Reviews of ‘Britannia’s Dragon: A Naval History of Wales’

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MOUNTBATTEN MARITIME LITERARY AWARD, 2014

Davies’s aim [was] to produce a highly-readable and engaging account, and in this he has certainly succeeded. This book, then, is that rare beast, one that deals with academic ideas, but manages at the same time to communicate these to a broader audience. He writes with no little panache and considerable wit: there were moments where he had me smiling quietly and even a few occasions when I laughed out loud… The author’s sense of humour is evident throughout the book, raising it above the usual staid historical accounts that often favour plain, dour prose. At the same time, such comedy should not take away from the serious points which are made within the book’s 288 pages. This work demonstrates that the relationship between Wales and the Royal Navy was – for all its complexity – one of mutual reliance and interest. More broadly, he has greatly advanced the study of both Welsh and maritime history. For generations of Welsh people, the sea and more particularly the Navy were been essential to their lives, fortunes and sense of self. This was clear to many who heralded from Wales, not least the one Welshman to become Prime Minister of Britain: David Lloyd George. In 1925 he stood up in the House of Commons and noted that ‘there is no part of the Kingdom that, in proportion to its population, contributes more to the British Navy than Wales’. Lloyd George was not alone in realising the importance of the vital relationship between Wales and for the Royal Navy, and in turn, David Davies deserves considerable plaudits for telling this story in such a rich, accessible way. – Dr James Davey of the National Maritime Museum, International Journal of Maritime History

…it is perhaps deceptively easy for the uninformed to pass over the enormous contribution that Wales and the Welsh people have made to the story of British naval mastery over the years. Equally, the massive extent to which naval affairs and their influences have impacted profoundly on the lives of the Welsh people and on the country at large. is not at all as well understood as it very much ought to be, either in Wales or elsewhere in these islands. Well, J D Davies’s splendid new book will do much to correct the facile view that the maritime heritage of Wales is only about labouring tramp steamers…and it is therefore much to be welcomed, for it deals with a history and an experience of Welsh seafaring that has never hitherto been properly recounted.

The writer…takes the reader on a marvellous passage through 2000 years of Welsh seafaring endeavour…Handling a complex array of diverse and complicated sources with an enviable facility and writing in a polished prose which does justice to the depth and significance of this history, this is essentially a book about opening doors and windows and letting the light into a subject that has been unfairly neglected and largely ignored for too long, and that makes it a most valuable contribution to scholarship in modern naval history which can be strongly recommended. And a fine one it is…a good and important book. – Dr Campbell McMurray, Maritime Wales