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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 :

  • Wellington and the Vitoria Campaign

    Carole Dival
    This book tells the story of a defeated, demoralized rabble turned round to become, in Wellington’s own opinion, ‘never a finer army’. The rebuild came through the restoration of discipline and morale largely by giving the troops rest, recuperation and logistic support in food and clothing. This was followed by intense training. Only then came the advance towards Vitoria. Wellington’s careful planning of the positioning of his army columns consistently wrong footing the French. Also his use of Portuguese and Spanish troops in a more integrated way strengthened his manoeuvres. Recording this could have resulted in a very dry book but the lively writing and the use of first-hand accounts from Allies and French troops makes it most readable and understandable.
    The text is supported by five very good maps of the campaign and one map of the battlefield. The battlefield map has some faults in that it shows Soult as commanding the Army of the South and it does not show all the places named in the text. For a fluid battle like Vitoria three or four maps showing the development would have been welcome. There is also a nice set of illustrations including the major protagonists. Six very useful appendices showing strengths and casualties round up the information.
    The value of this book is in the description of the whole campaign while the battle description gives a real flavour of a Peninsular battlefield. We recommend this very good read to a wide audience.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Roman Conquests: Britain

    Simon Elliot
    Here we have a super overview of a complex series of events presented in a most readable manner. The vast majority of the content is confined to the shores of Britain but there is sufficient material to give Britain a context within the wider Roman world. Among the general information is a running commentary on the changes within the Roman military over the period of the occupation of Britannia. The main invasion leading to settlement is of course dealt with in detail. The later attempts to expand to cover the whole of the mainland are also explained. The whole island was never conquered and this directly resulted in the necessary continuing presence of a significant military force. Perhaps the most telling sentence which came out of the author’s research is the fact that 12 per cent of Roman military establishment was in 4 per cent of its geographic area. This book goes a long way to explaining why. The gradual end of Roman occupation is set in the context of the decline of the whole empire brought about in no small part by the infighting of would be Caesars. Many uprisings began in Britain and in the process removed valuable troops to support the leader’s claims on the continent.
    There is a very good set of illustrations but the reader is expected to know the geography of Britain and its immediate neighbours as there is not a single map. The timeline and the bibliography are both great supports to the reader wanting to know more in detail. [Simon Elliot's book on Roman Britain's Missing Legion reviewed on this site is a case in point]
    This book is a good stand alone read and a valuable jumping off point for those who want more. We highly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Taranto and Naval Warfare in the Mediterranean 1940-1945

    David Hobbs
    This book’s main title is ‘Taranto’ but it is about so much more than that singular action. The whole range of Fleet Air Arm activity in the Mediterranean theatre, 1940-1945, is the real content and a full and fascinating story it is. There are many insights into little known activities especially those where shore based squadrons were supporting the RAF and the troops on the ground in the North African campaign. Readers can expect to have their eyes opened to the real value of the ‘antiquated flying string bag’ the Fairey Swordfish. Although superseded by fast single seater fighters there was always a niche which no other aircraft could fill and consequently they stayed in service for the whole period. An underlying message of the book is that during this period the battleship became obsolete to be replaced by the aircraft carrier. The author draws attention to the political difficulties in the Admiralty, the RAF and the aircraft supply chain which accounted for the necessity of eventually obtaining, by purchase or Lean Lease, American aircraft and American carriers.
    Technical detail, personal stories and lots of photographs make this a must have book for readers with many different interests. A jolly good read which we highly recommend.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2020
  • Hitler's War in Africa 1941-42

    David Mitchelhill-Green
    This is a quality read which I am sorry to say, by ending just after Alamein, finishes too soon. It is clear from the massive bibliography and extensive footnotes that a great deal of research has gone into the writing of this book. There is sufficient information about the strategic position of the North African theatre to give context to the tactical events. However the real life of the book is in the quotations from individuals on both sides of the conflict. The reader isn’t spared from the truth about war and some of the more gruesome passage make quite uncomfortable reading. One British soldier’s comment on burying German dead has stuck with me he wrote ‘apart from the uniform they are just like us.’
    There are a few useful maps most of which have scales and keys. There are sixteen pages of appropriate photographs but incidentally there are many more in David Mitchelhill-Green’s Images of War books from this same publisher.
    This book is both informative and gripping, a jolly good read, which we highly recommend and hope that a further book, Alamein to the end, is on the way.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • 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 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