ARmy Rumour SErvice

Review: Orde Wingate, Unconventional Warrior by Simon Anglim

Major-General Orde Wingate (1903-44) was in his lifetime, and remains, a controversial and divisive figure. He was revered by some officers like “Mad Mike” Calvert and strongly reprehended by others as a maverick. However, although some of his opinions may at the time have seemed outrageous, the maverick has turned out to be merely somewhat ahead of his time.  His formerly heretical ideas are now seen as advanced military thought. The same could have been said of General Gordon of Khartoum and of Wingate’s (fairly distant) cousin T E Lawrence, to whom he bore a certain facial resemblance.  Wingate saw more clearly than most that the Army’s future would not be in policing the Empire, which was already coming unstuck when Wingate disappeared in 1944,  but in opposing the armies of great powers like Russia and China and in special operations and counter-insurgency warfare.   Read more ›

Review:Kitchener’s Army by Peter Simkin

This excellent book is yet another Pen and Sword re-release, this time in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum. The subtitle is The Raising of the New Armies 1914-1916.

It was first published in 1988 but does not feel dated at all. The subject matter is well laid out and logical in its approach. As the title says it covers the raising of the New Armies at the start of the First World War, both the physical matter and the intrinsic politics involved.

It has obviously been well researched as you’d expect from the author who worked for the Imperial War Museum at the time of writing. This does mean there are lots of references to back up all his facts, useful if you want to read more into the subject.

The book is split into two parts, the Recruitment Campaign and then Enlistment, Equipment and Training. I was far more familiar with the second part than the first, for instance I hadn’t quite realised the difference between the Pals Battalions and the Service Battalions but this books makes it abundantly clear. Read more ›

Book Review: The Samurai Warrior by Ben Hubbard

This book explains a key era in Japanese history; the founding of the samurai as the dominant culture in Japan after centuries of warfare and established 250 years of peace and international isolationism.

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Review Of Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party By Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith, as the author of novels, short stories and books for children effectively has more than one career because he is already a well known professor of medical law.

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Book Review: Till the Boys Come Home by Tonie & Valmai Holt

During the First World War communication was purely by snail mail, no telephones/email/Skype to enable soldiers and their families to stay in touch.  One of the favourite ways was postcards and what the authors have done here is to bring a review of postcards sent during the War both from soldiers home and from families to the Front.

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While this may seem a very niche area, it really has several aspects to it.  There is the social history of how people communicated and what could be said in a very small space, also under censorship conditions.  There is the art history of the time ranging from drawings, to photographs to intricate silk embroidered cards.  With licentious soldiery involved there is an obvious ‘Pin-Ups’ section where what was risqué back in the early part of last Century would not raise a vicar’s eyebrow nowadays.

The cards are laid out in partly chronological order, partly genre; so the reader gets a flavour of how the war is going and how trends changed during the War.  Each card is numbered with an accompanying description of the card and sometimes what has been written.  Propaganda plays a very big part in this and many of the cards are of the highly patriotic style such as the French poilu  standing  guard with the caption “On ne passé pas!”,  “They will not pass!”. There are 700 cards in this very full and well illustrated book.

The book is made up of eight main chapters:

 Chapter 1: The Nations & Men who went to war: fairly straight forward showing the leaders and men involved.

 Chapter 2: Propaganda, Patriotism and Hatred.  The final part there being the most intriguing where postcards are used to whip up anti enemy hatred showing dead bodies, depictions of horror stories and in one, strange to us, card the official card sent to widows of the Austro-Hungarian Mountain Infantry of a medic being shot in the back while going to help a wounded comrade!   Feelings and niceties were not observed much in days past.

 Chapter 3: The Reality- does what it says on the tin and again there are depiction os scenes that today would never see the light of day.  This has sections on Machines which shows the advance of technology throughout the war.  Other sections in this chapter deal with war at sea and in the air.

 Chapter 4:  Humour and Sentimentality.  Humour goes everywhere but the sentimentality would get a hard time if tried on ARRSE today.

 Chapter 5: Back Home – Women at War.  A large chapter dealing with the change in status of the woman both in the home and the workforce, including the armed services.

 Chapter 6: Pin Ups and Heroes.  The inevitable saucy postcards and the ones of heroes winning their decoration.  Strangely, this is the smallest chapter in the book, obviously many saucy cards did not make it home!!

 Chapter 7: a selection of cards from The Queen.  Queen Mary was an avid collector of postcards and a selection of these is given with permission of HM The Queen.  When her hobby was made public she was presented with a large collection of cards confiscated from German prisoners, so many are anti-Allies propaganda cards.

 Chapter 8: Welcome Home.  Fairly obvious what the subject matter is here but still with a strong propaganda element with some humour thrown in.  Memorials play a large part in this section from the Cenotaph to the memorial to German soldiers at Aachen Railway Station, where many left to go to the Front.

 Overall a really good look at the cards used for varying purposes during the war by both the Allies and Axis and a good look at social history of that tragic era.  Not a book to read cover to cover in one go, but certainly one to retain on the bookshelf to lift and dip into on a regular basis.

3.5 Mr MRHs for this well put together and illustrated book.

Book Review: The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

Some ARRSE members may already have read Catherine Bailey’s intriguing book Black Diamonds, about the fall of the Earls Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse.  If you enjoyed that, you are likely to enjoy The Secret Rooms as well. This book was first published in 2012 and was recently re-published by Penguin as a paperback at a slightly more affordable £9.99. You may obtain it more cheaply on

The Secret Rooms concerns the twentieth-century secret history of the Manners family, Dukes of Rutland, and focuses on their principal residence, Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, which looks as though it belonged in a Hammer House of Horror movie.  In this instance, appearances are not misleading. Read more ›

Book Review: Deep Sea Attack by Martin W. Bowman

This book describes the RAF’s campaign against the German Navy and Merchant Marine in the Atlantic, North Sea and English Channel. This was a vital part of the war, firstly in ensuring the UK’s survival and later in turning the screw on the blockade of Germany and preventing Kriegsmarine action against the D-Day landings. The operations were conducted by the RAF Coastal Command, at one extreme with 15 hour patrols hunting U-Boats and at the other with shorter missions across the channel against any surface shipping. It is a story of great technical innovation, endurance and immense physical courage.

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Book Review: Deep Sea Hunters by Martin W Bowman

One of the major British concerns during the Second World War was maintaining sufficient imports of food and materiel for the population to avoid starvation and be able to fight.  The German U Boat campaign threatened to win the war.  Its ultimate failure to do so was caused by a combination of improving convoy escorts and in particular improved airborne anti-submarine warfare.  This book seeks to tell the story of the latter.

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Review: Unmanned by Dan Fesperman

The banner journo header on the cover reads “A new book by Dan Fesperman is becoming a major literary event” – Sunday Telegraph. Can’t say I agree, not on the evidence of this particular novel.

I am unfamiliar with Dan Fesperman. Before reading “Unmanned”, a quick look at his back catalogue made me think I was on to a winner, because it was littered with titles including the phrases ‘Prisoner’, ‘Warlord’ ‘Spy’, etc – all words that usually tick my metaphorical boxes. Read more ›

Review: Hitler’s Paratrooper by Gilberto Villahermosa

0302 hrs 11th May 1940 , Fort Ebel Emael is put on alert. Klaxons sound, blank arty is fired to alert neighbouring units and the 1000 man garrison stand to. Two 120 mm guns, 16  75 mm guns,12 anti tank guns and 24 heavy MGs are manned and loaded. The fort incorporates the latest defence technology including retractable cupolas, overpressure filtration and reaches 200 feet into the ground. The artillerymen have full DF lists, ammunition to hand  and  good command of the ground.

At just after 0500 air sentries report silent slow moving aircraft overhead and heavy gliders arrive on the fort superstructure. Within minutes the 85 airborne troops were silencing the guns and preparing to enter the fort, By 1227 the next day the fort and the 1200 man garrison  surrendered. The war had agone badly wrong for the Belgian Army Read more ›


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