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Our Reviews

In the course of our research, we have found several books and other media useful so we've listed and reviewed them. Select a category to browse the list, use the form to search for a specific topic, or select from our featured reviews.

If you have read, watched or listened to a particularly good item, we would welcome your recommendations too - Send us your reviews.

Featured reviews :

  • 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
  • The Royal Navy 1800-1815

    Mark Jessop
    This book follows Mark Jessop’s The Royal Navy 1793-1800 [ reviewed elsewhere on this site] There have been many books written about the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic period these books are different. The difference is due to two main factors one the presentation and two the sources. The author has confined himself to primary source material mostly written within a decade of the events. This, in itself, is not so uncommon but it is the presentation of the information that makes this book almost unique and imparts a special liveliness to the ‘facts’. The author has created about twenty people who report, discuss and reflect upon events as they understand them from their stations in life in the times in which they lived. It is to the author’s credit that the voices ring true.
    We warmly recommend this book to ‘beginner’ and ‘old-hand’ alike. The beginner because it makes the information so accessible and real. The old-hand because it enriches the wealth of information with a flavour of the times.

    Pen & Sword History, 2019
  • The Trafalgar Chronicle, New Series 4

    Ed. Peter Hore
    The Trafalgar Chronicle is the journal of The 1805 Club which publishes new research into a broad range of subjects connected with the Georgian navy. This edition, new series 4, edited by Peter Hore, contains twenty-one articles many of them with an American interest but with a wide range of subject matter. Among the articles is the intriguingly titled ‘Nelson was an Irishman’, as well as articles on ‘Sin Bo‘suns’, the oldest Admiral of the Fleet ever with a naval service of 96 years, and ‘Jack Punch’ the one black post-captain of the period. The subjects of the non-biographical articles include privateers, the balloon, carronades, the battle of St. George’s Cay and the Russians on the Tagus. I could go on to list all the articles as I enjoyed everyone.
    The book is beautifully produced with some rare appropriate illustrations, and extensive references. A rather nice touch are the brief biographies of the contributors.
    Every article is well written, extensively researched, informative and a joy to read. We highly recommend it to both expert and layman alike.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • Stephen and Matilda's Civil War

    Matthew Lewis
    As a summation, an over view, Matthew Lewis’s book captures the essence, the ebb and flow, of the Anarchy. It is cleverly structured, moving chapter to chapter from opponent to opponent. The style of writing is lively and engaging which makes it difficult to put down.
    The book is well researched although original sources are not extensive for the period covered. Lewis makes clear the bias in the accounts which are available and draws out some of their discrepancies. He supports his case by describing the actuality of subsequent positions and actions
    The well supported conclusion is that the Anarchy was not as anarchical as the lingering legacy of Victorian writings would have us believe.
    We highly recommend this book for anyone coming new or looking for a refreshing reappraisal of the Anarchy.

    Pen & Sword History, 2019
  • Battle for Paris 1815

    Paul L. Dawson
    For anyone seeking a full understanding of the end of the Napoleonic era this book is a must read. Paul Dawson’s tour de force of research, into previously rarely access French sources, really has produced the previously untold story of Grouchy’s withdrawal/retreat from Wavre to Paris. One example is when he writes of a French cavalry charge on the 3rd July 1815 ‘This was the last cavalry charge of the Napoleonic wars. It has been, until the details were teased out from the mass of paper work in the French Army Archives, totally forgotten about.’
    Dawson makes clear that he is a firm supporter of Grouchy and criticises the ‘received wisdom’ about him by using lots of first hand evidence. It is refreshing to note that the author also makes clear where he has had to change his own mind as he came across new evidence. There are some pertinent insights, given almost as throw aways, into the minutiae of campaigning such as the lack of good horses for aides carrying dispatches.
    The narrative flows in an easily readable style and there are some appropriate illustrations.
    All the above is most positive however there at two major negatives, one within the book’s scope the other without. First down side is that a reader of this book needs at least two large maps. One of the area retreated through and another of the city of Paris. Without these much of the information does not have much meaning. A troop movement from A to B is only understood if you know where A and B are.
    The other negative, not strictly about this book, probably requires another book to address. This would cover the contemporaneous movements of the Allies. Knowing these would allow some fuller judgements to be made on the appropriateness of Grouchy’s movements.
    We thoroughly recommend this book with the caveat that the reader provides their own maps.

    Frontline Books, 2019