Book Review: Cromwell's Wars at Sea - John Barratt

My interest in Cromwell's naval campaigns came indirectly in that, I was interested in the Anglo Dutch Wars and the first of these was fought by the Commonwealth Navy. I was conscious that my focus appeared to be creeping further and further back into the 17th century and had now started bumping into the latter stages of the English Civil War and Thirty Years War. Not a problem in and of itself but, for me, a little concerning regarding scope creep. The rebalancing factor is of course that many of the ships which fought right through to the end of the 17th century were actually built in the first half of the century and served continously through a series of wars. Sometimes the ships were renamed and sometimes also rebuilt. 

This serves as an introduction then to my shift of interest to the 1st Anglo Dutch War. The main differences between this war and the later two conflicts beginning in 1665 and 1672 were as follows:

Fleets often tended to be larger than in the following two wars. The Dutch ships were considerably smaller than in later wars, rarely carrying more than 40 guns. Many were hired merchantmen loosely aligned with military discipline and poorly motivated and paid when compared to privateers. Tactics were also quite different from the later period. Fighting was individualistic. The Dutch were wedded to boarding actions and the English to the power of gunnery. English ships were considerably more powerfully armed and heavily-built than their opponents.

Lines of battle evolved through the 1st Anglo Dutch War as a consequence of some of the major battle outcomes. Having initially dismissed my interest in the earlier war, a reappraisal through this book and other reading has made me even more fascinated.
And so, to the book...

It is an easy read with small pages and large type. The writing style is snappy and concise, perhaps a little too concise in some instances when a further bit of detail would have been welcome but that is a minor point. Some slightly odd proof reading errors which are forgivable (and I know how difficult that process is from personal experience) but nevertheless, distracting, found me re reading a paragraph or two numerous times as I started doubting my ability to read and process. 

The simple maps are quite handy but a little abstract. The subject matter however, makes up for these small issues. The story of the Commonwealth Navy and its adventures with Royalists, privateers, Irish Confederates, Dutchmen, Portuguese, Berber and Spanish opponents is a rip roaring saga of ups and downs. The battles against Prince Rupert's Royalists are every bit as fascinating as the struggles against de With, Tromp and and de Ruyter. I can definitely see some ECW naval scenarios reaching my table soon. 

Some of the ships which fought for the Commonwealth: Resolution, Sovereign, Naseby, Speaker and others, went on to serve King Charles II and King James II & VII as Prince Royal, Royal Sovereign, Royal Charles and Mary. 

I recommend this book , I think I got a second hand copy for about £12 inc postgae from Abe Books. It has a lot of very wargamable content!