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Book Review
British Warship Recognition
British Warship Recognition - The Perkins Identification Albums Volume 1: Capitol Ships 1895 – 1939
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by: Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

Considered to be an “amateur photographer”, Richard Perkins spent a lifetime amassing one of the largest personal collections of photographic references of warships prior to WWII, around 11,000, with a focus on ships of all Royal Navy between 1860 and 1939. Along with the massive collection of photographs and negatives, Mr. Perkins tirelessly compiled an epic, eight volume collection of hand-drawn profile recognition illustrations mirroring his collection of negatives. Richard Perkins diligently photographed, drew, organized and categorized just about every single ship afloat within the Royal Navy between 1860 and 1939 as well as keeping track of their alterations and documenting them along the way. The Perkins Collection was “gifted” to the National Maritime Museum in 1967. The unofficial story behind this “gifting” rumored by the museum staff was Mrs. Perkins was unwilling to share living space with the collection; Richard chose his wife over his life’s work donating the entire collection including prints, negatives and all of the volumes of recognition drawings he had created. Sadly and definitely understandably due to reasons surrounding security, his work all but ceased upon the outset of the Second World War.

British Warship Recognition - The Perkins Identification Albums Volume 1: Capitol Ships 1895 – 1939

The first book in the Richard Perkins Collection is titled British Warship Recognition - The Perkins Identification Albums Volume 1: Capitol Ships 1895 – 1939. This book is presented in a very large hardcover format spanning 176 pages. Contained within this book is Richard's entire collection of line drawings of Royal Navy Battlecruiser, Pre-Dreadnoughts and Battleships for the years between 1895 and 1939.


Introduction to the Richard Perkins Collection by Andrew Choong
Publisher’s Note
List of Abbreviations


Bellerophon Class
St. Vincent ClassNeptune
Colossus Class
Orion Class
King George V Class
Iron Duke Class
Queen Elizabeth Class
Revenge Class
Nelson Class


Invincible Class
Indefatigable Class
Lion Class
Renown Class

Pre-Dreadnought Battleships

Lord Nelson Class
Switsure Class
King Edward VII Class
Duncan Class
Bulwark Class
Formidable Class
Canopus Class
Majestic Class

Front to back there is page after page of the illustrated recognition drawings. Each page has been amazingly reproduced and presented in the exact order Mr. Perkins had all of them categorized in. All of the pages of the drawings have been recreated through high resolution scanning to render a high quality reproduction of the Album in both size and color. This rendering contributes to the massive size of the book as almost all of these drawings were drawn and then affixed onto eleven inch by fifteen inch sheets by Perkins.

All of the ships in the Perkins Albums are grouped by types. This first volume contains the complete listing of the Royal Navy capitol ships. All Classes, as well as individual ships are presented in chronological order; in most cases oldest to newest but sometimes in the reverse. However, the order may be broken in some cases when it pertains to similar classes and grouping is done to ease the identification process. Each of the ships or class sections are divided into chronological ordering listed as ‘periods’ and shows specific Class alterations by date. These alterations are shown in green on the sketches. Individual identification of specific ships within these classes, or alone, are draw in in red. The Explanatory Preface provided in this book, both as a scan from Mr. Perkins’s penned original donation as well as a reprinting verson for easier reading. All features marked in ‘red’ always take precedence over ‘green’ entries if there is a clash in information.

Throughout the Album, there are inset ‘part’ sketches of key points to the ships to greater show identification more clearly; such is the case, but not limited to funnels and masts, etc. Perkins provided legends of the individual ships’ careers by date from the original Navy List. There are a few non-complete sections which are as a result of the periods during war; 1914 to 1918. These Albums are, more or less, considered living art as both Perkins himself and curators of the Museum have made notations in pencil at the edges of the pages in the past as new information arose.


Richard Perkins’s work is highly regarded as an instrumental, and often the definitive resourcing for Royal Navy ship identification between the years of 1860 up until 1939. The release of his work through Seaforth Publishing of the British Warship Recognition - The Perkins Identification Albums Volume 1: Capitol Ships 1895 – 1939 shares his life’s work with the world; which up to this point has only been able to be viewed at the National Maritime Museum. The scans of Volume 1 of the Perkins Albums has been exquisitely reproduced to the exact sizing and color of the original illustrations allowing the reader an amazing viewing experience similar to seeing them in person; better in one sense that anyone can now have this valuable resourcing information in their own personal library.

The Perkins illustrations are meticulously drawn and beautifully categorized allowing anyone searching for specific information about any particular ship or class of chip, ease in locating the information quickly. As I mentioned earlier, the Perkins Albums are pretty much the definitive resourcing when it comes to historical ships within the Royal Navy. All of his original sketches were created through the use of photographs and negatives (often glass negatives) he taken or had in his collection. His system of classification of types and general listing of the ships is amazing and simply put, easy to navigate. Hands down, you will not find a better ship recognition guide anywhere else. Whether you are a career researcher or the casual enthusiast of naval subjects and especially modellers looking for accuracy to what was in place on these ships, this first volume of The Perkins Identification Albums is a must have for your collection!

Pen and Sword Books
Highs: An amazing collection of historically accurate Richard Perkins’s illustrations beautifully recreated in book form.
Lows: None
Verdict: Simply a fantastic resource of historical research material provided in book form to allow anyone to have this information right at their fingertips.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978 1 84832 382 7
  Suggested Retail: $50.00 US / £34,50
  Related Link: The Perkins Identification Albums Volume 1
  PUBLISHED: May 07, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Pen & Sword Books!
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About Todd Michalak (TRM5150)

I am building what I like, when I like and how I like it; having fun doing it. I have been building and finishing models on and off my whole life but the past ten years things really exploded. Just about anything goes when it comes to hitting the bench, but wrecked armor, rusted hulks, ships or ...

Copyright ©2020 text by Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


What an amazing one-off resource!
JUL 20, 2016 - 12:54 AM

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