The Abdiel Class fast minelayers were unique ships. The design process began in 1937 with war looming in Europe. Considering that these were a completely new type
of ship and that there were conflicting demands for resources at the Construction Department of the Admiralty, it is quite astonishing that
Abdiel was launched in April of
1940. She was to be the lead ship in a class of six that served the Royal Navy extremely well in a variety of operational areas and duties.

Size wise, the
Abdiels were between destroyers and cruisers but frequently mistaken for the latter by enemy due to not only to their size but because their profile was
similar to that of a cruiser especially with the distinctive three-funnel feature. They were designed to carry 150 mines that were stored in a spacious enclosed deck and
unloaded through two doors at the stern. This large storage capacity allowed them to be used to bring supplies and men where needed or to help evacuate soldiers when

Abdiels operated mainly in the Mediterranean, though they did see action in the North Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. No matter where they served, they often
faced danger and many times operated alone due to their speed. They laid minefields that were credited with sinking many Axis ships, helped to bring much needed
supplies and armament to Malta and evacuate Australian forces from Tobruk. All of these actions and more are covered in this hardbound 208-page book.

The book begins with a chapter covering the history of sea mines and minelaying which provides a good overview and introduction. The design of the
Abdiel class
follows and it is well detailed. The subsequent chapters cover the operational history of the six ships in essentially chronological order. Arthur Nicholson is a very good
writer and he brings what could be a very dry topic alive. His focus is not only on the vessels themselves, though naturally it is the primary focus, but he also introduces
the reader to the officers and some crew members who sailed on these ships. This adds a human element which lacks in some other naval history books I have read. The
author is a story teller as well, which also helps to bring the operational histories alive. I have to admit that while reading the chapter on the Tobruk Run, I missed my
Long Island Railroad stop and had to wait for another train back. Also gripping are the accounts describing the efforts to run the supplies to Malta that helped save the
island from falling and the sinking of
Latona, Abdiel and Welshman.

As a modeling reference the book has many photos, some showing excellent details. But the real bonus to modelers is the seven-page full color section in the center of the
book which has illustrations showing the camouflage schemes worn by the ships in this class. Also provided is a profile plan of
Latona. There is an appendix that covers
what plans and models are available and discusses the camouflage schemes worn. My only criticism is the lack of tables in the appendix covering specifications and the
key dates and fates of each ship, which would make for a quick reference.
Very Special Ships is an apt title for a history of the valuable ships. This would be a fine addition to your naval history and reference library. Arthur Nicholson is not a
stranger to the Steel Navy message board and I tip my hat to him for writing this book. My thanks to
Pen & Sword Books for the review sample.
Felix Bustelo