Pen & Sword Books

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hotspur - Sir Henry Percy and the Myth of Chivalry

Hotspur - Sir Henry Percy and the Myth of Chivalry written by John Sadler and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 256

On 21 July 1403 Sir Henry Percy – better known as Hotspur – led a rebel army out at

Shrewsbury to face the forces of King Henry IV. The battle was both bloody and decisive.

Hotspur was shot down by an arrow and killed. Posthumously he was declared a traitor

and his lands were forfeited to the crown. This was an ignominious end to the brilliant

career of one of the most famous medieval noblemen, a remarkable soldier, diplomat

and courtier who played a leading role in the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV. How did

he earn his extraordinary reputation, and why did Shakespeare portray him as a

fearsomely brave but flawed hero who, despite a traitor’s death, remained the mirror of

chivalry? These are questions John Sadler seeks to answer in the first full biography of

this legendary figure to be published for over twenty years.

Hotspur’s exploits as a soldier in France during the Hundred Years War, against the Scots in the Scottish borders and at the battles of Otterburn, Homildon Hill and Shrewsbury have overshadowed his diplomatic role as a loyal royal servant in missions to Prussia, Cyprus, Ireland and Aquitaine. And, as the heir to one of the foremost noble families of northern England, he was an important player not only in the affairs of the North but of the kingdom as a whole. So, as John Sadler reveals in this highly readable study, Hotspur was a much more varied and interesting character than his narrow reputation for headstrong attack and rebellion suggests.

This book follows the life of Henry Percy, we learn a history of his family growing up in Yorkshire and how he became a major figure on the Anglo-Scottish border. It’s an interesting story in that we learn a lot about politics and the interactions between families and those in power at the time. It was amazing to find how fickle people with their loyalties were, as it seems many chopped and changed their allegiances. 

This book was also a good insight into the motivation of Henry Percy, how he progressed as a soldier, leader and schemer. His final campaign against Henry IV came very near to being a  success. Overall, the book is very informative and I have learnt a lot, this book would be a great read for those involved in that particular period of time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A History of Herbalism

A History of Herbalism written by Emma Kay and published by Pen & Sword Books

 - £20 - Hardback - Pages 224

Food historian Emma Kay tells the story of our centuries-old relationship with herbs. From herbalists of old to contemporary cooking, this book reveals the magical and medicinal properties of your favourite plants in colourful, compelling detail.

At one time, every village in Britain had a herbalist. A History of Herbalism investigates the lives of women and men who used herbs to administer treatment and knew the benefit of each. Meet Dr Richard Shephard of Preston, who cultivated angelica on his estate in the eighteenth century for the sick and injured; or Nicholas Culpeper, a botanist who catalogued the pharmaceutical benefits of herbs for early literary society.

But herbs were not only medicinal. Countless cultures and beliefs as far back as prehistoric times incorporated herbs into their practices: paganism, witchcraft, religion and even astrology. Take a walk through a medieval ‘physick’ garden, or Early Britain, and learn the ancient rituals to fend off evil powers, protect or bewitch or even attract a lover.

The wake of modern medicine saw a shift away from herbal treatments, with rituals and spells shrouded with superstition as the years wore on. The author reveals how herbs became more culinary rather than medicinal including accounts of recent trends for herbal remedies as lockdown and the pandemic leads us to focus more on our health and wellbeing.

This is one interesting book, A History of Herbalism and I would like to thank Pen & Sword Books for allowing me to read and review this book. I have to admit that I have always been fascinated by the natural world and its abilities to help us in any sort of medical or health situation. The book is split into three sections in that the first section looks at the history of herbalism and the way it has been perceived by the population. It then goes on to look at herbs and medicinal herbs and their benefit to magic and medicine. Then finally the book has a wide range of recipes that are specific to vegetables, meats, fish and desserts. This is one of those books that you read once but then read again a number of times or look up specifics. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject.

Alistair MacLean's War

Alistair MacLean’s War - How the War Shaped his Bestsellers written by Mark Simmons

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

It is no coincidence that many of Alistair MacLean's most successful novels were sea stories. In 1941, he was called up after volunteering for the Royal Navy and served as Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman, and Leading Torpedo Operator. For the majority of his service, he was on HMS Royalist, a modified Dido-class light cruiser, seeing action in the Arctic, and operations against the German battleship Tirpitz . The ship then deployed to the Mediterranean taking part in Operation Dragoon the invasion of the South of France and later in operations against German occupied Greek Islands in the Aegean. After which MacLean and Royalist were deployed to the Indian Ocean and operations against the Japanese in Malaya, Burma, and Sumatra.

His wartime experiences coupled with exceptional literary skill resulted in the runaway success of his first novel HMS Ulysses (1955) followed by The Guns of Navarone (1957) and South by Java Head (1958). These three blockbusters cemented his position as one of the most successful and highly paid authors of the era.

While not a whole life biography, Mark Simmon’s book provides a fascinating insight into Maclean’s war service and subsequent works, which deserve enduring popularity.

I have to admit my father was a big fan of Alistair MacLean’s various books, asking him once as a teenager why he read his books, he said he enjoyed reading thrillers and really enjoyed MacLean’s books as they were about war and thriller type books. So since then, I have read a few of MacLean’s books too when wanting something easy to read, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read The Guns of Navarone and a few others after that. Like my father, I enjoyed these books too, so it was excellent to be given the chance to read and review this book.

The book, split into 21 chapters and takes a good look at MacLeans’s life mainly his life as a Naval serviceman, as we get to discover his work life, the ships he was on and some of the missions he was a part of, and you can see where he got a good few of his ideas would then go on to use in his novels. For any fans of Alistair MacLean, I’m sure they would really enjoy this book as it’s a good easy read much like the books he wrote himself.

The Dark History of Sugar

A Dark History of Sugar written by Neil Buttery and published by Pen & Sword

Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 256

A Dark History of Sugar delves into our evolutionary history to explain why sugar is so loved, yet is the root cause of so many bad things.

Europe’s colonial past and Britain’s Empire were founded and fuelled on sugar, as was the United States, the greatest superpower on the planet – and they all relied upon slave labour to catalyse it.

A Dark History of Sugar focusses upon the role of the slave trade in sugar production and looks beyond it to how the exploitation of the workers didn’t end with emancipation. It reveals the sickly truth behind the detrimental impact of sugar’s meteoric popularity on the environment and our health. Advertising companies peddle their sugar-laden wares to children with fun cartoon characters, but the reality is not so sweet.

A Dark History of Sugar delves into our long relationship with this sweetest and most ancient of commodities. The book examines the impact of the sugar trade on the economies of Britain and the rest of the world, as well as its influence on health and cultural and social trends over the centuries.

Renowned food historian Neil Buttery takes a look at some of the lesser-known elements of the history of sugar, delving into the murky and mysterious aspects of its phenomenal rise from the first cultivation of the sugar cane plant in Papua New Guinean in 8,000 BCE to becoming an integral part of the cultural fabric of life in Britain and the rest of the West – at whatever cost. The dark history of sugar is one of exploitation: of slaves and workers, of the environment and of the consumer. Wars have been fought over it and it is responsible for what is potentially to be the planet’s greatest health crisis.

And yet we cannot get enough of it, for sugar and sweetness has cast its spell over us all; it is comfort and we reminisce fondly about the sweets, cakes, puddings and fizzy drinks of our childhoods with dewy-eyed nostalgia. To be sweet means to be good, to be innocent; in this book Neil Buttery argues that sugar is nothing of the sort. Indeed, it is guilty of some of the worst crimes against humanity and the planet.

The Dark History of Sugar was never going to be a light delightful read really, as we all know it has a dark past with a lot of its roots in slavery and a manipulation of poor communities, there are also those that would argue that sugar was a drug and is responsible for many deaths around the world. But the book is very good in that it doesn't just look at slavery being the only downside to sugar, there has been much research gone on and comes out in this book is a comprehensive book that looks at the time before slavery in the Caribbean and the US.

The book also looks at the science and the revelations of companies that could see the high addictiveness of sugar and used that to enormous effect in who they appealed to, how they would appeal to consumers and what levels of the sugar was needed to keep people in a way hooked. A really well-written book that was made to be informative and easy to read. A book well worth taking the time to read.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The British Bonapartes

The British Bonapartes written by Edward Hilary Davis and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £22.00 - Hardback - Pages 200

A hitherto unexamined history of the wider Bonaparte family, presented in a new way and

shedding fresh light on their eventful lives in Britain. From duels on Wimbledon Common and

attempted suicides in Hyde Park, to public brawls and arrests in Shropshire and the sexual

adventures of a princess who rescued Freud from the Nazis and brought him to Britain, this

book exposes the curious events surrounding the family’s exploits in England, Scotland and

Ireland. Originally an island family themselves, the Bonapartes have had a surprisingly good

relationship with the British Isles. In just two generations, the Bonapartes went from being

Britain’s worst enemy to one of Queen Victoria’s closest of friends. Far from another mere

history of Napoleon Bonaparte, this book is divided into different branches of the Bonaparte

family, detailing – in an anecdotal and amusing way – their rather scandalous lives in Britain.

For example, few will know that Napoleon III was once a volunteer constable in London and arrested a drunk woman; or that Princess Marie Bonaparte sponsored Prince Philip’s education as well as conducted her own research into the clitoris in her quest to achieve an orgasm; or that Napoleon IV fought for the British army and was killed by the Zulus; or that one Bonaparte was even made a High Sheriff in a British town. Today, the head of the family is London-based and works in finance. The Bonapartes are known to most as the enemies of Britain, but the truth is quite the opposite, and far more entertaining.

This was an entertaining look at the wider family of the British Bonapartes, and although I went into the book expecting something prim and well-to-do, the book was actually quite an entertaining read. Some of the little stories were shall we say a little surprising but overall the book was quite humorous, appealing and informative. I always find it amazing to find out the various activities, events and sometimes scandals that go on in some families. I enjoyed this book very much and would happily recommend it.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Fighting with the Long Range Desert Group

Fighting with the Long Range Desert Group written by Brendan O’Carroll and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 272

Formed in 1940 the Long Range Desert Group was the first Allied Special Forces unit established to operate behind German and Italian lines in North Africa. Its officers and men were volunteers recruited from British and Commonwealth units. Merlyn Craw was serving with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force when he joined the LRDG in 1941. He took part in numerous missions in the desert. The navigational driving and fighting skills of the LRDG were legendary and they were frequently responsible for transporting Stirling’s SAS detachments on raids.

Merlyn’s luck ran out when he was captured on the Barce raid in September 1942, but he escaped twice, the second time making it back to Allied lines. Sent home on leave, he returned to Italy with the New Zealand Army. After a ‘disagreement’ he went AWOL and rejoined the LRDG with no questions asked, serving until the end of the war.

Drawing on interviews with Merlyn and other former LRDG veterans, the author has created a vivid picture of this exceptional and highly decorated fighting man. Readers cannot fail to be impressed by the courage and ruthless determination of Merlyn Craw MM and his comrades.

This book follows along with additions from other fellow soldiers, Merlyn Craw who served with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and joined the Long Range Desert Group. The author Brendan O’Carroll, draws upon on the diaries and records of Merlyn Craw and his fellow soldiers as they participate in a number of missions behind enemy lines. 

We also see in a couple of chapters where Craw is captured on one raid and becomes a prisoner of war in Italy but manages to escape before eventually making it back to friendly lines. The book is split into 13 chapters and gives an excellent insight into working as part of the LRDG in the everyday roles and their combat missions. The book is complemented throughout with a good number of photographs which do add to the insight and lives of these guys going on their special missions. I would say that most readers would enjoy this book and if you are interested in this part of the war you’ll definitely enjoy it.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Carmen Pomies

Carmen Pomies - Football Legend & Heroine written by Chris Rowe and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 240

Carmen Pomiès (1900-1982) is a significant figure in the history of women’s football in the interwar years. Carmen was in the first generation of women’s sport in France, first in athletics, winning medals throwing the javelin in international competitions, and playing football for Fémina Sports and France from 1920. Her life in sport is intertwined with key personalities such as Alice Milliat and Violette Morris.

Carmen also played a huge part in the story of women’s football in England: she played many times for and against the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston, including their 1922 football tour of the United States. Carmen became almost an honorary Englishwoman, making lifelong friends of important footballers such as Florrie Redford, Lily Parr and Lizzy Ashcroft. During these years, Carmen was not only a player but also an important influence in promoting the game and fighting for equality. Carmen also had fascinating siblings: her brother Georges was a film star and famous modern dancer who died tragically young, her older sister Hélène was a left-wing author and translator.

From 1940 Carmen was secretary to a famous film star, Renée Saint-Cyr, and was active in the French Resistance. In 1946, she settled in Rochester NY before moving to New York to work for the United Nations. From 1956, her life is shrouded in mystery because of gaps in the evidence. She died in France in 1982. So her life is about much more than just football.

Carmen Pomies was a figure I must admit to never hearing of previous to reading this interesting book. A woman of real character and who was you argue a forerunner for women in being able to achieve and doing what they wanted. I have to say at this point that the number of and standard of sporting books particularly football both women and men is very high and incredibly interesting, as a football, I fan I am loving all about these new sporting characters I have little or no knowledge of. They really show there was a time when sporting people were leaders and strived to achieve goals for others to follow.

It turns out that Carmen Pomies, a young woman from France was it seems a very good, high achieving athlete of note taking part in field events notably the javelin and athletics, and then, later on, she moved on to football playing regularly for Femina Sports and internationally as she was particularly well known in England too. We learn that during the outbreak of the Second World War she was having to live under German occupation but she then got involved with the French Resistance to support the French cause. What a fascinating woman and a very well written book, it’s a book that leaves you wanting to meet her and ask her lots of questions yourself.

Broadmoor Women

Broadmoor Women: Tales from Britain’s First Criminal Lunatic Asylum written

by Kim Thomas and published by Pen & Sword Books - £14.99 - Softcover - Pages 192

Broadmoor, Britain’s first asylum for criminal lunatics, was founded in 1863. In the first years

of its existence, one in five patients was female. Most had been tried for terrible crimes and

sent to Broadmoor after being found not guilty by virtue of insanity. Many had murdered their

own children, while others had killed husbands or other family members.

Drawing on Broadmoor’s rich archive, this book tells the story of seven of those women, ranging from a farmer’s daughter in her 20s who shot dead her own mother to a middle-class housewife who drowned her baby daughter. Their moving stories give a glimpse into what nineteenth-century life was like for ordinary women, often struggling with poverty, domestic abuse and repeated childbearing. For some, Broadmoor, with its regime of plain food, fresh air and garden walks, was a respite from the hardships of their previous life. Others were desperate to return to their families.

All but one of the women whose stories are recounted in this book recovered and were released. Their bout of insanity was temporary. Yet the causes of their condition were poorly understood and the treatment rudimentary. As well as providing an in-depth look at the lives of women in Victorian England, the book offers a fascinating insight into the medical profession’s emerging understanding of the causes and treatment of mental illness.

This is both a fascinating book and a sad one because it is basically a book about women who have fallen on hard times physically, mentally and in terms of income. In most cases are women who are having to live in desperate situations with no or little support from anyone, which is why they have reached this conclusion in that they haven’t been able to cope and so have now committed terrible crimes. The author Kim Thomas has done a great job of writing this book and has shown in her writing sympathy and understanding of the positions of these women.

The book tells the story of eight women all have committed serious crimes against people and children, but when you read the stories they have had no help or support from society, families or partners. If it was in today’s lifetime, these women would surely be seen as being mentally ill and needing help not cast into the hard life of a Broadmoor prison where they still wouldn’t get the help they needed. A really good book in how it was written but like I said at the start a very sad one.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Britain's Plot to Kill Hitler

Britain’s Plot to Kill Hitler - The True Story of Operation Foxley & SOE

written by Eric Lee and published by Greenhill Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 216.

Operation Foxley was the name of the secret plan supported by Winston Churchill to

assassinate Hitler in 1944-45. More than 75 years after its conception, the assassination

plan remains shrouded in mystery. Eric Lee’s new book is the product of painstaking

research and sheds more light on this plan. Lee also asks what would have happened if

Foxley had been executed successfully.

Concocted in 1944 by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Foxley’s objective was to kill Hitler and any high-ranking Nazis or members of the Fuhrer’s entourage who might have been present at the time.

Different methods of assassination had been considered by the SOE, but were ultimately deemed too complicated. These methods included derailment and destruction of the Hitler’s personal train, the Fuhrerzug, by explosives, and also clandestine means such as slipping a tasteless poison into Hitler’s drinking and cooking water. Some of the ideas were considered quite bizarre, including one scheme to hypnotise Rudolf Hess and return him to Germany to kill Nazi leaders. The Americans and Soviets had their own plans to kill Hitler too, with some equally strange ideas (including injecting female hormones into the Fuhrer's vegetables).

Eventually, after intel gathered revealed that Hitler took a routine, solitary walk every morning to the Teehaus on the Mooslahnerkopf Hill from the Berghof residence, a plan was created to assassinate Hitler using a sniper rifle fitted with a silencer.

A perfect investigation for readers who enjoy reading about modern history, and the Second World War in particular. It is also tailored to those with an interest in the “secret war”, covering topics like the SOE, and military intelligence.

This is quite an intense feeling book from the start as the reader learns about various plots and plans not just from the British side and SOE, we also learnt that there were schemes to assassinate Hitler by the Americans & Soviets too. I understand there had to be lots of secrecy and deviance, but I did think as it seemed many were looking to assassinate Hitler, could there not have been some plotting between interested sides. I enjoyed the way this book was presented as the first half is written by the author but the second half contains photocopies of the various sources of information and files/documentation which kind of made it feel even more realistic as you were reading through the info that was being passed around at the time. Although I must admit there were only a couple I found weren’t that easy to read.

I really enjoyed this book as it felt as if it was half story and half fact. I quite enjoy the author’s

writing and really enjoyed his previous book Night of the Bayonets, his writing feels very well

explained but to the point. I’ve taken notes of some of the excellent books from the bibliography,

and I’ll be reading these in the near future hopefully. Overall, I would happily recommend this

book for anyone into their World War II history.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Arise to Conquer

Arise to Conquer The ‘Real’ Hurricane Pilot written by I. R. Gleed and published by

Air World Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 272

Born in 1916, after learning to fly as a civilian, Ian Richard Gleed was granted a RAF

commission in 1936. He completed training on Christmas Day that year, being posted to

46 Squadron which was equipped with the Gloster Gauntlet.

Through much of his RAF service, the diminutive Gleed was known as ‘Widge’, short for ‘Wizard Midget’ on account of his excessive use of the word ‘wizard’ to describe something ‘topper’, and his short stature. Rising from Flight to Squadron Commander in short order, and later taking over the Ibsley Spitfire Wing in 1941, Gleed was enormously popular with his peers. Indeed, Wing Commander ‘Bunny’ Currant once described Gleed as a ‘pocket-sized man with care for others and courage beyond compare’.

Having been decorated with the coveted ‘double’ of both DSO and DFC, Wing Commander Gleed went out to lead a wing in Tunisia. It was there that he was shot down and killed on 16 April 1943. By this time, he had achieved the status of being a fighter Ace, having been credited with the destruction of thirteen enemy aircraft.

The previous year, Gleed’s wartime memoir, Arise to Conquer, was published by Victor Gollancz. Eloquently written and detailed, this book is a superb first-hand account of one man’s life and times as a fighter pilot – mainly flying the Hawker Hurricane – during the Fall of France, the Battle of Britain and beyond into the night Blitz.

Reprinted here in its entirety, and extensively introduced by the renowned aviation historian Dilip Sarkar MBE, FRHistS, this edition of Arise to Conquer is supported by a remarkable set of wartime images. Among Gleed’s Hurricane pilots on 87 Squadron during the Battle of Britain and beyond was Sergeant Laurence ‘Rubber’ Thorogood, a keen photographer who is often mentioned in this book. Along with his Commanding Officer’s words, Rubber’s unique personal photograph album, containing as it does a number of images of Gleed, provides a rare glimpse of a fighter squadron at war during our Darkest – yet Finest – Hour.

This was a really good book to read, a book about a group of Hurricane pilots during WW2, their lives, training, flying and everyday life from a first-hand account, by Wing Commander I. R. Gleed DSO, DFC. In a way this a great history book because it tells the stories and daily experiences of the ‘man’ on the ground doing the job. It hasn’t been glossed over or fabricated to look good, it’s just a ‘warts and all’ type story of young pilots qualifying and fighting with Hurricanes. The person who the stories revolve around Wing Commander Gleed, who actually does seem down to earth and a nice man to get on with through work and play. A man everyone wants on their side during those harsh times of fighting. It was good to have the personal photos grouped together at the back as they really did add life to the story, and in fact, the photos told the story of this fine man almost from beginning to end. A book I would happily recommend to others.

Naval Battles of the Second World War II

Naval Battles of the Second World War written by Leo Marriott and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 240

The Second World War was a truly global conflict and maritime power played a major role in every theatre of operations. Land campaigns depended on supplies transported by sea, and victory or defeat depended on the outcome of naval battles. So Leo Marriott’s highly illustrated two-volume account of the struggle sets naval actions in the wider strategic context as well as giving graphic accounts of what happened in each engagement.

This second volume concentrates on the epic struggle between the Americans and the Japanese in the vast expanses of the Pacific where for almost four years a great maritime campaign ebbed and flowed and some of the most famous naval battles of the conflict took place. The first part of the book covers the period from Pearl Harbor to Midway while the second covers the long and bloody campaign in the south-west Pacific where the US Navy honed its skills and turned a bloody defeat into a hard-won victory. The final section focuses on naval operations during the American advance across the central Pacific up to the Battle of Leyte Gulf – the greatest naval battle ever fought. Included are other actions involving the Royal Navy which, after early setbacks, would go on to play a major supporting role alongside the US Navy in the Pacific

This concise but wide-ranging introduction to the naval war emphasizes the sheer scale of the conflict in every sea and shows the direct impact of each naval battle on the course of the war.

This book is the second book of two called, Naval Battles of the Second World War in the second of two books looking at the Pacific & Far East of World War II the book gives you a view of the strategic naval process and battles including the role of the American Navy and the Japanese Navy. The book highlights a number of key naval battles throughout the war including Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway and the battle in the Leyte Gulf, I personally found this a fascinating book as I am trying to improve my knowledge of naval warfare. Both in the west and the Far East I found the book very informative and detailed but then I am probably counted as a beginner in this subject so whilst I found the book very helpful and informative others might prefer to read a more detailed assessment as they are classed as more knowledgeable. With the author Leo Marriott a specialist in this subject, his highly detailed knowledge is evident in this book and makes for a very good read. I enjoyed all the facts and details along with many good photographs and I especially enjoyed the appendix at the back of the book listing all the warships involved I would recommend this book and enjoyed it slightly more than the first but only because I knew less about the Pacific war.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Naval Battles of the Second World War

Naval Battles of the Second World War written by Leo Marriott and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 160

The Second World War was a truly global conflict and maritime power played a major

role in every theatre of operations. Land campaigns depended on supplies transported

by sea, and victory or defeat depended on the outcome of naval battles. So Leo Marriott’s

highly illustrated two-volume account of the struggle sets naval actions in the wider

strategic context as well as giving graphic accounts of what happened in each engagement.

This first volume concentrates on the Royal Navy’s confrontation with the ships and submarines of the German Kriegsmarine during the Battle of the Atlantic, the Arctic convoys and the struggle across the Mediterranean against the Italian navy to supply the opposing armies in North Africa. The Battle of the River Plate, the pursuit of the Bismarck, the PQ17 convoy to the Soviet Union and Operation Pedestal, the most famous convoy sent to relieve Malta, are among the episodes described in vivid detail and illustrated with a selection of striking photographs.

This concise but wide-ranging introduction to the naval war emphasizes the sheer scale of the conflict in every sea and shows the direct impact of each naval battle on the course of the war.

This book is the first book of two called, Naval Battles of the Second World War in the first of two books looking at the Atlantic side of World War II the book gives you a view of the strategic naval process and battles including the role of the German Navy (the Kriegsmarine) and the Royal Navy. The book highlights a number of key naval battles throughout the war including the Battle of the Atlantic, the Arctic convoys and the battle in the Mediterranean, I personally found this a fascinating book as I am trying to improve my knowledge of naval warfare. Both in the west and the Far East I found the book very informative and detailed but then I am probably counted as a beginner in this subject so whilst I found the book very helpful and informative others might prefer to read a more detailed assessment as they are classed as more knowledgeable. With the author Leo Marriott a specialist in this subject, his highly detailed knowledge is evident in this book and makes for a very good read. I enjoyed all the facts and details along with many good photographs and I especially enjoyed the appendix at the back of the book listing all the warships involved I would recommend this book but if you already have a sound knowledge of naval battles it might not be for you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Battles of King Arthur

The Battles of King Arthur written by Tony Sullivan and published by Pen & Sword

Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 288

The ninth-century Historia Brittonum is the first source that mentions Arthur and lists

twelve battles, including the famous Badon Hill. Much ink has been spilt debating the

identity and location of Arthur. This book will demonstrate that some of the battles can

indeed be located with some confidence. Rather than fit a specific theory as to his

identity the battles are placed in the fragmenting provincial, political and military context

of the late fifth and early sixth century Britain. At a time of rapid changes in cultural

identity and a significant increase in Germanic material culture and migration.

These battles might be expected to be found along borders and in zones of potential conflict. Yet this is not what is discovered. In addition, the simplistic idea of Romano-Britons holding back invading Anglo-Saxons is found wanting. Instead, we discover a far more nuanced political and cultural situation. One with increasing evidence of a continuation of land use and the indigenous population. The most Romanised and urbanised regions of the south and east are the very areas that experienced the arrival of Germanic settlement. The conclusion gives the reader a new insight into what sort of man Arthur was and the nature of the battles he fought.

This has been a thoroughly good book to read very informative, detailed and in some places surprising. On a subject that is often full of debate and discussion, the author Tony Sullivan separates the fact from the fiction and bases match of his arguments on evidence and detail and in the vast majority of cases backs it up with very good detailed evidence and source information. I think I reviewed  Tony Sullivan's previous book on King Arthur and thoroughly enjoyed that too, I really enjoy his straight-to-the-point writing and detail which comes across very clear and factually. As a bit of a sceptic about King Arthur in the past I have found after reading these books that I am becoming more and more of a believer in King Arthur and the Legend. I have noticed that I am due to review Sullivan's book on Gladiators, which having read this King Arthur book I am really looking forward to reading the book about Gladiators I would most certainly recommend this book not only to historians but also the fans of legends and myths.

Friday, June 10, 2022

More Lives Than a Ship's Cat

More Lives Than A Ship’s Cat By Jeremy Stoke and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 288

By any standards Mick Stoke’s experiences in the Royal Navy during the Second World War were remarkable. Aged nineteen, he was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage during incessant bombing during the Siege of Tobruk.

He survived multiple torpedo attacks, firstly serving on the cruiser Glasgow, which was hit twice; on the battleship Queen Elizabeth at sea and blown up by human torpedoes at Alexandria; and on HMS Hardy, struck in January 1944, while escorting Russian Arctic Convoy JW56B.

In 1942, he was serving on HMS Carlisle during the fiercely fought Malta convoys and took part in the Battle of Sirte. Later that year he was awarded the MBE ‘for outstanding bravery, resource and devotion to duty during very heavy bombing’ at the port of Bone during Operation TORCH. He went on to serve at D-Day and later in the Pacific on HMS Rajah.

It is a privilege to read Mick Stoke’s graphic and modest account of his naval service in the Second World War. Readers will appreciate and understand how he became ‘The Most Highly Decorated Midshipman in the Royal Navy’.

I have to say from the start out that this is a brilliant title for a book, in this one title it really does encompass the whole book. This book follows the adventures and very near scrapes of Mick Stoke, the most decorated Mid Shipman in World War Two. This man spent the war serving on the Glasgow, Queen Elizabeth, Hardy, Carlisle, Operation Torch, took part in the D-Day Landings and was on the Rajah out in the Pacific. One could see him as a brave man awarded for his gallantry and bravery, or you could say he was unlucky too.

This was a well-written book by his son, it reads very easily and reads just

like an adventure story. In fact, I enjoyed it so much it only took me a couple of

nights as it was hard to put down, I was kind of thinking surely he can’t survive the

next attack. The reports from his Naval Records near the back of the book were a

nice touch and showed how much he was held in high regard. I highly recommend

this book about one of life’s good guys.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Pirate Queens - The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

The Pirate Queens - The lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read written by Rebecca Alexandra

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

Between August and October 1720, two female pirates named Anne Bonny and Mary Read terrorized the Caribbean in and around Jamaica. Despite their short career, they became two of the most notorious pirates during the height of the eighteenth-century Golden Age of Piracy. In a world dominated by men, they became infamous for their bravery, cruelty and unwavering determination to escape the social constraints placed on women during that time. Despite their infamy, mystery shrouds their lives before they became pirates. Their biographies were recorded in Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 book, A General History of the Pyrates, depicting the two women as illegitimate women raised by men who, against insurmountable odds, crossed paths in Nassau and became pirates together. But how much is fact versus fiction?

This first full-length biography about Anne Bonny and Mary Read explores their intriguing backgrounds while examining the social context of women in their lifetime and their legacy in popular culture that exists to the present day. Using A General History of the Pyrates, early modern legal documents relating to women, their recorded public trial in The Tryal of Jack Rackham and Other Pyrates, newspapers and new, uncovered research, this book unravels the mysteries and legends surrounding their lives.

When pirates come up it always pricks my interest mainly because I live in the area where another pirate is said to have come from, Barti Duu (or in English, Black Bart) and my only problem really with pirates is the lack of knowledge, records or understanding we have about them. But as the author has a highly recommended knowledge and background in pirates and their lives, I found it safe to say that although a 100% knowledge of these two might not be available, the author has a solid background in the subject.

This book looks at the lives and ventures of these two female pirates, and it was a really good read and very informative throughout. I think the author Simon has done a good job based on the information available, it was quite entertaining and I would actually like to learn more about other pirates now too. I would recommend this book, the author has done a great job.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Spitfire Named Connie

A Spitfire Named Connie written by Air Marshall ‘Black’ Robertson and published

by Air World Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 304

A Spitfire Named Connie is an exciting, rollercoaster of a story. A prequel to Fighters in the Blood, it tells how ‘Robbie’ Robertson begins his RAF training during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. As he learns his trade, he is soon rubbing shoulders with Fighter Command heroes, amongst them Brian Kingcome, ‘Ginger’ Lacey and Bob Stanford Tuck.

Moving from 111 to 72 Squadron, he opens his account against the Luftwaffe in the spring of 1942. Six months later, as he adds further to his score, the action moves to the skies over North Africa. It is there that tragedy strikes. Wounded and shot down by one of the Luftwaffe’s most celebrated Experten, his Spitfire crashes to the ground.

Found lying near the wreckage by an army patrol, Robbie is moved from casualty clearing stations to hospitals across Tunisia and Algeria as doctors try desperately to save his sight. Finally, unable to stand the pain any longer, he reluctantly agrees to the removal of his right eye. A slow recovery and eventual return to the UK is no compensation for the end of his flying career.

Desk-bound for the remainder of the war, the second and more poignant period of his RAF life begins. The young schoolgirl, Connie Freeman, with whom he has been in regular correspondence since her evacuation, becomes his wife.

It is literally hundreds of Robbie’s letters that form the basis of this powerful, moving and emotional story. Together with his own and Connie’s diaries, correspondence from RAF colleagues and his flying logbook, they bring a unique authenticity to this highly-charged tale.

A Spitfire Named Connie reads like a novel, filled with excitement, pathos and compassion. Yet, incredible as it may seem, almost every word is true.

This book is a long series of letters around the life of Robbie Robertson a young pilot who has just qualified to fly in the RAF, as told by his son Air Marshall ‘Black’ Robertson. Through these letters, we learn about the life and happy life of Robbie Robertson as a young spitfire pilot that earned him a promotion to the North Africa theatre of war in the Second World War. This happiness was until he was shot down by the Luftwaffe, thrown from his plane he is found but found seriously wounded and ended up having to lose his right eye. To which he then has to return to England and take up office work, but meets his wife, a young woman he had corresponded with and they then strike up a close relationship and then marriage.

I’m sure I reviewed the author’s previous book, as the writing style reminded me of a

book I read last year. The book is very good and I enjoyed the book as it is very much

written as a story. An excellent book based upon the letters of a pilot in the RAF, and the

book helps that it receives the input of the author son too which adds to the narrative.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare

Airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare written by Michael E. Glynn and published by 

Frontline Books - £25.00 - Hardback - Pages 258

Airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare unlocks the history and theory behind the shadowy art of how aircraft hunt for submarines. Written by a veteran US Navy submarine hunting pilot, this book will take aviators, naval enthusiasts, and military scholars behind the scenes to understand how technical breakthroughs, the evolution of weapons, and advances in sensors have shaped this high-risk game of cat and mouse.

On 15 September 1916, the French submarine Foucault was spotted and attacked by a pair of Austro-Hungarian flying boats in the Adriatic. During the bombing that followed, Foucault was so badly damaged that she was eventually abandoned by her crew – all of whom survived. This was the first time in history that a submarine had been sunk by an aircraft. It was an engagement which set in motion a constantly evolving aspect of underwater warfare.

In this book, Michael Glynn explores a journey through the history of more than 100 years of aerial sub hunting. From the Great War, through the Battle of the Atlantic in the Second World War and on to the secret confrontations of the Cold War, the reader will witness the parallel evolution of both aircraft and submarine as each side tries to gain supremacy over the other. In so doing, he distils complicated oceanography, operations analysis, and technical theory into easily digested concepts, helping the reader understand how complex weapons and sensors function. By reviewing the steps of a submarine hunting flight, the reader can quickly understand how theory and practice fit together and how aviators set out to achieve their goal of detecting their submarine targets.

Airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare is a thrilling read for those seeking a glimpse into an arcane and high-stakes world.

This book takes the reader from World War One through to the present day looking at airborne anti submarine warfare, technology, tactics, sound and oceanology to name but a few. It's all very much a race between the two competitors countering submarines and intercepting and stopping submarines. The book takes us through fixed wing and rotary aircraft and looks at how radar hunting and technology have advanced for both sides.

What was good about this book is that it was written by a former pilot who has obviously experienced this type of warfare or fighting. It adds to the authenticity and expertise of the writing and very well done it is too. I should say that whilst I found the book of great interest and very informative, I would say others may not read the book due to its subject matter and technicalities.

The 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion

The 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion written by Samuel D Korte published by Pen & Sword

Books - £20.00 - Hardback - Pages 240

The 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion was activated on 25 July 1942 at Camp Carson, USA and, like many other tank destroyer battalions, would be sent to Europe. It saw combat in France, where a platoon earned the Distinguished Unit Citation, and later continued to fight gallantly in Germany and Austria until the war was over.

However, unlike many other tank destroyer battalions that fought in the Second World War, this unit was crewed only by black soldiers. The men had been subjected to racism from their countrymen during training, although the battalion did eventually win the respect of the white soldiers they fought alongside. When the third platoon deployed their guns on the slopes near Climbach, France, they weren’t just fighting against the Germans, but also against any prejudices that their white countrymen might have had.

Having earned the respect of the 103d Infantry Division, the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion shared in their triumphs and tragedies. So when the division needed to retreat during a blizzard, or when Task Force Rhine pushed its way across the German plains, or when the division suffered heavy losses at Schillersdorf, the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion was there with them.

This book follows the soldiers of the 614th during their time in France, in World War Two, with the difference being that they were an all black unit. Now at the time they faced enormous prejudice and racism from not only fellow white soldiers but the army top brass too. But to be honest this just spurred them on to be better than anyone else, if these guys were going to be victimised they were going to prove everyone wrong by being the best at what they did.

Now, this Tank Destroyer Battalion had its fair share of downs but it had many ups too, so much so that they earned the respect of fellow white soldiers and received a Distinguished Unit citation too. As usual, this case is like all others where black people are not given the respect and recognition they deserve and so they have to work harder in order to receive it from fellow white people. This book takes the reader through their war via a good number of personal accounts, reports, evidence and resources. Did I know about these soldiers and what they achieved, no sadly not. But having read this brilliant book I would like to read more and learn more. This has been a fantastic book, well written and very well researched and it feels like this book has been written by a committee wanting to get this out in the world. A thoroughly excellent read, there is little to fault in this book. I should add that at the back of the book all those black soldiers are listed and remembered and there is also a chapter that lists all the medals and citations received by these young men and what they achieved.

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...