Fighting in the Dark

Fighting in the Dark

Naval Combat at Night, 1904–1945

By Trent Hone, Vincent P O’Hara


Fighting in the Dark is a new book about naval combat at night; the title also, however, signifies the overarching theme of the book, of moving from dark to light: in short, the process of mastering technological change during war.

The authors start with the proposition that it is hard to hit an invisible target, particularly one in motion. In the nineteenth century, when ships relied upon visual signalling and vessels beyond hailing range were deaf and mute in the dark, night battles at sea were rare and largely accidental. Three inventions changed this: the torpedo, the searchlight, and the radio. These inventions at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries transformed naval warfare by making combat in the dark feasible and in some cases, desirable. The process by which navies used the dark and adapted it into a medium for effective combat was long and difficult, more so for some than others. This book is about that process and about how Russian, British, German, Italian, Japanese and US navies confronted the specific new challenges and adapted to unfamiliar situations and emerging technologies.

Fighting in the Dark consists of chapters written by a group of highly respected naval historians, and the book’s approach illuminates how different navies and cultures approached common problems. The fierce night-time battles that are described serve as a metaphor for the larger issues and the reader is led along a fascinating journey of naval warfare from the Russo-Japanese War, through WWI, to the Second World War, and from the Pacific to the English Channel.

Vintage Airfix Review:

I found this book to be an interesting insight into the innovations that were brought about by necessity in the days before satellites, guided missiles, and drones. Making accidental night battles at sea an advantage for innovators by transforming them into opportunities.

Well-researched and well-written.

Audible. Stories that speak to you.