staying more powerful that its two closest rivals put together.

After the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain definitely ruled the waves - and that continued despite the attentions of other powers to building up their navies. If France designed a steamship or iron ship, then Britain developed better ones.

Apart from some excellent imagery and footage of naval battles, the most interesting thing about the series is following the arms race through the ages.

By building steel vessels called Dreadnoughts at the turn of the century, Britain almost shot herself in the foot because overnight its entire naval supremacy was almost wiped out.

Its numerous old vessels became obsolete and suddenly other powers could almost begin to match the great Royal Navy. When Germany decided to challenge Britain in the naval stakes the road to war was inevitable.

After World War I most nations - except the US - hauled back on production, and so America became the world's equal most powerful navy.

Even early this century, Britain's fear of a strong US navy could have led to another war between the now-firm friends. Since World War 2 the Soviets replaced the Royal Navy as America's only naval challenge.

The Battleships is a marvellous piece of work that details the politics and developments of the battleship and is one of those series you sit down to one rainy afternoon and watch the lot in one sitting.

Conclusion:

Movie: 85%

DVD Extras: 50%

 

 

 
 
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