Pen & Sword Books

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

STUG III Brigade 191 - The Buffalo Brigade

STUG III Brigade 191 The Buffalo Brigade written by Bruno Bork and published by Greenhill Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 311

Based on their experiences during the First World War, the Reichswehr decided that the infantry support gun of the future should be an armoured, motorized vehicle with an effective calibre of cannon: the Sturmgeschütz III. The weapon was used in the ‘fire brigade role’ at hotspots along the Front, where it was much feared by enemy forces.

This illustrated volume tells the tale of Brigade 191, aka the ‘Buffalo Brigade’, who used the Sturmgeschütz III as they took part in Operation Barbarossa in the Ukraine, saw action during the fight for Greece in 1941 and were deployed to the areas of heaviest fighting in the campaign against the Soviet Union. This began with the infantry advance from Ukraine to Moscow (1941): then to Voronezh, Kursk, the Caucasus and Kuban (1942), then the Kertsch Peninsula and the Crimea (1943-1944), before they were finally evacuated from Sevastopol into Romania by naval lighters. On the South-east Front (the retreat through the Balkans), the Brigade fought its way into Austria and was still fighting on the last day of the war to keep a corridor open.

Keen to write an account recording the tactical significance of the Sturmgeschütz III, while surviving members of Brigade 191 also wished for a cohesive documentary record of the war, Bork set about gathering military records and literature, as well as interviewing as many ex-Brigade men as possible, in order to bring this detailed account into being.

A fascinating book indeed that tells the story of German troops in the German army serving with Brigade 191. This unit served from as far as the Balkans and Greece to Moscow and Kursk. Through the thoughts and opinions of first-hand accounts of German soldiers this book clearly reveals the harshness of life and conditions serving in this unit and the devastating encounters they faced and endured. We now see more and more of these books detailing the ‘other side’ of the story by giving us the opinions and evidence of the German side, an excellent thing as this can only give us a better and fuller picture of important events. This book is well written by the author Bruno Bork and I must say that the book contains a great number of photographs which I think do the book much credit and appeal. I would happily recommend this book to others, especially those interested in German first-hand accounts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Pen & Sword Books

The origin of Pen and Sword Books is closely linked with its sister company, the Barnsley Chronicle; one of the UK’s oldest provincial newspapers – established in 1858 – and one of the few weeklies still in private ownership.

The first books published by the company were in response to public demand following of a series of articles published in the newspaper:- Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks told the story of crash sites in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park, and a further weekly feature on the history of two Kitchener battalions, known as the Barnsley Pals, aroused a thirst for more information. Over the years these books have been reprinted a number of times and have collectively sold around 20,000 copies.

Following on from the success of Dark Peak Wrecks and Barnsley Pals books, a number of local history paperbacks were produced along with a series of battlefield guide books. Battleground Europe proved immediately successful and as more and more titles were produced the company made the decision to launch a book publishing arm of the group.

The company acquired the Leo Cooper military history imprint and “Pen and Sword” was born. Leo Cooper, the husband of the famous novelist Jilly, had established a strong reputation for publishing military history titles and had some famous books in his list. With the Leo Cooper imprint and its backlist, Pen and Sword became established as one of the UK’s leading military history publishers.

Over recent years Pen and Sword have continued to grow and has added new imprints to its core area of military history, as well as publishing the majority of its catalogue digitally in eBook format. Pen and Sword specialises in all areas of military history, naval and maritime, aviation, local history, genealogy, social history, transport, discovery and exploration, archaeology, nostalgia and true crime. In 2017, a new lifestyle imprint named White Owlwas launched, which publishes books on areas such as health and diet, hobbies and sport, gardening and wildlife and space.

With over 350 books published every year, Pen and Sword has established itself as a specialist book publisher.

(From the book publisher: Pen & Sword Books) - If your interested in any of the books on this website, just click on the above P&S logo to take you direct there.

The Newcastle Commercials

The Newcastle Commercials written by Ian S. Johnson, edited by Nigel Cave and published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Softcover – Pages 680

The planning for the raising of what was to become 16th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, started within two days of the outbreak of the war. The initial efforts took on a more professional look within a month, when the Newcastle Chambers of Commerce set about raising money and aiming to raise several battalions in response to Lord Kitchener’s call for men.The outcome was a Pals battalion, the 1st Newcastle Commercials.

Arriving in France at the end of 1915, the battalion, like so many others of its type, had its first experience of a major action on the Somme on 1st July 1916, in its case in the forlorn attempt to capture the German front line village of Thiepval. The outcome is well known; a disaster that ravaged the battalion’s ranks. However, the battalion was reinforced, reorganised and took its part in actions at Ovillers and along the Ancre as the battle grinder on over the next four and a half months.

In 1917 it was involved in the advance on the Hindenburg Line and was then transferred to the North Sea coast, with the intention of taking part in the daring plan to launch a major amphibious landing behind the German lines in the summer. This was thwarted by a masterly pre-emptive German counterstroke. By the end of the year the battalion was engaged in operations in the northern part of the Salient after the Battle of Third Ypres (Passchendaele) had formally ended. In early February 1918 the battalion was disbanded as part of a general reorganisation of the BEF, which saw divisions losing three of their twelve infantry battalions.

In outline it is a common story; but, as for all the Pals battalions, its unusual origins and its very close connection to a local area, in this case, Newcastle, provides an enduring fascination for today’s generation. Ian Johnson has worked extraordinarily hard to gather documents from members of the battalion – letters, diaries and recollections – as well as numerous photographs. He has prepared extensive appendices on its membership and its casualties. The outcome is a fitting tribute to these young men from Newcastle men of a century ago who, for whatever motive, answered their country’s call, all too many of whom paid for it with their lives or their health.

This book basically tells you the whole story of the Newcastle Commercials, 16th (S) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers in the Great War. We have here every single detail you could ask for here from the house to the kitchen sink thrown in too. It looks at the soldiers, the war, battles they were involved in, the stories, the achievements the honours and the history. There is so much information and detail, this book has been written as if it’s someone’s life’s work, so huge credit to the author and editor. Also in the book is a wealth of photographs, diagrams and newspaper adverts etc following the battalion which gives the book a good bit of credit. This is a  hugely impressive book an awesome book to recommend to others who love their Great War history.

The Last German Victory – Operation Market Garden 1944

The Last German Victory – Operation Market Garden 1944 written by Aaron Bates published by Pen & Sword Books – £20.00 – Hardback – Pages 216

Operation Market Garden – the Allied airborne invasion of German-occupied Holland in September 1944 – is one of the most famous and controversial Allied failures of the Second World War. Many books have been written on the subject seeking to explain the defeat. Historians have generally focused on the mistakes made by senior commanders as they organized the operation. The choice of landing zones has been criticized, as has the structure of the airlift plan. But little attention has been paid to the influence that combat doctrine and training had upon the relative performance of the forces involved. And it is this aspect that Aaron Bates emphasizes in this perceptive, closely argued and absorbing re-evaluation of the battle.

As he describes each phase of the fighting he shows how German training, which gave their units a high degree of independence of action, better equipped them to cope with the confusion created by the surprise Allied attack. In contrast, the British forces were hampered by their rigid and centralized approach which made it more difficult for them to adapt to the chaotic situation.
Aaron Bates’s thought-provoking study sheds fresh light on the course of the fighting around Arnhem and should lead to a deeper understanding of one of the most remarkable episodes in the final stage of the Second World War in western Europe.

This book is about one of those events that as allies we should have won, if there is one part of the war that gets everyone’s attention it is Operation Market Garden, and although there were some good points and acts of British heroism, there was also a large number of mistakes that cost lives. But this looks at events from the opposite view, from the German viewpoint. It’s always a good book when it looks at the whole picture rather than just the one side because so much more is revealed. Now I must admit to really enjoying reading about Operation Market Garden and this is a great book to add to that collection.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the way it was laid out, in that it gives you the events as they happened but then also the events from both sides as to how it played out, the book then looks at a number of the situations that occurred and then eventually comes to a conclusion which I found very balanced. Supporting the book is about 20 black and white photographs with great detailed descriptions that comes with them, a great addition to the book. An excellent piece of work by the author and a book I would highly recommend.

Alexander the Great versus Julius Caesar - Who was the Greatest Commander of the Ancient World

Alexander the Great versus Julius Caesar - Who was the Greatest Commander in the Ancient World written by Simon Elliott and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 264

In the annals of ancient history the lights of Alexander the Great and Gaius Julius Caesar shine brighter than any other, inspiring generations of dynasts and despots with their imperial exploits. Each has been termed the greatest military leader of the ancient world, but who actually was the best? In this new book Dr Simon Elliott first establishes a set of criteria by which to judge the strategic and tactical genius of both. He then considers both in turn in brand-new, up-to-date military biographies, starting with Alexander, undefeated in battle and conqueror of the largest empire the world had seen by the age of 26. Next Caesar, the man who played the crucial role in expanding Roman territory to the size which would later emerge as the Empire under his great-nephew, adopted son and heir Augustus. The book’s detailed conclusion sets each of their military careers against the criteria set out earlier to finally answer the question: who was the greatest military leader in the ancient world?

This book Alexander the Great versus Julius Caesar reminds me of my childhood days when I would sit with my mates playing Top Trump cards, trying to see who had the best card depending on which attributes you picked. In a way, this is what this cool looking book does in that it takes the attributes of the lives of these two great individuals of history and compares each man against each other. In this beautifully written book, the author Simon Elliott looks at compartments of each individual in each chapter, so we have Alexander’s empire, his life, the Macedonian Army and then Alexander’s campaigns and battles. Then in the second half of the book, he looks at Caesar’s Roman Republic, life, Roman Army, campaigns and battles. 

This then leaves the reader with a neatly stacked up list of achievements to compare, which is then neatly drawn to a conclusion by Simon Elliott. Now I can’t give the game away here and reveal what the conclusion is, you should find out by following this link and purchasing your own copy of this book: Alexander the Great versus Julius Caesar But Simon Elliott makes some very valid points and detailed conclusions in what I would say is a fantastic book and certainly a format Pen & Sword Books should use in other books or maybe other individuals in history. I would like to say that if your after an informed and comprehensive book about two of military history’s leading figures, this is the book you want. I would like to thank Rosie at Pen & Sword Books for allowing me to review this excellent book.

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...