Book Reviews

As you may know, @Auld-Yin is gradually retiring from the role of Book-Reviewer-In-Chief, and I am slowly picking up as he leaves off. It's going to be a hard act to follow, with a large number of diverse books sent out and reviewed every month. Thank you to Reviewers who have responded to the latest list of reading loveliness with their requests. Could I please ask reviewers who are awaiting the list to check their 'spam' folders, because the email will have come from me, rather than he, this month? Thank you. If anyone is interested in reading, anything from detective stories, science fiction, thrillers, history, militaria, or any topic you can imagine, please make contact with me and I'll add you to the list. You'll make your...
'Please identify that, Mr Stewart?' 'What, Colour Sergeant?' 'That, Mr Stewart.' He pointed into the cupboard. 'That's a dead fly, Colour Sergeant.' 'That's two show parades, Mr Stewart.' 'What for, Colour Sergeant?' 'Well, Mr Stewart, the first is for having a pet in the grounds of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.' 'And the second, Colour Sergeant?' 'The second, Mr Stewart, is for not feeding it.' For those of you unable to extrapolate from my username, I have never served, and have always imagined Sandhurst to be some sort of military themed college where students spend their time in lecture rooms studying Clausewitz and the like, learning in which direction One should pass the port, and poncing around in posh uniforms...
This book is one of the acclaimed series of Osprey illustrated paperbacks which cover the history of military forces, artefacts, personalities and techniques of warfare. The coloured illustrations are by Guiseppe Rava. The institution of gladiatorial shows in which men fought each other, or wild beasts, had a religious origin. They originated in the funeral games of the fourth century, a custom that the Romans shared with other peoples of classical antiquity, including the Ancient Greeks. (See The Iliad, for example.) The games included wrestling, foot races and combat. The participants were male relations of the deceased. The combats were quite realistic; if blood were shed, that nourished the dead person's spirit. However the...
John Geoffrey Lee (Geoff) is a survivor of the Sumatra Railway Project, which was started by the Dutch before 1939, but stopped due to being too complicated in engineering terms. The Japanese decided to carry on with the project using slave labour from Sumatran civilians, Dutch expats and captured British, New Zealand and Australian servicemen. This book, edited by his daughter and son-in-law, a Grenadier Guardsman, tells his of his service from enlisting in 1941, his experiences as a prisoner, his release, and his struggles to convince the Imperial War Museum, War Department and others that there had been a Slave Railway on Sumatra, with thousands of lives lost building it. After a number of journeys, changes to plans and other...
Jon Diamond has produced an interesting and attractive volume on a now-famous campaign of World War II. Most of the book consists of well-chosen photographs. Chapter introductions outline the progressive course of the campaign, beginning with the Japanese invasion of Burma, describing Wingate’s Chindit Operations and Stillwell’s Sino-American offensive in northern Burma, leading to the turning point in the heroic defence of Imphal-Kohima and 14th Army’s sweep to victory. The last chapter covers the building of the Ledo Road. Slim’s brilliantly conducted offensives were among the most successful of World War II. The cost to the Japanese, stated in the epilogue, was immense: 200,000 of the 330,000 men they committed to the campaign did...
St Olaf (Olav, Olave, Olaus) is commemorated by fourteen churches in England, including St Olave's, Bishopgate, in London, while East London's Tooley Street was originally St Olave's Street. Yet the average Brit knows little about him. This is remarkable, because he led an attack on London, during which London Bridge was broken down, and his enemies included King Constantine II of Scots, and also 'Good King Canute'; Cnut of England and Denmark. Cnut would eventually prove to be Olaf's nemesis. Apart from the raid on London, Olaf led many other raids and was a famous Viking. He was clearly very brave and an inspirational leader, but none of the foregoing is a qualification for canonisation. Yet Olaf is today recognised as a saint...
A review by @6 Gallon Pot Having recently read 'Goose Green' by Nigel Ely, it took me a while to get into Penal Company. Perhaps because after knowing little about the battle for Goose Green/Darwin, Nigel Ely had already educated me as to what happened. So, it took a while, but once I had, then I read voraciously. I don’t mean this to be a comparison of the two books, but I guess it’s going to seem that way. One book by a private soldier, one by a company commander. At first I felt like I’d already read the story, I guess I had, but soon I found myself fully engrossed in the tale as told by Philip. It was interesting to read about the dynamics between the hierarchy as well as the interaction between the company commander and his...
Just recently, I volunteered to review a book about Gustavus Adolphus and the Thirty Years’ War without any threats of violence or the influence of strong drink. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) is an unfathomable historical abomination, conspicuous by an unprecedented degree of confusion and mayhem, which broadly resulted in the terminal decline of Imperial Spain, the commencement of the Century of France and the near-complete immolation of Germany. It was finally brought to an end by the Treaty of Westphalia, which is credited with creating the concept of the Westphalian State and was actually two treaties involving 109 delegations, itself an indication of the complexity of the whole affair. Since then, the Thirty Years’ War has...
The Medieval Crossbow is a scholarly treatise on the history of the crossbow in the Middle Ages, looking at the technical development of this weapon and its employment in warfare. Its rather catchy subtitle is a tenuous hook to differentiate from other books about the medieval crossbow thanks to its opening chapter describing the mortal wounding of Richard the Lionheart with … you guessed it. This is a well presented hardback book from Pen & Sword retailing at £25, which runs to just over 200 pages, and is well illustrated with period line drawings throughout and a small selection of well chosen colour plates. The book is divided into two segments: firstly a technical study and secondly its place in warfare and society. The technical...
On the Eastern Front at seventeen The Memoirs of a Red Army Soldier Sergey Drobyazko This book describes the wartime experience of a seventeen-year-old Russian conscript conscripted into the Russian army in early 1942 when Russia was facing defeat. Training was almost non-existent conscripts were given a rifle and moved on foot towards the Front, they passed through various clothing depots until they resembled soldiers. The only training while moving forward was ‘skirmishing’. They were instructed to select their own NCO’s. ‘Lost in translation’ comes to mind even in the first chapter of this book, however it does give insight into the Russian struggle for survival during the war years, it also gives good insight into the ‘Red Army...
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, a man, who in 13 years went from being an unemployed naval officer who had been cashiered by a court of honour and ejected from the navy in disgrace to a man who was the technocratic murderer of millions in Europe. This author, the late Nancy Dougherty, who died in 2013 has written a book (edited and a forward plus afterword written by Christopher Lehman-Haupt) which is quite fascinating as it takes the reader into the dark heart of the highest reaches of Nazi Germany and the many people in positions of power within the SS and SD/SiPO.(Security Service/Security Police) (Sicherheitsdienst /Sicherheitspolizei). This book contains interviews with Lina Heydrich and some of the protagonists in the SS...
Captured at Arnhem by Peter Green Introduction There have been many books over the years dealing with Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944, so it's quite refreshing to read something on the subject that is a little bit different. Overview The British airborne assault on the Rhine bridges around Arnhem in the Netherlands was intended to provide an opening into Nazi Germany that, if successful, could have ended the war in Europe by Christmas 1944. Following several days of bitter and vicious fighting the venture failed and more than 6000 troops, the majority from the British Airborne Division, were captured and became Prisoners of War (PoWs) of the Germans. On their release in 1945, men captured at...
Berlin is an enigmatic city which has seen and suffered so much, especially in the 20th Century. The author brings the city to life starting off as the capital city of an Empire, finishing off as the capital of Germany as part of the EU. This period, the 20th century, saw Berlin go from being a lively, hedonistic city full of the joys of life through the dictatorship of Hitler and the Nazi Party, destruction by Allied bombing and Russian assault, though occupation to becoming capital of Germany once more. This is more than just a description of how Berlin rose, was destroyed and rebuilt itself, it is a social history of differing chapters in Berlin’s life. Staring off early in the 20th Century, Berlin did not suffer that much during...
Britain to Rome Caesar to Claudius (The exposure of a renaissance fraud) by PJ O'Gorman A re-assessment of Roman and British contact from Caesar's incursions upto the Boudiccan revolt. Insights in to Caesar's reasons for invading and a new look at the causes and consequences of Britains initial interactions with Rome. Provides compelling evidence and insight into Britains powerful, sophisticated and complex past. This book will certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons with it's well researched evidence and well documented sources. If you think you know about Britain and Romes history think again. PJ O'Gorman looks at multiple historians work and cross references them in meticulous detail to take a fresh new look at what we think we...
For many young men growing up in the shadows of the Great War, there was a wonderful new life to look forward to, a life that was so unlike that of their father's generation, jazz music ,fast motorcycles, fast cars, sailing and travel. For Ian Gleed , a young man from a good family, the prospects looked good ,but then the shadowy duo of fascism and National Socialism started to darken the skies of Europe , he was not in any way the sort of person you would categorise as a warrior, unlike the Nazis, He was not indoctrinated with the superior attitude and a stark arrogance towards others , he was just a gentle humble young man, As a 15 year old , a visit to Hatfield Aerodrome inspired him to learn to fly, but upon leaving school he...
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