Military history

Splinter on the Tide

Splinter on the Tide

Author: Phillip Parotti Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/07/2021

There is a great deal to commend this engaging account of a WWII sailor’s life. For those who are fans of punctilious attention to naval and nautical detail, there is plenty here. For anyone who enjoys a sense of the era, the use of language in the dialogue and prose, and the descriptions of the food and clothing of 1940’s East Coast USA are spot on.  Fitting somewhere between a ‘how to’ guide and personal log, Splinter on the Tide gives an enlightening overview of the personal, personnel and service politics that determine a small vessel’s safety and success. Through the particularly well drawn character of Lt. (j.g.) Ashford Miller, USNR, the responsibilities, morality and attention to detail required for command are illustrated with both an endearing lightness and depth of understanding. While the tension is delivered in calm, understated measures, partially due to Parotti’s multi-conditional prose style and emphasis on small-business scene settings, the narrative zips along and truly engages, in the manner of a light, less “clipped accent” version of the 1942 British patriotic war film In Which We Serve. What prevents this from being a humdrum military tale is the crisp sense of verisimilitude, coupled with a delightfully tender, wistful timbre. It is at heart a respectful and honourable rendering of the countless heroes, whose brave and diligent duty protected the convoys of merchant shipping that were the traffic of much needed supplies during those bleak and dangerous years.  Many publications in this area glamorise the dynamic and the duty. Splinter on the Tide has no need to do so, its quiet, unpretentious tone does trick very nicely indeed.

The Commandos: Set Europe Ablaze

The Commandos: Set Europe Ablaze

Author: Dick Camp Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/07/2021

Richard Camp served as a US Marine officer for 26 years before retiring in 1988. After retiring, he became the Deputy Director of the Marine Corps' History Division and then Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's VP for Museum Operations at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. He is an accomplished historian with over 150 published articles and 14 books to his name covering military subjects from WWII through to more recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Commandos is Camp’s first venture into fiction. The author’s detailed knowledge of US Marine Corps history, procedure and language combined with meticulous research combine to create a highly authentic story set in the early part of WWII where a small group of Marines are posted to train with the newly created British commando forces. As their training draws near to completion, the team is notified of an urgent mission to test their newly acquired skills. They must destroy a radar facility on the German-held of Alderney off the coast of France. This is a novel for all enthusiasts of military fiction. As with all such books, if they are a good enough read, the reader is drawn into the story through the medium of fiction and then, as the story progresses you find yourself learning about the people, their training methods, the procedures and all manner of other fascinating aspects pertinent to the time. A really excellent book. Good characters, a great story and a fascinating insight into the lives of our first special-forces soldiers.

The Pathfinders

The Pathfinders

Author: Will Iredale Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/07/2021

From the opening pages describing the BBC outside broadcast recording of a nightingale singing in cellist Beatrice Harrison’s garden in Surrey as bombers pass overhead en route to Germany, Iredale makes it clear that he has done the work and is truly engaged with and passionate about his subject. From every small detail that he includes - the bombers mentioned above were heading for Mannheim and the BBC broadcast was cancelled for fear that it would warn the Nazis of their arrival – it is clear that Iredales’s aim is to honour and record the bravery of the Pathfinders as much as to give a clear account of their formation, training, equipment and role in making Bomber Command an effective force in restricting Nazi Germany’s industrial war output. Any book on the subject of wartime bombing runs the risk of glorifying destruction and disrespecting the dead. Iredale avoids this by taking great pains to treat the subject with compassion and objectivity. He features accounts of those who were on the ground on both sides as bombs landed, treating the stories of both with empathy and without judgment, while not shying away from hard truths. The stories of those who formed the units, and those who supported them, together with excellent attention to detail regarding military, technical and aviation facts and history, are drawn together through Iredale’s gift for compelling narrative which weaves tales of love and fear, bravery and failure through every chapter. With great intelligence, dignity and grace, The Pathfinders, gives voices to the voiceless. It is a worthy and admirable testament to the 20,000 from across the Commonwealth who signed up to carry out duties that many of us today would consider utterly unimaginable. The LoveReading LitFest invited Will Iredale to the festival to talk about The Pathfinders. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival.   What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.   

Dutch Girl

Dutch Girl

Author: Robert Matzen Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Thoughtfully, in fact beautifully handled, this is an absolutely fascinating look at the early life of Audrey Hepburn as she lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Ask me to name my favourite Movie Stars and Audrey Hepburn would appear. I have watched her films and read biographies detailing her life, she made a difference both with her art and her humanitarian work. This book takes you to the time before she became a movie star, a time that has previously been invented and misinterpreted in accounts. In Dutch Girl, the detailed historical explanation of the Second World War flows over and around Audrey, allowing you to see just why and how she became the woman so much admired around the world. The foreword by Audrey’s son Luca Dotti actually tells you everything you need to know about this biography, he thanks author Robert Matzen, calling the book a true gift. The preface tells you a little about the meticulous research carried out for Dutch Girl, Robert Matzen says that his investigation took many twists and turns and also provided surprising answers. He has located quotes from Audrey about the Second World War, has included new interviews, and used archives to form a detailed, compelling account. The photos are fascinating and act as a visual support to what is already a vivid biography. Entering this book enables you to touch history, to feel the effects of the war as it would have affected Audrey. If you’re just looking for glitz and glamour you most certainly won’t find it here. Dutch Girl is the most compassionate and wise book, it takes you beyond and behind the image of the Hollywood star, to what lay beneath.   

Star Books
Aftermath

Aftermath

Author: Harald Jähner Format: Hardback Release Date: 17/06/2021

Germany, 1945: a country in ruins. Cities have been reduced to rubble and more than half of the population are where they do not belong or do not want to be. How can a functioning society ever emerge from this chaos? In bombed-out Berlin, Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, journalist and member of the Nazi resistance, warms herself by a makeshift stove and records in her diary how a frenzy of expectation and industriousness grips the city. The Americans send Hans Habe, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist and US army soldier, to the frontline of psychological warfare - tasked with establishing a newspaper empire capable of remoulding the minds of the Germans. The philosopher Hannah Arendt returns to the country she fled to find a population gripped by a manic loquaciousness, but faces a deafening wall of silence at the mention of the Holocaust. Aftermath is a nuanced panorama of a nation undergoing monumental change. 1945 to 1955 was a raw, wild decade poised between two eras that proved decisive for Germany's future - and one starkly different to how most of us imagine it today. Featuring black and white photographs and posters from post-war Germany - some beautiful, some revelatory, some shocking - Aftermath evokes an immersive portrait of a society corrupted, demoralised and freed - all at the same time.

Three Days In June

Three Days In June

Author: James O'Connell, Lieutenant General Sir Hew Pike Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

James (Scouse) O’Connell was a 22-year old Private in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment when, along with his fellow soldiers, he was deployed to the Falklands to engage the Argentinian invaders. Three days in June describes the last few days of the war when 3 Para fought the battle of Mount Longdon. By the time the battle was over, 23 of their number were dead and 48, wounded. Sergeant Ian McKay was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. James O’Connell was left with life-changing injuries, the result of a bullet that entered his face through his nose and removed his cheek-bone and right eye. Candid, gritty and, at times, gruesome, this is a warts ‘n’ all account by the young men who were there, and told in their words. This makes the book all the more readable as it’s the perceptions, the humour, the fears, the honesty and the sheer heroism of these men that shines through.  From the moment I opened the first page of the hardback, I suspected I was going to be in for a treat. The book looks and feels of very high quality and the content certainly delivered.  A book for anyone with even the remotest interest in military history, this is a book to savour, enjoy and then have pride of place on any bookshelf. 

Star Books
Old Testament Warriors

Old Testament Warriors

Author: Simon Elliott Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/05/2021

Dr. Elliott states in his introduction to this fascinating volume that his ambition is bold; “…to detail conflict from the beginning of warfare itself in the Near East and Middle East from around 9000 BC through to the onset of the Classical period around 500 BC.” Bold indeed, and delivered in such crisp and well ordered chapters that Old Testament Warriors is as much master class in concision as it is admirable in its comprehensiveness. Starting out with clear definitions for how humanity has organised settlements and communities, to what warfare is, “the extreme end of organised aggression… involving a stratified polity”, Elliott treats us to a whistle-stop tour of every major civilisation that grew or protected itself through armed conflict across nigh on nine millennia. With an attention to detail that encompasses styles of armour, the game changing effects of the compound bow and various developments in chariot technology, together with brief analyses of who was responsible for them, - in the case of chariots, the Hyksos, the Hurrians and the Mitanni in the 2nd millennium BC – Elliott also presents fascinating facts about the sizes and structures of various armies and how and by whom power over and control of them was handled. For a non- academic reader interested in the history of organised warfare, this is an eye-opening, absorbing book written by an author who knows and loves his subject and who has the means and skill to communicate his knowledge crisply, clearly and with great verve.   Albert Einstein famously said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it” That Elliot is able to cover such huge tracts of geography and chronology in such a compact volume shows that he is the master of his subject. And what an enthralling subject it is.

No Moon as Witness

No Moon as Witness

Author: James Stejskal Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/05/2021

Working alone or in small cells, sometimes with local resistance groups, SOE and OSS agents bravely undertook missions behind enemy lines involving sabotage, subversion, organising resistance groups and intelligence-gathering.Notable successes included the destruction of a power station in France, the assassination of Himmler’s deputy and ending the Nazi atomic bomb program by destroying the heavy water plant at Vemork, Norway.  The life expectancy of an SOE wireless operator in occupied France was just six weeks.In No Moon as Witness, former Special-Forces soldier turned historian, James Stejskal, examines why these agencies were established, their training regimes and the ingenious inventions developed to enable agents to undertake their missions. There are a lot of books published about the SOE and OSS – many of them very thorough and detailed.  No Moon as Witness  is a more concise, more easily readable but nevertheless thorough account that benefits from the author’s particular knowledge and background as he applies his personal analysis to this important part of our military history. An excellent read.

The Bomber Mafia

The Bomber Mafia

Author: Malcolm Gladwell Format: Audiobook Release Date: 27/04/2021

In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell, author of New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers and host of the podcast Revisionist History, uses original interviews, archival footage and his trademark insight to weave together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard. As listeners hear these stories unfurl, Gladwell examines one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history. Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists had a different view. This “Bomber Mafia” asked: What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points—industrial or transportation hubs—cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal? In Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he employs all the production techniques that make Revisionist History so engaging, stepping back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asking, “Was it worth it?” The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives but may have spared more by averting a planned US invasion. Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. As a key member of the Bomber Mafia, Hansell’s theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather and human error. When he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.

Audiobooks of the Month
After the Wall Came Down

After the Wall Came Down

Author: Andrew Richards Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/03/2021

‘After the Wall Came Down’ is a well-researched account of how the British Army has changed, developed and adapted to the highly variable demands placed on it during the last 30 years. From regular deployment on the peace-keeping role in Northern Ireland to dealing with genocide in the Balkans, from rescue missions such as Sierra Leone through to wholesale war in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Never before has so much been asked of these young men and women. When our civil support services struggle, such as during flood, Fire Brigade strikes or the Foot and Mouth outbreak, it is the military our political leaders turn to in times of crisis. This book explains why we, the public, sleep soundly at night in the knowledge there are people out there who keep us safe. Andrew Richards provides a thoroughly absorbing account made all the more interesting due to the wide ranging contributions of men and women who were there, did the jobs, experienced the changes and often have the scars to prove it. An excellent read.

Neither Settler nor Native

Neither Settler nor Native

Author: Mahmood Mamdani Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/11/2020

British Academy Book Prize shortlist Making the radical argument that the nation-state was born of colonialism, this book calls us to rethink political violence and reimagine political community beyond majorities and minorities. In this genealogy of political modernity, Mahmood Mamdani argues that the nation-state and the colonial state created each other. In case after case around the globe-from the New World to South Africa, Israel to Germany to Sudan-the colonial state and the nation-state have been mutually constructed through the politicization of a religious or ethnic majority at the expense of an equally manufactured minority. The model emerged in North America, where genocide and internment on reservations created both a permanent native underclass and the physical and ideological spaces in which new immigrant identities crystallized as a settler nation. In Europe, this template would be used by the Nazis to address the Jewish Question, and after the fall of the Third Reich, by the Allies to redraw the boundaries of Eastern Europe's nation-states, cleansing them of their minorities. After Nuremberg the template was used to preserve the idea of the Jews as a separate nation. By establishing Israel through the minoritization of Palestinian Arabs, Zionist settlers followed the North American example. The result has been another cycle of violence. Neither Settler nor Native offers a vision for arresting this historical process. Mamdani rejects the criminal solution attempted at Nuremberg, which held individual perpetrators responsible without questioning Nazism as a political project and thus the violence of the nation-state itself. Instead, political violence demands political solutions: not criminal justice for perpetrators but a rethinking of the political community for all survivors-victims, perpetrators, bystanders, beneficiaries-based on common residence and the commitment to build a common future without the permanent political identities of settler and native. Mamdani points to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa as an unfinished project, seeking a state without a nation.

The White Ship

The White Ship

Author: Charles Spencer Format: Audiobook Release Date: 17/09/2020

PICKED AS A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020 BY THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, THE GUARDIAN, THE DAILY MAIL AND THE DAILY EXPRESS. The sinking of the White Ship in 1120 is one of the greatest disasters England has ever suffered. In one catastrophic night, the king’s heir and the flower of Anglo-Norman society were drowned and the future of the crown was thrown violently off course. In a riveting narrative, Charles Spencer follows the story from the Norman Conquest through to the decades that would become known as the Anarchy: a civil war of untold violence that saw families turn in on each other with English and Norman barons, rebellious Welsh princes and the Scottish king all playing a part in a desperate game of thrones. All because of the loss of one vessel – the White Ship – the medieval Titanic.

Audiobooks of the Month