Brian Lavery returns with the second volume of his engaging social history of the Royal Navy's 'lower deck', exploring the world of the seamen (as opposed to the officers of the quarterdeck). Following on from Royal Tars (covering the years 875-1850) it now precedes the third volume All Hands (covering the years from 1939). In Able Seamen the author addresses a range of issues central to the evolution of the seaman through 89 years of change, including 'Jacky' Fisher's sweeping reforms and the concept of the 'new seaman'; the rise of stokers, artificers and engineers and the traditional seaman's 'crisis of identity' as the navy moved from sail to steam. The 'lower deck' also had to deal with the changing social structure of the Navy; the great demands made on the Service throughout the British Empire; the move from broadside batteries to sophisticated turretsand fire-control systems; the modernization and standardisation of signals and telegraphy; the rise of 'small ships' as a destroyer fleet was created to fulfil new strategic requirements; and the creation of the submarine service.
Brian Lavery also highlights the repercussions of the First World War and the grand fleet engagement at Jutland; the expressions of discontent (such as the infamous Invergordon mutiny), and the lead-up to the Second World War. Readable, engaging and authoritative, this book chronicles an important stage in the history of the Royal Navy and illuminates the inherent adaptability of the lower deck, as new technologies demanded increased professionalism, specialization and training.