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  #1  
Old 03-03-15, 02:17 PM
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Default Book Reviews Thread

Our original Book Recommendations thread had to be pulled because of copyright issues with some of the reviews which had been lifted from other sites without permission.

I feel that having such a thread is a useful tool for many of us. I certainly got some titles from the old thread which I enjoyed. So here's a new one.

Any reviews you submit must be written by yourself and not copy/pasted from elsewhere, unless you wrote the original. What we're looking for is a concise report on your enjoyment of each book, not a piece of Biblical proportions. If you've read a book please tell the rest of us what you thought of it so we can decide whether or not it's worth buying. Including sources and prices would also be a good thing.

To start us off I'll be copying some of my own original reviews from Amazon which I always duplicated here in any case. I've also made application to management to have some reviews transferred from the old thread but that would involve a lot of work which moderators might not have time for.
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Old 03-03-15, 02:26 PM
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The Flowers of the Forest: Scotland and the First World War
by Trevor Royle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98 from Amazon


A tremendously good read.

This was an interesting read which kept me absorbed for quite a few days because it warranted some passages being read more than once and considered before moving onto the next. Apart from some very glaring differences this is a book which could have been written about any part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland about the Great War. It leaves one in no doubt that we live in a different age now where the number of people who would voluntarily "answer the call" would be (in my opinion) bound to fall well short of the effort in 1914. Nor would the youth of today surrender themselves to conscription in the same way as the men of 1916 and onwards.

To those who know little or nothing of Scotland's effort this book will answer any questions such as the reasons why Scotland only had a very small number of Pals Battalions compared to regions with a similar population. (Apart from the two major cities of the day, most of the population lived in rural locations, scattered throughout the habitable part of the country.

From the socio-economic point of view the information Trevor Royle supplies is priceless. So many facts and figures but he keeps each chapter interesting and it's very hard to put the book down. I don't think there's any aspect of the effect 1914-1918 had on this sparsely populated country which has been left out and I commend it to anyone who has the tiniest interest in World War One, or Scotland, or both.
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Old 03-03-15, 02:31 PM
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Brasso, Blanco and Bull
by Tony Thorne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99 from Amazon

I read a lot of similar books and for that reason I wouldn't have missed this one for the world and am glad I have it on my bookshelf. That's probably the reason I found this book a little bland as well. If it had been the first such memoir I'd read I'd probably have loved it. As an ex-serviceman myself I know a lot of the things which go on in the army and in barrack rooms so very little surprises me but some things do give me a laugh. I didn't find enough of that in this book. So if you're a seasoned reader of memoirs you might want to know all of this in advance.

If you know nothing about National Service or the army then do order the book because it contains lots of useful and memorable information, some of which even I found quite useful. If you've never heard of the sort of things soldiers get up to then you'll very likely fall down laughing.
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Old 03-03-15, 05:42 PM
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Soldier: The Autobiography
by General Mike Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99 from Amazon

An interesting book from a General Officer who, despite his craggy looks, has never actually taken part in a war either as a combatant or commander. That's not to say he wouldn't have been capable. Given the outcome of conflicts he was involved in resolving, such as the Kosovo crisis, it's clear he had the ability as a divisional and corps commander to achieve results with a clear head and conventional as well as "out of the box" thinking.

I liked Mike Jackson's image as CGS and thought he was a great officer. Reading this book has reinforced that view. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the last chapter where he gives his vision for the future. I started to speed-read that but finished up closing the book and deeming it read. Only because it's history I'm interested in, not premonitions of what's to come.
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Old 03-03-15, 09:33 PM
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The First One Hundred Thousand.
By: Ian Hay
From: published originally about 1916 but can be easily obtained second hand in paperback, large print, hardback & e-book format from www.abebooks.co.uk.

Ian Hay is the pen name for Major John Hay Beith who was a second lieutenant in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in 1915. The book clearly demonstrates his fondness for the ordinary soldier during WW1 and his anecdotes display a keen sense of humour as well as astute observations of the characteristics of soldiers of all ranks. He is recalling his experiences during the early stages of WW1 in a light hearted manner which somehow manages to get over the pathos as well as the down to earth nature of the fighting man (who used a sense of humour as a counterbalance to the horror surrounding them). It is easy to read but does not detract from the hopelessness of war. Worth a read.
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Old 04-03-15, 02:37 PM
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Default ONE DAY IN AUGUST

ONE DAY IN AUGUST - The Untold Story Behind Canada’s Tragedy At Dieppe
By: David O’Keefe.
Pub. Alfred A Knopf, 2013. ISBN 9780345807694. CAD$35.00

On August 19, 1943, the largest Allied raid up to that date took place on the French coast. At that time, two Canadian Infantry Brigades, supported by Canadian Armour, British Royal Marine Commandos, American Rangers, ships of the Royal Navy and planes of the Royal Air Force began an all out assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe. For Canadians, this battle has painful significance because, much like the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, this charge resulted in horrendous casualties, seemed to accomplish nothing and in the ensuing years led writers and historians to question the official reasons given for the operation. Theories abound as to who was responsible for this debacle. The ground forces commander, Canadian Major General H. Roberts, Commander of the 2nd Canadian Division, would see his career stalled and find himself shunted out of combat to a training position. In 1995, with the release of declassified wartime documents, the author stumbled on a reference to Dieppe in relation to Signals Intelligence work done by a special unit, 30 Commando/30 Assault Unit. This was the unit formed by Commander Ian Fleming of the Royal Navy’s Naval Intelligence Division and ‘James Bond’ fame. Since then, the author has poured over tens of thousands of pages of released documents and put together a new view of Dieppe and the reasons behind Operation JUBILEE, as it was known. His research now reveals that, like other operations undertaken in Norway and France, the driving motive was to steal or “pinch” German naval codes, ‘Enigma’ coding machines and related signals material under the cover of a general raid. This stolen material would allow the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, Britain’s wartime code breaking centre, to read orders to German naval units, particularly U-boats, operating in the North Atlantic. After initial breaking these codes, the introduction of a better Enigma machine reduced the English ability to read and react to German intentions to nothing. Convoy losses soared and the fear was that England would be reduced to submission without the supplies to continue the fight. This information was the famed ULTRA intelligence that only the highest levels of government and military had access to. As a result, anything to do with ULTRA was closely guarded until acknowledged by the U.K. in the 1970’s. The author lays out all the pieces in order from the start of the war until the raid and its aftermath in a very readable style and the book is well illustrated with pictures and maps. It is highly recommended for those interested in WW II or Canadian military history, cryptography history or Commando operations.

(Can't recall seeing a review of this book in the old thread, so I thought I'd post one that I wrote last year for another collector journal)
(Checked Amazon. They have copies available; hard back,new&used-$23 to $44 and paperback,new&used-$23 to $39)
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Last edited by Ian B; 05-03-15 at 02:18 PM. Reason: extra info
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Old 04-03-15, 05:33 PM
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The First Day on the Somme
By: Martin Middlebrook
Amazon - £10.68 but Abebooks has many second hand copies for 68p

Returning home from Holiday in France, Martin Middlebrook found himself passing through the Somme. He was overawed and humbled by the number of Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries and was intrigued by the fact that they varied in size from a few graves right upto to those such as Serre No 2 which has several thousand.. He was moved by the sight to write a book which would concentrate on one day only of the battle - 1st July 1916. He interviewed many soldiers who took part in the horrendous events of that day and used their accounts to weave together an account of the battle at different parts of the front line throughout the day from 7.30 in the morning right through to late evening. The result is a book that tears at the emotions and is almost impossible to put down. Anyone who intends to visit the Somme battlefield will find that the book will enrich their experience. It is no surprise that military historians voted the book the best one ever written about World War 1.
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Old 04-03-15, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charliedog012012 View Post
The First Day on the Somme
By: Martin Middlebrook
Amazon - £10.68 but Abebooks has many second hand copies for 68p

Returning home from Holiday in France, Martin Middlebrook found himself passing through the Somme. He was overawed and humbled by the number of Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries and was intrigued by the fact that they varied in size from a few graves right upto to those such as Serre No 2 which has several thousand.. He was moved by the sight to write a book which would concentrate on one day only of the battle - 1st July 1916. He interviewed many soldiers who took part in the horrendous events of that day and used their accounts to weave together an account of the battle at different parts of the front line throughout the day from 7.30 in the morning right through to late evening. The result is a book that tears at the emotions and is almost impossible to put down. Anyone who intends to visit the Somme battlefield will find that the book will enrich their experience. It is no surprise that military historians voted the book the best one ever written about World War 1.
I have the hardback edition of this. I bought it from a book club when I was still serving - round about 1980. It probably cost me about five or ten quid at the time. In those days it was hard going to read but it's due a re-read round about now along with one or two others I haven't opened, except for reference, over the last 20 or 30 years. I note that Amazon have the paperback for as little as 1p plus P&P: a marvellous price. Hardcover from £10.70.
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  #9  
Old 16-03-15, 05:40 PM
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All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945. Paperback. By Max Hastings

Prince on Amazon from 1p plus P&P.

I've read a few books by Hastings and although I stand by a lot of his opinions I'm not a huge fan of his but this book is definitely worth having. It's an overview of the conflict by zone/front and it's certainly packed with useful facts. At the price it's being offered it's not going to hurt your pocket either.

It's got to be ten out of ten for this one and it's rare I would say that.
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  #10  
Old 16-03-15, 07:00 PM
Michael Dorosh Michael Dorosh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charliedog012012 View Post
The First Day on the Somme
By: Martin Middlebrook
Amazon - £10.68 but Abebooks has many second hand copies for 68p

It is no surprise that military historians voted the book the best one ever written about World War 1.
Which military historians did that? Do we get to choose every year, or is it bi-annually?

Did you have some details on how this was done?

I've met Mr. Middlebrook on a couple of occasions and discussed his Somme book with him on one of them. I think even he would be at least a little surprised to hear that he had been voted "best ever."
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Old 17-03-15, 11:20 AM
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Having just re read my post, I can readily understand its misinterpretation and I accept also that I should have made the comment much clearer. A number of years ago I read an article in either a newspaper or magazine in which a number of well known military writers had been invited to suggest a book that they considered to be not only a good book but one which they had enjoyed reading and then to suggest which book they thought was the best they had read. Obviously there was a wide range of books but the majority thought that the Martin Middlebrook book was their favourite. It was simply an article to raise the awareness of the many books out there. It was certainly not intended to be an award or a competition, merely something of interest to readers. If I have confused that, then I sincerely apologise. Perhaps it would have been better to say 'a group of historians'..... Hope that this clarifies the issue. I do say that on reading the book I agreed with the opinion of the writers. The book inspired my interest in WW1 and after many years that interest remains undiminished and I am grateful to Martin Middlebrook for that.
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Old 24-03-15, 08:51 PM
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Default THE GREAT ESCAPE

THE GREAT ESCAPE - A CANADIAN STORY
By: Ted Barris
Pub.: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2013

Most of us are familiar with the story of the mass escape from the German POW camp, Stalag Luft III, either from reading Paul Brickhill's book, "the Great Escape" or watching the film of the same name. I would like to draw your attention to this latest telling of the story, written by a Canadian, and focusing on the Canadian flyers who played a pivotal role in the escape organization in the camp. Author Ted Barris has drawn on several published and unpublished memoirs and interviews of former POWs to give us a new look at this story. He draws together the whole story of several Canadian POWs from their early life and enrollment, through their battles and imprisonment, their work in supporting the escape and, finally their release and life after they returned home. I found the book to be a very interesting read and can recommend it to the other members.

(Available through Amazon.com - used or new from $8.20)
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The day the government succeeds in taking away our dress uniforms, badges and colours, and all the so called "non-functional" items; they will find themselves with an army that cannot defend them. Robert Heinlein, "Starship Troopers"
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Old 25-03-15, 04:25 PM
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Prisoner of the Rising Sun by Stanley Wort
Hardback

Bought from Amazon for one penny plus £2.85 P&P

This is one man's memoir of his time in the Royal Navy in Hong Kong and as a captive of the Japanese, during WW2.

If you've read a lot of such memoirs (as I have) you'll find that much of what Mr Wort says matches up with the tales of others. He didn't slave on the Burma Railway however but rather was taken to work in factories in Japan whilst being starved almost to death.

The books is more a series of anecdotes than a chronological memoir and the author points this out in a preface; so in that respect it's rather like being told a selection of tales of the war by your granddad.

I enjoyed this book. I'd call it a light read and not too long either. If there was one fault, and it was a minor one, but pernickety me has to point it out: whoever the proof reader was in Pen & Sword Books the day this went through should be shot as some of the spelling is atrocious and I wonder how it ever got passed for printing. It didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book.
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  #14  
Old 27-03-15, 04:44 PM
Alex Rice Alex Rice is offline
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Default The Battle on the Lomba 1987

THE BATTLE ON THE LOMBA 1987
By: David Mannall

This is a story of a National Serviceman in South Africa's bush war in the 80s. It's a great read and it's amazing to see what some of SA's conscripts achieved, bearing in mind they were not volunteers but were drafted to be there. Available at davidmannall.com in the UK.
Cheers,
Alex
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Old 26-09-15, 07:19 PM
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Default CHURCHILL'S GERMAN ARMY

CHURCHILL’S GERMAN ARMY, by Helen Fry. History Press, 2007.
An interesting book on a subject which I knew nothing about. Drawing on oral histories, published and unpublished memoirs, the author has put together a fascinating look at the lives of several of the thousands of German and Austrian citizens who enlisted in Britain’s war time services. Most arrived in England before the start of the war and once hostilities started, found themselves interned as “enemy aliens”. Given the chance in 1940 to enlist, they joined the only non-combatant unit open to them, the Pioneer Corps. Later, many were able to transfer to fighting units, mostly Army, but some to the RN and RAF. After the war, many were to assist in the de-Nazification process and help rebuild Germany and Austria. Many were granted British citizenship in 1946-47 and made their lives in England. A fascinating story and recommended. 236 p. with bibliography & end notes. 16 p. of photos. Available on Amazon.
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The day the government succeeds in taking away our dress uniforms, badges and colours, and all the so called "non-functional" items; they will find themselves with an army that cannot defend them. Robert Heinlein, "Starship Troopers"

Last edited by Ian B; 26-09-15 at 10:47 PM.
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