10 OCTOBER 1998, Page 34

LETTERS All at sea

Sir: In his review of Alan Clark's The Tories (Books, 3 October), John Redwood applauded the author's fondness for the Royal Navy, but is very wide of the mark in his claim that 'British sea power has never been the same since the Americans invent- ed the iron-clad and the turret gun'. Not having read the book. I do not know if the solecism was Alan Clark's or merely the reviewer's throwaway line.

The fact is that the Royal Navy pio- neered both innovations. HMS Wanior, preserved at Portsmouth, was in service before the start of the American Civil War. John Ericsson was merely a competitor of Britain's Captain Cowper Coles in the rush to produce a revolving turret mounting for guns. On a more important strategic level, the trident of sea power did not pass until the Washington Naval Disarmament Treaty of 1922, when the Two Power Standard was replaced by parity with the US Navy. In spite of this, at the outbreak of the second world war, the Royal Navy was the largest in the world, although soon to be overtaken after President Roosevelt's Two Ocean Navy Bill, approved in 1940.

Antony Preston

13 Crondace Road, London SW6