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Castles of Steel

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,607 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
In August 1914 the two greatest navies in the world confronted each other across the North Sea. At first there were skirmishes, then battles off the coasts of England and Germany and in the far corners of the world, including the Falklands. The British attempted to force the Dardanelles with battleships - which led to the Gallipoli catastrophe. As the stalemate on the grou ...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 (first published 2003)
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Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The thing about World War I that most sparks my imagination is its occurrence at a unique point in history, where the pre-modern technologies of the 19th century entwined with the familiar, modern technologies of the 20th. The result was quaint and disastrous and fascinating to behold. British officers still armed themselves with swagger sticks, important towns were still fortified, and the cavalry remained an important military branch. Meanwhile, poison gas, airplanes, high-powered artillery (a ...more
One of Robert Massie’s books concludes with the line “When the last stroke fell, Great Britain was at war with Germany.”

Another one of his books ends with the sentence “The Great War was over.”

What lies between these two lines is an unparalleled work (more than 800 pages long) of history about the war at sea between Britain and Germany in the Great War. That book is Castles of Steel.

“Castles of Steel” is the sequel to Robert Massie’s 1000 page mammoth Dreadnought which chronicles the national
Jill Hutchinson
This is a "must read" if you are a Massie fan, a student of WWI history or interested in the developing stages of modern sea power. This is a wonderful narrative of the war at sea between the Grand Fleet of Great Britain and the High Seas Fleet of Imperial Germany. Massie weaves a fascinating tale of the tug-of-war between the politicians and the naval commanders on one side, and the power of the Kaiser over the Navy on the other.
Massie gives interesting insights into the personal and profession
Robert Massie's approach to understanding World War I through the naval battles is original and thought provoking. It is one of the best he has ever written and the prefect accompaniment to his book Dreadnought. The book tracks how the German and British navies reacted during the war and the strategies employed by both. Whether it is the chasing of cruisers around South America or the battles between the Grand Fleet (Great Britain) and the High Seas Fleet (Germany) the detail and analysis is top ...more
Bob H
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The logical sequel to Dreadnought, which chronicled the Anglo-German naval arms race, a proximate cause of WWI. Here, the navies built for such an unimaginable conflict now stalk each other, and although the book focuses on the British and German parts of the war it still is valuable for those interested in history or in vivid historical writing. Particularly valuable are the little-known but critical clashes outside Europe, notably the battles off Chile and Argentina that aren't well-remembered ...more
Martin Budd
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was recommended this book by another Goodreads member following my review of "Dreadnought" and I'm so grateful that they did. If "Dreadnought" is a rich and satisfying read, and it is, then "Castles of Steel" is its measure and fulfilment.
Robert Massie has that rarest of gifts, the ability to communicate huge chunks of information, that could so easily be dry and repetitious and make it a gripping and richly enjoyable read. It is a very unusual gift to have a mind that grasps detail and techn
Bas Kreuger
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A slight, but only very, very slight, disappointment in reading Castles of Steel. Massie again writes compulsive and with an eye for detail, but what I miss is the view from both sides as he did in "Dreadnought" where the thoughts and actions of the leading politicians and naval officers was examined. After finishing "Dreadnought" I had a much better understanding how WWI came about and how and why the Germans and Brits clashed over their naval policy.
"CoS" has less policy and diplomacy and much
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In his previous history Dreadnaught, which I have not read, naval historian Robert Massie described how Britain and France built the two greatest surface fleets in the world, centered around the massive, heavily armored battleships whose massive guns could fire heavy exploding shells at target miles away. In this equally massive 865 page tome he depicts the conflict between these two navies during WW I.
When most of think of WW I, we think of the stalemated trench warfare across Belgium and Fr
Richard Thomas
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wars
Thorough account.

This is a very good account of the naval war between Britain and Germany. The depth to which Robert Massie goes in analysing the strengths and weaknesses of both navies is astounding. As well as being excellent history, the book is elegantly written with a plethora of insights into the minds of the lords of both fleets. I can’t really praise it too highly. On a minor note, the book refers to possible submarine incursions into Scapa Flow. There is a reef called the Barrel of Butt
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a hefty volume, but it covers WWI naval history better than any I've read before. Robert K. Massey writes with more color and illuminates more character than Barbara Tuchman (The First Salute and Guns of August) such that the details behind and concerning the build-up to these engagements at sea and the engagements themselves read more like "story" than "history." Frankly, I read Alexander Fullerton's novel about the chase of the Goeben into the Dardanelles and on into the Black Sea, but ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the characteristics of examining the past is that otherwise mundane or ordinary aspects of life become romanticized. For example, travel on trains or steamers becomes more interesting than it almost certainly was to those that took advantage of such modes of transportation. Naval warfare is not exempt from this phenomenon. The rigorous skill of the crews and the intensity of yardarm-to-yardarm brawls during the Age of Sail cover up the general tedium, filth, and sheer terror during battle ...more
Garick Black
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Massie has quickly become one of my favorite writers. His blend of technical detail with the human drive really appeals to me. For an American, Massie tells the story the way a European would. There is no quick exposition or future telling of future American glory. Massie understands both the German and British mindset before and during the war. He does not condemn the Germans for being the 'bad guys'. He does point out more flaws in the German thinking than the British, but that can also be att ...more
I have been listening to the book-on-CD of this, read masterfully by Richard Matthews. (his reading of Churchill is wonderful!) At 33 CD's, it is a long book. However, surprisingly to me, it is gripping reading (or listening). I have found myself learning with real anticipation about Admiral John Jellico, Admiral of the British Fleet during most of WW1; Admiral David Beatty, who led the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron under Jellicoe and then succeeded Jellicoe as Admiral of the British Fleet in 1919; ...more
Jonny Ruddock
Telling the story of the Great War at sea is a massive undertaking, and Mr Massie does it very well. The account is very readable throughout, whether he is dealing with one of the sea battles or the political machinations occurring behind the scenes. One of the difficulties of this topic to my mind is that the climactic event if the sea war occurs roughly halfway through the timeline. Thankfully the narrative doesn't slacked on either side of this event. As with Dreadnought, wonderful pen portra ...more
N.N. Light
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a much anticipated re-read for me. Having the pleasure of owning Dreadnought by Massie, I was tingling with anticipation to get my hands on this sequel. Re-reading it gave me the same sense of pleasure. Massie is able to capture, in vivid detail, every aspect of the Royal Navy in it's clash with Germany in World War 1. For a fan of Naval History this is a must own. With the 100th anniversary of World War 1 upon us this is a timely read for everyone. Some take issue with the presentation ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike its predecessor - Dreadnought - this book zips along at a fast pace through the 4 years of war, plus the following few months of internment. The battle chapters, especially those concerning the Falkland Islands and Jutland, are intricately detailed. In between, during the long months of relative inaction, the activities of the various navies are told. Of particular significance is how close the unrestricted U-boat offensive came to winning the war.

Massie attempts to be neutral in judging
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
At it's best when describing the actual ship movements, dispositions and actions during various engagements. As with "Dreadnought" analysis of political developments are somewhat tedious. Very good bibliography and will soon read Gorden's "Jutland" from 1996.
Douglas Berry
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
When people think of World War One, they think of the miserable trenches of the Western Front, or possibly the collapse if Imperial Russia and the rise of the Soviet Union in its place. Rarely do people consider the naval war.

This amazing book, a follow-on to "Dreadnought", corrects that. It covers the sparring and raids in the North Sea between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. Also covered are the pursuit of the SMS Goeben and Breslau through the Mediterranean and the am
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read prolifically and I thought that I had read the better books written by the most notable historical writers but Robert Massie stands at the pinnacle. He has the ability of presenting accurate historical fact with portrayals of the people concerned as though you know them personally. I actually read "Castles of Steel" and "Dreadnought" the wrong way round (Historically, "Dreadnought" comes first) but in some respects having presented us with the a brilliant portrayal of the First World War, ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-world-war
This was an interesting, fact-filled book typical of Massie’s engaging storytelling style. However, the editing of the book leaves something to be desired. Massie continually repeats facts that he has mentioned previously in the text. One gets the feeling that the book was written without linkage of the individual chapters. That said, I still found this to be an informative insight into the now little-known naval clash between Britain and Germany.
Joe Oaster
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very technical and detail book, complete with tonnage and gun size of almost every ship of the German and British Navy. Outstanding history of the major players during the conflict. Details much of the correspondence from both sides and all of the major engagements.

The sections on Gallipoli and Jutland were particularly good. The author also includes some of the major US Navy contribution as well.

Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Considering Great Britain are so noted as being a naval nation the narrative of the First World War is so dominated by the Western Front. This book is an excellent exploration of one of the, if not the most important theatres of the war.
Jim Cunningham
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a remarkable 800 page monster! One of the best books I've ever read... worth the time invested. Massie covers everything, including some things that frankly might have been better summarized than dealt with in detail... but that's part of this exquisite book's charm. Highly recommended.
Pete Zilla
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I knew nothing about the Naval contributions to WWI - and now I know everything. Great book on the battles, politics, and personalities of the Fleets of all involved in WWI.
Devin Poore
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. So good that I don't feel I have the time to do justice to a review at this time.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A tour de force of naval history, which seamlessly marries broad strategic concerns, detailed battle reports, and peeks into the soap-opera lives of British and German admirals during the Great War.
Nicholas Bobbitt
This is what I like from Massie. He's excellent in military history, not so much when he's deifying Russians.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book, unexpected passion for history and shipbuilding during WW1
Ted Mccormack
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Victory in war is 80% luck and 20% skill.
Tom Taaffe
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent history of the navys of Great Britain and Geemany culminating in the Battle of Jutland.
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Robert Kinloch Massie (born 1929) is an American historian, writer, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and a Rhodes Scholar.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1929, Massie spent much of his youth in Nashville, Tennessee and currently resides in Westchester County, New York in the village of Irvington. He studied American history at Yale University and modern European history at Oxford University on his Rhode
“Sometimes on the bridge of his flagship, Beatty would release his inner tension by making faces. “For no apparent reason,” said an officer who served with him, “he would screw his face into a fearsome grimace and hold it quite unconsciously for a minute or two.” Another peculiarity was his addiction to fortune-tellers: a Mrs. Robinson, a Madame Dubois, and, in Edinburgh when he commanded the Grand Fleet, a “Josephine.” 1 likes
“On August 2, Germany and Turkey had signed a defensive alliance against Russia. The Turks were reluctant, however, to take the actual step into war and the German embassy in Constantinople was recommending application of pressure on the grand vizier and his Cabinet. The sight of Goeben anchored off the Golden Horn was thought likely to offer formidable persuasion.” 1 likes
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