Pen & Sword Books

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Battle of Reichswald - Rhineland - February 1945

The Battle of the Reichswald Rhineland - February 1945 written by Tim Saunders and published by Pen & Sword Books - £22 - Hardback - Pages 211

During winter 1944/45 few German officers believed that the Allies would attack the wooded

Reichswald Plug on the narrow neck of land between the rivers Rhine and Maas.

Consequently, relying on the natural defences of the forest, the vaunted Siegfried Line had

been allowed to peter out. The 84th Infantry Division held field defences that had been worked

on all autumn, but the defenders were thinly spread, and most German soldiers now faced

the certainty of defeat.

Originally hoping to use the frozen winter ground for a speedy assault, days before Operation

VERITABLE began a thaw set in and the Allies faced attacking in the worst possible ground

conditions. On the morning of 8 February, after protracted bombardment, delays multiplied as

vehicles became bogged in saturated fields and shell holes, and roads broke up under heavy

armour. However, just enough assault engineer equipment reached the outer German

defences, where they found the enemy infantry largely stunned by the bombardment.

It took all of the first day to break through the mud and defences into the Reichswald,

while to the north, Canadians and Scots struggled across equally sodden open country

with the Rhine floods rising fast. Despite the conditions, overnight the Canadians took to

the flood waters to seize what were now island villages and the Scots dashed to capture

the vital Materborn, which overlooked Kleve.

With heavy rain compounding difficulties, mud and flood waters made movement of men

and supplies increasingly difficult. Despite this and the arrival of German reinforcements,

the Allies fought their way forward, forcing the Reichswald Plug and opening the way into

the Rhineland and the final phases of the war.

The Battle of the Reichswald was a major battle fought between the Allies and the

Germans in February 1945, during the final stages of World War II. The battle took

place in the Reichswald forest, a large wooded area in the Rhineland region of

Germany. The Allies were attempting to break through the German Siegfried Line,

a series of defensive fortifications that ran along the German border. The author Tim

Saunders' book is a comprehensive and well-researched account of the battle.

Saunders draws on a wide range of sources, including official records and personal

accounts. He provides a detailed and balanced account of the battle, and he does not

shy away from the huge human cost of the war.

Overall, I thought that The Battle of the Reichswald was a well-written and

informative book. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the detailed

history of World War II.

The Three Battles of El Alamein

The Three Battles of El Alamein written by Jon Diamond and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £18.99 - Softcover - Pages 232

The 80th Anniversary of the historic final Battle of El Alamein is the ideal time to study the events leading up to General Bernard Montgomery’s famous victory over Field Marshal Rommel’s Panzerarmee Africa in Autumn 1942.

Four months earlier after the loss of Tobruk , Rommel’s forces were in the ascendancy. Prime

Minister Winston Churchill removed General Auchinleck from Command of Eighth Army and

appointed Bernard Montgomery in his place. After the successful defence of Alam El Halfa

Ridge in late August and early September ended Rommel’s inexorable advance, Montgomery

set in train plans for the set piece offensive campaign at El Alamein which took place between

23 October and 4 November 1942.

The stakes could not have been higher. Had Rommel broken through the Allied defences in

Summer 1942 or Montgomery’s forces not overwhelmed the German and Italian armies at

El Alamein, Egypt and the Suez Canal would have fallen to the Nazis.

Instead, the victory at El Alamein proved to be the turning point of the War against Hitler

and led to the victory in North Africa.

A really good book in the Images of War series. This book covers the three battles

at El Alamein through excellent information and detail, and is supported by a larger

than usual book of rare excellent photographs. The book covers the three battles

but also the weapons and vehicles used and the characters involved in the conflict.

An excellent book very worthy of being part of the series.

Monday, April 17, 2023

HMS Turbulent

HMS Turbulent written by Stephen Wynn and published by Pen & Sword Books

- £22 - Hardback - Pages 280

HMS Turbulent was a Royal Navy T-class submarine. From its launch in May 1941 to when it was lost at sea, along with its entire crew, in March 1943, it was responsible for the sinking of nearly 100,000 tons of enemy shipping.

Besides the number of enemy vessels it sunk, HMS Turbulent has gone down in history for the attack on the Italian merchant vessel the Nino Bixio, which at the time was carrying more than 3,000 Allied POWS who had been captured during the fighting in North Africa.

Having left the Libyan port of Benghazi on 16 August 1942, accompanied by the Italian cargo vessel the Sestriere, the Nino Bixio was attacked the following day. A total of 336 Allied POWs, most of whom were either Australian or New Zealanders, were killed or died of their wounds in the explosion.

Although badly damaged, the Nino Bixio stayed afloat and was towed to Navarino, in southern Greece, where the surviving POWs disembarked. The wounded were treated in hospital, while the rest were shipped on to POW camps in Bari, Italy.

Although there have been different theories put forward as to how HMS Turbulent met its end off the Italian coast in 1943, there is still no absolute certainty as to where, when and how the boat and its crew were lost.

This was an interesting story to read and I have to say that a good number of Pen & Sword Books produce such interesting books, such stories where there is little publicity of it or is rarely mentioned. For example this book, I had never heard of but now I have and I am thankful for that and I remember the author wrote The Shetland Bus, another great book on a subject I had never heard of. This book covers the little known story of HMS Turbulent which sank an Italian ship, the Nino Bixio which was carrying 336 POW’s, but then the HMS Turbulent would soon be lost too. The author argues a number of possible causes to it’s demise which are very though provoking and interesting. An excellent book and easy to read, a recommended book on a largely forgotten story of WW2.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Battles that Created England 793-1100

The Battles that Created England 793-1100 written by Arthur C. Wright and

published by Frontline Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 256

In popular imagination the warfare of the Early Middle Ages is often obscure, unstructured,

and unimaginative, lost between two military machines, the ‘Romans’ and the ‘Normans’,

which saw the country invaded and partitioned. In point of fact, we have a considerable

amount of information at our fingertips and the picture that should emerge is one of

English ability in the face of sometimes overwhelming pressures on society, and a

resilience that eventually drew the older kingdoms together in new external responses

which united the ‘English’ in a common sense of purpose.

This is the story of how the Saxon kingdoms, which had maintained their independence for generations, were compelled to unite their forces to resist the external threat of the Viking incursions. The kingdoms of East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, Kent, Essex, Sussex, and Wessex were gradually welded into one as Wessex grew in strength to become the dominant Saxon kingdom.

From the weak Æthelred to the strong Alfred, rightly deserving the epithet ‘Great’, to the strong, but equally unfortunate, Harold, this era witnessed brutal hand-to-hand battles in congested melees, which are normally portrayed as unsophisticated but deadly brawls. In reality, the warriors of the era were experienced fighters often displaying sophisticated strategies and deploying complex tactics.

Our principal source, replete with reasonably reliable reportage, are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, comprehensive in collation though subject to oral distortion and mythological excursions. The narrative of these does not appear to flow continuously, leaving too much to imagination but, by creating a complementary matrix of landscapes, topography and communications it is possible to provide convincing scenery into which we can fit other archaeological and philological evidence to show how the English nation was formed in the bloody slaughter of battle.

A part of history that has little exposure in comparison to others, but lately even I have noticed an increase in awareness and exposure in recent years through books, films and documentaries. This book goes through various battles that would give England a solid and united basis to stand proud and become a bigger military power. The English counties that were previously staunchly independent, were united under Alfred the Great to take on the invading powers to be. The book is split into 42 chapters and all of them were a good and easy read with notes at the end of each chapter too, which I really enjoyed. Credit to the author who has done a good job and a book I have thoroughly enjoyed, in fact I can see myself re-reading this book a number of times in the future. An excellent book if you looking to get into early military history or if your a student of the subject, you will enjoy this book.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The Granddaughters of Edward III

The Granddaughters of Edward III written by Kathryn Warner and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 232

Edward III may be known for his restoration of English kingly authority after the disastrous

and mysterious fall of his father, Edward II, and eventual demise of his mother, Queen Isabella.

It was Edward III who arguably put England on the map as a military might. This show of

power and strength was not simply through developments in government, success in warfare

or the establishment of the Order of the Garter, which fused ideals of chivalry and national

identity to form camaraderie between king and peerage. The expansion of England as a

formidable European powerhouse was also achieved through the traditional lines of political

marriages, particularly those of the king of England’s own granddaughters.

This is a joint biography of nine of those women who lived between 1355 and 1440, and their dramatic, turbulent lives. One was queen of Portugal and was the mother of the Illustrious Generation; one married into the family of her parents' deadly enemies and became queen of Castile; one became pregnant by the king of England's half-brother while married to someone else, and her third husband was imprisoned for marrying her without permission; one was widowed at about 24 when her husband was summarily beheaded by a mob, and some years later bore an illegitimate daughter to an earl; one saw her marriage annulled so that her husband could marry a Bohemian lady-in-waiting; one was born illegitimate, had sixteen children, and was the grandmother of two kings of England.

I thought The Granddaughters of Edward III by Kathryn Warner was an excellent book in which I learnt quite a bit. The reader gets a look into the lives of four women who are the main people of the book: Philippa, Elizabeth, Mary & Isabella. The author Warner has told their stories very well and we get a good insight into their lives, it would seem that although it was very much a man’s world, these women certainly had a big say in the world too. I have read a number of Warner’s books and she writes so well about royal history and always makes the stories to read and follow. If you are a fan of the medieval period or Edward III, you will most certainly enjoy this book and get quite a bit out of it. My compliments to Warner for another great book.

Nazi UFO’s The Legends and Myths of Hitler’s Flying Saucers in WW2

Nazi UFO’s The Legends and Myths of Hitler’s Flying Saucers in WW2 written by S. D, Tucker and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 208

Nazi UFOs tells the strange tale of how, following the first alleged flying saucer sightings made in the USA in 1947, a series of fantasists and neo-fascists came forward to create a media myth that the Nazis may have invented these incredible craft as a means for winning the Second World War, a plan which was tantalisingly close to completion before the Allies conquered Berlin in 1945.

Today, the fantasy of Nazi UFOs has grown into an entire mythology in books, on TV

and online. Did Germany back-engineer anti-gravity craft, and even a full-blown

time-machine, by stripping technology from a crashed alien saucer? Did the SS

secretly invent ‘Green’ technology for use in their starship engines, and was this

planet-saving discovery later suppressed at the behest of a sinister Big Oil conspiracy?

Did Himmler try to develop ‘lightning weapons’ for use in aerial combat?

By contrasting the fake military-industrial pseudo-histories of Nazi UFO theorists with

details of real-life Nazi aerospace achievements, the author demonstrates both how this

modern-day mythology came about and how it cannot possibly be more than fractionally

true. For the first time, this fake ‘alternative military history’ is laid out in full.

This book features an appealing cast of con-men and spies, complete madmen, real-life Nazis and completely made-up ones, operating right across the globe from South America to wartime Europe and Japan. A good example may be the ‘mad professor’, Viktor Schauberger, who actually genuinely did manage to gain a personal audience with Adolf Hitler in order to try and convince him that he had discovered and then exploited some amazing new source of natural ‘free energy’ which could make objects (such as saucers, in the opinion of some) float. Hitler dismissed his plan, but it does nonetheless show how close some bizarre schemes came to being implemented in Nazi Germany.

I have to admit that reading this book was a bit like being stuck on the History Channel, and we all know how far downhill that has gone in the past decade. Now in reality the book does try to look at the possibility of UFO’s or at least UFO technology, it also looks at the scams and fake news that took part or that was promoted around the world, especially since WW2. I liked the fact that fake news was explored and that there were scams being perpetrated, and I suppose I enjoyed some of the info that got carried away with the prospect of UFO technology. I would recommend this book, as it does try to be balanced, but I imagine it might annoy others or they might not read it in the first place.

Review originally posted in October 2022

Monday, April 10, 2023

From Churchill's SAS to Hitler's Waffen-SS The Secret Wartime Exploits of Captain Douglas Berneville-Claye

From Churchill's SAS to Hitler's Waffen-SS The Secret Wartime Exploits of Captain Douglas Berneville-Claye written by Michael Scott and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 200

Captain Douglas Berneville-Claye was serving with the fledgling SAS with fellow officers

such as David Stirling and Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne when he was captured in the Western

Desert. He was ‘turned’ and became a member of the Nazi Waffen-SS. Collaboration

with the enemy was confirmed when dressed as an SS captain he approached remnants

of the British Free Corps; the Waffen-SS unit composed of renegade British nationals.

He exhorted them to serve under his command against Russian forces.

Post-war Berneville-Claye was investigated by MI5 for treachery. Following an Army court-martial he was dishonourably dismissed and sentenced to six months imprisonment. Upon release, his escapades and private life were no less contentious. A philanderer and bigamist, he married four times, sired ten children and rubbed shoulders with the criminal underworld in and out of prison. Eventually he succeeded in emigrating to Australia.

Thanks to the author’s painstaking research, this is a compelling yet shocking biography of one of the most intriguing, colourful and disreputable characters of his era. How he escaped with his life is a question readers will ponder.

This book about Captain Douglas Berneville-Claye was the type of character that you could describe as a bit of a rogue mixed with a bit of a scoundrel, mainly because he would seem to lie, cheat and be a bit of a conman. Originally he had joined the RAF, but then ended up joining the army where he managed to serve with the newly formed SAS. It couldn’t be argued that he was the most loyal person or showed much loyalty, but then I think he kind of did what was best for him in whatever circumstance he found himself in. He would eventually find himself captured in North Africa, but then changed sides and began working with the German Waffen-SS.

Eventually, after the war he would be investigated by the British authorities and imprisoned for working with the enemy. But it wasn’t just his work life that would be controversial, his life after being prosecuted would be difficult and sordid before he moved to Australia. I think if you were being positive you could say he was a bit of a ducker ‘n’ diver character, and if you were being negative you could say he was a con artist and turncoat. A fascinating story about a character I had never come across before, I imagine probably a difficult story to research from the author’s point of view, but a good book and read all together showing that life can take all sorts.

The Battle of Reichswald - Rhineland - February 1945

The Battle of the Reichswald Rhineland - February 1945 written by Tim Saunders and published by Pen & Sword Books - £22 - Hardback - Pag...