Pen & Sword Books

Thursday, September 29, 2022

A History of London County Lunatic Asylums & Mental Hospitals

A History of London County Lunatic Asylums & Mental Hospitals written by

Ed Brandon and published by Pen & Sword Books - £16.99 - Softcover - Pages 224

From the Middle Ages onwards, London’s notorious Bedlam lunatic hospital saw the

city’s ‘mad’ locked away in dank cells, neglected and abused and without any real cure

and little comfort. The unprecedented growth of the metropolis after the Industrial

Revolution saw a perceived ‘epidemic’ of madness take hold, with ‘county asylums’

seen by those in power as the most humane or cost-effective way to offer the mass

confinement and treatment believed necessary.

The county of Middlesex – to which London once belonged – would build and open three huge county asylums from 1831, and when London became its own county in 1889 it would adopt all three and go on to build or run another eight such immense institutions. Each operated much like a self-contained town; home to thousands and often incorporating its own railway, laundries, farms, gardens, kitchens, ballroom, sports pitches, surgeries, wards, cells, chapel, mortuary, and more, in order to ensure the patients never needed to leave the asylum’s grounds.

Between them, at their peak London’s eleven county asylums were home to around 25,000 patients and thousands more staff, and dominated the physical landscape as well as the public imagination from the 1830s right up to the 1990s. Several gained a legacy which lasted even beyond their closure, as their hulking, abandoned forms sat in overgrown sites around London, refusing to be forgotten and continuing to attract the attention of those with both curious and nefarious motives.

Hanwell (St Bernard’s), Colney Hatch (Friern), Banstead, Cane Hill, Claybury, Bexley, Manor, Horton, St Ebba’s, Long Grove, and West Park went from being known as ‘county lunatic asylums’ to ‘mental hospitals’ and beyond. Reflecting on both the positive and negative aspects of their long and storied histories from their planning and construction to the treatments and regimes adopted at each, the lives of patients and staff through to their use during wartime, and the modernisation and changes of the 20th century, this book documents their stories from their opening up to their eventual closure, abandonment, redevelopment, or destruction.

This book looks at the various Asylums and Mental hospitals in and around London, the book looks at the history, reasons why we have them, how they were run, some of the treatments and care procedures that took place and finally some of the more well known cases that come from these hospitals. As I’m sure most people will know, people with mental health problems have never really had the best or most suitable help and care, always left near the bottom of the pile for concern. This subject always tends to be a bit grim reading, but what I enjoyed most about this book was the fact that the majority of the book is based around the hospitals with a number of patient stories thrown in, but I enjoyed the fact that the book was more about the hospitals and the way it was run. A fascinating book and one that people who like a bit of grim reading will enjoy.

The Knights of Islam - The Wars of the Mamluks 1250 - 1517

The Knights of Islam - The Wars of the Mamluks 1250 - 1517 written by

James Waterson and published by Greenhill Books - £14.99 - Softcover - Pages 288

The Mamluks were, at one distinct point in history, the greatest body of fighting

men in the world and the quintessence of the mounted warrior – reaching near

perfection in their skill with the bow, lance and sword.

Their story embraces many of the great themes of medieval military endeavour: the Crusaders and the deadly contest between Islam and Christendom, the Mongols and their vision of World Dominion, Tamerlane the Scourge of God and the rise of the Ottoman Empire whose own slave soldiers, the Janissaries, would be the Mamluks' final nemesis.

They entered the Islamic world as unlettered automatons and through a total application to the craft of the warrior they became more than soldiers. After a bloody seizure of power from their masters, the descendants of Saladin, they developed a martial code and an honour system based on barracks brotherhood, a sophisticated military society that harnessed the state's energies for total war and produced a series of treatises on cavalry tactics, martial training, mounted archery and scientific and analytical approaches to warfare that more than compare to Sun Tzu's Art of War, the Western Codes of Chivalry and the Bushido in their complexity, beauty of language and comprehensive coverage of the bloody business of war.

Their story embraces many of the great themes of medieval military endeavour: the Crusaders and the deadly contest between Islam and Christendom, the Mongols and their vision of world dominion, Tamerlane and the rise of the Ottoman Empire whose own slave soldiers, the Janissaries, would be the Mamluks' final nemesis.

I should start with the fact that I sadly know little about this part of history, the medieval period of the Middle East. But I can say after reading this book, what an enjoyable and informative book it was to read. The book looks at a number of things such as the rise and power of the Mamluks, a determined and very highly skilled warrior skilled in warfare being able to handle multiple weapons and skills of attack and defence. The book also looks at the relationship between Islam and the Christians and how the strength of the Mamluks had an important but underplayed role in the Middle East. The book answers a lot of excellent questions and explains a number of reasons and possibilities. But whilst I can’t say everything made sense to me, as it is not an area I would call myself an expert in. What it has done is made me want to learn more about Middle Eastern politics and people. I really enjoyed the maps and timelines at the beginning of the book, as a newbie they really helped put the information into perspective. A really informative and excellent read.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

First Polish Armoured Division 1938-47

First Polish Armoured Division 1938-47 written by Evan McGilvray &

Janusz Jarzembowski and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback -

Pages 320

The First Polish Armoured Division was formed in Scotland in February 1942 from Polish

exiles who had escaped first Poland and then France. Its commander, Stanislaw Maczek,

and many of its men had previously served in Polish 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade

(10 BKS), which had taken part in the Polish invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and given

a good account of itself in defence of Poland against German and Soviet invasion of 1939.

Under Maczek’s leadership, the division was trained and equipped along British lines in

preparation for the invasion of France.

Attached to 1st Canadian Army, the division was sent to Normandy in late July 1944. It suffered heavily during Operation Totalize but went on to play a crucial role in preventing an orderly German withdrawal from the Falaise Pocket by its stand at Hill 262. They then played their part in the advance across Western Europe and into Germany.

This detailed history, supported by dozens of archive photos, concludes by looking at the often-poor treatment of Maczek and his men after the war.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book as I find the Polish army side of things is always underwritten by WW2 historians apart from those flyers involved in a number of roles within the RAF. The book is almost split into a year-by-year look at the Polish Division, the first couple of chapters look at the division pre-38 & the reorganisation in Britain when Poland was eventually overrun. The book then looks at the training and planning for future events and operations they will be involved in in the next coming years. Now the Polish soldiers were determined, skilled and in many cases well trained and they tried to learn many fighting skills from the British. The Polish were skilled and did well in Czechoslovakia and they would do well throughout the war, they did have problems mainly in standards and training, but I would put this down more to the disorganisation when they were fighting after Poland had been taken.

The book is supported by much evidence and reports, and I enjoyed the personal statements and stories that run throughout the book, and I must say there is a good standard of photographs throughout which do add weight to a good read. Although there did seem to be a lack of maps, maybe that was just me, but I found some of the battles they were involved in would have given more knowledge to the reader. A rare book on Polish military history but one I enjoyed.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Armies of Plantagenet England, 1135–1337

Armies of Plantagenet England, 1135–1337 written by Gabriele Esposito and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 184


The ascent of the Plantagenets to the English throne in 1154 led to the beginning of a new

historical phase in the British Isles, which was marked by numerous wars that were fought

between the Kingdom of England and the 'Celtic nations' of Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

During the rule of the Norman kings, the English armies had not completed the conquest

of Wales and had established only some footholds in Ireland; Scotland was still independent

and was ready to contest the Plantagenets’ possession of northern England. As a result of

this situation, the two centuries between the rise of the new dynasty and the beginning of

the Hundred Years’ War were characterised by a series of wars that ravaged feudal England.

Gabriele Esposito covers all these conflicts, following the campaigns of Richard the Lionheart

as well as those of his younger brother who was defeated on the continent at the large Battle

of Bouvines; the conquest of Wales is analysed in detail, as well as the First Scottish War of

Independence that saw William Wallace playing a prominent role. The organization and

equipment of all the troop types taken into account is described in full detail and lavishly

illustrated with colour images of reenactors, bringing these forces to life.


Gabriele Esposito has written a complete and informative book here, looking at the armies, soldiers, tactics and weaponry based around the English Plantagenet Armies. These were the armies that cover the first fighting in Wales, Ireland and the first Scottish wars. The book covers a lot of history and leading Royals which is good to read and helps give the reader a good, solid knowledge of this period of time in medieval history affecting the home nations and their relationships between them. The author covers the weapons, armies and strategies used by the various Kings of the time and what also supported the text was some good photography of a number of re-enactors dressed in accurate uniforms with weapons too. Very informative and ideal for someone who wants a comprehensive book.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster of 1874

The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster of 1874 written by Phyllida Scrivens and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £19.99 - Hardback - Pages 216

The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster of 1874 is the third title from Norwich writer and

biographer Phyllida Scrivens, who lives less than half a mile from the site of the fatal


At Norwich Station on 10 September 1874, a momentary misunderstanding between the Night Inspector and young Telegraph Clerk resulted in an inevitable head-on collision. The residents of the picturesque riverside village of Thorpe-Next-Norwich were shocked by a ‘deafening peal of thunder’, sending them running through the driving rain towards a scene of destruction. Surgeons were summoned from the city, as the dead, dying and injured were taken to a near-by inn and boatyard. Every class of Victorian society was travelling that night, including ex-soldiers, landowners, clergymen, doctors, seamstresses, saddlers, domestic servants and a beautiful heiress.

For many months local and national newspapers followed the story, publishing details of subsequent deaths, manslaughter trial and outcomes of record-breaking compensation claims. The Board of Trade Inquiry concluded that it was ‘the most serious collision between trains meeting one another on a single line of rails […] that has yet been experienced in this country.’

Using extensive research, non-fiction narrative, informed speculation and dramatised events, Phyllida Scrivens pays tribute to the 28 men, women and children who died, revealing the personal stories behind the names, hitherto only recorded as a list.

I’ve been reading this book during the unfortunate events of the train crash in Salisbury, luckily no one was killed in that. But this story, of the Great Thorpe Railway Disaster in 1874, sadly there were a large number of people killed, 28 men, women and children. So actually the first thing that struck me was the fact that how well trains are built now and how the safety on the railway system has greatly changed since then. This book is written in a report-type style in that it sets out the scene, looks at the moments to impact, the actual collision and then looks into the aftermath and the following days and conclusions. A lot of local research and trawling through many documents has gone on by the author Phyllida Scrivens, who has produced a fascinating read. I enjoyed the way this book was written and would be happy to recommend this one to others.

The Viking Saint

The Viking Saint written by John Carr and published by Pen & Sword Books

- £20 - Hardback - Pages 208

The Vikings and sainthood are not concepts normally found side by side. But Norway’s King

Olaf II Haraldsson (c. 995-1030) embodied both to an extraordinary degree. As a battle-eager

teenager he almost single-handedly pulled down London Bridge (as in the nursery rhyme)

and took part in many other Viking raids . Olaf lacked none of the traditional Viking qualities

of toughness and audacity, yet his routine baptism grew into a burning missionary faith that

was all the more remarkable for being combined with his typically Viking determination and

energy – and sometimes ruthlessness as well. His overriding mission was to Christianize

Norway and extirpate heathenism. His unstinting efforts, often at great peril to his life, earned

him the Norwegian throne in 1015, when he had barely reached his twenties. For the next

fifteen years he laboured against immense odds to subdue the rebellious heathen nobles of

Norway while fending off Swedish hostility. Both finally combined against Olaf in 1030, when

he fell bravely in battle not far from Trondheim, still only in his mid-thirties. After his body was

found to possess healing powers, and reports of them spread from Scandinavia to Spain and

Byzantium, Olaf II was canonized a saint 134 years later. He remains Norway’s patron saint

as well as a legendary warrior. Yet more remarkably, he remains a saint not only of the

Protestant church but also of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches – perhaps

the only European fighting saint to achieve such acceptance.

I have to admit this was a new book to me and a new subject, Viking history has been one of

those parts of history I’ve been meaning to look further into. This book, about a Norweigen

Saint King Olaf II, I have to admit I had never heard about before but it seems he had a big

influence over many countries and religions. I should say that I have enjoyed reading this

book and learnt quite a bit, it seems a good opening for someone to investigate more into it.

If you already have a good knowledge of this subject it might be a bit basic. I found the book

to be quite informative and quite a battle at some points but it was certainly a good read.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Special Forces Brothers in Arms

Special Forces Brothers in Arms written by Patric McGonigal and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 360

The McGonigal brothers, Eoin and Ambrose were fiercely independent characters. Born and educated in southern Ireland to a catholic family but raised in Belfast, they wasted no time in enlisting at the outbreak of War in 1939. Both outstanding sportsmen, their leadership potential was quickly recognised.

Eoin was one of the first two officers selected from an Irish regiment for Commando training in 1940. After leading a troop at the River Litani battle in Syria, he became the youngest of the original officers selected for the fledgling SAS and quickly made a name for himself. Tragically, he was lost after parachuting behind enemy lines in Libya. His body was never recovered and many unanswered questions remain today.

Ambrose, having carried out multiple coastal raids with the Commandos and winning two Military Crosses, later led operations for the SBS in Yugoslavia and Italy. Post-war, he had a short but notable legal career as a Lord Justice of Appeal in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

Light is also shone on the brothers’ close friend, the legendary Blair Mayne and the controversial decision to downgrade the award of his Victoria Cross.

This is a thought-provoking account of lost and fulfilled potential and unswerving loyalty at a time of political and religious turmoil

If you wanted a poster to advertise what you wanted for Special Forces, then you couldn’t go far wrong with a picture of these two men, Eoin & Ambrose McGonigal. These two brothers originally born in Ireland were highly educated, active, ambitious and the kind of men you find leading the local football team. Both brothers had been educated in Belfast and both enlisted as soon as they could in 39, Eoin unfortunately was lost during an operation to parachute behind enemy lines and was never seen again. Ambrose had also been a Commando and was fully skilled and had been on multiple raids, and survived through to the end of the war.

This book is quite a riveting read and does read like a comic book hero-type book, but then this is what the brothers got up by living a decorated life where they got to do all sorts of military activities in the name of war. The book is written by a relative of the brothers, and I must say has written an excellent book full of good detail, references from records and family knowledge from being a family member. The book is supported by some good photos throughout and I enjoyed the appendices at the back of the book. A thoroughly good read.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Mosquito Intruder Pilot

Mosquito Intruder Pilot written by Jeremy Walsh and published by 
Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 248

Ben Walsh lied about his age to join the RAF, determined to play his part in the Second World War. He volunteered to be an intruder pilot, flying low level operations in the dark. Initially flying ops in Douglas Boston Intruder IIs, he then converted to the legendary de Havilland Mosquito FB VI. Ben flew ops for three years, starting in the skies over with Europe with 418 (RCAF) Squadron, then ferrying one of the first Mosquito FB VIs to India before flying in the Burma campaign with 27 Squadron (under Wing Commander Nicolson VC) and finally with 45 Squadron.

The Mosquito developed problems in the severe climate it encountered in the Far East which resulted in the aircraft being temporarily grounded in November 1944. This saw Ben undertaking thirteen operational sorties in venerable Tiger Moths in the Arakan.

Although Ben survived belly landings, crashes, enemy fire and engine failures, the strain of combat operations took its toll on the still-young pilot. He and his navigator asked to be removed from operations, but their request was denied, both being threatened with court martial.

By the end of the war when still only 21 years old, Ben was suffering from a nervous condition known as ‘the twitch’. His confidence and health were restored by the young woman who had been his penfriend through the war, who became his wife and the mother of the man who has compiled this dramatic and moving story – Jeremy Walsh.

Throughout the war, Ben maintained a ‘Roll of Honour’ in his photograph album, memorializing his friends and colleagues who lost their lives. That album forms the backdrop to this important biography, which is based on Ben’s own recollections, his logbook and the notes he kept through the war. Mosquito Intruder Pilot is Ben’s story.

I have to say this book was interesting and in places very moving about a very young pilot in the RAF, Ben Walsh who joined up early because of the excitement of youth and wanting to play his part for his country. Ben was a kind of jack of all pilots, being able to fly quite prolifically a number of planes such as the De Haviland Mosquito, the Douglas Boston Intruder and even such planes as Tiger Moths. As with any young man he had eagerness and strength, but also being young, he was worked hard as a pilot and after a while developed some mental health problems which back in those days weren’t really acknowledged or even recognised properly. 

But the uplifting part of this book is that he eventually got through these with the help of a young woman who later became his wife, and what is even better as a result along came his son who would write this book and tell his father’s stories. Using diaries, chats,  information and logbooks Jeremy has written this book, and I think has done a great job of telling the story and you can tell the research and thought has gone into this book. An excellent read and I love these books where you get the actual story from someone in the know. Excellent adventures, photographs and very well told, I would recommend this book.

The Forgotten Giant of Bletchley Park Brigadier John Tiltman

The Forgotten Giant of Bletchley Park Brigadier John Tiltman written by

Harold Liberty and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 224

In recent years, the work of the Bletchley Park codebreakers has caught the public’s

imagination with books and films. While men such as Alan Turing and Dilly Knox have

been recognised, Brigadier John Tiltman has been hardly mentioned.

This overdue biography reveals that ‘The Brig’, as he was known, played a key role. After distinguished Great War military service, he established himself as a skilled codebreaker between the Wars, monitoring Russian and other unfriendly powers’ messages. During World War Two he was regarded as the most versatile of cryptographers, cracking a range of codes including Japanese ones. He made the first breakthrough against the German High Command Lorenz system and what he found led to the creation of machines including Colossus, the first recognisable computer. His lack of recognition may be down to his apparent lack of association with Enigma but, in truth, he was closely involved at the start.

In addition to his cryptological brilliance, ‘The Brig’ was a gifted communicator and team-builder whose character combined charm, intelligence, determination and common sense. He was key to building a special relationship with our American partners both during and after the war.

Harold Liberty’s biography shines light on a man whose contribution was essential to Britain’s survival and triumphs in the Second World War.

I must admit I have heard of the Enigma machine, Alan Turing, Codebreaking at Bletchley Park and I’ve even visited the museum site, but I have little knowledge of Brigadier John Tiltman. So in a way it has been great to read about this man and his influence on the codebreaking world at Bletchley and his success. John Tiltman it turns out was a man of great experience, especially in the Great War and was able to establish himself as a leading mathematician and codebreaker specialising in European languages like German and Russian. While it seems shameful having not previously heard about him, it was great to read about him and the importance he had on breaking codes and advancing the first computer. This book is an interesting read about a very interesting man.

What Happened to the Battleship 1945 to the Present

What Happened to the Battleship 1945 to the Present written by Chris Baker and

published by Seaforth Publishing - £30 - Hardback - Pages 304

In the hundreds of books written about battleships, the authors tend to draw down

the curtain on the careers of these great vessels in September 1945, with the surrender

of Japan. Yet, on that day some ninety-eight battleships or ex-battleships might be

spotted around the world, and eleven of them were in or around Tokyo Bay for the

surrender itself. What happened to all those ships?

This new book takes a fresh look at the slow demise of the battleship. It examines the decisions made by the major world powers after 1945, and their aspirations to retain battleships in their navies, despite financial stringency. It places the history and role of battleships after 1945 in their geo-political context, centred around the Cold War and the need for the West to face down an aggressive Soviet Union. It also examines the impact on battleships of operational analysis of the Second World War and new technological developments, notably the atom bomb and the guided missile.

The book uses the wealth of information from ship’s books, ship’s logs and gun logs to document in considerable detail what the ships actually did after the Second World War, with a particular focus on those of the Royal Navy. It covers United States battleship operations in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, as well as the deterrent role played by battleships for NATO from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Finally, it brings the story up to date by documenting the preservation as museum ships of the eight dreadnoughts which still exist today in the United States.

Extensively illustrated with photographs of the huge range of activities of battleships after 1945, from their use as Fleet flagships to Royal or Presidential yachts and more poignantly as target ships, this new book will appeal equally to the historic ship enthusiast and naval specialist, and provide a novel perspective through a battleship–shaped lens on late twentieth-century history for the more general reader.

This book is a fascinating insight into the world of the Battleship with regards to all the major players in the world with strong Navies. Whereas the world you might think is now dominated by aircraft carriers from the major countries, when you look at the size of the American Navy but especially the Chinese in recent years. But there was always major importance in naval circles to always have a strong Battleship class because these were more easily adaptable, quick and could always be sent out to solve problems much quicker than an aircraft carrier. I found this book to be a little less about technical details and specifications, but I enjoyed this and enjoyed the fact there was more about educated opinion. Now I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Naval history, just a mere enthusiast, but I found this to be a very interesting book, one that would suit many levels of knowledge. As usual, there was great photography throughout the book and certainly one I’ll be reading again for all kinds of information.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Salvation Army - 150 Years of Blood & Fire

The Salvation Army - 150 Years of Blood & Fire written by Stephen Huggins

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 240

In 2015 the Salvation Army celebrated the 150th anniversary of its birth in the poverty and

squalor of London’s East End. Today the Army is to be found in towns and cities throughout

Britain, its members readily recognised through their military uniform and their reputation

for good works widely acknowledged. Many people, however, are unaware of the origins

and subsequent development of the organisation. At times Salvationists were imprisoned,

beaten up in street riots and ridiculed in the press for their religious beliefs. Despite this

persecution, the Army put in place a programme of help for the poor and marginalised of

such ambition that it radically altered social thinking about poverty.

There have been very few attempts at writing a wider and more accessible account which locates the Army in its historical context. This is something of an omission given that it has made a unique contribution to the changing social, cultural and religious landscape of Britain. The Salvation Army: 150 years of Blood and Fire aims to provide a history of the organisation for the general reader and is for anyone who is interested in the interplay of people, ideas and events. The book reveals how the story of the Salvation Army raises fundamental questions about issues of power, class, gender and race in modern society; all as pertinent today as they were in Victorian Britain. The Salvation Army: 150 years of Blood and Fire also makes extensive use of pictures illustrative of the Army’s history gathered from around the world, most of which have never previously been published.

The Salvation Army and other smaller religious groups like the Quakers, always fascinate me. I think I just have a keen interest in smaller groups that get little attention and this makes me want to find out more about them. I should also point out that when I used to live in a small Bedfordshire village, the Salvation Army was very prominent and used to do a lot of work locally. I was surprised at how much I already knew about the Salvation but the book does a great job of informing the reader about its origins, aims, strengths, development and why it began and also why it is still relevant today. This was a really interesting read, started by the Booth’s who really seemed to care about society and community. I would happily tell people to give this book a read.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Castle Builders

Castle Builders written by Malcolm Hislop and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £18.99 - Hardback - Pages 272

In Castle Builders, Malcolm Hislop looks at the hugely popular subject of castles from

the unusual perspective of design and construction. In this general introduction to the

subject, we discover something of the personalities behind their creation - the architects

and craftsmen - and, furthermore, the techniques they employed, and how style and

technology were disseminated. Castle Builders takes both a thematic and a chronological

approach to the design and construction of castles, providing the reader with clear lines

of development. Themes include earth, timber and stone construction techniques, the

evolution of the great tower, the development of military engineering, the progression of

domestic accommodation, and the degree to which aesthetics contributed to castle design.

This book looks at the creation and building of castles and types of castles from all around Europe. This book looks at the design, reasons, materials, fortifications, living conditions, military, aesthetics, and even the personalities of those commissioning the building and how this is impressed upon the building. The book is also full of great diagrams, drawings and photographs which really do complement the text and just help advance the learning from the book. I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish and loved all the design, engineering and the process of how castles were built. As a fan of castles full stop, this was like a dream book. All I can say is that if you are a fan of castles, you will love this book.

Captured at Arnhem - Men’s Experiences in their own Words

Captured at Arnhem - Men’s Experiences in their own Words written

by Peter Green and published by Pen & Sword Books - £28 - Hardback - Pages 592

For the British 1st Airborne Division, Operation Market Garden in September 1944

was a disaster. The Division was eliminated as a fighting force with around half of its

men captured.

The Germans were faced with dealing with 6,000 prisoners in a fortnight; many of them seriously wounded. The POWs were processed and despatched to camps around Germany and German-occupied eastern Europe, here the men experienced the reality of the collapsing regime with little food and shrinking frontiers.

Operation Endor was put in place after the liberation in 1945 which required returning POWs to complete liberation questionnaires on their release and repatriation to Britain. Unfortunately, this was put in place after some had already returned however around a third of those captured, some 2,357, did complete the questionnaires giving a picture of everyday life of these elite troops time in captivity from capture to release.

These questionnaires show that men were often treated inhumanely, particularly when moved to camps by closed box cars and when camps were evacuated. Although the German interrogators were predominately interested in Allied aircraft and airfields, they were also concerned with politics and how Germany would be treated after an Allied victory.

Despite the terrible conditions and interrogations, the airborne men’s morale remained high; carrying out sabotage at artificial oil plants, railway repairs, factories and mines. Some overcame their guards when being evacuated at the end of the war, in some cases joining the Resistance and they recorded help received from Dutch, French and German civilians.

Wow, one just has to start this review with that as the work, research, effort and time that has gone into this book by the author Peter Green is immense. This book is a huge collection of information from records, interviews and questionnaires from the men who took part in Operation Market Garden, which attempted to take a number of bridges in Holland in order to forge an advance against Germany. Due to the failure of the operation, the Germans had to handle and deal with around 6,000 prisoners, with varying degrees of help given to the prisoners. As some were well treated and others were treated particularly poorly by their captors. 

There is great information in this book, as many were forced to walk great distances to various types of camps, many were forced to work to support the German machine and some shall we say were made to talk. This has been a fantastic book to read, packed with much valuable information, and I have to heap an awful lot of praise on the author who has done some great work and research. The only downside I could think of was as much of the information is in tables, it was always the easiest book to read practically, but this is such a minor issue. A really good book I would recommend to anyone, if I could put a number of stars at the end of this review, I'd put 5 stars.

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Kennedy Assassinations - JFK & Bobby Kennedy - Debunking the Conspiracy Theories

The Kennedy Assassinations - JFK & Bobby Kennedy - Debunking the

Conspiracy Theories written by Mel Ayton and published by Frontline

Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 248

Few events have been the subject of more conspiracy theories than the assassinations

of the two Kennedy brothers. Indeed, a great many people consider that there were other

individuals than Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan involved in both murders. Was a

shot fired from Dealey Plaza’s grassy knoll? Why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald? Was it

the CIA, the Soviets, Cuban nationalists or the Mafia that arranged John Kennedy’s

assassination? Was Robert Kennedy shot from in front and behind, and who had the

most to gain from his death?

These are just a few of the questions that have been put forward by a myriad of conspiracy theorists and it is those people and their ideas that Mel Ayton has tackled head-on. Over many years, Mel Ayton has examined all the more substantial conspiracy theories and, through careful analysis of documents and eyewitness statements, he has demolished each one.

In each case, Mel Ayton presented the results of his detailed investigations in periodicals as he worked through the various theories. These have now been brought together to provide a comprehensive analysis of all the main theories as to who, how and why the two Kennedy brothers met their deaths in such unusual circumstances.

Though wild ideas will continue to be proposed and efforts will still be made to demonstrate that Oswald could not have fired off three shots with great accuracy in the few seconds available to him as the presidential cavalcade passed beneath the window where he crouched, or that there were sinister reasons why three CIA men were allegedly present on the night of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the harsh reality is that the Kennedy brothers were each killed by lone gunmen.

This is an absorbing read, brought up to date with the addition of new material as it has been uncovered. Maybe, just maybe, this book will persuade people that the official accounts of both murders, although flawed, are not cover-ups but simply statements of fact.

Whenever you talk about the Kennedy Brothers now, you’re rarely going to talk about
their presidency or political life. Your sadly and usually going to be talking about their
assassinations. Both of these took place at a time of social and political turmoil in America,
there is a lot of conspiracy debate, conflict and myth-making. This is a really good book
as the author Mel Ayton takes the two presidents separately and goes through the differing
conspiracy theories one by one, ranging from the CIA, to a lone gunman, the Mafia and so
on and so on. Having read a good number of books on this subject previously I would
say that it is a well set out book and Mel Ayton argues each point very well. Certainly, an
excellent book if you are new to the subject and even if you’ve had a passing interest
previously. A book even I enjoyed and I quite like the author and his writing style having
read his previous book Protecting the Presidential Candidates.

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...