What are you reading right now?

After possibly more than 30 years I have got around to re-reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This time in a two volume edition by World Books published in 1939.

There is so much of it that I have forgotten that reading it again is like reading it for the first time. Just in the introduction there is so much information that can be applied to today as well as being interesting in its own right.
 
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A very in depth study,probably to in depth given the size of the battle and apart from the obligatory criticism of Monty and lack of criticism of Bradley it's not a bad read.
 
Having knocked over The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill I'm going to start Riptide by John Lawton tonight.

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Synopsis:
Spring 1941. Britain, standing alone since Dunkirk; Russia, on the brink of entering the war; America, struggling to stay neutral. And in Germany, after ten years spying for the Americans, Wolfgang Stahl disappears during a Berlin air raid. The Germans think he's dead. The British know he's not. But where is he? MI5 convince US Intelligence that Stahl will head for London, and so recruit England's first reluctant ally into a 'plain clothes partnership'. Captain Cal Cormack, a shy American 'aristocrat', is teamed with Chief Inspector Stilton of Stepney, fat, fifty, and convivial, and between them they scour London, a city awash with spivs and refugees. But then things start to go terribly wrong and, ditched by MI5 and disowned by his embassy, Cal is introduced to his one last hope - Sgt Troy of Scotland Yard . . .
A couple of chapters in and I realised that I have read it before. However, as I can't remember what happens and because I like the author's writing style so much, I'm reading on. I read a line last night which amused me greatly; I'll add it to this post over the weekend.
 

Echo On

On ROPS
On ROPs
Was reading "The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1942", was very interesting and shocking in equal measure. The RAF/RAAF scuttling from Kuantan AB was a notable eye opener and the whole section on the Prince of Wales is a head shaker.

The Army got well and truly lumbered and you actually start having sympathy for Percival as he was dealt a very bad hand.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
£2 somewhere, almost pristine copy of (Sir) Anthony Beevor's 'Stalingrad' (1998). Probably familiar to many on ARRSE, but to me a lucid unravelling of the story from both sides - Beevor's resources include private letters by German soldiers captured by the Russians and, with other material but NOT the records of the NKVD unit running this sector, released during the thaw between Communism and Putin. Some of the illegal German immigrants to the USSR survived the Gulag to release ca.1955 and also told their tale. Starts with Barbarossa and continues right up to the last blood-stained minute as starving, frostbitten, lice-ridden Germans finally get theirs, either in the fightng or as PoWs afterwards.

Strategy and tactics are well done as are the military hardware and Fritz and Ivan. Good on tanks which may reflect Beevor's three years in the 11th Hussars. As to the German command, Beevor gives us a convincing picture of Chief of Staff Schmidt's hand up the back of the jacket of an increasingly incapable Paulus.

Beevor chronicles the pitiless brutality of the Germans as they advance in victory and the misery inflicted on those they took PoW or encountered as civilians, and the well-deserved miseries of those Germans who survived. The sheer obscenity of these bloodstained Teutonic barbarians celebrating Christmas I found breathtaking. It is hardly surprising that when the Russians reached Germany the natives got bounced around a bit. Beevor also chronicles the callous treatment by the Soviets of their own soldiers and indeed of their civilians caught up in the war, and the murderous paranoia of Stalin's regime. The book is now banned in Russia and the Ukraine so that part must be a true bill.

An horrific story of appalling cruelty, often entirely voluntary not to say sadistic, and huge waste of life; the cost of a very necessary victory. The two most vile cults of the twentieth century slugged it out to the death; Nazism was ultimately destroyed but Communism went on to bring death and misery to hundreds of millions.
 
Just finished "Dead in the Dog" by Bernard Knight. This book by the author best known for his medieval coroner mysteries is set in 1950's Malaya during the Crisis. Based on the authors own experience a young medical officer I found it to be an excellent read. While the murder/ mystery part of the book is not that exciting, the description of life in the Colonies as a junior officer at that time is totally engrossing. The destructive power of That Rifle even gets a mention.
 

What a cracking read, full of humour and it mentions the village getting through WW1.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
Mrs S picked up in a charity shop the 1997 ppbk by Times Editions of broadcaster and journo Tim Bowden's 1984 'Changi Photographer', a selection of photos taken by George Aspinall as a FEPoW on the Burma Railway and elsewhere.

This is the sort of book one can't put down. Aspinall joined up in Australia in mid-1941 aged 17. With a folding Kodak as a going-away present he was sent to Singapore and managed, by helping a local Chinese photographer, to teach himself developing and printing. Scrounging X-ray film and chemicals, and hiding his camera in his waist belt, he succeeded in snapping away until in 1943 on his way back from the railway things got a bit hot and he broke up and got rid of the camera. Some of his photos were used in War Crimes trials at Rabaul. His accompanying narrative is bone dry but the more compelling for that; I reckon he survived starvation, disease and tropical sores absolutely by the skin of his teeth and because he was resourceful, tough and young. It took enormous nerve to take his pictures and he was also involved in setting up a couple of secret radios. If you didn't like the Japanese to start with, you'ld like them even less after reading this.
 
A couple of chapters in and I realised that I have read it before. However, as I can't remember what happens and because I like the author's writing style so much, I'm reading on. I read a line last night which amused me greatly; I'll add it to this post over the weekend.
This is not a light-hearted novel. Set in London during the blitz, people die. But the author can capture tragedy and human compassion. This made me smile:

'In the bathroom Kitty had settled into the bath and was soaping herself lazily, a hand gliding the length of one arm, cupping one breast , nipple up, lips pursed to blow bubbles off it and create one of the simplest pleasures known to man - soapy tits.'
 
This is not a light-hearted novel. Set in London during the blitz, people die. But the author can capture tragedy and human compassion. This made me smile:

'In the bathroom Kitty had settled into the bath and was soaping herself lazily, a hand gliding the length of one arm, cupping one breast , nipple up, lips pursed to blow bubbles off it and create one of the simplest pleasures known to man - soapy tits.'
Having finished 'Riptide' I fully intend reading more by this author. But I decided that it was time for something completely different so have made a good start on:

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The author is a former officer in the Life Guards, so probably knows one end of a horse from the other. The book, the first in the series, 'recounts in very frank detail the life, loves and adventures of Jasper Speedicut, charmer, sexual libertine, reluctant hero and friend of Harry Flashman VC.'

I'm enjoying it, but be warned, Speedicut is bisexual . . .
 
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As Dennis M. (Mike) Ridnouer writes in the foreword of his new oral history, The Vietnam Air War: First Person, over five million missions were flown in the Vietnam War. The many pilots, crew, and support personnel who risked their lives daily don't deserve to fade into obscurity. Unhappy with the lack of first-person retellings of the war, Ridnouer made it his new mission to preserve these men's tales of bravery and duty.

The result is more than one hundred stories from the front lines of the war. Air Force Fighter Pilots, Weapon Systems Operators (WSOs), and Electronic Warfare Officers (EWOs), recount their stories of air-to-air engagements, near misses, successes, and failures.

A pilot explains why he buys a drink for every tanker driver he meets. An airman explains what a Thud is. A veteran vividly describes his homecoming.

These stories and others provide a much different account of the war than those found in history books. The pages come alive with perilous missions and skilled maneuvers. Airmen from all walks of life were united during the war, and their tales include stirring accounts of friendship and comradery.

Very good.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
£1, thumbed but clean PPBK of 'The Rise and Fall of the British Empire', Lawrence James 1997. Four centuries of Empire crammed into 600 odd pages plus long biblio. Even so, plenty of anecdote and well-argued and amazingly neutral although sometimes I thought I nearly sensed his inner Leftie mewling in the kennel. Enormously informative ( for me) background to what my forebears were up to all over the world, and to some extent why, with a high level explanation of the world in which they lived, closing with HK on the verge of handover. At the end the chapters about events where I had insignificant walk-on parts were interesting, particularly the background to Suez. In the round, a well-written tome and very informative. The Commonwealth is ace and we are all such chums. Anyway it was all costing too much which was the main driver to get out and let the locals rot - the Wind of Change was gusting 10 through the Treasury.

The odd bit of fine-grain naval detail got wrong but (wearily) one gets used to that. James' view of how naval officers saw the Wilson/Smith talks is ENTIRELY wrong but that didn't affect events.
 

DaManBugs

LE
Book Reviewer
I've just finished re-reading "Razor's Edge - The Unofficial History of the Falklands War", by Hugh Bicheno. I first read it in 2008 after receiving it as a birthday present from my wife. What impressed me most, then as now, was the very detailed history of what went on in Argentina that actually led up to Operation Corporate; something that I've not found in any other accounts of the war. There are also very detailed descriptions of the individual battles that took place, Goose Green, Wireless Ridge, etc, but they're accompanied by maps with the troop movements on either side and also photos of the locations, which helps enormously in envisaging what actually went on.

The author is a bit right-wing, but that shouldn't detract from his ability to make what happened at the time come very much alive. For those of a more left-wing inclination: don't be put off by the fact that there's a picture of Maggie Thatcher on the cover, who, by the way, comes in for a lot of (richly deserved) flack for the way she rushed into things. A highly recommendable book with some brilliant insights.

MsG
 
I popped into my local library a few weeks ago & found a copy Gordon Welchman's The Hut 6 Story. Its a book I've long wanted to read & never got round to.
This edition was published with his original Part 4 section of the book omitted as it was GW's comments on modern battlefield communications & the lessons of the Enigma/Ultra efforts applicable to the 80;s current situation. Its a worthwhile edit as its no longer relevant - the publishers instead added a paper that GW wrote in the mid 80's that corrects a few of his own errors in the original book as well as refutes (categorically imo) some points made in the official history of the intelligence services that was published after Hut 6 - it also refutes some rather arrogant comments made by some of the surviving Polish code breakers who were dismissive of British methods with Enigma claiming them as their own.

If i have one criticism to make of the book, it is that GW does seem to write with a certain personal chip on his shoulder with regard to recognition for his efforts - however its a very small chip & considering his contribution as evidenced by other research on Enigma at BP since GW''s death its a fair bloody point. Man was a genius.
 
I finished Vol 1 of the Speedicut Papers last night and launched into Philip Kerr's third Bernie Gunther book:

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Spike Milligan’s war memoirs.
Very funny in places. I’m a fan of Milligan’s humour anyway, so they’re a pleasure to read.
One thing though, would a Gunner or Bombardier be allowed to speak to officers like he claims they do? They all seem very friendly & jovial to one another.
 
Australia's Secret war by Hal G.P. Colebatch, an account of the disgraceful activities of militant unions in Australia during WW2. The book starts bye detailing eye witness accounts of munitions, material , supplies and personal items being stolen or destroyed on the wharfs of Australia by unionised dockworkers. The author the investigates strikes in munitions factories and coalfields during the war. What is most disturbing is the then labor government's total unwillingness to deal with the issues and subsequent attempts to deny they ever happened. A very interesting and disturbing read. i would recommend for any one interested in WW2 especially far east
 

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