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Book reviews for - Later 20th Century and Modern

  • United States Marine Corps in the Korean War

    Michael Green
    As with all of this series of ‘Images of War’ the pictures with their appropriate annotations are the story. However the supporting text places the sets of photographs in their context. All aspects of the marines involvement in the war are covered and this clearly spells out their special role. In addition to the photographs of the marines in action there are pictures of their equipment from carbines to aircraft. There also many photographs of the weapons used by their opponents. Michael Green has done a superb job in pulling these together from many disparate sources.
    The final impression of the Korean conflict is that the fighting was tough and at times the weather was tougher. But the real ‘grit’ of the book comes in the final paragraph. Although there were rarely as many as 20,000 marines in Korea at any one time there were over 30,000 casualties in the course of the conflict among which were 436 aircraft of the marines airwing.
    We warmly recommend this book to all our readers and especially those unfamiliar with this ‘sideshow’ of a war. Having read this you will want to go on and read more about this conflict.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Yangtze Showdown. China and the ordeal of HMS Amethyst

    Brian Izzard
    Cover to cover a really good read. This is the story of the Yangtze incident in the round, the military and political machinations prior to, during and after the event. If you know the gung-ho 1957 film with hero Richard Todd then prepared to be shocked by the truth. There are action heroes a plenty but there are also ‘politicos’ who are anything but heroes.
    The first sentence of the book is ‘A couple of shells whistled overhead and a group of sailors on board HMS Amethyst came to the same conclusion “They couldn’t hit a barn door”. The story goes on with the same engaging vitality. As for the Chinese hitting barn doors I remember newspaper photographs at the time rechristening HMS Amethyst as HMS Pepperpot.
    Supporting the text are two useful maps and an informative set of photographs. Also the set of five appendices complete the information given in the story.
    Well researched and beautifully written this book will be informative to military buffs and students of cold war politics. But more than those people we highly recommended it to the much wider audience of anyone who enjoy a good read.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2020
  • Suez Crisis 1956

    David Charlwood
    Another in the 'Cold War 1945-1991' series, and in this shortened format they can sometimes 'bite off more than they can chew' - in 128 pages they can sometimes attempt to cover too much and either end up superficial or miss bits out. However this one is just about right. It sets the whole crisis in it's context. It covers the disagreements and wider political climate and you get a good picture of the 'why' and the 'how' of Egypt and President Nasser's move on the canal. It is very light on the actual military action, but good on the political side in particular the actions of Anthony Eden and Eisenhower. It also has an afterward drawing parallels between Suez and the 2003 Iraq war. In all, a good summary of an event that still has echos today.
    Pen & Sword Miitary, Barnsley, 2019
  • Gurkha Odyssey

    Peter Duffell
    An odyssey is a long eventful journey and an appropriate title for this book. The story is of the author’s journey with and in the Gurkha ‘family’. The manner of its telling, in the main, is like a dinner party conversation with an excellent raconteur. In the telling not only do we see the Gurkhas but we see the author. Peter Duffell is a fighting man both with his men in the jungles of Borneo and for his men in the corridors of Whitehall. The period covered is from the early 1960s to 2018 with some coverage of early history. The unit focused on is the 2nd Gurkhas and therefore sadly does not include the Gurkha contribution to the Falklands war [7th Gurkhas].
    The book is well illustrated with a dozen pages of colour plates and some super Ken Howard drawings. Nine maps, all with scales, help in the telling of the journey. There is more to Gurkha history than told here and this book is a taster which will leave you wanting to find out more.
    Gurkha Odyssey is a most enjoyable cover to cover read which we highly recommend.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2019
  • The Last British Battleship HMS Vanguard 1946-1960

    R A Burt
    The last books I reviewed, published by Seaforth, were two volumes on Coastal Forces [see elsewhere on this site] which dealt with the smallest WW2 Naval craft so it is quite a jump to the largest battleship we ever built. Vanguard’s displacement was about 500 MTBs a truly magnificent ship which I know from personal experience having been on board at a Navy Day in Portsmouth in the late 1950s. So my question was is this book as good as the Coastal Forces books and will it do the ship justice?
    My hopes were fully realised by the text, the photographs and the technical drawings. The text is very technical in parts which truly reflects the subject but in the main can be easily followed. Although there are a few difficult bits where unexplained initials are use. The photographs are many and varied showing every stage of the ship from builders yard to breakers yard. One very poignant picture, the last in the book, is of the bow section just lying forlorn in the mud.
    The technical drawings, nearly all by the author, are superb. The drawings are of the whole ship including two three page and one four page spreads. There are also many detailed drawings of weapons systems, radar etc. All drawings are fully annotated as appropriate to their scale.
    All this is presented in a beautifully produced large portrait format, about 260mm X 300mm.
    We very highly recommend this well researched work.
    Footnote: There is an error in the title as the Royal Navy still has a battleship in commission
    i.e. H M S Victory, flying the flag of the Second Sea Lord/C-in-C Naval Home Command.
    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • British Army of the Rhine - The BAOR 1945-1993

    Paul Chrystal
    Part of the "Cold War 1945-1991" series, this is quite a small book at only 126 pages, to cover such a large subject and I think that's it's biggest issue. It tries to cover too much. There are sections which are interesting and obviously well researched, particularly the chapters on the predecessors and formation of the BAOR, de-nazification & fraternisation and the 'families on the Rhine'. The sources and further reading sections are useful too. However the majority of the period of the BAOR's service is somewhat sparsely covered, and the token section on the RAF and the Royal Navy really should have been left out all together. There is hopefully a much bigger, more comprehensive book somewhere that this is taster for, and I would very much like to read it. The author has a good grasp of the subject and good photographs supplied by his family furnishing welcome detail and authenticity but it has definitely lost something in the edit.
    Pen and Sword Military, Barnsley, 2018
  • The Cyprus Emergency

    Nick van der Bijl
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book covering, as it does, both the political and the military aspects of the Cyprus ‘troubles’ from 1955 to 1974. The narrative flows from event to event with little comment or opinion allowing the reader to understand the series of cause-and-effect which brought the island to its present state. There are three good maps and a set of photographs which well illustrate the text.
    I should here declare a deep personal interest as I served in Cyprus during the Emergency, 1958-61, and for a while was part of the security team at Government house. It is a slightly odd experience to look at a photograph in a ‘history’ book and to know that one was there standing in the next room. Also, to read about incidents in which one was involved including the death of a close comrade. The author perfectly captures the changes felt by the ‘boots on the ground’ when Hugh Foot became Governor and Major-General Kendrew was replaced by Major-General Darling as Director of Operations. Although I found that the book was a little uncomfortable in parts to read about intelligence and security failings, all accurately conveyed by the author, which we should have known at the time.
    According to my experience the book ‘rings true’ and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of our time and especially all those young National Servicemen who got their knees brown during the Cyprus Emergency.

    Pen and Sword Military, 2018
  • Fighting for the French Foreign Legion - Memoirs of a Scottish Legionnaire

    Lochrie, Alex
    There are quite a number of memoirs out there of men attracted by the legion, and I've read most of them. Luckily, this one ranks quite highly amongst those I've read. The author manages to join the legion at quite an advanced age - 38 - and so brings a different viewpoint to the training and life as an older man.
    His training and experience as a member of their special forces is usual for this kind of book - he serves in Tchad, Bosnia, Desert Storm, but he becomes a technical specialist in photographic techniques and brings a sensitivity to his writing that is sometimes lacking in others. It's a more thoughtful book, and should be a good addition to anyone's Legion library.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2013
  • Boeing B52 Stratofortress, Owners Workshop Manual

    Davies, Steve
    Another excellent Haynes manual of one of those iconic pieces of technology we wish we could own! Detailed sections on it's design and combat history (primarily covering Vietnam and Iraq), it's anatomy, systems, engines and maintenance schedules. Some really detailed and annotated diagrams and the usual crop of photos from all angles. It also has a blow-by-blow account of a training mission from the point of view of the pilot, along with an unusual viewpoint from an air-gunner.
    Haynes, Feb 2013
  • Lockheed SR-71 Owners Workshop Manual

    Davies, Steve & Crickmore, Paul
    An excellent book on one of the world's greatest aircraft! It follows in Haynes tradition of 'manual' style books on equipment we'd love to own with fascinating detail gained from people who were intimately involved with the Blackbird, or 'Habu' as it was known amongst those who flew it. As well as detail of its genesis, history and missions there is plenty of detail on equipment, engines and of particular interest to myself, what it was like to actually fly one.

    The book includes a full list of the fate of each aircraft and a glossary of terms used. Full of photographs, diagrams and detail but still very readable. Highly recommended.
    Haynes, 2012
  • Jungle Bashers - A British Infantry Battalion in the Malayan Emergency 1951-1954

    Bonner, Robert
    'For those wishing to explore the Malayan Emergency from the viewpoint of the infantryman at the sharp end, this work is an essential tool. It is highly recommended for the casual reader, veteran, student and any professional historian researching the Malayan Emergency.
    Fleur de Lys Publishers, 2003
  • Britain's Army in the Twentieth Century

    Carver, Field Marshal Lord.
    This book falls between the two stools of scholarly works and collections of anecdotes.
    Pan Books, 1999
  • The Royal Navy in Focus 1950 - 59

    Critchley, Mike Ed.
    One of the series 'The Royal Navy in Focus' showing photographs of almost every ship type active during the decade. A few lines on the history of each vessel is given with every picture.
    Maritime Books,
  • Hell in a Very Small Place

    Fall, Bernard B
    The definitive collected history of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu from the French perspective covering from the arrival in the valley during operation Castor through to the end of the garrison and after. Contains excellent detail, orders of batle, casualty figures, chronology and references as well as being grippingly readable. The author, the French historian/journalist Bernard Fall was killed in Vietnam on patrol with US marines as this book was published.
    Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1967
  • The Battle for the Falklands

    Hastings, Max and Jenkins, Simon
    Good overall history of the 1982 Falklands War, written by two journalists who were involved in the reporting of the war itself. Written very soon after the war, it may contain some that is propoganda.
    Book Club Assoc. London, 1983
  • The Arab-Israeli Wars

    Herzog, Chaim

    Greenhill, London, 2004
  • Dien Bien Phu, The Epic Battle America Forgot

    Simpson, Howard R

    Brassey's, 1994