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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 Sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo

    Tim Saunders
    Here is a book that does just what it says on the cover and does it well and at the same time is an excellent insight into Napoleonic warfare in general. The sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo in 1810 by the French against the Spanish and the 1812 return match of the British/Portuguese against the French are dealt with in detail. The movements and engagements of the armies between the two events are covered sufficiently for the reader to grasp the strategic significance of the sieges. The book is rich in illustrations including photographs of things as they are today and one of the appendices is a battlefield tour guide.
    The text flows easily with many appropriate contemporary accounts covering many aspects of the soldiers lives. Two of them will stick in my memory for a long time. One is of an Irish woman dropping out of a very tough winter march to have a baby by the side of the road and who then rejoined the marching column. The other is of a major who had his arm amputated and then wandered around to find a bed for the night. There are many similar accounts which enrich the narrative and get the reader closer to the reality of Napoleonic campaigning. I often have cause to complain about the maps in modern books but I don’t need to here. To my joy the maps are excellent supports to the text, some are reproductions of contemporary maps and these are supported with new maps and battlefield plans which have both keys and scales.
    There are four useful appendices and the bibliography is contained within the notes attached to each chapter.
    We thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Napoleonic warfare and especially to anyone thinking of visiting this area of Spain. My hope is Tim Saunders is going to write a similar book on the siege of Badajoz, an altogether bloodier affair.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • Sir Alan Cobham, The Flying Legend.

    Colin Cruddas
    Published in association with The Aviation Historian Magazine.

    This book is an important biography of an important figure in British aviation who held a pivotal position in the development of flying in the inter-war period. It begins with the early life of Alan J Cobham, born in 1894 in Camberwell to a middle class family, then outlines his work in the garment industry and farming before, in 1914, he joined up in the Army Veterinary Corps. He served with distinction in France, becoming a Veterinary Sergeant in charge of the welfare of 1,500 horses on the Western Front. It then describes how, after some childhood exposure to aircraft at Brooklands he applied to the Royal Flying Corps and, with connections and a certain degree of luck, was accepted and went on to become a flying instructor.

    The biography follows on with his post war struggle to get a job, how he set up his own company with the Holmes brothers as a taxi pilot and went on to work for Airco, then de Havilland, in the air taxi and aerial photography business. However the book doesn’t dwell on the flying itself, as that was only one facet of the future Sir Alan’s success. It makes plain his organisational and leadership talents that would typify his approach. His long distance flights, to India, Cape Town and eventually Australia (for which he gained his Knighthood) are described, again placing emphasis on his ability to organise and finance the ventures as well as fly them. It points out the contributions of his relationship with influential figures like Sir Sefton Brancker and Lord Wakefield to his successes, but also to his view of aviation. He wasn’t one of the glory-seaking record breakers, though he did indeed break records. His focus was on proving that aviation had a commercial and practical future. Hence on his long-distance tours, such as the circumnavigation of Africa in a Shorts Singapore flying boat, he was making copious notes, reports and local contacts to lay the groundwork for future commercial air routes.

    This is further shown in his next, and probably more famous venture, the National Aviation Days. During the 1930’s he led a troupe (later 2 troupes) of aircraft, ground personnel and pilots around the country giving demonstrations and experience flights to thousands of ordinary people. His purpose, again clearly shown in this book, was not to thrill or be a ‘barnstormer’ but to educate and ‘acclimatise’ the public to aircraft, and build what was termed ‘airmindedness’. It also highlights the contributions made to the Air Days by the long suffering Dallas Eskell and Hugh Thompson, without whom the venture would have come to grief several times.

    This marks another shift in direction for the book. As the end of the 1930’s approached and Sir Alan's new company, Flight Refueling Ltd. showed more potential the book becomes more of a wider history of FRL than a biography of Sir Alan. It describes the major inventions in terms of both equipment and technique that FRL made to the in-flight refueling, including the important war-work it undertook in the 1940’s and the major developments since then.

    All in all, this is an timely reminder of the work of a key figure in the history of aviation, one often overlooked in the modern world in favour of his more attention-seeking contemporaries but one who materially helped contribute to the air industry today. I would have preferred more maps and a bibliography, but the included illustrations are useful and welcome, and the text is well-written, balanced and highly readable. Definitely to be recommended.


    Frontline Books (Yorkshire), 2018
  • The Two Battles of Copenhagen

    Gareth Glover
    This book covers the two battles of Copenhagen, the intervening years and what followed. Both the political and military aspects are dealt with in relation to one another. There is an extensive bibliography should the reader wish to follow up any thread in greater detail.
    I declare my bias I am a Gareth Glover fan and I am pleased to say that this book will not disappoint others like me. The narrative flows easily without getting bogged down in lists or too much factual detail. But the detail, the product of much research, is contained in the appendices of which there are thirty six. The author’s forte in flushing out hitherto unpublished first hand accounts is used to good effect. He makes clear the difference between reporting and opinion whenever he has exercised his judgement especially when dealing with variations between a number of original accounts.
    There are a number of illustrations throughout the book and a well chosen set of colour plates in the centre of the text. The weak point, true of almost every recently published book, are the maps. It is all very well to insert small facsimiles of the original maps which were used at the time but they are very little use without scales to the reader attempting to understand locations. I turned to the maps in The Great Gamble by Dudley Pope, published in 1972, and used its four excellent maps.
    This is a most readable, informative and enjoyable book which we fully recommend to anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic period.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • Arnhem. Battle for the island and evacuation.

    Battlefield History TV Team
    When I saw the picture on the case of this DVD I had very low expectations of the contents. The main character in the foreground is holding a Sten gun by its magazine and aiming it when it isn’t cocked. This is very wrong firstly because when fired the magazine easily shakes loose and secondly one would need to move the weapon away from the sighting position in order to cock it.
    When I came to watch the DVD I got a pleasant surprise, proving the old adage ‘don’t judge a book [or DVD] by its cover’.
    I found a beautifully presented, accurate account of the final stages of the battle. This is the fourth film in the Operation market garden series. The strategic plan is simply told as is the tactical execution. There is a good balance of talk to camera by the experts and some veterans. The location of the battle as it is today is used as backdrop to aid the explanations of the developments. To balance the talk the film also includes maps, archive footage and re-enactor footage.
    All in all it is good material well presented which kept me interested and entertained for the whole 80 minutes.

    Pen & Sword Digital, 2013
  • Wellington's Foot Guards at Waterloo

    Robert Burnham & Ron McGuigan
    This book by Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan is a thorough exposition of who the Foot Guards were and what they did. Some readers will think it is telling them more than they need to know. For example when it comes down to colour of eyes and hair why should that matter? It doesn’t ‘matter’ but it, along with the other factors described, does build a strong picture of who those men were as people and incidentally indicates the thoroughness of the authors research. The authors are also to be admired for sticking to their subject and not being pulled into more general descriptions of the battles; even so it is still a large 380 page volume.
    Within those pages are some rather apt plates which support the text and there is an extensive bibliography. The very useful Name index allows the reader to follow many persons through the action, some with over twenty references in the text. I also liked the way that the rank and file are treated which is as well as any other book I have read. There is far more information concerning officers available to the researcher and, while acknowledging this, the authors have compensated for the lack to some extent. This includes the contents of the fifteen appendices which contain a mass of detailed information for the reader to access easily.
    There are some minor criticisms which do not detract from the overall value of the book. The maps are reproductions of those appearing in a book published in 1874 which would have had, and still need, keys and supporting text. The plan of Hougoumont appears on page 136 rather than page 171 as shown in the list of maps.
    In our opinion this book successfully bridges what is a difficult divide between a reference book and a good sit down read and, as such, will delight both the Waterloo buff and the casual reader.

    Frontline Books, 2018