In the summer of 1914, as the First World War began to rage across Western Europe, cadets of the Royal Navy were issued with a pocket-sized handbook.
It contained silhouettes of all warships in action across the globe, so the cadets would be able to recognise both friendly and enemy vessels on the high seas in the event they went to war.
Originally compiled by noted naval expert Fred T Jane, and published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co Ltd, the book includes the vessels of 35 international navies, including those of Britain, Germany, the United States and Japan.
Now, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Warships at a Glance has been reprinted by University of Plymouth Press as a tribute to the cadets and midshipmen – many of them just teenagers – who fought and died for their country.
Paul Honeywill, Director of University of Plymouth Press, which also published the Britannia Naval Histories of World War II, said:
“This special edition of Warships at a Glance gives a fascinating insight into the training offered to cadets at the time. For them, the prospect of war must have felt like an exciting opportunity to exchange the classroom for a life of adventure. The reality for their generation, however, was to be a life consumed by war, with many giving their lives for King and country at a mere 15 or 16 years of age.”
Among the first to receive copies of the book in 1914 were young cadets at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and the reprint includes notes by one of them, Cadet Alec Lister Tidd.
Born in April 1900, he joined the college in January 1914, passing out at Christmas 1916 and being commissioned as a Midshipman aboard HMS Neptune. He was made a Sub Lieutenant on 15th November 1918 and witnessed the surrender of Germany’s High Seas Fleet seven days later.
His notes include records of British and German vessels lost during the conflict, featuring details of whether they had been mined or torpedoed.