Bored on Ops Stag - Books to read

For any of you whiling your time away at an ops desk on the drag-stag, I have found an excellent book to keep you company (and to make you realise things aren't as bad as they could be).

In Deadly Combat, by Gottlob H Bidermann.

Basically it's a book about the Eastern Front, but unlike The Forgotten Soldier, this one appears to be a true account.
It follows Biddermann's progress through the 132 Inf Div as he walked into Russia as a private, then out of ir as a company commander. ?It is a fairly personal account which was written for the members of his Regiment / Div, so is written in stark military speak, ie no civi explanations (he merely expects you to understand the terminology, which is handy since we all do). ?It doesn't attempt to glorify what he did but is written entirely matter of fact like, probably because this is an English translation of a German account. ?It should be compulsory reading for all infantrymen to be perfectly honest. ?There are probably lessons in it that we have all forgotten, which we ought remember, could come in handy in the near future. ?Give it a go (Amazon do it, it could be on your desk in a couple of days).

Anybody else found anything worth reading, if so post it on this thread.


Book Reviewer
thoroughly recommended -

17 Platoon, by Alfred Jary.  I think it's still in print, and the man himself is still around too.  A PC who joined his Bn in Normandy just after D Day, and fought through to VE Day in N Germany.  Very factual, warts and all study of the British Army in action, reccommended for all Inf.
Almost from the time the guns fell silent in Europe on 8 May 1945, the world in general and the western world in particular has studied the German army of World War II, and its impressive warmaking potential, with a special fascination. Although more than a half century has passed and the developed nations have moved from mass armies to smaller and more lethal forces, the interest in both National Socialist Germany and the World War II German army continues unabated. We still see a steady stream of books on the topic. Some are original studies on various aspects of the war, while others are either reprints or translations of works being made available for the first time in the English language.
One recent release which adds to our understanding of Germany in war and will intrigue American audiences is Gottlob H. Bidermann's In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front. The book was originally published privately in 1964 but was available only in German. An excellent translation, with the author providing additional materials, is now provided by Derek Zumbro, giving American readers much greater access to this classic. The importance of Bidermann's memoir to German historians is evidenced by the fact that Dr. Dennis Showalter, a renowned scholar on the subject, consented to write the preface to the English edition.

The allure of this book is in Bidermann's descriptions of the magnitude of the conflict that occurred on the Eastern Front, supported by the individual dramas that played out daily. Bidermann is eminently qualified to provide these descriptions. With the war in the east only a week old, Bidermann was one of the three million soldiers who disembarked on a seemingly endless journey eastward. He began as an enlisted man in an anti-tank gun crew with the German 132d Infantry Division as it moved across southern Russia. His unit fought in this area during the sieges of the Crimea and Sevastopol. With the Crimea in German hands--after a bloodbath for both armies--the 132d was shifted north to the Leningrad front. There it remained engaged until the end of the war, when it surrendered in the Kurland pocket. Bidermann and thousands of his comrades became prisoners of war in Russia, a fate as fearsome as death itself. Bidermann was released from captivity in the summer of 1948, terribly ill but still a survivor.

What distinguishes Bidermann's book are his soldier's insights on the German army and the Eastern Front. Bidermann started the war as a common soldier, a Landser, and finished it as a gun captain. He was wounded seven times and repeatedly decorated for valor. Though he finished the war as an officer, however, he came home devoted not to the National Socialist regime but to the men with whom he fought. He wrote the book for the survivors of the 132d. Many, like the author, were still trying to come to grips with the war, the savagery of the Eastern Front, and the misery of captivity under the Soviets. Rather than glorifying the war as Germany's eastern crusade, Bidermann looks at the lives and the feelings of the soldiers as they relate to their adversaries and the battles they fought. As he notes for the reader, some say "one may become accustomed to the threat or constant presence of death," but for Bidermann and his comrades, the cries of the dead and dying, both friendly and foe, "are often heard long after the guns are silent."
Old Snowy. Ref.your last. WRONG!

It's actually "18 platoon, by Sydney Jary"

However, I'm trying to find any book references for Irish Guards in NW Europe, as a gift for my father.

He says very very little about it, and only mentions the Arnhem Bridge drive and fighting in Belgium in winter 44-45 when he's had something to drink.

He tends to refer to most historical depicitions as "crap" but was utterly captivated by "Band of Brothers" which he describes as being the most accurate portrayal he's ever seen  :eek:


Book Reviewer
PTP - sorry, not read it for a while!  

I am near both the MoD Library and 'Motor Books' (Best mil boookshop around).  Want me to check out the IG thing for you?  No problem?
Pretty sure that there is a shed-load of stuff on Cassino which would do the trick?

Snowy, no sh*t about motorbooks.  Have finally managed to find a book I'd been trying to get for 2 yrs.  Cheers.
Company K by William March, a fictional account of an American Inf Coy in WW1 as if by the troops themselves. Its only a thin book, it doesn't take long to read because you can't put it down. I have read it many times and it is shocking every time. Some accounts are very harrowing, fraggings and shooting prisoners etc.

The only copy I can find for sale is £51 for a bright copy in publishers cloth(whatever the hell that means but apparently it's worth £51).

Don't ask me for it as refusal may offend, I would probably give away any other book in my collection rather that this one!!
Old Snowy....

Yes Please, anything at all on Irish Guards, from Normandy Breakout to Belgium, when my father left for commissioning at Bangalore. There must be a unit history somewhere, or personal diary or something. I know he was at Caen (alleged rough treatment of SS prisoners by famous barristers and Conservative peers best not discussed) and the breakout.
The hardest thing is getting him to tell me anything about the comabt bits. But, as all those who have been in harms way know,you only want to discuss it with your oppos I guess....

If anyone else on the board can help, that'd be pretty good too. I spoke with the IG RSM last year, who just about ordered me to wheel Dad up, but he's reluctant...
For potential revolutionaries:

Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein.  

(Not the book of the film, don't be fooled by the cover).  Written in the 1950's and almost banned for being too right wing.  Set following the decline and eventual failure of 20th century society due to liberalism and people failing to accept responsibility for their actions (anyone see anything familiar).  This man had a fully functioning crystal ball.  Oh, and ATRA may want to look at the training regime described therein.

For those who want some justification for a sunny Christmas:

Germs - The Ultimate Weapon: Miller, Engleberg & Broad.

Title speaks for itself, the book giving a bit of an insight into the history of what we could face in the not too distant future.  Some scary stuff.  Luckily we are well prepared.........
Bloody hell Dogmonkey, I fancied something a little lighter  ;D

Can I reccomend anything by Geroge McDonald Fraser?

The Flashman books, whilst not very PC, are an absolute belly laugh, as well as an historically accurate portrayal of BritFor ops. in the Victorian era. Also recommended "Quarterd safe out here" which is GMF's recollections of being in Burma. In fact, anything by him is brilliant

"Sheik and the dustbin"
"McAuslan in the Rough"
"The General danced at dawn"

Go and get them :0)
Anyone with any doubt as to why we should act to topple Saddam should read Richard Butler's book, "Saddam Defiant" - He was the main UN inspector in Iraq before the inspections ended.

It is a very interesting read - and I believe we need to act against Iraq before Saddam threatens the UK with long range chemical missiles.
The Diceman by Luke Rheinhart.   An absolute winner....
1970's Psych gets fed up with mudane urban existence and makes all decisions by rolling dice:

Subaltern version might go something like this
if I throw a....
1.......Visit troops at tank park. the GTi the mess for porn
4.......attempt to seduce the CO's daughter at next opportuniy
5.......attempt to seduce the CO's wife at next opportunity
6.......attempt to seduce CO at next opportunity

Not surprisingly Luke Rheinhart was swiftly divorced, de-barred, arrested, and locked away! And got to blame it all on the dice.  
A most amusing read.
Sinner - what a telling choice in books....

I first heard about the Diceman from a chap who was one of the biggest rogues ever.  When I read it I could see why it would appeal to the male mind...   It spawned all sorts of fanclubs in the US and websites which have e-dices to use.  The golden rule is that at least one of the choices must be something you don't really want to do and another must be really risky or outrageous.  Getting out of your comfort zone is the key message.

I thought the Andy McNab novels were pretty good (although that is from a civvy perspective - and what do we know?!).  But  there was far too much 'stag on' in bushes (including unspeakable things involving clingfilm) and not enough bonking.

I sent my chap Sassoon's 'Memoirs of an Infantry Officer' and he said it is v.good.  There is also a book called 'Silent Night' by Stanley Weintraub - here is a synopsis:

Imagine: On Christmas Eve 1914, hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides lay down their arms and turned their backs on the killing in honour of the holiday.  These same soldiers who, moments before, were trying desperately to kill each other, were now shaking hands, exchanging greetings and gifts and revelling in their shared humanity.

Contravening their superiors' orders and in spite of language barriers, these brave young men, many of whom would never see another Christmas, wanted to share the warmth of camaraderie, if only for a brief period.  So they came together across front lines, sang carols, exchanged gifts, ate, drank, laughed and even played soccer. When superiors ordered them to renew the shooting, many soldiers on both sides simply aimed their weapons overhead.


PTP - You haven't got a copy of Silent Night that I could borrow have you?

Also - did you order your book off the CSM 'The Forgotten Massacre' about Wormhout and Escelbeuq?
PtP- fantastic choice of author. My great uncle served with George Macdonald Fraser in the Gordons and mighty funny are some of the stories that didn't make it in. It's amazing how many McCauslin Clones thatare out there.......

As to other authors - Harold Coyle's not bad, Bernard Cornwell.

With the Jocks- Peter White - KOSB from D-Day to VE day.

War and Shadows - Gen. Sir David Fraser- lots of stuff about the Guards Armoured Div in WW2

Loads more, but can't be bothered typing any more....
REF . GMF Line Grunt......

It appears that the character that is referred to, as having a lyrical Irish soul, who was at WOSBI with GMF, and who did Bangalore with him, is in fact my father.

He certainly remembers being stuck "in that f-ing water filled ditch, while Jock farted about"

So quite pleased about that. GMF also describes barrack life in Libya, where my father was , as a young PC with the Warks, and it made him laugh, Though he says, that half the stories of what happened , wouldn't make it into print, as people wouldn't believe it.

One of the most harrowing descriptions from Dad, was our making Afrika Corps prisoners earn their "Repatriation points". The idea was, if you'd been in the bag since '43 and wanted to get back to kleine Elsa, you could speed up the process, by doing jobs, like clerk, mess waitering, driving etc. Oh and the most points , were for Mine clearance and dump disposal.

Once a day "BOOM" from the desert, and the need to get a burial party organised soonest, as the corpse went right past it's sell-by date in about a 1/2 hour.

I keep trying to persuade Dad to get his stories down, and my sister has now bought him a dictaphone to help. Luckily, my father, as was my grandfather, was a very keen photographer, so it's not difficult for him to jog his memory. I must get to our regimental museum, to see if we can find anything else out on him.. ;D
Sorry SB, unfortunately, I haven't. Just took a look at my bookshelf, which seems to be composed of Tom Clancy, Howard Coyle (Team Yankee gets read over and over again) Every Sharpe book there is (Formula writing at it's best. Sharpe gets stitched up, bonks the girl well above his social station, French guaranteed several kickings), General Sir John Hacketts "The Third World War", All Quiet on the Western Front, a shedload of WW2 Pilot's biographies, some Douglas Reeman, and assorted unit histories.

I really should get out more  ;D
PtP - sounds far too much like my book shelf.  

Got a note from GMF re my great uncle - he appears as the RP sergeant when dealing with Big Willie, even though he wasn't the RP!  Creative licence - things the oldies got up to ;D ;D ;D
anything by sven hassel,it's all true you know!
Have a look at Total War 2006: The Future History of Global Conflict (or something along those lines). I can't remember who wrote it, but it started life as a piece of work for the author's Staff College contribution, which he later developped in to a novel. You should be able to find the paperback on Amazon without too much difficulty.

The theme of the book is the events that lead to an OSB type person galvenising the Middle East into a war with the West while Russia and N Korea open up fronts in Europe and the Far East. A bit far fetched in the synopsis of events, but close enough to reality to be worth thinking about.

Another excellent read is A Message from the Falklands, the life and gallant death of Lt David Tinker RN by Hugh Tinker. Sadly this book is now out of print, but you may find it in a decent sixed library.

The book is a collection of letters sent by David Tinker to his family and girlfriend/wife during his time at BRNC and on board the various ships he was on up to an including the Falklands. David Tinker was killed in one of the last Argentine actions of the war.  His letters are profoundly insightful into the general thoughts and feelings of the Ship's company as well as his own thoughts and feelings on going to war.

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