A Boy’s Book of Battleships

A Boy’s Book of Battleships by Gordon Stables, pictures by Charles Robinson.

William Gordon Stables was a Scottish-born medical doctor in the Royal Navy and a prolific author of adventure fiction, primarily for boys.

He wrote over 130 books. The bulk of his extensive works belong to the genre of boys’ adventure fiction, often with a nautical or historical setting.

One book of notable interest is A Boy’s Book of Battleships, which is a beautifully illustrated history of battleships. The illustrator, Charles Robinson, presents the vessels using both simple line, and strikingly coloured, drawings that immediately attract the eye to this book. The text is written in an easily digestible format that concisely documents the evolution of the design of battleships throughout history. The author starts by describing a humble ‘War Canoe’, used by Head Hunters in the days of Homer, and then works through to the vessels of the Roman Empire, the Viking Age and up to the modern day, including battleships used in the First World War.

The book only lightly concerns itself with technical matters such as ship construction methods and materials, and focuses largely on the cultural history, usage, means of propellant and weaponry of the battleships. Early designs of battleships were powered by oarsmen, in contrast with modern ships powered by steam and mechanical power.

[Click on images to enlarge]

Warship of Ancient Greece


“The Greeks of the Homeric age were one of the first of maritime nations….”

Roman Trireme 

 “Even when at her Zenith, no one would ever have thought of accusing Rome of being a great naval power, nor her sons of being sailors in the true sense of the word; but nevertheless more than once she made an attempt to rule the waves.”

Phoenician Battleship

 “The Phoenicians were great traders and they visited every port of the Mediterranean. They even crossed the Bay of Biscay and bartered with the ancient Britons on the coast of Cornwall”

Viking Ship


“There is hardly a boy in Britain to whom the brave doings of the ancient Vikings do not appeal.”

H.M.S. Dreadnought

 “The Dreadnoughts are the most powerful battleships in the world. Not only are their guns terrible engines of war, but they are so well protected as to be invincible and unsinkable”

Classmark : 1910.11.10

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3 Responses to A Boy’s Book of Battleships

  1. Lawrence Brooks says:

    “There is hardly a boy in Britain to whom the brave doings of the ancient Vikings do not appeal.”

    Different times….

    Also, pointless (probably true and potentially interesting?) fact: the illustrator is the brother of William Heath Robinson, of even greater illustrating fame. And the 3rd Robinson brother (Thomas Heath) was also an illustrator. A talented family! Always enjoyed their work when I came across it up the Tower.

  2. Josh says:

    I like the mother and child on the prow of the Phoenician ship. Although, unusually, the whole ship’s crew looks female.

    Also a sign of the illustrator’s talent– the dreadnought is so large, it doesn’t even fit on the page!

  3. Rob Towner says:

    Those battleship pictures looks awesome! Charles nailed it!

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