Images of War - The Americans from the Ardennes to VE Day
Images of War The Americans from the Ardennes to VE Day by Brooke S. Blades and published by Pen and Sword Books.
This title is part of the Images of War series which is full of mainly photographs, but not too many, and comprehensive and informative text. The book is split into various chapters such as the Winter Offensive, the Ardennes Winter, Advance to the Rhine, Varsity and the Allies in Germany.
I’ve noticed in these books that the photographs can lean very heavy towards the military vehicles, but in this book, it is almost the opposite in there are many photos of troops, soldiers, civilians and children. This does make a little difference to the book as it makes it a bit more personal, the text/captions are also excellent and well informed, which is a good thing that runs throughout ‘The Images of War’ series of books.
This book from Pen and Sword Publishing and authored by Brooke S Blades follows the US military through the Ardennes to the end of the war in Europe and so covers highs and lows of the war as it affected US forces. As usual I can’t come up with another summary for these books in that they are excellent, both in photographs and text. An excellent read especially for those that need a few pictures with their words, especially as this is a bigger book to normal in the series, highly recommended.
The Wreck Hunter
The Wreck Hunter by Melody Foreman published by Frontline Books.
The Wreck Hunter looks at Terry Parsons who from being a little lad had watched or witnessed planes from both sides come down. Now, most of these had been recovered by the authorities but Parsons has searched out these lost or unknown sites where planes have crashed. But it’s not just about ‘the dig’ or unearthing of the wrecks that Parsons is interested in, it’s the stories, the lives and basically the men on board he is interested in. And these aren’t just look at our men, no this is about men who died on both sides, these were all knights of the skies to Parsons. The book is a culmination of notes and material written by the author Melody Foreman, and Parsons really does seem like a good guy, which is bought across by the author who has written a very good story indeed.
The book also includes a wide variety of photographs too, these are not just of planes etc, they include pictures of the digs, the aircraft involved and the people that were involved in a crash which really do bring home the intimate or family side of those involved. This was an excellent book and I fully recommend it be read by anyone.
German Military Vehicles in the
Spanish Civil War
German Military Vehicles in the Spanish Civil War written by Jose Maria Mata, Lucas Molina and Jose Maria Manrique and published by Frontline Books.
Right from the offset, I’m going to say that this book probably wasn’t for me, well you can’t win every time, can you? But I will say that just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good book. This is a very image/photograph heavy book and it’s basically vehicles of all different kinds in Spain under Franco during the Spanish Civil War from Hitler’s Germany. Like a test drive for German vehicles in a prelude to world war two. It isn’t just tanks, in fact it’s predominantly vans, motorbikes and service vehicles of varying kinds. But there are lots of detailed captions to each photograph and people will get a lot out of this. There is also illustrations/drawings in the book that I didn’t really think were that great but that is just my opinion. Overall the book is a very good book, it just wasn’t for me. I can see other people really enjoying it a lot.
Kursk 1943 written by Ian Baxter and published by Casemate Publishers as part of their Illustrated Series. This particular book looks to be one of about 18 books in the series, the book is 128 pages and will retail for £19.99.
Starting off as you do with all books, the front cover. The cover of this book is very glossy and sleek looking, one of those books that you always want to look after and keep it looking nice. But this goes through the whole book, even from the cover to pages it just feels excellent quality. The contents of the book are equally impressive if I can start with the photographs in the book and for an illustrated series these certainly do make the book, with what I think are a lot of unseen pictures. These aren’t just pictures of tanks and battles, you have pictures in of soldiers having time off and soldiers in intense battle, they really are excellent behind the scenes type photos.
I should also comment that it isn’t just photos, there are a number of excellent maps which are clear, informative and of a decent size. These are also married with some excellent little profile sections that look at the soldiers, tanks and Commanders and really fill into the details of both sides of the battle. The author has produced a very comprehensive and informative round-up of the various tanks, camo schemes and equipment. I would recommend these sections particularly to people who like painting models or wargaming, the detail of the photos/diagrams are excellent.
Finally, I should comment about the text information in the book, it is split into various chapters from the prelude to the opposing forces, preparations and outcomes. The way the book is divided is excellent and really does cover the battle from start to finish. The book is clearly well written and the author Ian Baxter has done a great and very comprehensive detailed job.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic book clearly has everything in you would want and an ideal book for the beginner or advanced reader of the subject. In fact, when I was at university, this was the kind of book I would want on a particular subject, it gives me all the detail in text and pictures on the subject in an excellent and concise book. I look forward to looking at a couple of more books from this series which have me intrigued.
Battle of Britain Broadcaster
Battle of Britain Broadcaster written by Robert Gardner and published by Pen and Sword Books.
A thoroughly excellent and informed read, this book the Battle of Britain Broadcaster tells the story of a young and Charles Gardner who joined the BBC in 1936 alongside Richard Dimbleby and as the blurb tells us they became the very first BBC News Correspondents. In fact, I recommend you listen to him on YouTube, Gardner was both in the RAF and worked for the BBC. To be honest, some have said when you listen to him it sounds like the Battle of Britain moment you can find on YouTube sounds like your listening to an early BBC FA Cup football match and some have been critical of him, lessening the impact of describing dogfights and attacks. But this is wrong in my opinion, here you have a man describing moments of the Battle of Britain, yes in a keen manner but you have to remember he was pilot, those guys he is describing are one of his own. Wouldn’t he want to see his own fellow pilots do well, rather than German pilots.
I have to say that I was very impressed with this book because I hadn’t heard about Charles Gardner before but now because of his son writing a superb book, I am very impressed by the man. In fact, I look forward and intend to look further into the man. An impressive book all round.
Siege of Malta 1940 -42
Images of War - The Seige of Malta 1940-42 written by Anthony Tucker and published by Pen & Sword Books.
This new Images of War book is the story of Malta 1940-42. The book begins with a photo collection that provides basic background, how it was the Italian Air Force and subsequently the German Luftwaffe that first began attacks. Now let’s face facts Malta is only a small island it’s hardly equipped to deal with waves of plane strikes by two different forces, when all you can put for defence is some anti-aircraft guns and a few Sea Gladiators.
Divided into a number of chapters, the first shows us the Island Fortress, the Sea Gladiators which became known as Faith, Hope and Charity. The chapters cover the years of the timeline and cover things such as the air battles, planes, artillery and life for the civilian and military population.
This book does an excellent job and will become a firm favourite within the Images of War series. In this series, you can always rely on getting a good compilation of high-quality pictures along with the concise and informative text which never fails.
Rugbeians of the
Rugbeians of the Great War written by Daniel J. McLean and published by Pen and Sword Books.
I have always had an interest in public school efforts to the world wars effort and as far as Rugby School is concerned they clearly did a great effort towards the wars as so many former students signed up to fight in the war. I will admit my interest started after watching the Blackadder Goes Forth Series where nearly all the characters came from public school and the way that would come out in the series. The standout thing that comes from this book is the sheer comprehensive and detailed information as the author I’m sure had access to lots of historical information. It really is good and this portrayed in the book very well. What also stands out in the book is the appendix and details of the former students, there is an excellent table of information inside the book that does it great credit and service.
In summary, I would say that the author has gone to great concentration and written an excellent and very detailed book. There is no other thing to do but to recommend this book, a really excellent book.
Fighting the Great War at Sea
Fighting the Great War at Sea written by Norman Friedman and published by Pen and Sword Books.
When I chose this book, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting it to be so big and comprehensive. This is a beautiful and encyclopaedic book with pretty much everything you would want to know about in it. I left this to read over Christmas and I wasn’t disappointed at all, it covers the 1914-1918 period. The book looks at the various navies involved and how each one tried to rule the waves or deny others from using the seas to their advantage. The book also looks at wartime technologies and changes and how the war was fought out. In a time when warfare and technology changed a lot, the book looks at the various weapons available to the various navies such as torpedoes, guns and mines.
This is a beautiful and very well researched book, it certainly is aimed at the person with a particular interest in naval warfare, but I don’t see the book disappointing any reader. The book is £45, but I see this book as being worth every single penny in interesting value. This is probably only the second time, but I would say this book is worth 5 stars and worth every star, one of the best books that I have read in 2019.
Women's Lives & Clothes in WW2
Women's Lives and Clothing in World War 2 written by Lucy Adlington and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I must admit than when I first went to read this book, I presumed it would be a bit boring and this despite me being a big fan of women’s history. But I was wrong this book was very interesting and fascinating indeed. It looks at the role of women in WW2, it looks at the clothing they wore, what they had to wear and rationing and how they coped with that in a rationed way etc. It was really good and made me think about lots of things I hadn’t thought about before. The book has a surprising amount of great photos and magazine illustrations. Overall this was a really good book and it was nice to be reading a history book that was just dedicated to women, it was really enjoyable.
Rituals & Myths
I used to have a friend who used to be a Macmillan nurse and she used to have a dark sense of humour because of patients she had to care for, so I was looking forward to this book and expecting to read some really dark humour. I found the book was excellent, well written and so easy to read. It wasn’t packed with jargon or ‘on the job talk’. It’s a balanced book full of not only funny and amusing stories or anecdotes but it is told from nurses who have done the job throughout the years.
The book isn’t written with you needing to have had nursing training it’s a book that gets over to the everyman. Some of the stories are corkers and some I have heard worse. Just remind to only ever eat my own Malteasers, then we can all be safe. Because of the way the book is written nobody is obviously made fun of, it’s just a friendly laugh of a book. I would recommend this book to anyone to read and the story of hardworking nurses shines through.
Poland and the
Second World War 1939-45
Poland and the Second World War 1939-45 written by Evan McGilvray and published by Pen and Sword Books.
This is an excellent book by the author Evan McGilvray, is a comprehensive, detailed and very well written book indeed. The Polish are the forgotten allies of WW2 and I have admitted before the war on the eastern front hasn’t been my strongest points but this year I have been reading up a lot on went on. And boy did the Polish suffer a lot in WW2 from the Germans and Russians.
The author quite rightly begins in the late 30’s with the failure of diplomacy and goes some way to try and explain what it was like for the Poles to be stuck between the two sides. This book goes a long way to explain what Poland did before the war, how the British and French didn’t really manage to support them fully. Then it clearly goes on about how the Russians waited for Germany to almost finish them off but then swoop in and take over to further increase Russia’s presence in the area.
This really is an excellent book, and not written by an excellent military historian. Evan McGilvray is an excellent researcher and writer who masters the subject he writes about. A really good book.
Stephen & Matilda's Civil War
Stephen and Matilda's Civil War written by Matthew Lewis and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I have to admit that this period of time is not a strong one for me but I wanted to read Stephen and Matilda's Civil War by Matthew Lewis, because it looked interesting and I wanted to improve my knowledge further. Now I have to say now I found a couple of points a little confusing but that was probably me, with it not being my best area of expertise. But I do have to say that this is a very well written book and well balanced in my opinion, the author has done an extremely good job with the research and conveying everything to the reader.
There is a lot going on but this shouldn’t detract anyone from giving it a go because this book made me want to read further into the subjects, and like a good book, it re-kindled my passion for this bit of history and wanting to learn more. This book would be ideal at this time of year, as you would be able to snuggle down and really get into it on these dark evenings. I enjoyed the book very much and compliment the author on his work, I am going to give this book a very good indeed 4 out of 5 stars.
Tank Wrecks of the Western Front 1940-45
Tank Wrecks of the Western Front 1940-1945 written by Anthony Tucker-Jones and published nu Pen and Sword Books.
Another interesting book from this series and you really do learn a lot from them. This book is divided into a number of chapters such Sherman tanks, Churchill tanks etc but it isn't just the standard tank that you see. There is a variety of each tank that were made to deal with certain situations such as clearing minefields.
I really can recommend this series of books but not only do you have the pictures the text and information around the photos are so good stories. They also give you a better understanding when you can see the actual phots or of what went on. For example, the tanks look like such huge machines, yet when you see the wrecks they look like little weak tin machines.
Home Front 1939-1945 in 100 Objects
The Home Front 1939 – 1945 in 100 Objects written by Austin J. Ruddy and published by Pen & Sword Books.
Now I should say at the beginning of this book review that I am a closet WW2 fan and avid Dad’s Army fan. So yes, I recommend this book with 5 stars and you should all go out and buy it. Now for all the reasons why you should get this book, which would also make an ideal Christmas present. Like it says on the cover this book looks at 100 items from the WW2 era, what a fantastic collection of items, you have from the ration card to the ARP helmet, from the D-Day newspaper to a copy of the Beveridge Report and the fundraising stamps to the enamel air raid shelter sign. This is a comprehensive list which includes a large number of items I had forgotten about. In this book is a great photo of the item alongside a page of information and research into that particular item.
It is clear from the book that a lot of research and work has gone into this book by the author, who should be praised for such information and hard work. Now I am not of the age of the era, but being an avid fan I learnt a lot more than I expected. I had thought it would be a quick read in a night, but in reality, I spent the whole weekend reading from front to back and thoroughly enjoyed it. A book I heartedly recommend.
Luxury Railway Travel
Luxury Railway Travel – A Social and Business History written by Martyn Pring and published by Pen & Sword Books.
This book will definitely please the train enthusiast but also the general reader as there are many photographs, newspaper articles and those exceptionally important advertising posters. If anything I love the advertising posters, so unique and brilliant of their age. I’ve always enjoyed train travel but not living close to a railway service, travelling by train was always a rarity but always a special. To me it was always the speed, whether stood on a lonely platform stuck in the middle of nowhere and the train thunders past or to me just being able to travel so far. Like this book, the book is about luxury travel and reading this excellent book really does make you want to travel on some of the luxury lines around the world.
The opulence and the journey of the classes through rail travel show how the railway really did become a form of luxuriousness and something you could aspire to and experience. Reading the book and looking at the various advertisements for destinations and rail travel sends you back as the reader back to that era when rail was the king, especially when it came to holiday travel. This is a very classy book with clearly a lot of effort from the author, Martyn Pring with regards to writing, research and pictures. It is a first-class book and most definitely an excellent present for a railway enthusiast.
The Peasant's Revolting Crimes
The Peasant's Revolting Crimes written by Terry Deary and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I must admit that when I was given a copy of this book I couldn’t wait to read it. As a kid I was always a fan of history and then when I was a young adult, Horrible Histories books written by the great Terry Deary appeared and I have been hooked ever since. Now I know people in the history world can be a bit snobbish about Terry Deary in that they see his books as not proper history, but I love him and the books, he has done so much to get children and adults interested in history.
This book takes back to around the Norman time and we gradually come up through ages to about the Victorian time and this book covers the aspect of crime and it focuses on the peasants through the ages. Well let’s face it you would hardly go round committing crimes if you were part of the landed gentry. But the book takes us through various crimes and poor situations people found themselves in. We hear about body snatchers, highwayman, grave robbers, witches, smugglers and rustlers. They’re all in there. This is a fascinating read and very well written, the style of the book isn’t like Horrible Histories but a grown-up version, so if you enjoyed them before you’ll love this new incarnation. I really hope Pen and Sword Books publish more books similar to this and I can fully recommend it young and old alike.
Creating Hitler's Germany
Creating Hitler's Germany written by Tim Heath and published by Pen & Sword Books.
This book is not about the rise of Nazism in Germany, it’s a book about Nazism from a ground level and how it affected people or the everyday person. This book looks at reasons why Nazism was allowed to flourish and the social environment in which it grew. This is the third book by Tim Heath that I have read about Germany, and I always find his work very well researched, presented and written. He very much focusses on the everyday person, the youth or even the women of the Third Reich, and I find this excellent because I enjoy this views of topics rather than the usual overall view from above or from the powers that be point.
I am hoping to read most of this author’s books now having already read three in the past few months. Tim Heath is very good at capturing the everyday social opinions of the people, which makes him an excellent writer of social history, I am hoping that we can see him write more books with Pen and Sword as they make a great fit.
This hardback book of about 210+ pages is a fantastic book about Nazi Germany with many reports and first-hand accounts from local people, this book is a real gem and together with the authors other works it is a definite must have read. I would certainly award it 5 stars out of 5.
Children at War
Children at War 1914-1918 written by Vivien Newman and published by Pen & Sword Books. Yet another great book from Pen & Sword Books, they really do publish great books which are always so well researched and written.
I enjoyed this book throughout, and it also covers a subject area rarely covered by historians and it was actually really good to read the thoughts and memories from various children’s accounts. I particularly like the chapter about Guiding and how they got along during the war, I suppose having an interest in youth movements it struck home and it was quite valid in that we don’t give as much recognition to the Guiding movement as we do the Scout movement.
The book can be very sad in parts especially the final chapters where we learn about children being moved away and being lost at sea on the Lusitania. The book has a great conclusion, with the endnotes and bibliography being very good in particular. I would definitely recommend this book to others and it’s not your usual war book or memories, it is good to hear the viewpoints from lots of children. The author has written a very thought out book with lots of great research and beautifully written.
Balloons & Airships
Balloons & Airships - A Tale of Lighter Than Air Aviation, written by Anthony Burton and published by the good people at Pen & Sword Books.
Now I will admit that I am not an expert on Balloons or Airships but my father used to work at RAF Cardington back in the '90s where they used to house the big airships in the enormously sized hangers. So ever since I've found them very fascinating, a bit like being a little kid again.
This is a very good book, an excellent amount of pictures and information. The information doesn't go too far deep or get so technical but just enough to entice the reader and keep them interested. The stories go right back to the start of flight at the beginning when airship/balloon travel we're in their infancy. I often think it was a shame that airship didn't make it to worldwide everyday travel but I suppose you can the main problems. I really enjoyed the book, especially the history of the subject but then that's by area. I would recommend this book to both the passing reader and the avid airships fan.
Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor, written by Phil Carradine and published by Pen & Sword Books
Having read a previous book by Carradine, Bloody Mary (see below) I was really looking forward to it and I wasn't left disappointed. The book is basically a look at the life of Henry Tudor from his growing up to the Battle of Bosworth Field. I was really looking forward to this, probably because he comes from my neck of the woods, Pembrokeshire. I had already learnt about Bosworth Field but it was nice to get his background and growing up in Wales. As usual with a Carradine book is very well written and informed and if you want more than just the basics in a book, Carradine does and excellent book.
A book I would highly recommend and an excellent intro into Tudor life. Pen & Sword books really do publish good royalty books, just something I coming to learn.
The Nazis Nuremberg Rallies
The Nazis Nuremberg Rallies by James Wilson and published by Pen & Sword Books. £19.99
I've always been fascinated in the Nuremberg Rallies because we've all seen the newsreel clips and Hitler can be seen talking to many thousands of people and they all seem to be at his command. I suppose I'm always fascinated by how he captured their attention and what was he saying to command their attention and it all seemed so loyal.
This book by James Wilson is excellent in that it goes into great detail, such as the organisation of the events, the layout, how things displayed and what was said. The book really does bring each and every rally to life, the book also has some rare photos that I haven't seen before and it also displays posters and postcards designed for the events. So you get to see the propaganda on multiple levels, which is great if your interested in seeing how things are branded or portrayed.
So important were these rallies that you can even see how some of today's politicians have copied the rhetoric, stance and how the words are spoken. The book is also complimented by some short biographies of all the Nazi power players, which helpfully adds some depth to the events. Overall this is a very good book and you get a real understanding of the events themselves, it would be nice to see another book similar to this that shows of some more of the publicity/propaganda.
The 19th Century Underworld
Written by Stephen Carver and published by Pen & Sword History.
Now for me anyway this is one of those books you get and you can't wait to get home and start reading it. Mainly because I have a love for a bit of crime and underworld, especially from the 19th century because it was a time when crime fighting hadn't been sorted out really, and some of the things that went on were really grim and deplorable. Now this book looks at lots of different things, the things that stick in my mind are the bodysnatchers, setting up the start of a crime bureau, children getting a very rough time, funerals and just the sheer number of different jobs that were around at the time There is the obligatory section that covers Jack the Ripper, a crime that will never be solved.
What makes this book apart from the writing and content is that it is so well written that it makes you fell a bit grimy and dirty too. Especially as the Dickesian era was such a dark and grim time. If I had one negative note about the book, it's that it is very London centric but then that it is very much what we know when reading about this time in history. Because London was so big and everything happened there, it's only normal that most authors gravitate towards the capital. This book is very well written and big thumbs up to the author and Pen & Sword Books. The book is absolutely fantastic and I will give it my highest mark in 5 stars out of 5.
The History of Women's Lives in Liverpool
The History of Women's Lives in Liverpool by Gill Rossini and published by Pen & Sword Books
Now, this is a book about all aspects of women's lives, now which city is going to have more stories and more about women, other than say London, it has to be Liverpool. With a rich history dating back hundreds of years, whether it be about working, school, health, being at home, sports, music and entertainment, this book is packed.
Now I particularly enjoyed the chapters about women's work in Liverpool because you've got so much industry and trade going in and out of Liverpool you can't help but have a wide variety of working life such as factories and the docks etc. When you think about it, the vast majority of the work other than the heavy-duty work could have and was done by women from the factory floor to the servant's maid floor. People always admire Liverpool people for being 'salt of the earth' characters and being down to earth. This comes across in the book and in my opinion, it's a very good book that I would be happy to recommend, as the book has clearly been very well researched and written.
Bloody Mary - Tudor Terror
Written By Phil Carradice and published by Pen & Sword History
For someone who had a short reign Mary Tudor certainly packed enough into life, despite having much of her life going against her due to her position in life and her beliefs. In my life anyway, I hadn’t really ever looked deeply into the subject of Mary Tudor, and to be honest at school and university she was always glossed over or seen as someone who was unimportant. Now this book published by Pen & Sword History although short, it is high in information and quality.
The author of the book Phil Carradice books writes a very well written book that seems very well researched and writing. As a newcomer to the subject I thoroughly enjoyed taking in all the facts in what turned out to be a very bloody reign. We are taken through the growing up period and then the reign but it doesn’t shy away from anything, and you read all about the religion, burnings and conflicts that Mary Tudor went through. I would recommend this book especially as a newcomer to the subject and the book is very well written and I personally would give it a 4 stars out of 5.
Hitler's Hangmen - The Secret German Plot
to Kill Churchill
Hitler’s Hangmen - The Secret Plot to Kill Churchill by Brian Lett and published by Greenhill Books.
I must admit to having little knowledge of the fascists in Britain during WW2, and so found quite a few bits of this book, a surprise. Before and after the outbreak of the Second World War, there were a number of sizable Fascist groups active in Britain, all of whom were working towards causing an uprising to get rid of the British government. These groups included The Right Club, Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists Arnold Leese's Imperial Fascist League.
Churchill basically had the leaders of the various fascist groups imprisoned during the war, only released towards the end of the war. Their main gripe was with Churchill and were antagonised by his duty to defeat the Nazi’s to whom the fascists supported and adored. Whereas Churchill was willing to deal with dissenters, Chamberlain had not. The book also includes chapters on the POW camps within Britain containing mainly Italian and German troops.
This is a fascinating story and really does show how Britain could have so easily been infiltrated from within, when things could have ended much differently. I won’t say much more as it will give the story away. But for those that like me didn’t know much about fascism in the UK will find it all very intriguing. A good recommended read.
Hitler's Spanish Division
Hitlers' Spanish Division written by Pablo Sagarra and published by Frontline Books.
Hitler’s Spanish Division is a very welcome book that looks at various troops, members, commanders, Generals and volunteers that volunteered to fight alongside German troops on the Eastern Front against the Russians. This is a highly illustrated book with lots of pictures of various uniforms and frontline equipment. There are also lots of photos of the troops, which was interesting to see as Spain remained neutral during the war, yet 48,000 were willing to fight against the Communist Russians.
On the one hand, I am going to say this was an interesting book indeed, it just made a change from the usual WW2 books I read I suppose. Although the interest might be from a select few readers, or maybe militaria aficionados/model makers, the illustrations and pictures are excellent. But on the other hand, I found the book a bit weak or lacked a bit of depth, but then maybe that is too harsh when you consider the Spanish were supposed to be neutral and in fact it was only around 48,000 people involved. I personally would have liked more info if possible and on that point, I would give this book a 3 out of 5 stars.
Stalingrad - City on Fire
Stalingrad - City on Fire written by Alexey V. Isaev and published by Pen and Sword Books.
The story of the Battle of Stalingrad has been recounted and recounted numerous times. It would seem that there is an insatiable appetite to read about what most historians would consider being a major turning point in the 1941- 45 war on the Eastern Front. Now I will admit here and now that despite all the writing about the war on the Eastern Front, it is a part of the war I don’t know so much about but recently this year I have been reading lots to plug that knowledge gap. So I have enjoyed reading this book by Alexevy V. Isaev.
And to think this is a battle that might never have happened or turned out differently had it not been for Hitler’s strange fascination for defeating the city purely because of the association of the name with Russian leader Stalin.
This book is separated into different sections, all very comprehensively detailed parts of the war and battles. Without wanting to give away some of the authors; conclusions many are perfectly valid, there are good reasonings for them. The analysis from the author with regards to diaries and memoirs is very impartial and well done, despite what some might have previously expected. I enjoyed reading this excellent book, by someone who would be in the know. Definitely recommended.
The Memoirs of
The Memoirs of Karl Doenitz published by Frontline Books, London.
This was indeed a very interesting book looking at the war in the Atlantic from the German side, or perspective rather than the Allied side. Now I will admit that the book got a little dull in places, but that was due in most part down to the many note-taking details given in the book. I would say that I have certainly learned a lot from the book and the German U-Boat system was very advanced for its time which echoes in other German military hardware and vehicle advances.
In this memoir, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz provides a very detailed account of his life in going into a very great organisation and detail. I would say that it is very hard not to learn from reading this book. I would say this is one of the best accounts of the Battle of the Atlantic I have read. This book contains many interesting details about the battle, which from the viewpoint of the memoir, you’re not likely to find this sort of level and impact unless you were talking to someone else who when through the same event at the time.
You know when you read certain books about an event or a time. Then those books become like a bible of authority for that event or time, this is one of those books. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about the Battle of the Atlantic.
MI6 written by Nigel West and published by Frontline Books.
The MI6 and other intelligence services have always been a bit of intrigue and so I was looking forward to reading this book by Nigel West. Having read this book I would say that you’re not going to be disappointed with this. It starts back from its early days and is very comprehensive in its knowledge. The author clearly knows his stuff as it’s very thorough and well written if anything you could say it was too comprehensive.
The book covers much of the everyday activities along with some of the specialist operations.
Although MI6 did have to contend with other services springing up alongside it, with sometimes toes being trampled upon it has managed to survive through this period. What could be taken from this book and added to is by going into more depth about some of the operations that would make for interesting reads. In conclusion, this is a very thorough book indeed and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to others to read. A very good 4 out of 5 stars. I look forward to reading his other book on GCHQ published by Frontline Books.
Neville Chamberlain's Legacy
Neville Chamberlain's Legacy written by Nicholas Milton and published by Pen and Sword Books.
A book I was looking forward to reading, basically for the fact that there is so little written about Neville Chamberlain. Probably one of the least written about world leaders, especially when you consider this man met Hitler and had a number of meetings with him. I suppose with no surprise, the book in my opinion, is a gentle affair or maybe that is because he seemed to be a much gentler person than some of the figures at the time. We learn about how Chamberlain is a quiet man, a thinker rather than a shouter, which might be why he did some of the things he did.
This book is very well written and it is clear that a lot of research has gone into the book by the author. The book isn’t all about a life in politics it also shows the more human side of Chamberlain, a man very much in touch with helping people, nature and his love of birdlife. Something you wouldn’t think a man in his position would have time for. Overall this is a well-informed book, unusual character but a good book I found intriguing.
Storm Over Europe
Storm Over Europe – Allied Bombing Campaigns in the Second World War written by Juan Vazquez Garcia and published by Pen and Sword Books.
I received this book in a box and thought that looks good, thinking I’d read it later after a couple more books. I opened it up just to have a quick look and ended up sitting down and reading it from cover to cover. The book is basically split into two parts, the first half looks at the origins of Bomber Command and the way they were put together, why and what the main aims of Bomber Command would be especially under ‘Bomber’ Harris. In this half of the book they do look at Operation Chastise or what was better known as the Dambusters Raid which was enjoyable but I think the book could have looked at more campaigns or got a little deeper.
The second half of the book looks at America entering the war and how they helped continue the bombing campaign over Europe at that time and what planes they would use. This book looks at the aims, the reasons and strategy used and comes up with a number of conclusions and looks at the bad points and the success that happened. Now I want to avoid giving away conclusions, but by that, I mean not what happened as we all know already know, but the conclusions of those involved in events and their more personal reason why what happened and the way things were done.
What I do like about this book is that it doesn’t go too far in-depth which might disappoint some but it does feature topics, subjects, pictures, plans etc that talk more about the events, people and vehicles of the time. I would fully recommend this book to a younger audience, I would say if you were aged teenage to 30’s you would enjoy this book. Or if you were a young student of history, you would thoroughly enjoy learning a lot of the basics about a lot of events and what went on. To improve this book, rather than 150 pages, maybe something like 3-400 would have really sold it to a wider audience.
Images of War
Early Jet Bombers 1944-1954
Images of War Early Jet Bombers 1944-1954 written by Leo Marriott and published by Pen and Sword Books.
This book is an excellent book, it compliments similar books written by the author. The book explains the scene very well about bombers, and the rest of the book is nicely split into chapters that cover Britain, France, United States, Germany and Russia. Along with each section we are given a short introduction into the planes in each chapter on how they were developed and accompanied by some excellent photos. While most of the photographs are of excellent quality I must admit I had seen most of the planes before, apart from a couple of experimental planes. The difference in books with others is that these are pictures of bombers, so most of the pictures are of the bombers on runways. In other books that concentrate on small jet fighter type planes, you have pictures in flight and combat mode, which admittedly makes for a more interesting photograph. Again this book is very well written and researched, it would fulfil the expectations of the majority of readers.
A Date With the Hangman - History of Capital Punishment in Britain
A Date With the Hangman - A History of Capital Punishment in Britain written by Gary Dobbs and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I found this book a little odd, I suppose from the cover I expected a book full of stories of people that had been hanged and their crimes but it was quite different. This book goes through the various forms of capital punishment and then provides a list of those who have been hanged, who, where, why and who the executioner was. Stoping off a number of times to give a little more detail about various cases of importance.
Whilst the book is well written and informed, I just felt it fell a little short. I wanted to know more about some of the murderers, maybe some more details about the crimes rather than the ones that made the headlines. Because those are the details more likely to be in the public arena. This would be an ideal book who likes everything about crime, but I sadly found it a little disappointing, just 3 stars this time around.
Sheffield in the 1980's
Images of the Past – Sheffield in the 1980’s written by Mark Metcalf & Justine Jenkinson and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I was quite looking forward to this book, as I had recently just got into the Images of War series of books which I had found surprisingly enjoyable. I was quite impressed with this book too, although there was probably more pictures than text, what text there was enjoyable and informative and I suppose when you know the place, you don’t need so much information. The pictures are excellent and there are quite a few, my only complaint is they are all black and white photos, which when the book is about the city of Sheffield which did go through hard times it can make the place look rather sad. A few more colour pictures would have brightened the book up, as I know Sheffield to be a lively place, even if it had gone through hard times.
What was really enjoyable was seeing some of the old places that had been there for many years and are now gone. The book also put across all the important events that happened and a lot did go on in Sheffield. As the book covers industry, democracy, local government, sports and the people of the town. This is a thoroughly good book and would recommend it to others, especially those that come from the city. It would be interesting to see which other cities are going to be covered in the series.
The Grimy 1800s
The Grimy 1800s written by Andre Green and published by Pen and Sword Books.
This book is like a large collection of complaints by inspectors of various things to do with overcrowding, sewage, water supplies, food, contamination, animals, smells etc. It’s basically a book that deals with the grubby world of what we would call today health and safety inspectors, having to deal with a problem, or finding a problem, trying to sort out the problem in various ways and trying to make sure in law that the problems can’t then arise again. It also shows how although you have people trying to enforce the rules and make people stick to them, they, in turn, received very little support by the powers that be who make the laws.
On a side note this book is very factual and we often get to see the population growth of various areas and locations. Interestingly it shows the growth or rather explosion in populations especially around the mid-1800s as people moved from the rural areas into the cities and the slums. Which then clearly showed up that the inspectors were fighting a losing battle most of the time, because of the subject, the powers that be were not really interested I’m sure sanitary isn’t sexy really.
Whilst this book might not be to everyone’s taste, I would recommend giving it a read, it’s very well written and presented well it also gives a good snapshot into social history into this country. This book isn’t London centric, the reports come from all over the country.
Life in Medieval Europe - Fact & Fiction
Life in Medieval Europe written by Daniele Cybulskie and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I went into the reading of this book expecting it to be little dry or hard to read, and what a surprise I was in for. Life in Medieval Europe wasn’t dull and nether was this book at all, credit to the author Daniele Cybulskie as the writing and the information revealed is very interesting, intriguing and compelling to read. The book is split into various subjects, with each chapter dealing with a topic such as Health, Death, Faith, Love and Food. Then each chapter/subject is broken down into various questions, which the author will then answer such as were punishments brutal, how did the Knights train, did they often get to use their skills and so on and so on. The answers weren’t just short and blunt or long-winded and boring. The answer the reader gets is a well informed and to the point answer explained very clearly.
Having read this book that was thoroughly enjoyed it answered quite a few questions but I am looking forward to more of this authors’ works because although I was satisfied it left me wanting to learn more about Medieval Europe. There is an excellent bibliography and notes section at the back of the book which I endeavour to plough through and pick out the best. Overall this is a modern and clear book on an old and often dusty subject, I would very much recommend this book to any reader but especially to an avid reader or student of the subject. On top of that another good author I am interested in finding more of their work to read up on.
Misjudged Murderesses written by Stephen Jakobi and published by Pen & Sword Books
When I was given this book to read, I had a flick through and even though crime isn’t my leading subject, it looked good and interesting. I will admit that I found this book hard to get through as it wasn’t what I expected. This book looks at a number of murder cases from the past involving women, and ultimately in the book claims that these women were misjudged or wronged in their convictions. But it does this through, newspaper reports, transcripts, documents etc. It felt like, although using primary documents was good, it needed to be enveloped more by the author to bring everything together. In some cases, it seemed up in the air to me, even if it might have been the author’s opinion some kind of narrative or storytelling conclusion from the author would have been much better.
Whilst I probably wouldn't recommend this book, it might actually be ideal for someone else, I think it was probably the style that it was written in that I didn't enjoy reading.
South-East Northumberland at War 1939-45
South-East Northumberland at War 1939-45 written by Craig Armstrong and published by Pen and Sword Books.
Part of the Your Towns and Cities in World War Two series, I had high hopes for this book as it was the second one in the series I have read. To which I can happily confirm I was not disappointed by. This book covers the are of the UK where my Dad's family comes from, so I might be a little biased. But it was a thoroughly knockout book absolutely packed with information and interesting reading.
This particular book comes across as a very intimate read about the area, it deals with the course of the ward, what went on the building up of the services as the war went on, the local people and how the community worked together and adapted to circumstances. Having been to the area it is a very rural and coastal place with lots of small towns and cities surrounded by countryside. Reading this book and recognising most of the places it was a great read. Also for a small book, I hadn't expected it to be packed with so much text and the pictures/charts are great too, very informative. A book that I hope does well and should sell well in that particular area.
The Normandy Air War 1944
Images of War - The Normandy Air War 1944 written by Anthony Tucker-Jones and published by Pen & Sword Books.
I must first start off with an apology, I have always avoided these type of books 'Images' like the plague, because basically when I read a book I want lots of text not lots of pictures. I will now say this book has changed my view completely, and apologies for giving away the ending of this review before the end, but it was excellent and very informative indeed. I think I was a little more inclined to this book because as a kid my father was in RAF, so I have seen quite a few of these great planes up close.
I found that I loved all the pictures and the associated text with the various pictures was so informative I learnt so much. This book has pictures of planes involved in the war on Normandy from the Allies, Germany and more. The pictures are just brilliant in many ways such as Lancasters, Spitfires, Halifax's, Messerschmitts, Fokkes, Typhoons, Mustangs and much more. But these aren't just pages of 'look at me I'm a plane' these are planes in action, in various forms of action. Some of the shots are just amazing as you see the damage they cause and the damage caused to them, with all the phots being sourced from various wartime archives.
The text in this book is good in that I learnt a lot about the various commanders and generals involved in the Normandy invasion. It gives you an excellent journey through the invasion from the picture/plane viewpoint and tells the excellent story.
I have a couple more of these books to review in the series and I really do look forward o reading them. As you would expect I would highly recommend this book to anyone and happily give it a 5-star rating.
Derbyshire at War 1939-45
Derbyshire at War 1939-45 written by Glynis Cooper and published by Pen & Sword Books.
Now I will admit that I am a sucker for a bit of local history so I was really looking forward to this book. It is all set out in chapters covering each year of the war which is good as it lays it out for you. Also all the local information, titbits, and stories were excellent. I hadn't realised that dummy towns and places were set up in the middle of nowhere to confuse planes dropping bombs, to save people from being killed or places destroyed.
Now I don't usually list what I didn't like, but I found that although the information and work were all really very good indeed. I didn't need to know what was happening that year in the war, and I found that the book/information could have been a lot longer. The book is about 100 pages long and would have liked to have learned more about local history during the war. Whilst I would recommend to others, I would probably only recommend this book to those who are from that area as the research was excellent, the length of the book was too short.
A Century of Man-Made Disasters
A Century of Man-Made Disasters by Nigel Blundell and published by Pen & Sword Books.
This book has a total of 15 chapters that looks at various disasters on various subjects over the 20th century, ranging from the sinking of the Titanic to the Space Race, disasters on trains, ferries and football matches etc etc. At first, when I read the book, I thought it might feel a bit macabre, and although this book does contain plenty of photos and images, They are all done tastefully, there is little weird voyeurism.
I actually remember most of these or was aware of the disasters and although a lot of people died, the informed and balanced accounts given are very good and informative. This is a book I would recommend to others for an informative and quick read if you were looking for in-depth you would need to look deeper into the individual disasters.
Women of the Third Reich
Women of the Third Reich written by Tim Heath and published by Pen & Sword Books.
This is an excellent book from the outset, I was really looking forward to this as I for some reason love reading about the younger generation in Nazi Germany. Reading about what their lives entailed, how they were treated and how much control the regime had over them and were they as easily controlled as the adult population was. I have read previously another book written by Tim Heath and I think what you get from his books is that they are always well written and they come across at the readers level rather than being superficial or too much into the detail, the balance is always struck at the right level.
WWII is clearly the authors' expertise and if you read his other books which cover the same time period, he is clearly informed and knows his stuff. He has written a number of books about girls and women in Nazi Germany, so you know your going to get a well informed and accurate text to read. Which always makes a good difference because the youth of Germany is a much forgotten piece of history of the time.
I am moving onto reading Heath's next book Creating a Nazi Germany, which I already know I will enjoy. I would recommend this book to every reader, whether you are a student of history or not, as it is an excellent read and certainly worth a five star read.
D-Day - The Soldier's Story
D-Day - The Soldier's Story, written by Giles Milton and published by John Murray Press.
Well what can I say about this book, for a start I usually avoid books and films about popular things or events, I'm not sure why. But this book about the soldier's experience during D-Day and more has been absolutely brilliant and fascinating. It's been so good to read a book without all the military jagon, maps, troop formations etc. This book very much focuses on the man in the trenches, the soldier on the ground and all the turmoil, feelings and experiences they are going through. Some of the stories of everyday soldier are just brilliant. I'm not sure if I'll ever forget the double agent allowed to cycle up and down the enemy lines mapping out the terrain, buildings etc to help out the allied forces in full cyling gear.
The stories range from the highs to the lows and the comaradery and experience really come through to the reader from the writer. Milton clearly knows his stuff and is well informed as he goes through the day. I reviewed another book from Giles Milton, Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemenly Warfare, that was also brilliantly written and this book is no different. I would even go as far as to say that this book D-Day by Giles Milton is by far the best book that I have read this year. A must read for all. 5 stars.
The History of Women's Lives in Oxford
A History of Women’s Lives in Oxford is written by Nell Darby and published by Pen & Sword Books, one of a series of books looking at the lives of women in various towns and cities around the country.
Now you would expect a book about the history of women’s lives in Oxford to be a little dry and a tad bit boring, I mean when you think about what is Oxford famous for and you’ll probably say universities. But far from it indeed this is a very informative and interesting book looking at mainly the last 150 years, it covers various subjects from health to prisons and work life to education. It’s not just about middle class women who can attend university it’s is about many classes of women and how life has affected them in Oxford.
I probably enjoyed the chapter about work life the most as I always find this section the most interesting and there is usually more written about women in their work life than any other. While you would expect life in Oxford to quite appealing or a little non-descript, women who lived in Oxford had a hard life too, maybe not as much in other British cities like Liverpool of London, but women did still have to fight their way to the top here too.
This book is very good and informative, it also benefits the reader a lot in that it has a list of primary sources and references listed which gives that added quality feel to it that makes you think the book has been very well researched and sourced by the author Nell Darby.
This book is one I would recommend to others along with the other books in this series that has been published by Pen & Sword Books.
Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet
Written by Chris Paton and published by Pen & Sword History.
The author Chris Paton has provided an excellent guide and resource for conducting Irish research online. This book is so much more than a superficial list of obvious websites. The author has gone into great detail about the various resources available in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It's also broken into geographical sections to help you hone into a specific location. Another good thing that the book does is that it lists companies and trades to help you find what you need.
Don't expect a quick survey of what's available. This work is filled with a plethora of Irish websites and history, all described with clarity and purpose. This book is for the researcher who wants to leverage the tools of online research. Having previously done my own family history, which was Welsh and suffers the same as Irish names in that a majority can found under one surname. You need that little extra help in pushing you in the right direction.
I would strongly recommend this title if you are willing to do some serious Irish research on your ancestors, it will certainly get you that one step ahead of the rest.
Forgotten Royal Women is beautiful and well written book that looks back over the lives of women in the background of royal life. Some of the wives, mothers, sisters and cousins, the women who get forgotten about or written about. It’s like bringing their lives out of the cupboard for a change rather than just concentrating on the male protagonists. The author of the book looks at about 30 women and writes short, explanations and stories of their lives. Some down to earth and ‘normal’ and some rather surprising stories. These are all very well written but also interspersed with some little bits of humour.
What is also good about the book is that it is not just about English women there is information about English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish women which helps give the book a wider spectrum rather than it being dominated by English royalty. Unlike the majority of royal books about Kings and Queens, where your informed of all the battles, politics and ruling of various crowns. This book tells us of the stories and politics that went on in the background surrounding the female members of the families of the time. What also makes the book ideal is that it covers such a long time span from Scota 1400BC to Princess Charlotte in 1796.
In conclusion, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in royal history or women’s history. I would say that it is fascinating to read all the little biographies, with some that you can quite sympathise with. If there is anything that I would have liked, would have been that the biographies were a little longer or more in-depth, on the odd occasion just as you were getting to a story it was ending. I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.