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Book Review
South American Battleships
South American Battleships 190859 Brazil, Argentina, and Chile's great dreadnought race
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

South American Battleships 190859 is just a cool book. It hearkens back to a time when everything was both old and new, and countries not usually thought of as maritime powers built battle fleets. Some of the ships were more advanced than American or European designs! This book is also a micro-study in economics and geo-political chicanery.

South American Battleships 190859, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile's great dreadnought race from Osprey Publishing LTD is one of those books that just begs to be read. It recounts this little known naval arms race. Although it is factual history, it conjures memories of Golden Age adventure books and movies of the style revived by Indiana Jones films.

This is the 264th title in the New Vanguard series, catalogued with the Osprey short code NVG 264, and ISBN 9781472825100.

Authored by Mark Lardas and illustrated by Julian Baker and Johnny Shumate, this 48-page softcover book recounts the 'design, development, operation and history' of South America's heavyweights. It features concise histories of the countries and their battlewagons, illustrations, and full color artwork including cutaways.

Osprey describes this book thusly:
    In 1908 the most incredible naval arms race in history began. Flush with cash from rubber and coffee, Brazil decided to order three of the latest, greatest category of warship available - the dreadnought battleship. One Brazilian dreadnought by itself could defeat the combined gunnery of every other warship of all the other South American nations. Brazil's decision triggered its neighbour Argentina to order its own brace of dreadnoughts, which in turn forced Chile (which had fought boundary disputes with Argentina) to order some.

    In the process, the South American dreadnought mania drove the three participants nearly into insolvency, led to the bankruptcy of a major shipyard, and triggered a chain of events which led Turkey to declare war on Great Britain. It also produced several groundbreaking dreadnought designs and one of the world's first aircraft carriers.

An aircraft carrier, even! I could not wait to dive into this story.

South American Battleships 190859 is told through 48 pages of three main chapters:
    Design and Development
      * Enter the dreadnought
      * Brazil starts an arms race
      * Argentina and Chile join the race
      * The race unravels
    Operational History
      * World War I
      * Between the World Wars
      * World War II and afterwards
    The Ships
      * Minas Geraes class
      * Riachuelo
      * Rivadavia class
      * Almirante Latorre
      * Almirante Cochrane/Eagle


This book prepares the reader with a list of abbreviations, and a glossary of warship terms.

This history begins in Design and Development with a history of a prior naval arms race in South America, and a review of the surprising economic status of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, and the impact on their arms race. This arms race flared after Argentina and Chile sold their prior warships to other maritime powers, subsequently used in combat. Then came HMSDreadnought and Eustance Tennyson d'Eyncourt. As head of the design office of Brazil's favored British shipyard, d'Eyncourt convinced Brazil to order dreadnoughts, proverbially firing the starter pistol. Enter the dreadnought defines the characteristics dreadnought class of warship and why a dreadnought destabilized the naval balance of the southern countries of our three subject countries.

Brazil starts an arms race and Argentina and Chile join the race details the results of Brazil's dreadnought order. It also recounts why the resulting South American naval balance was unbalanced. The authors recount how, surprisingly, the dreadnoughts ordered by Argentina, Brazil, and Chile were superior to European dreadnoughts in guns, gun placement, and armor, and matched them in speed. Only two classes of United States Navy battleships had the same turret positioning as the South American ships. In fact, only three other navies had dreadnoughts when Minas Geraes entered service with Brazil. With the arrival of her second dreadnought, Brazil became one of the five most powerful navies in the world. Argentina and Chile both achieved similar status soon.

The race unravels presents the economic and international events that ended the rivalry. Operational History is understandably interesting. It is also surprising what became of the vessels and their World War I combat histories. Finally, we learn about the ships that served into the 1950s.

The Ships present the technical and supplemental operational details of the ships listed above. Each class or ship is presented through a table listing:
    Max. Speed
    Laid Down

Color portraits of some of the ships are included, as listed below. Refits and accidents are described.

Argentinean, Brazilian, and Chilean battleships were few in number and saw little action under South American flags and yet this subject has its own allure. Political effects on the ships is particularly interesting. One can only contemplate the outcome of a battle had of those ships in their navies clashed. Thankfully, it did not happen.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Osprey found a good gallery of photographs and images to support the text. Reproductions of artwork depicting the vessels in scenes the camera could not capture support the photos. Artists Julian Baker and Johnny Shumate created original artwork which gives us a taste of how these ships might have looked in color and in action. Two types of artwork are used.

Color Artwork

A. Cutaway, Rivadavia, 1915: keyed with 48 components.

B. Combat scene, HMS Canada At Jutland: Almirante Latorre in Royal Navy action.

C. Combat scene, Sao Paulo Shells Fort Copacabana: South America's dreadnought in combat in South America.

D. Minas Geraes, in planform and with two profiles: original configuration; after 1930s refit. Discussed in four paragraphs are paint colors and its formidable broadside - superior to any contemporary European and American warship when delivered.

E. Combat scene, Rio de Janeiro Fires A Broadside: proving that it could survive firing a full charge broadside.

F. Rivadavia and Moreno In Europe: departing Brest enroute to Wilhelmshaven.

G. Almirante Latorre In 1922 and 1933: planform and two profiles, described in four paragraphs.

Line Art

1. Profile comparison of Minas Geraes with Royal Navy St. Vincent-class dreadnoughts: displaying armor belts and armament configurations.

2. Rio de Janeiro in profile and planform: displaying armor belts and armament configurations.

3. Chilean Almirante Latorre-class in planform and profile: displaying armor belts and armament configurations.

4. Moreno in profile and planform: displaying armor belts and armament configurations.

As mentioned earlier, tables are provided with key data on each ship or class. These tables help to simplify and visualize the physical characteristics of the ships.

Osprey's South American Battleships 190859 is a very interesting book. It should be sought by modelers and students of dreadnoughts and capital ships, early 20th century navies, WWI naval actions, South American navies, political-economic influences upon navies, and how such influences can quickly escalate into madness.

I have no meaningful criticism for this book and happily recommend it.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: A detailed and interesting text. A good gallery of photographs and images support the text.
Lows: Nothing meaningful.
Verdict: A very interesting book. It should be sought by modelers and students of dreadnoughts and capital ships, early 20th century navies, WWI naval actions, South American navies, political-economic influences upon navies.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: NVG 264, 978147282
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Feb 25, 2019

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Gotta add this one to the list!
FEB 25, 2019 - 04:19 AM
Hi All, I meant to add that model company Fairy Kikaku makes resin 1/700 models of Sao Paulo, 1940, kit Number: S046. They make eclectic subjects like warships of Netherlands East Indies Fleet, Norway, Spain (Seaplane Tender of their civil war), Sweden, Turkey, Thailand, and specific vessels of specific campaigns, e.g., Shinfukumaru 1942 Borneo, Hindenburg 1942 Finland Passage, Myokomaru 1943.1.5 Salamaua Lae Campaign, etc. I have a couple kits that I hope to build this year.
MAR 02, 2019 - 03:52 AM

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