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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 Castle in the Wars of the Roses

    Dan Spencer
    Forget for a moment the focus on castles and here we have a good overview of the whole of the thirty years Wars of the Roses. Now add in the focus on castles, an oft neglected element in the strife, and you have a very good book. Of course there is a great deal about the military aspects of castle control but ,as this book explains, there was so much more to ‘The Castle’. Not least was the prestige of owning or being in charge of a castle as this was most probably given by royal patronage. Naturally, given a change of king, new people were given the spoils which included the castle and all that went with it. The post Conquest notion of regional power base continued to hold sway both as military and civil realms and area control meant income. Disputes occurred often hiding personal enmities within the context of a civil war even to the extent of fuelling the conflict.
    One thing which has always intrigued me which is reinforced by the information in this book is the tiny size of the garrison in many very large castles. For example huge Caernarfon had about twenty men, Carisbrooke had ten men-at-arms and ten archers, and Harlech about twenty four men for most of the period.
    In addition to the general text there is a set of rather good photographs and four maps but, unfortunately do not have a scale on any of them. Only a selection of the castles mentioned in the text are on the maps and it would have been interesting to have a map showing every castle almost as a density and distribution diagram. The concluding chapter and the three appendices, people, sieges, and garrisons are superb. An extensive bibliography rounds off the book.
    In summary thoroughly researched and well written. We highly recommend this well-known story brought to life in a most readable form with a new twist.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Long Range Desert Group in the Aegean

    Brendan O'Carroll
    I read this book because I had enjoyed the author’s Images of War book on the Long Range Desert Group in North Africa. [reviewed elsewhere on this site]. How could they change from motorized desert men to foot slogging island hopper?
    How they did it comes early in this gripping story of small groups of highly trained and motivated men fighting their war. Every chapters reads like a Boy’s Own story of daring do, of tough fighting and lucky escapes. But unlike adventure stories the heroes don’t always get away. Those that didn’t are listed in the Roll of Honour in the appendices. Brendan O’Carroll has done an enormous amount of research using both published and personal records. He gained the trust of ex-members of the LRDG and of the families of deceased soldiers. The result is a mass of information put over in a no nonsense easily accessible way. What is hardly mentioned, because the focus is so sharp, is the whole Aegean islands debacle which gives their noble exploits a context.
    There are a few maps, some rather special photographs and a bibliography. I did find it useful to have read the desert book first as this seemed to fix the nature of the LRDG.
    We highly recommend this book as a good read and as an insight into a little known war zone.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Great Waterloo Controversy.

    Gareth Glover
    Another classic Gareth Glover about the battle of Waterloo but this book is firmly focussed on the 52nd Foot. There is a little about the regiment prior to the battle and slightly more about them up to the end of their time in France after the fall of Paris. The 52nd became the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry notably going in gliders to hold Pegasus bridge on D-day, WW2.
    The controversy referred to in the title is around the defeat of the Imperial Guard in the final stages of the battle. So many accounts present the myth that it was the foot guards alone who achieved this. Glover expertly and conclusively destroys the myth, explaining on the way how it came into existence, and replaces it with the best available evidence of what really happened. The author’s qualifies his reliance on first-hand accounts by the nearness in time to the event that the account was written and the proximity to the action of the various writers. A large part of the accounts are included in the text. The last two chapters and the appendices are an excellent summary of what is in effect a mass of primary data.
    There are some useful maps, a nice set of photographs and an extensive bibliography.
    We highly recommend this book which, as well as being a jolly good read, is also a lesson in battle history writing.

    Frontline Books, 2020
  • Mussolini's Defeat at Hill 731

    John Carr
    Having enjoyed John Carr’s book The Defence and Fall of Greece [review elsewhere on this site] I feared this book would be a rehash of a lot of the same material. My fears were groundless the focus is firmly on the battle for hill 731. Indeed it is so much so that I was glad to have read the books in the order I did as that gave the full context for the gruelling battle.
    Within the grand scheme of the Second World war this battle was a small side show. One hill in Albania being fought over by the Greeks and the Italians. The truth about grand schemes is that they come down to individual men, the poor bloody infantry, to make them work or to foil the plans of the enemy. In this book John Carr tells the story of lots of individuals in a gritty gripping way. It is not a pretty tale but it fills the reader with wonder and admiration for the soldiers of both sides who fought for hill 731.
    This book works on so many levels it can be read as a great war story or it can be seen as an important spotlight on part of what is an often overlooked front in WW2.
    We highly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Secret History of the Roman Roads of Britain

    M. C. Bishop
    A unusual book on this topic, in that only a small section of it is actually about the Roman Roads themselves. The majority of the well argued and researched text places the roads in the context of the possible pre-existing transit routes around Britain and argues for them following already well established routes. It also then places the subsequent history of the nation in the context of the Roman road network and argues for the pivotal role of these roads in many battles, wars and historical events ever since.

    I perhaps would have liked a little more on the roads and the associated archaeology, but I understand there are plenty of other books that cover this. However I feel this provides a refreshing new look into the meaning, context, and lasting effects of one of the most easily seen but oft overlooked artefacts of Roman Britain.
    Pen and Sword Military, 2019