Pen & Sword Books

Monday, May 30, 2022

Zeppelin Inferno - The Forgotten Blitz 1916

Zeppelin Inferno - The Forgotten Blitz 1916 written by Ian Castle and published

by Frontline Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 400

At the beginning of 1916, as the world entered the second full year of global conflict, the cities, towns and villages of Britain continued to lay vulnerable to aerial bombardment. Throughout that period German Zeppelin airships and seaplanes had come and gone at will, their most testing opposition provided by the British weather as the country’s embryonic defences struggled to come to terms with this first ever assault from the air. Britain’s civilians were now standing on the frontline — the Home Front — like the soldiers who had marched off to war. But early in 1916 responsibility for Britain’s aerial defence passed from the Admiralty to the War Office and, as German air attacks intensified, new ideas and plans made dramatic improvements to Britain’s aerial defence capability.

While this new system could give early warning of approaching raiders, there was a lack of effective weaponry with which to engage them when they arrived. Behind the scenes, however, three individuals, each working independently, were striving for a solution. The results of their work were spectacular; it lifted the mood of the nation and dramatically changed the way this campaign was fought over Britain.

The German air campaign against Britain in the First World War was the first sustained strategic aerial bombing campaign in history. Despite this, it has become forgotten against the enormity of the Blitz of the Second World War, although for those caught up in the tragedy of these raids, the impact was every bit as devastating. In Zeppelin Inferno Ian Castle tells the full story of the 1916 raids in unprecedented detail in what is the second book in a trilogy that will reveal the complete story of Britain’s ‘Forgotten Blitz’.

A fascinating book about a fascinating subject in my own opinion. I have always found it staggering the size of Zeppelins and how these huge gigantic ships hang in the air. I used to live near RAF Cardington, Beds where they now keep I presume a couple of airships for promotional events and they are big, but much smaller than those used in the Great War. But it amazes me how if you were a child during WWI and you saw one of these coming over your town or area, must have left you in awe that these things were from a different planet. 

Ian Castle has written a really good book covering 20 chapters taking the evidential views and opinions of people at the time. The book follows the dates of the German blitz in and around the country, and we get to learn about the amount of damage caused. We also get essential eyewitness accounts and what it was like to experience these events and people’s thoughts. The accounts are good to read and really help inform the book and the subject, at the back of the book is also a number of blitz reports explaining who and how many died. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, a subject that doesn’t get the amount of attention it deserves.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

A History of Tri-ang and Lines Brothers Ltd

A History of Tri-ang and Lines Brothers Ltd written by Kenneth D. Brown and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 160

The toy industry and its close relationship with children’s artefacts and equipment made a significant contribution to the light industries which came to increasing prominence in the British economy over the twentieth century as traditional heavy manufacturing declined. The demand for toys, both national and international, accelerated after the Great Exhibition of 1851 and two brothers, George and Joseph Lines, were among the most prominent of the manufacturers to emerge in the Victorian period. However, it was Lines Brothers Ltd., formally incorporated in 1919 by Joseph’s three sons, which very quickly established itself as the leading British toy company, overcoming the vicissitudes of depression and world war to become the world’s largest toy manufacturer by the 1950s. With operations in many parts of the world it was arguably the world’s first multi-national toy company, enjoying something of a golden age before collapsing spectacularly in the face of intensifying international competition and a changing economic climate.

This is the fascinating story of a family business whose iconic Tri-ang trademark was universally recognised and whose most famous products included model railways, Spot-on and Minic cars, soft toys, Pedigree prams, dolls’ houses, Scalextric, and Cindy dolls. It is a serious economic, business and industrial history, touching on important themes such as the interplay between government and business, the nature of entrepreneurship, the significance of company culture and organisation, and the changing nature of childhood. Above all, it is a story of strong personalities, familial tensions, and an underlying determination to bring delight to children.

I read this book because my own father used to be a huge collector of small cars and toys when he was younger, in fact, if I had a look in his loft he might still have a few floating about. So my interest was kind of a shared interest and a hope to see a number of pictures of toy cars and learn more about them. The book is very much a book about the history of a toy company like the title says, it was very much a case of good ideas prospering in a small business doing well to a certain point until other business activities, trends, and society would eventually see the slow spiral downwards to the business coming to an end. This was a nice story about a small business, I would say that this would be a fascinating book for people who knew the company when it was in its heyday or people who like to buy and collect small cars and toys. Whilst I found the book interesting just because I like reading about histories and timelines of companies for some strange reason, what I would have liked to have seen was more pictures of the toys and cars made by the company to see what people, like my Dad actually used to collect or play with.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Carry On Regardless

Carry On Regardless written by Caroline Frost and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 232

The completely updated story of Carry On, Britain's largest film franchise, all the way from the gentle capers of the 1950s, through the raucous golden age of the 1960s, to its struggles in the years that followed.

We take a happy walk down memory lane to enjoy again Sid James's cheeky chuckle, Kenneth Williams' elongated vowels, Charles Hawtrey's bespectacled bashfulness and Barbara Windsor's naughty wiggle.

It all seemed effortless, but exclusive interviews with the series' remaining stars including Bernard Cribbins, Angela Douglas and Kenneth Cope shed new light on just how much talent and hard work went into creating the laughs. For the first time, the loved ones of some of the franchise’s biggest names – on and off screen – share their personal memories from this unique era.

Was Carry On really as sexist, racist and bigoted as critics claim? Three of the films' female stars explain why they never felt remotely exploited, plus we take a fresh look at some of the series' biggest titles and discover that, in reality, they were far more progressive than their detractors would have you believe.

Finally, with constant talk about new films, fresh productions and tantalising speculation about a brand new era of Carry On, we ask – does this unique series still have legs?

On Sunday afternoons in the 80’s when I was a teenager the choice used to be a western or a ‘Carry On’ film if you were a film buff. I always picked a ‘Carry On’ if I wanted a laugh or cheering up. The sound of a Sid James laugh still echoes in my head or if I’m reading about Rome or the Romans I have ‘Infamy, Infamy they’ve all got it in for me’ in my head. What a cracking read that tells you some of the stories and going on’s and some of the highs and lows of some of the actors throughout the franchise.

The book also doesn’t shy away from criticism for the modern day audience about sexism, racism and bigotry but the book comes back well at these accusations and shows how the Carry On films were actually not as bad people like to say and in some ways showed how they were sometimes ahead of their time. This has been a really good read, and an entertaining read I didn’t know I needed. Excellent research by the author who has done a really good job. I would definitely recommend this book.


Brandenburger - Wartime Photographs of Wilhelm Walther written by Anthony

Rogers and published by Greenhill Books - £14.99 - Softcover - Pages 160

In March 1940, Oberleutnant Wilhelm Walther transferred from Aufklärungs-Abteilung 5, an

armoured reconnaissance unit, to Bau-Lehr-Bataillon z.b.V. 800 – forerunner of what would

soon be known as the ‘Brandenburger’. Two months later, he led a commando action in the

Netherlands and became the first of his unit to be awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight’s Cross).

By May 1944, Walther was an Oberstleutnant and an experienced regimental commander

in what had evolved as the Division ‘Brandenburg’. He would eventually join

Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny’s SS-Jagdverbände as Chief of Staff, before seeing

out the last days of the war with the short-lived Schutzkorps Alpenland.

More than 200 images, together with the original German captions and English translations, portray the life and times of this career officer, from the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, to operations in Russia, Greece and the Balkans during 1941–44.

In comparison with other units of the Second World War, relatively little has been published about Germany’s commando forces. This is hardly surprising, considering the paucity of source material available and the air of mystery and intrigue still surrounding this specialist formation. This unique collection of rare images was sourced from the photograph album of Wilhelm Walther and is sure to appeal to all with an interest in the war in the West and on the Eastern Front, as well as to militaria collectors, modellers and re-enactment groups.

This Images of War book is a little different to the others in the series in that it follows the military lifetime Wilhelm Walther in the Brandenburger, the German equivalent to the Allies' special forces. He would lead on special ops in the Holland region, where he would receive the Knight’s Cross or Ritterkreuz. The book contains about 200 images of Walther himself and his unit in action at the time and as he progressed up the ranks. Actually, a decent sized collection of photographs tell the story of one German officer in World War II. A really good read and it was nice to read about an individual rather than a weapon, operation region of conflict.

Friday, May 20, 2022

British Escort Destroyers of the Second World War

British Escort Destroyers of the Second World War written by Les Brown and 

published by Seaforth Publishing - £16.99 - Softcover - Pages 64

The ‘ShipCraft’ series provides in-depth information about building and modifying model kits of famous warship types. Lavishly illustrated, each book takes the modeller through a brief history of the subject, highlighting differences between ships and changes in their appearance over their careers. This includes paint schemes and camouflage, featuring colour profiles and highly detailed line drawings and scale plans. The modelling section reviews the strengths and weaknesses of available kits, lists commercial accessory sets for super-detailing of the subjects, and provides hints on modifying and improving the basic kit. This is followed by an extensive photographic gallery of selected high-quality models in a variety of scales, and the book concludes with a section on research references – books, monographs, large-scale plans and relevant websites.

This volume covers the many variations of Royal Navy wartime escort destroyers, both the purpose-built ‘Hunt’ class and the conversions from older fleet destroyers. The ‘Hunts’ were built in four groups (Types I to IV), while the old ‘V&W’ classes were modified to Long Range Escort, Short Range Escort and ‘Wair’ (anti-aircraft) variants. Also included are the fifty ex-US ‘flush-deckers’ that became the ‘Town’ class.

With its unparalleled level of visual information – paint schemes, models, line drawings and photographs – this book is simply the best reference for any modelmaker setting out to build any of these numerous escort types.

This is the first book in the ShipCraft series from Seaforth Publishing that I have read. Wow, I have really enjoyed reading and reviewing this book looking at British Escort Destroyers in the Second World War. Based on the same basis as the TankCraft books this book is fantastic looking at the various destroyers that made an appearance during WWII. Looking at these Royal Navy fast escorts we learn about the types or classes of destroyer, we also learn about the different paint schemes, models, designs and photographs of the actual ships at sea, but also the models. I would like to thank Seaforth Publishing for allowing me to review this book as I have learnt so much about these ships and the Royal Navy and all about the ships’ specifications, designs and the reasons why. This was a thoroughly interesting read and I would most certainly recommend this book and the series.

Tank Craft 34: Panther Medium Tank

Tank Craft 34: Panther Medium Tank written by Dennis Oliver and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £16.99 - Softcover - Pages 64

In July 1943 the German army launched what was to be its last major offensive on Soviet soil.

Codenamed Operation Citadel, the attack had initially been scheduled to commence in May

but was postponed by Hitler on a number of occasions to allow the divisions in the East to be

reinforced and to ensure that the new Panther tanks could be deployed. In the fifth book on the

Panther in this series Dennis Oliver examines the first vehicles that left the assembly plants to

go into service against the Red Army as part of Operation Citadel and the units that arrived in

the late summer and early autumn of 1943. In addition to archive photographs and painstakingly

researched, exquisitely presented colour illustrations, a large part of this book showcases

available model kits and aftermarket products, complemented by a gallery of beautifully

constructed and painted models in various scales. Technical details as well as modifications

introduced during production and in the field are also examined, providing everything the

modeller needs to recreate an accurate representation of the Panther tanks that fought in the

East in 1943.

As I have said with previous books in this series the Tank Craft books are brilliant for model

makers, you get so many detailed photos of the various tank models in the process of being

made. But you also get the different camouflages for the different theatres of war, especially

when you enter the Cold War era you have many different designs in accordance with the

surrounding terrain. But in World War Two you’ve got different camouflages for Normandy,

France, the North Africa campaign and terrain on the Eastern Front. I think the Panther

Medium Tank is my personal favourite tank, so it has been a great read and one I would

recommend as it makes an important entry into the series.

Tank Craft 37: M60 Main Battle Tank

Tank Craft 37: M60 Main Battle Tank written by David Grummitt and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £16.99 - Softcover - Pages 64

The M60 was a second-generation American main battle tank, the last in the line of Patton tanks

that had first been developed at the end of World War. It entered operational service with the US

Army in 1960 and some 15,000 M60s were manufactured by Chrysler at the Detroit Tank Arsenal

Plant between then and when production ceased in 1983. It served with both the US Army and the

US Marine Corps and was the principal tank deployed in Europe in the ‘sixties, ‘seventies and

early ‘eighties, providing NATO’s main armoured force at the height of the Cold War. It became

one of the most widely used armoured fighting vehicles of the twentieth century, serving in the

armies of over 25 countries. It continued to serve alongside the M1 Abrams into the 1990s before

this venerable Cold War warrior was finally retired from active service with the US military in 1997.

This volume charts the development of the M60 from its origins in World War II to the Cold War. It focuses on its service with the US military and other NATO armies, examining its combat service in the First Gulf War and also with other armies in the Middle East. The book gives a full account of the wide range of kits and accessories available in all the popular scales and a modelling gallery features builds covering a range of M60s in service with various armed forces. Detailed colour profiles provide both reference and inspiration for modellers and military enthusiasts alike.

A fantastic book that really does sell and make the M60 Main Battle Tank look really good, and I really enjoyed this book, maybe it’s because this tank and book focus on the Cold War era of tanks, which just makes a nice change from WW2. It shows the main differences and the changes needed for tank warfare in the later period, as the Cold War was changing things. Yet again these are highly crafted books from Pen & Sword Books as usual with great text, photography and detail throughout the book. Certainly, a book that is going to appeal to all model makers who love tank warfare. Highly recommended.

Tank Craft 35: Panzer IV, Medium Tank

Tank Craft 35: Panzer IV, Medium Tank written by Dennis Oliver and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £16.99 - Softcover - Pages 64

When the Allied armies landed on the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944 the backbone of the armoured reaction force awaiting them was made up of 758 Pzkpfw IV tanks, a number which represents almost half the fully-tracked vehicles available for the defence of the West. The first models of these tanks had entered service in November 1937 and although replacements had been considered, the original design was continually up-gunned and up-armoured. Perhaps lacking the glamour of the Panther and Tiger, the most recent variant, the Pzkpfw IV ausf H, was at least the equal of the best British and American tanks. Drawing on official documentation and unit histories Dennis Oliver investigates the formations that operated these deservedly famous vehicles and uses archive photos and extensively researched colour illustrations to examine the markings, camouflage and technical aspects of the Pzkpfw IV tanks that served on the Western Front during the critical summer of 1944. A key section of his book displays available model kits and aftermarket products, complemented by a gallery of beautifully constructed and painted models in various scales. Technical details as well as modifications introduced during production and in the field are also examined, providing everything the modeller needs to recreate an accurate representation of these historic vehicles.

This book Panzer IV focuses on the latter part of the war from D-Day onwards. Although this series of books is primarily aimed at model crafters, the actual history, technical detail and chat about specifications is excellent so these books should never be seen as just for model makers. The photographs that run throughout this book whether it be photos of the time of these tanks in battle or the pictures of the models are very good and detailed and really help make the book. In the back of the book, there is always a really good contacts section and product list to help the reader out. Certainly a good book for the series.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Investigating the Almost Perfect Murders

Investigating the Almost Perfect Murders written by Anthony Nott and published by 

Pen & Sword Books - £14.99 - Softcover - Pages 197

Anthony Nott joined the Metropolitan Police in 1971, which was a very different world from that of today. He describes his early experiences in the Met, including the arrest of a man for murdering a prostitute in Kings Cross. He was present when a fellow police officer was almost stabbed to death and witnessed an act of police brutality when he interrupted the beating of a petty criminal in a cell by the CID.

He transferred to the county force of Dorset in 1976 where, not long after his promotion to detective sergeant, he engaged in what would be a ten-year long investigation into the disappearance of Monica Taylor and the eventual conviction of her husband, Peter, for what was almost the perfect murder – Monica’s remains were never found. He then recounts a series of murder cases in which he was involved from the murder and decapitation of a woman in Bournemouth and the random killing of another, to the extremely violent killing of a gay man in Boscombe Gardens, Bournemouth, in which it took two years to bring the killers to justice.

While a detective chief inspector in Bournemouth in 1994, the chance visit of a detective sergeant from Guernsey, who was investigating a life insurance fraud, led to the re-opening of a missing person enquiry from eight years earlier, and resulted in the conviction of Russell Causley for murder, despite his wife’s body never being recovered.

This book provides an insight into the methodical and transparent way in which the police investigate complicated crimes from riots to the almost perfect murders.

Well, this book was a fascinating read indeed, both meticulous and detailed which I suppose comes from the author as the book follows his life in the police force in which he endeavours to work and succeed on some tricky cases. The book follows a good number of different cases ranging from riots and crowd control all the way up to almost getting away with the perfect murder. The book was very interesting and it was nice to read a good number of different crimes that were British rather than from the US. A good book very well worth reading if you're into crime especially true British crime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Revolting Recipes From History

Revolting Recipes From History written by Seren Charrington Holmes and 

published by Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 208

Nothing causes a stir on social media platforms like a topical discussion on the latest food trend. Modern-day chefs like to think that they are creative and often claim to push the boundaries of food creation, but if we want to explore real culinary creativity then we need to look to our ancestors.

Writer and food historian, Seren Charrington-Hollins delves into the history of culinary experimentation to bring us some of the weirdest and most stomach-churning food delicacies to ever grace a dining table. She uncovers the rather gruesome history behind some everyday staples, reveals bizarre and curious recipes, whilst casting a light on foods that have fallen from culinary grace, such as cows udders and tripe; showing that revulsion is just a matter of taste, times and perhaps knowledge.

From pickled brains to headcheese, through to song birds and nymphs thighs, this book explores foods that have evoked disgust and delight in diners depending on culinary perspective.

So pull up a chair, unfold your napkin and get ready for a highly entertaining and enlightening journey to explore what makes a recipe revolting? Be warned; you’ll need a strong stomach and an open mind.

Probably not a book to read before your evening meal or if like me you could easily become a vegetarian. Split into ten chapters,  this book covers the lot in various chapters meat, fish, veg, animals long out of fashion and even whatever you can find in your garden. You name it someone’s tried to eat it including swans, owls, turtles, wasps, mice and the list can go on, if you could stick it in your mouth it very much seems someone has tried to turn it into a meal or certainly tried cooking it.

Although quite a bit of this book has turned my stomach it seems in many ways. I have really enjoyed reading it, after all it’s always fascinating to see how other people live or used to live and looking at how people ate is an important thing and goes to show how much somethings were in abundance but no longer are. A huge amount of research must have gone into this book and credit to the author who has written a fascinating book.

What this book has bought back to me is to be thankful for present day food hygiene standards, when you see the conditions of some of the meat hanging outside shops next to a busy road. It would seem that people in history must have had strong stomachs and to be honest what this book has done has bought back my memories of eating things I would rather forget about like haggis, liver and squid. I would greatly recommend this book to others who want an off the wall read of a great book.

The Welsh Braveheart

The Welsh Braveheart - The Last Prince of Wales written by Phil Carradice and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 216

Like William Wallace in Scotland, Owain Glyndwr fought for his country and was only finally defeated by superior numbers and the military genius of Henry V. Yet Glyndwr was not just a freedom fighter. He was the last native-born Prince of Wales, a man who initiated the first Welsh Parliament at Machynlleth and proposed an entirely independent Welsh church.

Glyndwr also laid plans for two Welsh universities, proposed a return to the far sighted and revolutionary Laws of Hywel Dda and formed a Tripartite Agreement with Henry Percy and Edmund Mortimer. It led to an invasion of England and nearly brought the reign of Henry V to an end.

And yet, despite his success and popularity, Glyndwr's rebellion seriously damaged the Welsh economy with towns destroyed and much agricultural land laid to waste. Even so, he was never betrayed by his people, despite a huge reward being offered for his capture.

Glyndwr refused at least two offers of pardon from the English crown and remains the supreme champion of the underdog.

The only bad point I found about this book was the title, The Welsh Braveheart. While this isn’t really a negative about the book or for those that like to read history. It’s the association with William Wallace, there is nothing wrong with the man, strong, independent, a man who wanted the best for his country, just like Owain Glyndwr did. It's the modern day association with Mel Gibson, who starred in the morally corrupt and historically inaccurate film Braveheart, which I think stands as one of the most disparaged films in history when it comes to historical content. This is all from a book blogger who was born in Scotland and has spent the last 20 years living in Wales.

But on a lighter note and something Pen & Sword will want to concentrate more on. This was a really good read from start to finish, it is so good to read more books about Welsh figures, especially when the book can be written by Phil Carradice, who I know writes a lot about Welsh history. His books are always so clear and easy to read, when you are not Welsh the language and the names can feel a little intimidating but you don’t feel that with a Carradice book. Excellently explained story and facts, certainly a book I would champion to one and all, and I would love to see more books about Welsh leaders and heroes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Key Figures Aboard RMS Titanic

Key Figures Aboard RMS Titanic written by Anthony Nicholas and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 208

Titanic. The Marilyn Monroe of ocean liners. A sleek, sultry beauty, taken out way before her time. A kind of 21st century Flying Dutchman, with interiors by Cesar Ritz, still striving to achieve the waters of a port she can never reach.

Titanic is a brilliantly lit stage, carrying her cast of exotic, terminally endangered extras toward an abyss at once both unfathomable and inconceivable.

Here’s where any similarity with any other tome about the Titanic ends.

For the first time ever, a succession of key characters and groups of individuals come to the fore. Centre stage, over seventeen chapters, we meet the men whose decisions, actions and omissions combined like some slow burning powder trail to trigger a final, cataclysmic conclusion; the foundering, in mid-Atlantic, of the biggest moving object ever seen on the face of the planet.

One by one, a series of individuals take a bow. Seemingly omnipotent owners and hugely experienced ship’s officers. Engineers and designers. Would be rescuers and embattled wireless operators.

We meet them as individuals, not supermen. Their histories, backgrounds and life experiences are assessed for the first time ever, putting their actions on the night that Titanic sank into a context, a light as stark as that of the distress rockets, arcing into the sky…

This book to me is about the writing and the stories of those involved in the events that happened that fateful night in 1912. We all know that the Titanic was one of the biggest cruise liners in the world and through a number of mistakes, it would hit an iceberg and would slowly sink to the bottom of the ocean. As I said firstly was the excellent writing by the author Anthony Nicholas, the book is split into 17 chapters but each one looks at a figure in the building, commissioning and working on the liner. Some of the figures and stories you have a lot less sympathy for and some of them show a great deal of fortitude and bravery. But the writing conveyed by the author is great and really had me engrossed in the book which I spent a long evening reading. I would definitely recommend this book to others for its great detail and writing.

Middlesbrough at War 1939-45

Middlesbrough at War 1939-45 written by Dr Craig Armstrong and published by 

Pen & Sword Books - £14.99 - Softcover - Pages 128

Middlesbrough was of vital importance to Britain’s war effort. The town, and its surrounding area, contained a number of vital industries including shipbuilding, chemicals, iron, steel and other metals, and engineering, as well as a joinery firm that played a leading role in the wartime aviation industry. The ICI plant at nearby Billingham also played a leading role in the creation of petrochemicals and explosives.

As with many communities, the start of the war saw Middlesbrough faced with hastily having to bring its Air Raid Precautions and civil defence services up to full strength. With its strategic importance, it was believed that Middlesbrough would be an obvious target for the Luftwaffe. As a result, schoolchildren and other vulnerable people were evacuated from the town at the very start of the war in a scheme that did not prove entirely successful.

Middlesbrough became the first built-up urban area in mainland Britain to be bombed. In the event, Middlesbrough was raided periodically throughout the war with the worst coming on the night of 25/26 July 1942, when waves of Luftwaffe bombers dropped almost 30 tons of bombs on the town. The raid killed sixteen people and caused very extensive property damage. Meanwhile, just days later, bombs fell on the town’s railway station as a train was waiting at the platform there. The pictures of the resulting damage were wired around the world.

Due to its location on the coast and being a city dominated by industry and maritime, Middlesbrough was always going to be a target for the Luftwaffe. What we did see was the city being under regular attack throughout the war in an attempt to undermine the morale of the community, but also in the hope of hampering the British war effort. In the classic style of the Towns & Cities in World War Two series, we learn how the war affects all aspects of life, from having to rebuild after air raids and losing loved ones from the attacks. Seeing women having to work at the various factories and workplaces to replace the men who were having to go off to war. Then you have the various small organisations having to pick up and help in an hour of need and daily life structures being compromised and changed as everyone has to deal with some aspect of the war on the home front.

As I have said before this series is, in my opinion, fantastic and the author here Dr Craig Armstrong has done another brilliant job in writing about the history of a city but finding a good balance in the telling of the stories and lives of the people of Middlesbrough. The writing is excellent and this is supported throughout with some great ‘local’ pictures from around Middlesbrough. Certainly a fascinating read and an excellent addition to the series.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Battle of Halbe 1945

The Battle of Halbe 1945 written by Eberhard Baumgart and published by

Greenhill Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 208

In April 1945, German troops withdrawing from the Seelow Heights were encircled by the Soviet Army near the small town of Halbe, south-east of Berlin. Rather than surrender, their orders were to attempt to break out, westward, and join up with the German 12th Army. A brutal battle ensued, with an estimated 30,000 German and 20,000 Russian soldiers killed, along with thousands of civilians.

This collection of first-hand accounts tells the story of the battle and its aftermath from the German perspective. It is an eclectic mix, containing the recollections of ordinary soldiers, SS-men and men of the Panzer Divisions, as well as civilians caught up in the battle as they attempted to flee ahead of the advancing armies. It brings to life the grim realities of this one-sided engagement, revealing the brutal vengeance of the Soviets and the desperation to escape the slaughter.

This book reveals the story of German troops being forced to withdraw from advancing Russian troops who had almost encircled them at the small town of Halbe in 1945. The battle was colossal and the number of soldiers who died was around 30,000 Germans & 20,000 Russians, and on top of that were thousands of German civilian casualties. This book which has been translated into English for the first time gives an excellent if harrowing retelling of events that occurred. With the writer relying on a number of accounts from men who were there. This was a fascinating read, of a story I had never really heard about before. The fighting and stories were staggering and I found it astonishing that I had not heard of this before. The story was a well written but easy to read the story, and there is a good number of photographs dotted throughout the book. I would highly recommend this book in which the Germans suffer an enormous onslaught from a Russian army.

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Fleet Air Arm and the War in Europe, 1939–1945

The Fleet Air Arm and the War in Europe, 1939–1945 written by David Hobbs and

published by Seaforth Publishing - £35.00 - Hardback - Pages 352

For the first time, this book tells the story of how naval air operations evolved into a vital

element of the Royal Navy’s ability to fight a three-dimensional war against both the Kriegsmarine

and Luftwaffe. An integral part of RN, the Fleet Air Arm was not a large organisation, with only

406 pilots and 232 front-line aircraft available for operations in September 1939. Nevertheless,

its impact far outweighed its numbers – it was an RN fighter that shot down the first enemy

aircraft of the war, and an RN pilot was the first British fighter 'ace' with 5 or more kills. The

Fleet Air Arm’s rollcall of achievements in northern waters went on to include the Norwegian

Campaign, the crippling of Bismarck, the gallant sortie against Scharnhorst and Gneisenau

as they passed through the Channel, air attacks on enemy E-boats in the narrow seas, air

cover for the Russian convoys, air attacks that disabled Tirpitz, and strikes and minelaying

operations against German shipping in the Norwegian littoral that continued until May 1945.

By the end of the war in Europe the FAA had grown to 3243 pilots and 1336 aircraft.

This book sets all these varied actions within their proper naval context and both technical and tactical aspects are explained with 'thumb-nail' descriptions of aircraft, their weapons and avionics. Cross reference with the Fleet Air Arm Roll of Honour has been made for the first time to put names to those aircrew killed in action wherever possible as a mark of respect for their determination against enemy forces on, above and below the sea surface which more often than not outnumbered them.

The Fleet Air Arm and the War in Europe completes David Hobbs’ much-praised six-volume series chronicling the operational history of British naval aviation from the earliest days to the present.

This book is part of a series of six, I was lucky enough to get to read his last book Taranto, and together with this book, I’ve just finished reading it is a very fine book and written with so much detail and comprehensive detail. These books are certainly ones to treasure as they are not just written by people who know the ‘knowledge’ of the subject, but they have lived their subject and been a part of it, which cements the brilliant knowledge being written. David Hobbs is a 30 year veteran of the Royal Navy serving as a pilot, and later became the curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

The book explains various aspects of the Royal Navy from the planes used, the ships used, the special operations carried out along with the weapons, dynamics and strategies. It does all this very well by writing it in chapters dedicated to each year of the war. I also enjoyed the good retrospective section in the back which preceded the bibliography and the very detailed notes section. The book also contains a large number of good b/w photographs throughout. I really enjoyed this book and would happily recommend it to others and it’s nice to see more books being written in this way about the Navy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Fallschirm Panzer Division ‘Hermann Goring’

Fallschirm Panzer Division ‘Hermann Goring’ written by Lawrence Paterson published by Greenhill Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 320

In the early years of the Third Reich, Hermann Göring, one of the most notorious leaders

of the Third Reich, worked to establish his own personal army to rival Himmler’s SS and

Reichswehr. The result: a private Prussian police force which grew into one of the most

powerful armoured units in Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht.

This unit fought throughout the Second World War, meeting Anglo-American forces in vicious battles across the European theatres of Tunisia, Sicily and Italy before finally being defeated by the Red Army on the Eastern Front. The Hermann Göring Panzer Division incorporates technical details of these battles with the turbulent politics and Machiavellian manoeuvring of Hitler’s inner circle, giving military-history enthusiasts fresh insights into the development and role of this unusual division through the war.

Drawing on first-hand accounts and extensive archive material, World War II historian Lawrence Paterson presents a comprehensive and unbiased history of the establishment of the famous 1. Fallschirm-Panzer Division.

When I read the description for this book, I must admit that being called the ‘Hermann Goring’ Division, my first thoughts were that it would not be a great division and it was probably a group of hand picked men and used as a personal bodyguard unit. But no surprise, surprise the ‘Hermann Goring’ Division, it turns out were quite a good and well-trained division with a number of big successes in Italy, Tunisia and Sicily before being forced into the Eastern front in which they didn’t do so well. This was a fascinating read, very well written and the detail is great, the author Paterson has written a really good Division book with a lot of balance and respect. I even enjoyed the notes at the back which also comes with a list of Knights Cross recipients and finally, I really liked the picture on the back of the book.  

The Hitler Myths - Exposing the Truth Behind the Stories About the Führer

The Hitler Myths - Exposing the Truth Behind the Stories About the Führer

written by Sjoerd J. De Boer and published by Frontline Books - £25 - Hardback -

Pages 256

Adolf Hitler remains one of the most discussed figures in world history. Every year, an untold number of articles and books are published, and television programmes and internet pages are produced, by respected historians through to amateur conspiracy theorists.

One of the consequences of this continuous flow of stories is that, over time, increasing numbers of falsehoods and fabrications have emerged about Hitler. Many of these have subsequently gained credence by virtue of their constant repetition – however bizarre they may be.

These include such claims that Hitler was impotent (contradicted by another myth that he had an illegitimate son), that he had Jewish ancestors, or that he had killed his niece. Another claim, one of the most persistent, is that he did not commit suicide but escaped Berlin to live in Argentina for years after the war, despite his well-recorded failing health. What is the truth about his corpse, his sexual experiences, his years of poverty, his complete dominance of his subordinates? How much of what we think we know is the result of intentional or misunderstood modern interpretations? Many rumours also circulated during Hitler’s life and, with the passage of time, have been presented as facts despite having no substantial foundation.

Was Hitler really a hero of the First World War and, if so, why was he not promoted beyond the rank of corporal? Was he the true author of Mein Kampf and did he write a second book that was never published, and was Hitler initially a socialist?

In The Hitler Myths the author clinically dissects many of these myths, often in a highly amusing fashion, as he exposes the inaccuracies and impossibilities of the stories.

The myths – the familiar and the obscure – are discussed chronologically, following the course of Hitler’s life. In his analysis of each of the myths, the author draws on an array of sources to prove or disprove the rumours and speculations – once and for all!

This book looks at various myths concerning Adolf Hitler from was he a Jew? to was he a Demon? And all sorts in between. These myths have risen from when Hitler was still alive to some coming about many years later. The author Sjoerd J. De Boer looks at the evidence and documents surrounding each myth, and debates as to whether they are true or false based on actual evidence. I really enjoyed this book, yes I had heard of some of them but a good few I hadn’t heard of, but thanks to some good writing by the author it seemed an effortless but balanced read in an enjoyable way. The Bibliography at the back of the book was quite detailed and a decent size, so I will be using that for sure. Would I recommend this book, although a lot is written about Hitler, even today I have learnt quite a bit and I would recommend this book to WW2 fans and non-WW2 fans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Sex & Sexuality in Tudor England

Sex & Sexuality in Tudor England written by Carol McGrath and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 176

The Tudor period has long gripped our imaginations. Because we have consumed so many costume dramas on TV and film, read so many histories, factual or romanticised, we think we know how this society operated. We know they ‘did’ romance but how did they do sex?

In this affectionate, informative and fascinating look at sex and sexuality in Tudor times, author Carol McGrath peeks beneath the bedsheets of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England to offer a genuine understanding of the romantic and sexual habits of our Tudor ancestors.

Find out the truth about ‘swiving’, ‘bawds’, ‘shaking the sheets’ and ‘the deed of darkness'. Discover the infamous indiscretions and scandals, feast day rituals, the Southwark Stews, and even city streets whose names indicated their use for sexual pleasure. Explore Tudor fashion: the codpiece, slashed hose and doublets, women’s layered dressing with partlets, overgowns and stomachers laced tightly in place. What was the Church view on morality, witchcraft and the female body? On which days could married couples indulge in sex and why? How were same sex relationships perceived? How common was adultery? How did they deal with contraception and how did Tudors attempt to cure venereal disease? And how did people bend and ignore all these rules?

If you're a fan of the Tudor period, your really going to enjoy this book but I also think non-Tudor fans would get much enjoyment out of this book too. It was actually a good read because it was an easy read and very well written, when you think there probably wasn’t much source material to rely on, the author Carol McGrath has done a good job. The majority of us enjoy the Tudor period and this book covers a good wide range of topics such as the Church & Marriage, Contraception & Child Birth, Dressing to Impress, a visit to a Brothel and Sex & Witchcraft. I always seem to think these Sex & Sexuality books are going to be a bit crude or smutty, but they never are. They just seem to be informed and light hearted. I would certainly recommend this book, as it is enjoyable and an entertaining read.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Football’s Great War

Football’s Great War written by Dr Alexander Jackson and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 384

As modern football grapples with the implications of a global crisis, this book looks at the

first in the game’s history: The First World War. The game’s structure and fabric faced

existential challenges as fundamental questions were asked about its place and value in

English society. This study explores how conflict reshaped the People’s Game on the

English Home Front.

The wartime seasons saw football's entire commercial model challenged and questioned. In 1915, the FA banned the payment of players, reopening a decades-old dispute between the game's early amateur values and its modern links to the world of capital and lucrative entertainment.

Wartime football forced supporters to consider whether the game should continue, and if so, in what form? Using an array of previously unused sources and images, this book explores how players, administrators and fans grappled with these questions as daily life was continually reshaped by the demands of total war. From grassroots to elite football, players to spectators, gambling to charity work, this study examines the social, economic and cultural impact of what became Football's Great War.

This book in my opinion is certainly an important one and asks the readers a number of questions about the role football plays in society, how much of a role does professionalism play in it and is there a big difference between keeping it in an amateur format or professional. The author of this book is also the Curator at the Football Museum in Manchester, and this certainly shows up well as he is able to draw on many sources and archive material in his writing for the book. I enjoyed the picture section within the book but then I am a football fan, it does seem though that having read a number of football books recently surprising how inept the FA really has been.  I mean they almost ruined Women’s football and had it not been so big it’s lucky they didn’t kill off the men’s game or at least set it back a number of decades. A thoroughly good book and very enjoyable to read, highly recommended and I’m enjoying getting into the sporting history books.

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...