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Book reviews for - World War 2

  • Armoured Warfare in the British Army 1939-1945

    Dick Taylor
    This is the second book in a three part series on Armoured Warfare by Dick Taylor. Part one has a good review on this site and this book is every bit as good. The enormous amount of research is presented in a easy readable way and would appeal to a large range of readers. The key story is the rapid development of both the hardware and the application of it brought about in the heat of warfare. The many failures including those of the senior commanders in the struggle to catch up with German tank warfare are clearly spelt out. The story is told by following the course of the war through the armoured units involved in the variety of campaigns. There are appendices on some technical aspects and a good and necessary glossary.
    This is a book to settle down with for a good read or to use as a reference on armoured actions in World War Two. Roll on the third book of the series.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • Eyewitness at Dieppe

    Ross Reyburn
    Wallace Reyburn was a truly exceptional war correspondent the only one who went ashore during the ill-fated Dieppe raid 1942. He wrote of his experiences in ‘Rehearsal for Invasion’ a war time best seller. This book, written by his son Ross, has three parts. Part one, A Fortunate Survivor, Ross introduces his father to the reader and places the Dieppe raid in its context. Part two, Rehearsal for Invasion, is Wallace Reyburn’s account of his involvement in the landing. He doesn’t shy away from the brutality of close-quarter combat and records the bravery of the Canadian troops fighting against better armed more numerous Germans. Part three, The Appendices, give a flavour of the times and how the book was received.
    The adventure is ‘Boys Own’ stuff, beautifully written, absorbing yet gritty in parts. The whole rings true and we highly recommend it as a very good read.

    Pen & Sword History, 2022
  • The Final Curtain Burma 1941-1945

    Jeremy Archer
    In this book a very simple format makes for a wonderful read. It is simply a collection of real experiences which are the recollections of 41 men who served in Burma at some time between 1941 and 1945. Some had little or no contact with the Japanese, others took part in the bitterest fighting, all played a part in the final victory. For the reader comes a fuller understanding of a Second world war campaign through the stories of the ‘ordinary’ men who took part in it
    The author, Jeremy Archer, has brought the book together in a very readable form with just sufficient supporting text. The narratives are also supported by some relevant maps, a very good glossary and a superb set of photographs.
    We very highly recommend this book to all levels of readers.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • The Harwich Striking Force

    Steve R Dunn
    Having enjoyed three previous books by Steve Dunn I had high expectations of this one and I was not disappointed. The Harwich force was a special creation to meet a particular need and worked under a talented leader. It’s actions, successes, failures highs and lows are all here and indicate a massive amount of research. The breadth of its actions many of them experimental is down to the vision of its commander, Admiral Tyrwhitt. He thought deeply about the weapons, cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers, mine layers, submarines and flying boats, and used them in novel aggressive ways. The accounts of various voyages show how the weather, especially fog, was as much of an enemy as were the Germans.
    The easy flowing text includes a lot of personal accounts and observations, there are many photographs of the men and the vessels and one very good map. This is a well-focussed work and a jolly good read which we highly recommend.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2022
  • Churchill's Arctic Convoys

    William Smith
    A destroyer came across a lifeboat from a cargo ship which had been sunk about a week before. Nine men managed to get into it but when found eight had died from exposure and the ninth just barely survived. Part of the gritty truth about the Arctic convoys with similar repeats throughout the book. Every convoy and many single voyages are described some meriting more detail than others.
    The reference in the title to Churchill highlights the political nature of the enterprise. This led to some quite foolhardy risks which without the political drive would not have been taken. Losses in naval and civilian ships and men were significant some to air attack some to submarines but most tragically some to the Arctic weather. One fact which I read with surprise was of a Russian ship crewed entirely by women.
    There are two useful maps, a super set of photographs and eighteen tables making a lot of information clearly available for analysis.
    The Arctic convoys tend to lie on the periphery of general reading about the Second World war William Smith’s book deserves to be front and centre if only to honour the men and women whose story he has told.
    We highly recommend this book.

    Pen & Sword Maritime, 2022
  • Hill 112, The Key to Defeating Hitler in Normandy

    Tim Saunders
    This is the story of the battle for one hill in the whole of the Normandy campaign. The content covers all layers of action from Montgomery’s strategic vision to the gritty realism of the individual soldier. Voices from both sides are heard as the positions shift back and forth over quite a small very important hill. Tim Saunders’ extensive research has produced a narrative which takes the reader as close to the truth of a battle as one can get. So close that some of the truth is not for the squeamish. The casualties on both sides were huge but the action succeeded strategically in pulling in most of the Panzer reserves to free up the American sweep to the south.
    The gripping narrative is supported by an abundance of maps and a super set of photographs, as far as battle books go you could not get better.
    We highly recommend Tim Saunders’ book.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • D-Day, Arnhem and The Rhine.

    Robert F. Ashby Ed. Jonathan Walker
    A superb memoir of one man’s war. Robert Ashby was a glider pilot who survived landings at D-Day, Arnhem and the Rhine crossing. Jonathan Walker has done the job of editing so that he does not interfere with the original memoirs but adds sufficient notes, in italics, to provide both context and a little additional information. To highlight any part of the book would be to do a disservice to the whole. The text is supported by a set of very special, many personal, photographs.
    For anyone with even a passing interest in the Second World war this is a must read. We cannot recommend it too highly.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • Schnellbootwaffe

    Hrvoje Spajic
    Anyone familiar with the super series of Images of War books from Pen and Sword may well be disappointed by this edition. True there are many images of war but in the whole book there are only ten pictures of Schnell boats. The narrative on the other hand is full of information from the detail about the boats to their strategic use. What comes across strongly is the bravery and daring of those who commanded and crewed these small warships. They attacked warships much larger than themselves, they laid mines, frequently in harbour approaches, and they sank a significant amount of convoyed shipping in the North sea. Their role in escorting Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugene in their channel dash and their actions around D day also form part of their exploits. Only brief mention is made of the people who designed and built these superb vessels which enabled the crews to use them as they did. The many maps strongly support the text.
    Forget it is in the Images of War series and enjoy a jolly good read and on that basis we thoroughly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • First Polish Armoured Division 1938-47

    Evan McGilvray & Janusz Jarzembowski
    This is a difficult book to review. Some of the earlier chapters describing the division in action have a lot of repetition and confusion. The confusion arises mainly from a failure to follow a consistent timeline. This is no longer true of the later chapters. Another strong negative is that, in a book about position and movement, there is not a single map although there are many map references given in the text. On the positive side one gets a good understanding of the courage and commitment of the Polish fighters as they advanced through Europe. How the division was used and in part mis-used comes over clearly. Also the political aspects of the division’s creation and development are well covered. The photographs are both relevant and superb. The wide ranging research included a lot of Polish sources and this has given depth to the content.
    Overall one has the feeling that the book was written with a great deal of enthusiasm and rather less discipline. On balance we would still put it on our recommended reading list.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • Great Naval Battles of the Pacific War

    John Grehan
    If ever a book needed maps, and plenty of them, this is one. The masses of well researched information is all about position and movement which the reader can only fully comprehend if they have a map to hand. Modern atlases sold in this country don’t usually have the detail of the Pacific islands which is required. I am lucky that I have the Times atlas of the Second World war but even so it meant reading at my desk rather than propped up in bed.
    The big positive of this book is the quantity and quality of the information about the five major actions of the naval war in the Pacific . The content is ‘all meat and no gravy’, no opinions or personal accounts just the facts. Both Allied and Japanese sources have been used. It is interesting to note how both sides ‘slurred’ the information about what was hit and how badly for bragging rights or propaganda purposes.
    I can see this book as being very useful to work from on a map table with ship models. In spite of the difficulties afore mentioned in reading in comfort this book really does reward the effort.

    Frontline Books, 2022
  • Fighting with the Long Range Desert Group

    Brendan O'Carroll
    War may be viewed on many levels a national conflict and the strategic sweep of armies or the placing of divisions and brigades but at the base of the pyramid everything depends on individual men. This superb book is about one of those men who fought his war as a member of a very special unit the Long Range Desert Group. The motto of the LRDG was ‘Not by strength by guile’ and although they had to do quite a lot of fighting their most important role meant they should avoid any contact with the enemy wherever possible. Put briefly their mission was to go deep, hundreds of miles, behind enemy lines gather intelligence and cause disruption. An example of this is the road watch incredibly dangerous and boring but of enormous value to allied intelligence. Information which could not be gathered in any other way. What it meant to the men who lay in cover within a few hundred yards of the road and recorded vehicle movements for 24 hours at a stint we can barely imagine.
    Brendan O’Carroll has done an excellent job, using large sections of Merlyn Craw’s diary, to bring to life a true picture of this special unit. The book is rich in detail of ‘every day’ life and the equipping and organizing of the ‘trips’ into the desert behind enemy lines. Supporting the text are many special photographs and maps. The ten appendices add even more fascinating detail.
    This gripping story is very highly recommended.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • The Shetland 'Bus'

    Stephen Wynn
    The regular small boat journeys between Norway and the Shetland Islands during the German occupation of Norway in WW2 is a fascinating and often forgotten aspect of the war in northern Europe. This book goes some way to addressing this. An interesting and slightly unexpected book, I was expecting a narrative of the journeys etc, but this book is more useful and of a slightly wider scope than that. It begins with chapters giving overviews of the Shetland Islands during the war and the creation of the Shetland 'Bus' service. These were semi-regular small-boat journeys between the islands and Norway, carrying refugees one way, and agents, weapons and equipment the other, initially using Norwegian fishing vessels, later using specially purposed boats. The book also gives useful overviews of occupied Norway and the Special Operations Executive (the clandestine organisation created to carry out acts of intelligence gathering and sabotage on mainland Europe). What then follows are detailed gazetteer-like entries of the Norwegian Agents who took part in operations, Allied military operations, and finally the boats and crews of the Shetland Bus service itself. A book that is both an interesting read and a valuable reference work for anyone studying 1940's Norway and it's close relation to the Shetlands.
    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Naval Battles of the Second World War

    Leo Marriott
    This is a really good read. Together with a companion volume every major naval action of the Second World war is covered. Necessarily the coverage is brief for example the battle of the Atlantic has five pages of text, but every entry is supported with photographs and a map. The author’s intention was to produce a basic guide and in this he has succeeded superbly. For those whose appetites have been whetted the selected bibliography guides them to more extensive descriptions of the battles.
    This is a perfect introduction for anyone new to this field but the ‘old hands’ can still get a lot from it. We highly recommend Leo Marriott’s book.

    Pen & Sword Maritime, 2022
  • Running the Gauntlet

    Bernard Edwards
    I really enjoyed this book, as gripping as a good novel, until it hit home how inappropriate is the word ‘enjoyed’. The men in this book are not fictional characters from some author’s imagination. This is the story of some of the brave men who did a very dangerous job many of whom died in the course of their work. Some were blown to pieces in an instant others died after many days adrift in an open boat or on a Carley float. The job those fellow merchant seamen who survived did, showing courage and skilled seamanship, was crucial to the nation’s survival.
    This well researched book covers only a few of the losses to the merchant navy fleet but it is well representative of the service we should never forget.
    Once started it is a difficult book to put down and we highly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Maritime, 2022
  • Task Force 58

    Rod Macdonald
    Here we have a big meaty read which I enjoyed from cover to cover. This book is well focussed on the fast carriers but it also works on many other levels. Overall it is the story of the naval come back after Pearl Harbour in the course of which there was a change of fleet capital ships from battleships to carriers. The author, Rod Macdonald, has looked with his own eyes on some of the ships wrecked by American carrier aircraft and has done a great deal of research which is here presented in a clear chronological progression. There is little departure from the pure factual level except in some of the many quotations from people involved in the events. Much of the descriptive impact comes from the numbers of ships, planes men and casualties. The fleet assembled for the final attack on mainland Japan had more carriers than there are in the whole of the world’s navies today. There was a large percentage of downed American fliers who were rescued by ships and submarines placed along the route they were expected to take; this contrasts with a military who sent out kamikaze planes and man guided bombs. There are many more themes running through the narrative than can be covered in a brief review all of them are interesting.
    It is a big book of over 500 pages containing a gripping story, a few good photographs, brief biographies of some of the leading Americans and an extensive bibliography. The one weakness is the absence of a good size scaled map of the whole area plus a few maps of particular actions.
    We highly recommend this book.

    Frontline Books, 2021
  • Japanese Carriers and Victory in the Pacofic

    Martin Stanfeld
    I confess that this is not the sort of book I usually enjoy consisting, as it does, of a juxtaposition of what was and what might have been. In the main the reality is clearly separated from the possible there are just a few places where it is a little confusing. The premise of the book is that prior to the Second World War the there was a dispute within the Japanese navy between two factions simplified as the battleship group and the carrier group. That the battleship group won is the reality; the ‘what-if’ gives victory to the carrier group. What raises this book above many ‘what-ifs’ is that it is not baseless speculation. A great deal of careful research has gone into discovering the possibilities argued for and formally proposed by the carrier group particularly by Admiral Yamamoto.
    The value of this book for me, and I hope for many others, is that it helps one understand that had Japan followed a different naval route things would have been very different. The war in the Pacific whilst not becoming a Japanese victory could have gone on much longer. However the concomitant ‘what-ifs’ would then need to be considered for the Allies, America in particular.
    We return to the old adage ‘in a series of events if anything were different then everything would be different’ which encapsulates the problem of all 'what-ifs'.
    This book made me think outside the box and for that I thank the author, Martin Stansfeld.

    Pen & Sword Maritime, 2021
  • Tribals, Battles and Darings

    Alexander Clarke
    Here is a mass of information about a very special group of Royal Navy ships. They were the first generation of general purpose destroyers developed when accepted understanding was that destroyers were built to fulfil particular roles. The intention was to create a ship which could undertake many of a cruiser’s functions in a destroyer package with consequent savings in materials and manning. The book covers their conception, creation and actions. All classes do not get equal treatment as there is a strong bias towards Tribals. This is understandable as they were the first of the breed and saw the most action.
    The narrative flows and is most readable, the photographs, of high quality, are many and varied and the whole is supported by a set of notes and a very extensive bibliography.
    A super read which we highly recommend.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2022
  • Eben-Emael & the Defence of Fortress Belgium 1940

    Clayton Donnell
    A well told, detailed story of dogged determination and immense courage of elements of the Belgian army. This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the beginning of World War Two. The forts of Liege and Namur significantly contributed by their damaging effect on the Blitzkrieg. The last of the forts to surrender fell while the evacuation of the British from Dunkirk was in progress such was their tenacity.
    The maps and illustrations are all of the same high standard as the text. The full glossary, list of abbreviations and equivalent ranks further aid the readers understanding. The main title is less than the book deserves as this book is about the full works of fortress Belgium.
    We highly recommend Clayton Donnell’s work to you.

    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
  • Battle for the Bocage 1944

    Tim Saunders
    This is the story of one small campaign of a whole world war. This is the crucial action which turned a toe hold into a hand hold. The desperate struggle which was pushed forward by the 50th Division aided by 7th and 8th Armoured divisions, Royal Artillery and all other support arms. The text is very clear and there are numerous photographs, almost one per page, of the people and the equipment. There are maps of different kinds which cover every planned advance and the general area of operations. Unfortunately not a single one has the scale which leaves the reader to work hard with the text to understand the distances involved.
    The narrative works at the level of divisions, battalions, batteries, companies, platoons, squadrons, troops, sections and individuals. The ‘voices’ of the officers and men plus their various citations for bravery tell a vivid tale. Also the German side is not neglected from the reporting of actions and feelings. I would like to have seen a full body count at the end for this campaign, it must have been very high and would have served as a sobering reminder of the real cost of this ‘hand hold’.
    This book is not easy to put down, it’s a real page turner. You may of course reflect that when you finish it the campaign will be much clearer to you than it was at the time to any of those involved from Army commander to Tommy Atkins. The fog of war has been blown away by Tim Saunders.
    We highly recommend this great read.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • The Second World War Through Soldiers Eyes

    James Goulty
    A great variety of soldiers speak through these pages and their experiences from Call-Up to post discharge is covered. There is mention of all theatres and all branches. Although, understandably, the bulk of the experiences are of active service I found the chapters on being a POW and the casualty/medical chapters fascinating as it is rare to find them dealt with in this way. James Goulty has done an excellent job in selecting quotations as his research must have led him to a very large pool. His text causes one to feel that ‘this is how it really was’.
    It is not a large book, 179 pages, and therefore gives only an overview but the bibliography is very extensive. There is also a set of well annotated photographs.
    Having read many books on detailed aspects of WW2 this book has a value in that it causes one to stand back and perhaps find a new focus. If you start this book you won’t put it down and we recommend you start it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Desert Raids with the SAS

    Gerald Hough
    This is a truly remarkable story which rings true from beginning to end. It reads like a novel or Boys Own adventure story except that it includes the blood and the gore and not a lot of glory. Stoic bravery, mental strength and raw courage are the qualities which run as a thread throughout the book. Gerald Hough has written up his father Anthony’s wartime experience with his regiment in North Africa, with the SAS and as an escaped prisoner of war. Much of the text is gripping and makes the book difficult to put down. There are many notable events and one of which stands out for me is Major Hough’s terror at being depth-charged while being transferred as a p.o.w. from North Africa to Italy in an Italian submarine.
    There is a very good set of supporting photographs and two appendices which bring the story up to date. The title of the book is misleading as there are only two of the sixteen chapters about the SAS and only one raid is described.
    We highly recommend this book as a fascinating insight into one man’s war.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • A Noble Crusade

    Richard Doherty
    This is the story of the fighting Eighth Army from its creation in 1941 to its disbandment in 1945 . The many levels of action are covered from the strategic thinking which determined its use and its composition, which changed over time, to the individual hero charging a machine gun emplacement. In reading this book one becomes very aware of the changes in the character of their battles from the mile after mile dashes through the desert to the yard by yard slog through Italy. The author draws out the multi-national nature of this ‘British’ army with troops from all over the world from Canada to Poland, the long way round, and even Italians after their country’s capitulation. The index of VCs reflects the multi-national nature; the largest number of VCs being from India and the only double VC of the war was a New Zealander.
    There is an interesting set of photographs, some useful maps and the bibliography is extensive. The research must have been considerable and has resulted in a most readable, at times gripping, story which can be enjoyed by a very wide range of readers.
    After enjoying the book so much it may appear churlish to enter a major criticism but this is the story of less than half the Eighth army. For each man in the firing line there were seven or eight behind the lines, and occasionally in front, enabling the fighter to do his job. For example in the battle of Mareth, when the New Zealanders went through Wilders Gap they were guided by Military Policemen who had been carried well in advance by the LRDG and had signed the route some then stood as individual pointsmen at special places on that route. A chapter on the support Corps would have moved this book from very good to superb.
    Given that caveat we highly recommend it to a wide range of readers.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Allied Armour 1939-1945

    Anthony Tucker-Jones
    If you are drawn to this book by its title you will be disappointed. It is a generalist book of the Second World War with targeted appendices. It fails to deliver on the detail of the content I expected. Take for example the chapter on the Burma campaign. The first ten pages make clear the Allies held the opinion that tanks were not useable in the jungle, that the Japanese used tanks, and the consequent mainly infantry battles. Suddenly with no reference to the command decisions involved the 7th Armoured Brigade is mentioned. Also the despatch of 1,700 Grant/Lee tanks to the theatre is mentioned without any detail as to where they were sent or which units came with them or were created to man them. Frequent references are made to American M3s without making clear whether these are Stuarts or Grant/Lees and there is a world of difference between the two types.
    This is a readable overview of parts of WW2 but it lacks focus, clarity and detail.

    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
  • 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
  • Spitfire! The Full Story of a Unique Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron

    Dilip Sarkar
    A really excellent, detailed, comprehensive and moving history of 19 Squadron, RAF during the Second World War. It begins pre-war with their delivery of the early Spitfires (the first operational RAF squadron to get them) but follows them throughout their service during Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain and after. 19 Squadron was based at Duxford, as part of 12 Group, and the book doesn't shy away from the controversy over the "Big Wing" concept, and the friction with 11 Group defending Kent and the south east. It also doesn't shrink from criticising Douglas Bader and his somewhat personal attitude towards fighter combat, diverging from that of his more senior officers.
    The book sets the leadership of Sqn Ldr Brian Lane front and centre of the account, and you come away with a good impression of what it might have been like to have been led by him into battle. I recently took a trip to the IWM at Duxford and was able to walk around some of the aircraft, hangars, ops room and other buildings that would have been familiar to Sqn Ldr Lane and his colleagues. It was very moving, and much of that was thanks to this book.
    Very much recommended
    Air World, 2019
  • Artillery Warfare 1939-1945

    Simon and Jonathon Forty
    This book is about big guns and their use from 1939 to 1945. As with their book on Tank Warfare Simon and Jonathan Forty [book reviewed on this site] have given us a super insight into that period. Both theory and practice are covered using original reports on actions, training documents and technical instructions for a wide range of topics. There are useful comparisons, many shown diagrammatically, between weapons and ammunition of different nations. Included also, as very long range artillery, are the V1 and V2 rockets.
    A superb eight page Abbreviations and Glossary section at the beginning of the book clarifies all the technical terms and delivers a basic understanding of the fundamentals of artillery.
    There are hundreds of photographs and an extensive bibliography.
    This book is made special because it is almost encyclopaedic in scope and because of the amount of contemporary material reproduced here without the clutter of ‘wisdom after the event’. From mountain warfare with guns on mules to V2 rockets and everything between makes it well worth a place on anyone's reference shelf.
    We highly recommend this work to all levels of readers.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Long Range Desert Group in Action 1940-1943

    Brendan O'Carroll
    Here is another of the Images of War series from Pen & Sword. All of the others of the series have had good reviews on this site but, for me, this book stands out. The author, Brendan O’Carroll, admits that over twenty years of research went into this book. Dozens of people gave permissions, support and their stories. All of this was not in vain for here we have a superb, unique visual record of the men and their exploits. Every photograph contains more than at first meets the eye.
    The Long Range Desert Group punched far above its weight and as the first of Britain’s Special Forces was a large influence on the present S.A.S. As with other books of this series there is very little text other than annotations. What text there is makes one want to read the other books on this subject by this author.
    We highly recommend this book to both the browser and the ‘studier’.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-41

    John Carr
    Here is a good read cover to cover which draws you in from page one. The story is of the Italian attack on Greece, the repulsion of this attack and the Greek advance throwing the Italians back through Albania. The subsequent small support by the Allies and the major attack by the Germans is told in not quite the same detail.
    The political and military aspects, air land and sea, are covered, all as it should be, with a strong Greek emphasis. This is a book about people and most interesting is how the author brings out the characters of some participants and shows what bearing this had on events. The narrative is enriched with quotations and journal entries from the highest politicians to the lowliest soldiers. There are five useful maps and a set of interesting photographs.
    The author intended to bring out the ‘actual atmosphere of the defence and fall of Greece’ in this he has succeeded abundantly.
    We highly recommend this book to all levels of interest.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Tank Warfare 1939-1945

    Simon and Jonathon Forty
    The tank is now getting close to being obsolete lasting for just over a hundred years as master of the battlefield. This book is about the tank and tank warfare from 1939 to 1945. This was the pinnacle in development, use, variety and numbers. Here we have a super insight into that period. Both theory and practice are covered using original reports on actions, training documents for large and small tasks and units, technical instructions for a wide range of topics. There are useful comparisons, many shown diagrammatically, between weapons and tanks of different nations. Anti-tank weapons and actions are also covered.
    A comprehensive glossary, an extensive bibliography and lots of relevant photographs aid the reader’s understanding and enjoyment.
    There are many books about all aspects of tanks and their battles but this book is made special because of the amount of contemporary material reproduced here without the clutter of ‘wisdom after the event’.
    We highly recommend this work to all levels of readers with an interest in the tank.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • First Burma Campaign

    Colonel E.C.V. Foucar
    This book, written very soon after the event, is a unique official account of the British Burma army’s fighting withdrawal northwards through Burma. The story is all about movement and lines of communication, basically the holding of towns and river lines and the retreat from them. It is impossible to gain a full understanding of the campaign from this book because there aren’t any maps, except a very general one of the whole country at the start of the book. Clearly the author, probably rightly for his audience at the time, assumed that the reader had access to good maps of the country. Today it is both inconvenient and difficult to get a usefully scaled map with place names as they are referred to in the text. The publisher, conscious of audience, should have foreseen this and included six or seven appropriately sized maps for without any the book loses much of its value.
    Some of the descriptive writing about the nature of the country and the conditions under which the troops laboured is of the highest quality. Also the massive amount of detail in some of the engagements puts the reader in the front line. The summary chapters at the end of the book are most perceptive and help to put the thinking of the time into its correct context.
    This is an important text insomuch as the purpose, the time and the place of its creation give it authenticity. Sadly for the reader without a map to hand the bulk of the content cannot be fully understood.

    Frontline Books, 2020
  • The Third Reich in 100 Objects

    Roger Moorhouse
    The format of covering a topic through the photographs of 100 objects with an explanation of their context succeeds or falls on the knowledge followed by the depth of research done by the author. This book by Roger Moorhouse succeeds in so many ways. To steal a phrase from advertising it ‘reaches the parts that other books don’t touch’. There are evaluations of the well known objects such as the Tiger tank and the V1 rocket but Hitler’s moustache brush and Eva Braun’s lipstick case also feature. And who knew that the long-johns of Rudolf Hess were examined by the Ministry of Economic Warfare to see if there was any propaganda value to be got from them. The range is all encompassing from submarines to resistance postcards the military and civilian life of the Third Reich is exposed. With only a page or two about each objects the ground covered is not exhaustive but there are four pages of bibliography to guide the reader who wants to know more.
    There are 258 pages with references for each entry and there are, in addition to the photographs of the objects, a lot of supporting photos.
    The caution is that if you have a few minutes to read one entry you get drawn into the next and the next. This book is that readable.
    We highly recommend it.
    [see also reviewed on this site Napoleon in 100 objects another good read]

    Greenhill Books, 2017
  • Tank Attack at Monte Cassino

    Jeffery Plowman
    The action to take tanks up the mountain rarely gets a mention in most books about the battles for Monte Cassino. When you read this book you will understand why. In conception it was a brilliant idea and had it been properly directed could have been an important event towards hurrying the end of the fight. The lower echelons fought with skill, tenacity, ingenuity and bravery trying to make something of the attack. Poor cooperation, coordination and communication between senior officers brought about a failure which cost a lot of lives and tanks. Tanks sent in without artillery and infantry is Ney at Waterloo and the senior officers broke their own pre-set conditions to do just that.
    The author, Jeffery Plowman, has divided the book in three parts, setting the scene, the action, and the site today. The first two parts are superb and, although I haven’t used the site visit section, the up to date photographs would be of great help to anyone who does.
    The maps are most helpful with both scales and Northings. The photographs scattered through the book support the text. The extensive bibliography points the way to further reading.
    This is a book which is an enjoyable read although the story it tells is, once again, one of lions led by donkeys. We thoroughly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Fighting Through to Hitler's Germany

    Mark Forsdike
    If you want to learn the real story of how the Second World war was won in Europe read this book. Packed with the personal stories of the men who were there in the First Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. The Corps, the division and the brigade barely get a mention. The action is with the battalion, companies, platoons, sections, and individuals. Advances are measured in metres and lives. A sobering statistic revealed at the end of the book is that of the 850 Suffolks who landed in Normandy only 187 made it to VE day. Also as an appendix is a list of medals and commendations awarded to members of the battalion.
    A nice set of photographs and some very useful maps round out the text.
    Though this book purports to be the story of one battalion of one regiment it is really the story of every one of the ‘poor bloody infantry’ of the British army who fought from Normandy to Germany. This ought to be read by everyone interested in WW2 in Europe because it acts as a reminder that when you see the arrows on a map showing the movement of a corps or division at the very sharpest point of that arrow is one man moving forward wearing a steel helmet and carrying a rifle with bayonet fixed and with his mates behind him. Without his skill and determination the arrow does not move.
    We very warmly recommend Mark Forsdike’s book to you.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Americans and Germans at Bastogne

    Gary Sterne
    This is a good account of the holding of Bastogne told in a most confusing way. The German story is told at big unit, i.e. corps, divisional and regimental level. The American narrative rarely reaches corps and frequently gets down to squad action. This is a strange imbalance for the reader to reconcile. Also there is a glaring error in the absence of a good map of the whole area. To be able to understand what is happening in such a fluid situation you need to know where places referred to in the text are located. There are many sketch maps seemingly drawn at the time, which are scattered through the book, but most of these are without scale or key and with writing which is almost undecipherable. On page 138 there is a map reference given but no map on which to locate it.
    Further milder criticism is that, given the large number of abbreviations used, it would have been helpful to have included a glossary. The section of photographs is interesting in that they are not the most common Bastogne pictures.
    We don’t recommend a cover to cover read but would suggest as a way round the confusion that all the German sections are read first and then all of the American ones. There is a wealth of information in this book and if the reader provides their own detailed map of the area a good understanding of the unfolding battle will be gained.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Operation Colossus. The First Airborne Raid of WW II

    Lawrence Paterson
    Lawrence Paterson’s book is an incredible story beautifully told. As fiction it would be barely believable but the thoroughly researched facts are from official reports and first hand accounts. This book is about so much more than operation Colossus because it necessarily has to include the beginnings of military parachuting. Anyone familiar with modern military parachuting will be amazed by the early efforts in exiting from unsuitable aircraft. In a sense Colossus was an operation both to try out and test this new weapon in Britain’s armoury. From the missions successes and failures many useful lessons were learnt but to say more would be to give the game away and this book should be read as a novel which shouldn’t be spoilt by knowing the end before reading it. Supporting the text is a very good set of photographs.
    To those who want to be better informed and to anyone who wants a good read we highly recommend this book.

    Greenhill Books, 2020
  • The Destruction of 6th Army at Stalingrad

    Ian Baxter
    Like other books in the Images of War series this book is packed full of superb photographs. A huge amount of detail of the 6th Army’s equipment and people is shown in a set of rare, many previously unpublished, photographs. The annotations are most informative and the supporting text, only ten of the hundred and fifty five pages, gives a brief overview of the campaign. What I found particularly interesting was the different slant on the causes of the defeat. In this book the strength and organization of the Soviet army is given more weight than the Russian winter. There is a distinct absence of the usual crop of photographs of grotesquely frozen German soldiers.
    Anyone, even those with only a passing interest in World War Two, would enjoy this book and for re-enactors it could prove a gold mine. We highly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Supplying the British Army in the Second World War

    Janet Macdonald
    Supplying the British army in the Second World war was such an enormous logistical task that writing a single volume about it can only ever touch the surface of the subject. In this book Janet Macdonald has made a valiant effort with limited success. The information swings from strategic to tactical, from overview to minutiae. There is no padding and in many places facts and figures fill the pages to such a degree that it is only digestible in small portions. Taken a little at a time the numbers are both informative and fascinating and indicate a great deal of in depth research.
    Sadly it is bound to be the case that there are errors of omission. For example the section on Insignia fails to mention cap badges, originally made of metal but many later made of plastic. And although both Humber and Daimler scout cars are mentioned their ‘big-brother’ versions, the armoured cars armed with 37mm or 2 lb. guns, are missed.
    The rhythm of the whole book is in tune with what it is trying to describe a Herculean task which went right most of the time. Here is simply a case of trying to do too much and failing and thereby bringing home to the reader the enormous complexity of supplying the British army. Supporting the text is an interesting set of photographs and useful bibliography.
    This book can only serve as an introduction and only as such it is recommended.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Doolittle Raid

    John Grehan & Alexander Nicoll
    The Doolittle Raid is in the Images of Aviation series and images it certainly has. There are photographs of all the aircraft, all of the crews and many of the ships that took part in that historic adventure. But this book is much more than the images in that it also tells the story of the raid largely through the reports of Colonel Doolittle and others who took part in the action. The photographs are well annotated and given context by the text. In this book we have a factual introduction free from authors conjectures, what ifs and opinions and is best seen as an essential introduction to greater in depth analysis. The references and notes point to further readings should one want it.
    This great story, well told and illustrated, will appeal to a wide range of reader and we highly recommend it.

    Air World Books, 2020
  • Britain's Desert War in Egypt and Libya 1940-1942

    David Braddockl
    This is a text book written for officers studying for Staff College and Promotion examinations. It is a concise account of a very significant part of our military history, covering, as it does, the North African campaign from 1940 to 1942. Each battle, advance and retreat is covered and the book finishes at the battle of El Alamein. It is an engaging and eminently readable account which, when I had finished it, I wished it had continued all the way to the end of the North African campaign.
    The focus is on senior officer ranks in their administration especially command and control and shows clearly how it differed from commander to commander.
    There are a few photographs and many useful maps placed appropriately throughout the text. At the end of the book are some supportive appendices including quite a tough set of questions for any readers who really want to challenge themselves.
    David Braddock’s book was written with a serious purpose and it is a great pleasure to read. This book is superb and we highly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2019
  • A Spy in the Sky

    Kenneth B Johnson
    Subtitled "A Photographic Reconnaissance Spitfire Pilot in WWII", this is as it seems, a memoir of a PR pilot. But it's more than just that. Johnson was a young airman volunteer, who knew only that he didn't want to be drafted into the army to face terror and death on the battlefield. So as soon as he was old enough he volunteered for the RAF thinking he'd spend the war sweeping out hangars. Somehow he ended up being chosen for NCO aircrew, showed an aptitude and volunteered for Spitfires, albeit unarmed ones! This led to him being in almost suicidal situations flying from North African airfields over the Med in unarmed, barely serviceable aircraft deep into enemy territory. It is a touching book, written in his own words, about how poorly he was treated as an 'other rank' in an officer's world. Even after he received his commission, he felt no acceptance and his health suffered as a result. This book fills in a valuable gap, exploring a very different viewpoint of Spitfire flying and is to be recommended.
    Pen & Sword Air World, Yorkshire, 2019
  • D Day Dakotas

    Martin W Bowman
    I'm sorry to say that this book was a terrible disappointment. The concept is very sound. It covers the stories of the various Troop Carrier Groups, their crews, C-47's and gliders during the run up to D Day and on the assault itself. It seems to be exceptionally well researched, and the 1st hand accounts from the pilots, crew chiefs, paratroopers and others involved are gripping and moving in equal measure. It's a well made hardback, on what is basically one of my favourite aircraft of all time.
    However, the text itself is confused, badly structured and assembled. There are numerous mistakes and repetitions and simply appears unfinished and badly edited, if edited at all. I can only assume that it was rushed out to make it to the shelves in time for the 75th anniversary, which is a shame. As I say, with all the potential, and raw material it could be a great book. I hope the 2nd edition is better.
    Pen & Sword Aviation, 2019
  • Battleship Bismarck

    W.H.Garzke Jr., R.O.Dunlin Jr. & W. Jurens
    This is a most remarkable book. The three authors have done an incredible research job in pulling together probably all there is to be known about the Bismarck. The bibliography includes over three hundred items ranging from previous Bismarck books, interviews with authorities, to American, German and British government documents. The result is encyclopaedic with the narrative covering the first concept of the design within the German navy’s developmental path to the survivors stories and on to the exploration of the wreck site. The political inputs to the saga particularly from Hitler and Churchill are covered. Other German military assets and actions as well as their parallels in the Royal Navy are given good coverage so as to place the design and operation of the Bismarck in its full context. Supporting the written word are masses of photographs, suitable maps and technical drawings. The index is most comprehensive and makes this a superb reference work.
    What raises the book to an even higher level is the extensive forensic analysis of the wreck site bringing the story right up to date. Physically this book is impressive weighing in at 7lbs [just over 3 kg] measuring 310mm by 240mm and 40mm thick.
    However the book is not without some faults. The annotation to some drawings is so tiny that a magnifying glass is necessary for reading them. The way the book is laid out under different headings results in a large amount of repetition of particular facts. I found it irritating when occasionally this occurs within a couple of pages. Also, while one recognizes that the authors are American and we must accept some strange spellings e.g. maneuvers for manoeuvres, it is annoying to see the measure ‘metre’ written as ‘meter’. But to the British naval enthusiast worst of all is the metrification of British gun sizes. We had 16 inch, 15 inch, 14 inch etc. and the gun was named by its measurement in Imperial size, it is simply a misnomer to call it otherwise.
    This work will sit well on the bookshelf of everyone with an interest in the amazing Bismarck saga both as a jolly good read and as an important reference work.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • 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
  • Luftwaffe Training Aircraft

    Chris Goss
    This is from the Air War Archive series and is subtitled "The training of Germany's pilots and aircrew through rare archive photographs", which is not a completely accurate description, but it is essentially 180 pages of assorted photographs of the crew and machines used in the training units of the Luftwaffe. There is a different chapter per aircraft manufacturer, and I assume dependant on the availability of images from the author's collection, the different chapters vary in length. Focke-Wulf, Heinkel, Junkers and Messerschmitt are all well represented but I might have liked a few more of the lesser known marques like Arado and Bucker but that could just be my preference. The last few chapters cover 'miscellaneous' types, including commandeered French makes, and a welcome chapter of photographs just of crew, in different situations. The text is sparse but perhaps sets the scene sufficiently to allow the images to speak. Lots of detail for enthusiasts, plenty of wrecks to suit creative model-makers (and the morbid!). A useful addition to the library.
    Frontline Books, 2019
  • From Arromanches to the Elbe

    Charles More
    This book is the story of the 144th Regt. Royal Armoured Corps and Marcus Cunliffe. It is based on war diaries, both official and unofficial, and later writings by the participants. There are some gripping well described passages about being in action. One can hardly imagine the feelings of the men involved during the attacks when tanks to left and right ‘brewed up’. These passages really hold the reader but the book as a whole doesn’t flow.
    I felt that there was a confusion as to whether it is a regimental history or a section of a biography. The whole tries to do both but falls somewhere between the two. There are many interesting parts but in my view too many unhelpful repetitions and back references. It is as if the author is not sure of whether his audience are military history buffs or the general reader with a passing interest.
    The photographs are of only moderate interest but the maps are very good indeed.
    A curate’s egg of a book.

    Frontline Books, 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
  • Allied Coastal Forces of World War 11. Volume 11

    John Lambert & Al Ross
    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.
    Although it may look like a technical tome written only for experts, and it fits that role very well, it would also delight any general reader with an interest in naval development. So much extra is covered around the development and construction including the politics and finance under the Lend Lease arrangements, in a brief review it is difficult to do the book justice. The joint authors massive research has resulted in the listing of every boat built and its eventual fate, including a chapter about the ones which still exist in museums or as houseboats.
    Small sections which caught my interest were the production of the various camouflage effects tried out in different theatres of operation, what the allowance of paint was for a US PT boat squadron to maintain its boat, that boats were sent to the USSR in kit form and the many were returned to the US in 1955 and that attempts were made to build an MTB to be carried aboard cruisers. So much is here including small details such as the personal weapons carried aboard that I think it would be difficult to ask a question about Vosper and Elco boats that this book does not answer.
    This is the second of a three volume work and my regret is that I have not yet read the other two. This regret is reinforced by the many references in this volume to volumes one and three.
    This is a major work on coastal forces unparalleled in both width and depth of its coverage.
    We cannot recommend this book too highly.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • The Eighth Army in North Africa

    Simon Forty
    This series of Images of War is intended to be all about the pictures and this book is a very good example of that genre. There are photographs taken on both sides of the conflict showing the men and their equipment. Almost every type of armoured vehicle used in the desert campaign is shown some in pristine others in a well battered state. There is sufficient text to give the photographs a context but most usefully the bulk of the writing is as captions to the photographs. A few maps and schematic drawings fill out the story. Particularly informative in an easily understood way are the comparisons between Axis and Allied guns in both range and penetration on pgs. 36 & 37. The further reading list guides the interested reader to fuller explanations of the to and fro of the North African campaign. One tiny criticism is that on page 87 the captions for the two men have switched left to right.
    We thoroughly enjoyed looking at this book and recommend it to you.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2019
  • The |Battle for Arnhem 1944-1945

    Anthony Tucker-Jones
    As the series title, Images of War, suggests this book contains a large number of rare photographs. The images come from both sides of the battle and from the wider context of the American airborne and British 30 Corps armour trying to relieve the paratroopers. I find it remarkable that all these photographs come from the author’s own collection. They are all captioned some with most interesting details.
    However it is rather more than a picture book as the, necessarily limited, text is a very good summary of the full Arnhem story. There are a number of useful maps and a list of books for further reading once this book has aroused the readers interest.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2019
  • British Cruiser Warfare. Lessons of the Early War 1939-1941

    Alan Raven
    In the hundreds of book reviews I have written I don’t believe I have ever used the accolade excellent. Unreservedly this book is excellent.
    The first one hundred and fifty pages are a ‘daily diary’ listing all the cruiser actions which took place from September 1939 until December 1941. Because the information given covers nearly all engagements, instead of just the successful ones, the reader comes to understand just how many unsuccessful attacks were made by German submarines, the large number of German torpedoes which exploded prematurely, how many depth charges were dropped without result, how many bombing attacks by aircraft failed and how much ammunition was fired at aircraft with very few hits. E.g. H.M.S. Coventry was subjected to daily multiple air attacks from the 14th May until 29th May. Thousands of 4” rounds were expended, requiring re-ammunitioning twice, no aircraft were hit and Coventry had no more than a little splinter damage from near misses among the large number of bombs dropped.
    The second half of the book is a series of twenty eight of what the author calls summaries. Each is a few pages of analysis of such topics as Surface Gunnery, Weather, The Human Condition and Intelligence effects. Open the book at any one of these and be drawn in.
    The book spotlights a short section of the Second World war but is intensively researched and beautifully written up. There are photographs of the cruisers on nearly every page plus some useful maps. Towards the end of the book there are pull-out double A4 plans of four classes of cruiser. The bibliography is of original research among Admiralty and American files.
    To anyone with a slight interest or a lot of knowledge I cannot commend this book too highly.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • Arras Counter-Attack 1940

    Tim Saunders
    By late May 1940 the German Panzer spearhead had reached the coast of France. This effectively cut off the British and French armies fighting in Belgium from the main body of France. The German extended lines of communication necessitated by the nature of Blitzkrieg were ripe for counter attack. Tim Saunders’s book is an account of the major attempt to cut the German lines of communication which took place around Arras.
    The counter attack was hastily put together. A serious lack of command and control leading to a lack of coordination between infantry, armour and artillery resulted in chaos and failure. The German effective response was largely due to their superior communications net and Rommel’s grip in command. Within two days the Germans out numbered the British to the point where three British infantry brigades faced four Panzer divisions.
    When the author first looked at this event writing it up in any coherent fashion must have seemed a daunting task. In making sense, for the reader, of chaos and confusion he has succeeded brilliantly. All through the book there many first-hand accounts and a large number of maps and photographs. The final chapter is an up to the minute guide to the battlefield.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly.

    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
  • United States Army Armoured Divisions of the Second World War (Images of War series)

    Michael Green
    What the title should really say is 'The organisation and structure of ...' as the text of this book is much more about how the command structures that became the US Armoured divisions came about and how they were organised. It gives a brief history of armour development before the war, and how the US Army responded to it.Then it goes into some detail on the ethos behind the various commanders' reorganisations, and how the establishments ended up. There is a very brief section at the end on the battles of the different divisions, but if you were looking for unit histories, I wouldn't choose this. Where the book comes into it's own is, as you'd expect from the series, in the imagery. Basically after the text detailing what vehicles each division was authorised to maintain, there are extensive photographs of all the vehicles and equipment mentioned, showing wherever possible each variant. Using the usual, well produced mix of contemporary black and white photos alongside modern colour images of museum exhibits and restored examples, after going through this book you'll definitely be able to spot an M4A1 from an M4A3(76) Wet. The sometimes dry main text is well balanced by the detailed annotations to the photos. All in all, a thorough coverage for the armoured enthusiast, modeller or re-enactor.
    Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, 2019
  • A Short History of 7th Armoured Division

    Captains M. Lindsay, M.E.Johnston & N.B.Harris
    There are other books about the 7th Armoured Division but non so genuine. This book was written by two serving officers and the photographs sourced by another. It covers the period from June 1943 until July 1945 and was completed and printed by the British Army of the Rhine before the Division was disbanded. The map cover is extraordinarily good being eleven large separate sheets contained in a folder at the end of the book. The reader can readily refer to the appropriate map while reading the text. This is not just a good book it is a great book due in large part to its authenticity and its insights; it is is not all dry facts but speeds along with the Desert Rats with humour and sorrow as appropriate to the action.
    Churchill said, of the story of the Desert Rats, ‘May the fathers long tell the children about this tale.’ One cannot but agreed.

    British Army of the Rhine, July 1945
  • The Story of the 79th Armoured Division

    serving officers
    This book opens with an apology. The Author says that because the book was produced in a hurry just as the war was ending some actions may have been missed out. It was written by serving officers for the officers and men who had served and were serving in the units of the 79th Armoured Division. It covers the period October 1942 until June 1945 and was printed in Hamburg in July 1945. The Author may have felt the need to apologize to comrades whose actions were not included, but he has no need to apologize to the modern reader. The whole narrative reads as a fascinating, detailed account of the actions of this very special division. The text is well supported by photographs and maps. The maps are worthy of special attention being generously distributed through the book on pages which fold out and some have tracing paper showing unit movements as overlays. Not something one would expect to find in a modern publication. All in all, this is a real gem of a book, excellent despite the haste of its publication. It would provide a firm foundation for a modern author wishing to give greater access to these brave men in their specialized fighting vehicles.
    Not lnown, July 1945
  • The Japanese Navy in World War II

    Evans, David C (Ed.)
    The subtitle for this substantial book (568 pages) is "In the words of former Japanese Naval Officers", and from their seniority in their brief biographies (in an appendix) there is a risk that this book could become either a description of grand strategy, a justification of and blame for ultimate defeat, or both. And the contributions from these professional naval men, written in some cases not long after the events they describe do indeed carry much of that. But they also contain immediate and personal details from the glinting of the sun from the wings of bombers heading for Perl Harbour, to the difficulty of abandoning a burning carrier during Midway, to the mixed emotions of setting sail upon one of the biggest battleships ever built on a one way trip to Okinawa. All this makes it book well worth reading for both the informed and the inquisitive. I found it hard to put down and had to read a whole chapter at a sitting.
    Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD., (2nd Edn, paperback) 2017, (original) 1986
  • The Battle for the Maginot Line, 1940

    Donnell, Clayton
    If you've ever wondered what the point of the Maginot Line was, this book will tell you. It begins with a decent overview and history of the construction and layout of the forts and other works, along with a brief description of the concepts. It then jumps into an exceptionally detailed account of the battle for each fortified section including the types of casemate, the units and composition of both sides involved, and the date, time and nature of their demise. It also covers the unsung resistance of the southern section of the line which proved very successful against the Italian advance, but to me the most affecting sections are those where the interval troops, infantry support and artillery backup are withdrawn, leaving small handfuls of men to delay panzer regiments. The book concludes with a thought-provoking section on the strengths and weaknesses of the line and whether it's reputation as a military 'white elephant' is undeserved, and caught up in (and often blamed for) the whole debacle of June 1940 which was so psychologically damaging the French nation.

    As with many military history books, this one could do with more and better maps. Most chapters contain tactical diagrams of offensives but they are quite small and difficult to read, so I had an atlas to hand (and google maps!) to get a better impression of the spatial situation. On the whole though, an excellent and very well researched read, though perhaps a little too detailed to keep the casual reader's attention. I for one, however, am already planning my next trip to SF Maubeuge, Haguenau and Ouvrage Sainte-Agnes, and this book will be in my hand-luggage.
    Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, 2017
  • Hitler's Ardennes Offensive

    Danny S Parker Ed.
    This second book from the same stable [see 'Battle of the Bulge, a German view' reviewed earlier] follows on to deal with the period of attack and its ultimate failure. I felt a privileged and fascinating insight into the Battle of the Bulge. I particularly valued the detail about the attempts to take Bastogne. I have come to realise that the seemingly exaggerated American accounts of the 'glorious defence' are neither exaggerations nor understatements. The book suffers from the same fault as its predecessor in being short on maps, the reader needs a fairly large scale map to fully understand the detail of the manoeuvres. Reading with a map really rewards the effort.
    Our view is that this a very good piece of work by the editor and is thoroughly recommended to all who who wish to gain greater insights into the Second World War in Europe.

    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2016
  • 21 Days in Normandy

    Angelo Caravaggio
    A curate's egg of a book. I almost gave up on the first few chapters given the density of information about the twists and turns of Canadian Army politics and then the relationships between and within the overall command. But perseverance paid off and once the description of the actions, including their planning and execution, the book came alive for me.
    My overall impression of the author's purpose in writing this book i.e. to change any negative view of the 4th Canadian Division is not wholly successful as he shows many failures to be the result of poor decisions by senior officers of the Division. But what it does spell out clearly is the bravery and determination of the lower echelons to get the job done in spite of the odds.
    I would recommend it for anyone wanting greater knowledge of the early part of the Normandy campaign but start at chapter four and maybe come back to the earlier chapters later.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2016
  • Battle of the Bulge. The German View

    Danny S Parker Ed.
    A book both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable because of its insights into the complexity of planning the campaign and for the remarkable different view one gets of Hitler. In my view worth reading for that alone. The content is all meat, no padding, and rich in depth and width. A thoroughly worthy piece of work. The frustration comes with the paucity of maps for which I had to compensate with a much larger scale map. If I were Prime Minister I would make it a law that in any work of fact every place named in the text must appear on a map in the book. Also frustrating was the lack of a glossary. Many German general staff ranks are mentioned in abbreviated form and lots of formation initials are used which one has to reference elsewhere. This detracts from the enjoyment and makes reading in bed difficult.
    Even with those criticisms I would commend this book to anyone interested in a fuller understanding of how wars/battles are planned or with an interest in the Battle of the Bulge.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books \ltd., 2016
  • Luck of a Lancaster

    Thorburn, Gordon
    Now this is an excellent book. It is ostensibly the career of one Lancaster bomber – W4964 J-Johnny – which managed to survive the war but in fact it is a testament to the lives (and more often deaths) of the RAF heavy bomber crews. It introduces different crews who flew WS-J at different times for No.9 squadron and, through their particular missions and experiences, tells the story of all such crews including the shocking and saddening toll.

    While W4964 made it through to VE Day, 103 of the 244 men who flew in her at one time did not. The book covers the experience of downed aircrew escaping from France when some former ‘J’ crew are shot down in another bomber. It details the Battle of Berlin in 1943 when the RAF attempted use cunning and technology to reach their targets and quotes the German night-fighter pilots trying to shoot them down. It even covers the hunt for the Tirpitz that W4964 took part in, carrying a Tallboy bomb to try to sink the battleship. Funny, thrilling, fascinating, shocking, sobering and above all, well written. Read this book.
    Pen and Sword Aviation, 2013
  • The BEF in France 1939-1940

    John Grehan & Martin Mace
    A most interesting compilation of some of the despatches sent by the senior Army and Naval commanders involved. Here presented is the raw material, the facts, as they were seen at that time by those people without the benefit of hindsight to enable them to make any adjustments to the narrative. The material covers some of the initial deployment of the BEF and its eventual evacuations from around Dunkirk and Cherbourg. Warmly recommended with the reservation that one needs either a very good knowledge of the geography of northern France or a large scale map to hand.
    Pen & Sword Military, 2014
  • Secret Flotillas Vol 1 - Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany 1940-44

    Richards, Sir Brook
    A fascinating insight into small-boat operations between the British south coast and northern France. This volume covers Breton fishing boats as well as naval motor gun boats and the missions they ran to insert agents, collect/deliver intelligence and pick up down'ed aircrew smuggled to the coast by the resistance. Full of detailed references and anecdotes which begin to give some idea of how information was learned the hard way. Particularly relevant, as the author was himself involved.
    Pen & Sword Military, 2012
  • Code Talker

    Nez, Chester & Avila, Judith Schiess
    A touching account of both the creation and use of the Navajo code used by the US Marines in the Pacific theatre from one of the original 29 code talkers recruited in 1942. It recounts Chester Nez's involvement in the creation and use of the Navajo code, unfathomable by anyone who wasn't a native speaker and considered impossible to learn, hence unbreakable by the Japanese.

    But not only is this an account of his and his fellow Navajo specialists' traumatic war from Guadalcanal to Guam and Peleliu. It is also a moving account of life as a Native American child growing up in a harsh land in the 1920's and 30's, caught between two cultures. It deals sensitively with his post traumatic stress disorder on returning from the pacific and his tribal, community approach to dealing with it. Running throughout is a strong sense of faith in the Navajo 'Right Way' of living and of justified pride in the way the native American community contributed to the war effort.

    A unique account, from one of the originals and highly recommended for anyone studying either the Pacific Theatre of operations or pre-war America.
    Berkley Caliber, New York, Oct 2012
  • Pegasus Bridge

    Ambrose, Stephen E
    The story of a small British Airborne force who landed in France ahead of the main D-Day invasion to capture 2 vital bridges on the east flank of the Normandy landings.

    Full of first hand accounts, gripping story well written by a well recommended author.
    Simon & Schuster, London, 1997
  • Fighter Pilot; A Personal Record of the Campaign in France 1939 - 1940

    Written and published during the Second World War as the personal account of a fighter pilot during the war in France. It is a wonderful book of its time , in the language, the sentiments and the propaganda elements. A real insight.
    B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1941
  • The Pendulum of Battle - Operation Goodwood July 1944

    Dunphie, Christopher,

    Pen & Sword, 2004
  • An Improvised War - The Abyssinian Campaign of 1940-1941

    Glover , Michael
    Michael Glover has with his "Improvised War" filled in the place of Ethiopia in the imperial wars of the 19th century and the global war in the 20th century. The engagements at Magdalla, Amba Alagi, and Adowa lead to the reinforcement of Italian interests in the Horn of Africa and, after the short occupation of British Somaliland in 1940, to the inevitable pincer movement of Allied forces and liberation of the Italian Empire in East Africa in 1941-42.

    The advance of the East African Forces from Moyale, to Mogadiscio and then to Harar and Addis Ababa serves to emphasise the nature of the country and distances covered.

    The northern pincer includes the dogged fighting of the Sudan forces around Keren and push into Eritrea supported whole heartedly by Wavell whilst he was under pressure both in the Desert and in Greece.

    A very satisfying read enhanced by an Allied Order of Battle and a good bibliography.
    Leo Cooper, London, 1987
  • Arnhem - A Tragedy of Errors

    Harclerode, Peter
    Detailed, if tragic, account of Operation Market Garden, Holland 1944.

    Presents a different viewpoint from the traditional disaster senario, and puts a good case for the defence of XXX corp and the Guards Armoured Division, arguing that they did a good job with the resources and intellegence available at the time. Also that the British 1st Airborne held out much longer than was originally intended. More in a 'Dunkirk' vein, as rescue from the jaws of defeat.
    Arms & Armour, 1994
  • Overlord - D Day and the battle for Normandy

    Hastings, Max

    Michael Joseph, 1984
  • Battlefields of the Second World War

    Holmes, Richard
    The book to accompany Prof. Holmes' excellent TV series, it covers the battles of Alamein, Monte Cassino and Operation Market Garden as well as the RAF's heavy bomber offensive against Germany.
    BBC Worldwide Ltd, 2001
  • Six Armies in Normandy - From D Day to the Liberation of Paris

    Keegan, John

    Jonathan Cape, 1982
  • Panzer Division. The Mailed Fist

    Macksey, Major K.J.
    Well researched text with good supporting maps and illustrations.
    Macdonald and Co.[Publishers] Ltd., 1968
  • Action Stations! The Royal Navy at War

    Thursfield, Rear-Admiral H.G.
    The book itself is a piece of our history published in the early days of World War II. The text and photographs are what the public ought to know about our navy during wartime. Interesting reading.
    Adam & Charles Black, 1941