A Book to Avoid

Tiger Ace. The Life of Michael Wittman by Gary L Simpson is the biggest load of old Bo**ocks I have ever had the displeasure to read/suffer half way through and throw in the bin. Simpson ( American, nothing lost in translation) uses English like an eight year old........Albanian.

One reviewer said that the book read as if Homer Simpson had written it. Wish I'd read that review before I bought it. D'oh!

Proceed with caution and you'll save money.
I watched a long documentary on tank warfare in which Sandhurst Historians/ Military Scientists were gushing about Wittman and his gunner Bobby Woll.

Shame they were baddies.
Add to this list The Awards of the George Cross 1940-2009 by John Frayn Turner, it is very poor. Here is my review from the Victoria Cross Society Journal:

The task of writing a book covering every George Cross recipient was first undertaken by Ian Bisset, The GC, in 1961, and then Sir John Smyth Bt VC MC, The Story of the GC, in 1968. Both works were considered core text on the subject for many years. This new book by John Frayn Turner attempts to be placed alongside them but sadly fell far short of my expectations. I felt this when it was released in 2006 and was unimpressed with it then. Sadly this new edition does nothing to change my opinion.

The title in itself is misleading as those awarded the GC by exchange, in 1940 and 1971, are only covered in the appendix. This book should have been titled The Direct Awards of the George Cross to avoid any confusion. Once you have opened the cover, all 160 recipients are listed alphabetically at the beginning without page numbers, but are then laid out in chronological order. As this work lacks an index and a more detailed contents, if you wanted to read the citation of a specific individual you will have to thumb through the entire book to find the relevant entry!

The foreword makes reference to the most recent awards being made in 1999 and 2003 with Chris Finney being the ‘latest’ recipient. Yet the three that came after him, Capt Peter Norton, Cpl Mark Wright and LCpl Matthew Croucher are covered in the last chapter. This is simply careless proofreading and the subsequent pages suffer from poor research and guesswork on the author’s part. A clue to this is that in the acknowledgements section only three books are listed, one being the Register of the GC by This England who have also published the Register of the VC. For example he states that Capt JRO Thompson RAMC could not move a trapped patient from a sinking hospital carrier despite a ‘superhuman struggle’. As there were no witnesses to this incident, I wonder where the artistic license comes from? The individual entries lack biographical detail and just reword the citations in many cases, errors and all. There is an uneven amount of coverage with Lt Stuart Archer, for example getting three pages, whilst some get just two or three paragraphs. The same old errors are passed on such as Roy Harris becoming an army colonel when he was only an Hon Major when he was demobbed.

As a very quick reference guide to locate what type of action was undertaken for each award, i.e. bomb disposal, civil defence, rescue work, self-sacrifice, etc it has its uses, providing you can find the entry you want. However, if you can get hold of Sir John Smyth’s book, use that instead!


Book Reviewer
Wittman was unknown to Allied forces until after his death, how would they have known ,most of the time fighting in the Bocage they didn't know what units they were fighting let alone the name of an individuel tank commander, I must have read shed loads of books by Allied tank men and not one mentions Wittman , even Chester Wilmot only says that there was one Tiger at Villers Bocage on the 13th June, as Wittman's career in Normandy only lasted two months, and some of this time he was in Berlin and on home leave from the 22nd of June until the 8th July, until his death on the 8th August it is extremely unlikely that British intelligence had much info on him apart from stuff from "Sigjnal"

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