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Our Reviews

In the course of our research, we have found several books and other media useful so we've listed and reviewed them. Select a category to browse the list, use the form to search for a specific topic, or select from our featured reviews.

If you have read, watched or listened to a particularly good item, we would welcome your recommendations too - Send us your reviews.

Featured reviews :

  • The Last British Battleship HMS Vanguard 1946-1960

    R A Burt
    The last books I reviewed, published by Seaforth, were two volumes on Coastal Forces [see elsewhere on this site] which dealt with the smallest WW2 Naval craft so it is quite a jump to the largest battleship we ever built. Vanguard’s displacement was about 500 MTBs a truly magnificent ship which I know from personal experience having been on board at a Navy Day in Portsmouth in the late 1950s. So my question was is this book as good as the Coastal Forces books and will it do the ship justice?
    My hopes were fully realised by the text, the photographs and the technical drawings. The text is very technical in parts which truly reflects the subject but in the main can be easily followed. Although there are a few difficult bits where unexplained initials are use. The photographs are many and varied showing every stage of the ship from builders yard to breakers yard. One very poignant picture, the last in the book, is of the bow section just lying forlorn in the mud.
    The technical drawings, nearly all by the author, are superb. The drawings are of the whole ship including two three page and one four page spreads. There are also many detailed drawings of weapons systems, radar etc. All drawings are fully annotated as appropriate to their scale.
    All this is presented in a beautifully produced large portrait format, about 260mm X 300mm.
    We very highly recommend this well researched work.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • The Trans-Atlantic Pioneers

    Bruce Hales-Dutton
    A timely book, all about overcoming the many problems associated with crossing the Atlantic by air, made more poignant by the fact that it was being reviewed during the very week of the centenary of that first crossing. In the true spirit of similar narrative histories of pioneers, this book begins with the problem itself, and has several chapters following the earliest attempts, followed by the successful ones of the 'Nancy boat' NC4, then Alcock and Brown's successful single hop, and those of the gallant fails. There's a sympathetic coverage of airship R34's oft-forgotten double crossing only a few weeks later, but all this is set against the fact that this was 1919, barely 13 years after the Wright brothers first flight, and less than a year after the trauma of the First World War.

    The next few chapters follow the golden years of the 1920's and 30's, with different celebrity flyers trying to out-do each other and set new records, while the Graf Zeppelin serenely, and controversially because of the Nazi propaganda it inevitably created, attempted to make trans-Atlantic travel luxurious and almost routine.

    It then moves on to another oft-forgotten aspect, that of the ferry flights back and forth between the aircraft factories of the US and the theatres of operations in Europe, with the stories of the exhausting schedule of the pilots who carried out this vital and un-sung work, and the thousands of aircraft they delivered.

    The final section of the book moves into commercial aviation and covers the story of scheduled airline trans-Atlantic flights. It takes you from the basic postwar days of the prop-airliner, through the introduction of the jet, the jumbo and wide-bodies, the move to twin engine turbo-fans and, of course, Concord. Each of these latter chapters takes a particular aspect of aviation that significantly affected these routes, and while such a collection could never cover everything in detail, it manages to give a good account of why each thing matters while remaining human and anchoring itself with first-hand account from those 'who were there'. For personal preference, I would have liked more maps, for example of the various routes used to cross for the early flights, but the chronology of key events is very comprehensive, and the whole book is well paced, well constructed, enjoyable and recommended.
    Air World - an imprint of Pen & Sword, Barnsley., 2018
  • The Dunkirk Perimeter and Evacuation 1940

    Jerry Murland
    This book is precisely focused on the BEF’s actions in both establishing a defensive perimeter and in evacuating as many troops as possible from Dunkirk and the beaches nearby. The text is broken up into short separate sections dealing with units and places. Within these are many quotations from the men who did the deeds accompanied by a wealth of photographs of the men and the places. The maps are contemporary to the action and include some from the German side showing the allied dispositions they were aware of. Here are the facts without interpretation, opinion or dramatization and the book is all the better for it.
    This is a remarkable story, well told, which even today lives in the national psyche. One quotation from Major Mark Henniker on the 4th June 1940 stands out ‘I suppose it will gradually dawn on the generous English people, who greeted us with food, socks, cigarettes and every sort of gift one could imagine, that it was no victory but a crashing defeat.’ I am not sure that that dawn has yet arrived.
    The final chapter is a guide to the battlefields as they are now. These guides are so good that one almost doesn’t need to make the visit but for anyone who does do the trip this book is a must.
    We highly recommend this well researched work.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2019
  • Allied Coastal Forces of World War 11. Volume 1

    John Lambert & Al Ross
    Having read Volume 2 first I came to Volume 1 with high expectations I was not disappointed. One could not help but be impressed with the massive research which must have been undertaken to produce such a wealth of detail. But more than that the information is presented in an easily accessible form.
    The story of the Fairmile designs begins in the first World War and finishes with those which survive today. The same is true of the US submarine chaser except that none are still around. It seems wrong to select any particular parts of the book it is all worth reading but what I found surprising was the variety and quantity of the weapons fit. In type this ranged from the rather simple, primitive Holman projector to the top quality Rolls Royce 40mm gun. In quantity as much as two 4.5 inch, twin 20mm Oerlikon plus mines and depth charges all on a displacement of around 100 tons. All of this propelled at over 30 knots.
    As I wrote in the review of Volume 2 [see elsewhere on this site] this is not a book just to be read but to be owned. A quality publication in a large format, 290mm by 240mm, with over 250 pages packed with technical drawings, photographs and engaging text. Some publicity blurb says it would help anyone wishing to build a model but for some of the boats little more would be needed to build to full size craft such is the detail given.
    Along with Volume 2 we cannot recommend this book too highly.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2018
  • In Action with Destroyers 1939-1945

    Commander J.A.Dennis/Ed: Anthony Cumming
    This book is the personal account of one man’s war. One of that particular special breed who are destroyer men. The language is not jingoistic not egoistic Commander Dennis never looked upon or wrote of himself as a hero choosing to attribute his survival to luck rather than his skill or his bravery. But hero he most certainly was. He saw service in the English Channel, the Eastern Mediterranean the Red sea, and with the Arctic convoys. Every tough assignment written up in the same low key factual manner. He calmly lists off colleagues, friends lost as ships were sunk. In one action near Crete his ship was the only survivor of a group of four destroyers. In the course of his story we hear about every kind of destroyer action from shore bombardment, anti-aircraft fire, submarine hunting, escorting convoys to attempts to torpedo enemy capital ships. There are also some appropriate photographs.
    The whole book flows with the action like a good novel but this is fact and it is difficult to put down.
    After the diary the editor has added a very good thirteen page summary of the wider picture of the war which places the actions in their context.
    We thoroughly recommend this book to all.

    Pen & Sword Maritime, 2017