Pen & Sword Books

Saturday, October 29, 2022

In Furious Skies - Flying with Hitler's Luftwaffe in the Second World War

In Furious Skies - Flying with Hitler's Luftwaffe in the Second World War written

by Tim Heath and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 280

When a proud Adolf Hitler revealed his new Luftwaffe to the world in March 1935, it was

the largest, most modern military air arm the world had seen. Equipped with the latest

monoplane fighter and bomber aircraft manned by well-trained and motivated crews, it

soon became evident that the Luftwaffe also possessed a high degree of technical

superiority over Germany’s future enemies.

Yet within just nine years the once-mightiest air force in the world had reached total collapse, destroyed in part by the very people responsible for creating it. By 1944, the Luftwaffe, wearied by aerial battles on multiple fronts combined with tactical mismanagement from the highest levels of command, were unable to match their enemies in both production and manpower. By this time the Luftwaffe was fighting for its survival, and for the survival of Germany itself, above the burning cities of the Third Reich, facing odds sometimes as high as ten-to-one in the air.

Told through the eyes of the fighter and bomber crews themselves, this book explores previously unpublished first-hand accounts of the rise and fall of one of the most formidable air forces in twentieth-century military history. It paints a haunting picture of the excitement, fear, romance intertwined with the brutality, futility and wastefulness that is war.

My hopes were high with this book having read 4-5 of Tim Heath’s books, in my opinion, if you need information on German WWII history or the Third Reich, there is nobody much better than Tim Heath. This particular book looks at the world of being a German pilot or part of the bombing crews in the Luftwaffe, hailed as an air force that was becoming the best in the world. The biggest problem though wasn’t really with the planes and pilots, it was with the German high command, mainly Hermann Goering. It has since been seen by historians and writers that the weak link was Goering, and this was evidenced in this book by the pilot community, where Goering may have been a celebrated pilot in WWI his tactical planning, his need to save face and addictions caused him to fail himself and the Luftwaffe.

This book gives excellent attention to the thoughts and opinions of German flyers, and I think

this is what echoes in all of Heath’s books, the ability to get first-hand accounts of real people

who are doing the work on the ground or experiencing the realities of what is going on in the

thick of events. I should also say that the fans who love to read about the technical details of

planes, equipment and weaponry will not be disappointed with this book. This has been

another thoroughly good book to read, very well researched and written in excellent detail.

This book is a must for anyone wanting to read about the Luftwaffe. A quality book.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Factory Girls - The Working Lives of Women & Children

Factory Girls - The Working Lives of Women & Children written by Paul Chrystal

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 272

Ever since there have been factories, women and children have, more often than not, worked in

those factories. What is perhaps less well known is that women also worked underground in coal

mines and overground scaling the inside of chimneys. Young children were also put to work in

factories and coalmines; they were deployed inside chimneys, often half-starved so that they

could shin up ever-narrower flues.

This book charts the unhappy but aspirational story of women and children at work through the Industrial Revolution to 1914. Without women, there would have been no pre-industrial cottage industries, without women the Industrial Revolution would not have been nearly as industrial and nowhere near as revolutionary.

Many women, and children, were obliged to take up work in the mills and factories – long hours, dangerous, often toxic conditions, monotony, bullying, abuse and miserly pay were the usual hallmarks of a day’s work – before they headed homeward to their other job: keeping home and family together.

This long overdue and much-needed book also covers the social reformers, the role of feminism and activism and the various Factory Acts and trade unionism.

We examine how women and children suffered chronic occupational diseases and disabling industrial injuries – life changing and life-shortening – and often a one-way ticket to the workhouse. The book concludes with a survey of the art, literature and music which formed the soundtrack for the factory girl and the climbing boys.

My word what a fantastic book about the history of women and children in the workplace really from the early civilisation times. Some of the conditions and standards in which both women and children had to work in were just crazy and disgusting, it beggars belief more weren’t killed on a regular basis. Especially children who were often forced into small, cramped and very dangerous positions often to eek out the minoucha of what was possible. I really enjoyed this book and I’ve learnt a lot as the author Paul Chrystal has written a very detailed and comprehensive account. I would say this book is fantastic and a must for anyone who wants to learn more about women or children in the workplace. I’m really looking forward to the second book in this pairing, and hope I get a chance to review it.

Arthur Plantagenet - Henry VIII’s Illegitimate Uncle

Arthur Plantagenet - Henry VIII’s Illegitimate Uncle written by Sarah-Beth Watkins

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 208

Illegitimate son to Edward IV and the uncle of Henry VIII, Arthur Plantagenet’s life is an intriguing story. Raised in his father’s court, he then became a trusted member of Henry VII’s household and after his death, was a prominent figure at the court of Henry VIII. Henry VIII treated his uncle well in the early years of his reign, making him vice-admiral and then Lord Deputy of Calais in 1533.

Arthur did the best he could in his new position in Calais over seven years, including trying to maintain a relationship with Thomas Cromwell against a background of religious change, but there were numerous complaints about him and his paranoid nephew’s suspicions over his loyalty grew – culminating in Lisle’s arrest and imprisonment for two years with no legal reason.

Arthur was released from the Tower in 1542, yet tragically died after receiving a diamond ring from his nephew. He was so excited that his heart – that ‘gentlest living heart’ – failed soon after.

We owe much of what we know about Henry VIII’s uncle to the seizure and preservation of the Lisle Letters, an impressive collection of correspondence obtained at his arrest that has miraculously survived. Not only do they give details of Arthur’s life, but they are an amazing insight into the religious, political, culture and social background of the 16th century. Placed as he was, Arthur Plantagenet’s story gives a whole new, fresh perspective on a turbulent yet vibrant period of history.

This was a good book in which learn about a character who we usually don’t hear anything

about in Kind Henry VIII’s uncle, Arthur Plantagenet. This is an excellent book written by the

author Sarah Beth Watkins, who has written very comprehensively with depth, a simple

throwaway answer was greatly explained. I enjoyed this book and I would have thought

most people into Tudor history would get a lot out of it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell

The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell written by Caroline Angus and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 272

Thomas Cromwell was King Henry VIII’s most faithful servant, the only man the king
ever openly regretted executing. But Thomas Cromwell came to royal prominence late in life, and had 45 years of family, friends and experiences behind him before catching Henry’s eye.

Born a common boy at a time of significant change in England in 1485, Cromwell grew up in a happy, close-knit family, before heading to Europe for dramatic adventures. Returning to England a decade later, Cromwell emerged with the skills of a lawyer and merchant, with the European language skills and connections to match. Marriage, children, friends, family and manor homes all furnished Cromwell’s life, a man happy and settled in London. But more beckoned for the Italian-Englishman, when a special friendship with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey grew, along with the attention of the king.

The tragic personal loss affected Cromwell, hidden behind the more-recorded professional accolades. But friendships remained throughout time, changes in allegiance and even religion. Men who had met the young Cromwell stuck close to him through the years, and Cromwell never forgot a single loyal friend. Cromwell’s desire to support his son saw Gregory become brother-in-law to the king himself, only for more tragedy to harm the ever-growing Cromwell family.

Far from the seemingly dour, black-clad, serious man, Cromwell lavished those around him with gifts, parties, extravagant games, entertainments, animals and outfits. But the glamour and beauty of Cromwell’s life would come to a sudden end, leaving a trail of devastated men and women, and an extraordinary manor home, Austin Friars, scattered to the wind.

Using a wide variety of primary material, this exciting biography weaves a new narrative on the indefatigable Thomas Cromwell, illustrating him more vividly than we've known him before.

Thomas Cromwell has to be one of the most written-about men in history who wasn’t a King or from royalty. But he was a man who occupied an important position in history being almost Henry VIII’s right-hand man. In fact, the English reformation and closure of the monasteries was something he was strongly influential in. Cromwell was a highly educated man and we learn about his family, his influence in Europe and his ability to be fluent in a number of European languages. I found this book to be written very well with a lot of detail to the research but also written in a largely positive manner as he is seen as a rather decisive character in history. I really enjoyed this book, reading it in a few days but I would highly recommend it.

Great Escape Forger - The Work of Carl Holmstrom POW #221 An Artist in Stalag Luft III

Great Escape Forger - The Work of Carl Holmstrom POW #221 An Artist in

Stalag Luft III written by Susan Holmstrom Kohnowich and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 168

As one of many artists confined in Stalag Luft III, Carl Holmstrom’s superb artwork depicts life as a

Kriegie created with the perspective only a prisoner of war could draw upon as an eyewitness to

history. He spent the majority of his captivity in that camp made famous by The Great Escape, later

made into an award-winning film.

While a POW, he sketched his fellow prisoners and encouraged others to take up drawing as hobby, thus breaking the boredom of camp life. But his artistic ability proved to be even more important. Carl forged invaluable official German documents for escape purposes for other prisoners—work that was tedious and painstaking. Remarkably, he saved over 200 examples of his work by carrying them on the appallingly-arduous 1945 winter march through Germany when the camp was evacuated as the Russians closed in from the east

Post-war, Carl Holmstrom said, ‘The drawings were made during imprisonment and represent a sincere effort to portray to the American people and especially to the relatives of the prisoners, intimate glimpses of Kriegie life.’ His words proved to be prophetic.

His daughter, Susan Holmstrom Kohnowich, spent five years working on an expansion of Carl’s earlier self-published Kriegie Life book. Extensive research went into the write-ups under the drawings and the biographies of the men in the portraits. This superb book honours Carl’s exceptional artistic gift. Indeed, it has a strong claim to contain the finest collection of POW art to emerge from Nazi-occupied Europe.

I found this book the Great Escape Forger, to be stunning both in history and the huge amount of information to learn and the fantastic artwork throughout the book. Carl Holmstrom was a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III which would later be made famous by the film the Great Escape. What the book does is take you through the everyday life of living in a POW camp from washing, cleaning, eating, social clubs and also the planning of an escape and all that would involve. People would need to do various jobs in order to support an escape attempt and Carl was responsible for forging German documents like passports, identity cards & papers. 

Susan Holmstrom Kohnowich has done her father proud with this book as it is put together well, and what we learn is closely partnered with some great artwork all drawn by her father. As someone who is an avid reader of history, I have learnt so much about life in a POW camp from this book. I would highly recommend this book for sure as POW camps are an interest of mine. This book has also made me want to find out more about the art of Carl Holmstrom, the pictures of the prisoners and camp staff at the back of the book are just brilliant.  

True Crime Coming Soon ...

 True Crime Coming Soon...

As some of you may know you can find me on Youtube with my history book channel, well I am now starting up a second channel based on True Crime and books about crime. So watch this space for more information soon.

The Welsh Gold King - The Life of William Pritchard Morgan

The Welsh Gold King - The Life of William Pritchard Morgan written by Norena Shopland

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

In 1864, a poor Welsh boy, William Pritchard Morgan, emigrated to Australia to make his fortune. He returned a wealthy lawyer and aspiring politician, having used his riches to invest in gold mines and develop new techniques of recovering gold. His political aims were unsuccessful in Australia: the newspaper Morgan used to promote himself was involved a sensational trial against another editor; and a man was even shot whilst bringing in his votes - so Morgan claimed. He returned home, ready to tackle the mining of Welsh gold.

After ousting the key players of the 1860s Little Gold Rush, Morgan soon took over Gwynfynydd, one of the area's most lucrative mines, and stood as an independent MP for Merthyr. He boasted of a fantastic seam of gold, so great he would pay off the national debt… a hero overnight, the Welsh Gold King took the title of Merthyr's MP.

Despite the massive successes of his mines, the government taxed Morgan hard and almost crippled his business, so he refused to pay. When the government tried to shut him down, the public rose to his defence, and Morgan was sued in an avidly watched trial that could change mining in Britain forever.

The Welsh Gold King bestowed gifts on many well-known people, including royalty, and promoted the tradition that all royal brides wear wedding rings of Welsh gold. He gave golden prizes – some of which caused great controversy – and his liberal politics were a forerunner of Labour views that were hard for many of his contemporaries to agree with.

Yet another book I have looked forward to reading, but with slight embarrassment, because I have lived in West Wales for 20 years, yet I have never heard of William Pritchard Morgan. So it was a delight to dive in and read this book, which didn’t leave me disappointed at all. Morgan was a bit of rags to riches story from Monmouthshire, one of these men that moves abroad, makes his money, and who then wants come back to his country to improve things there. Morgan would make his fortune in gold from Australia and as a lawyer, he would then return back to Wales and would open up his own gold mine with some marked success. This was an interesting and revealing book and actually, one I think would interest a lot of people here in Wales, certainly a less celebrated character.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Robert Baden-Powell - A Biography

Robert Baden-Powell - A Biography written by Lorraine Gibson and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 256

A conflicted character - militarist and pacifist, macho man and drag artist, elitist and
socialist - he was one of the 20th century’s most influential and, latterly, controversial Englishmen, finding fame not once, but twice – and for two very different reasons.

Before donning his trademark shorts, the man known for inventing the Scouts is hailed a hero of the Second Boer War, the first military conflict covered in great detail by the media.

Reports of his unconventional methods of holding a Boer army at bay, despite being woefully outnumbered, at the South African town of Mafeking, make global headlines and when he returns home to England, hordes of adoring fans pack London’s streets, waving flags and declaring him the Hero of Mafeking.

The same ingenuity, reconnaissance skills and spectacular eccentricity that win him this military acclaim become the foundations of his second mission, that of saving Victorian boys from poverty and despair, and himself from having to grow up, by teaching them scouting.

This book examines Baden-Powell’s dual personality, or his ‘two lives’ as he called them, including his difficult childhood with a domineering and unaffectionate mother whom he loved even after she forced him into the army at 19, dashing his dreams of becoming an artist.

It looks at his military career and his love of drama and at why protesters wanted to topple his statue on Poole Quay in the pandemic summer of 2020.

It also considers a recently-discovered telegraph that adds fuel to the speculation over the nature of his relationship with a fellow-soldier that endured for 30 years - until he married a 22-year-old woman in secret when he was 55.

I should point out from the start of this review that I was in Scouting since I was 8, as a youth member and leader and only left a couple of years ago at 45. So you could say I already knew most of what was said in this book and taught bits of the information to the members I led. But I would say Baden Powell was an unusual character but someone who I would say was a decent man, and most of today's thoughts about him are down to modernist revisions of him. You will always get people who will always put their own views and opinions on people, which then distorts the actual person. This book I found to be very detailed, balanced and just a good read, that paints Baden Powell in a remarkably accurate light. I very much enjoyed the ‘war years’ information about the book and after he set up Scouting in 1907, this was quite well known and publicised quite often promoted through Scouting even to this day. A really good read and one of the better biographies I have read of the man.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Real Queen Charlotte, Inside the real Bridgerton Court

The Real Queen Charlotte, Inside the real Bridgerton Court written by

Catherine Curzon and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 224

Known to millions as the imperious matriarch of Bridgerton’s court, Charlotte of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz was still a teenager when she was chosen to be the bride of King George III. Shy, innocent, and sheltered, the orphaned princess and her youthful groom carried the hopes of a nation on their shoulders.

The placid and unassuming young couple symbolised a new beginning, but soon those hopes began to sour. Charlotte and George’s marriage lasted for nearly 60 years and produced more than a dozen children, but it was beset by unrest at home, war in the colonies, and the king’s encroaching madness.

As the royal couple battled against their critics, their political opponents, and sometimes even their own family, Charlotte learned what it really meant to be queen. Locked in a bitter struggle with her eldest son for the king’s future and with her daughters for their freedom, the timid young girl grew into an insular and domineering woman that few dared to cross.

Shouldering the burden of family disputes, ambitious courtiers, and the care of the man she adored, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz presided over one of the most tumultuous eras that the monarchy has ever seen. As tragic as it was glittering, this is the story of her extraordinary life.

I should say that I have never seen Bridgerton and only know little about Queen Charlotte, I offered to review this book purely because I like the writings of the author Catherine Curzon. I have read a number of her books and they are always comprehensive and very well-detailed, and yet an easy read. Queen Charlotte was unfortunately overshadowed by the life and health of her husband, and her sons. I actually think this was something she wanted or became used to as she actually came from a small family and she was dwarfed by marrying into a larger, much more prominent family. Plus she was more of a family woman and she cared more for her family than anything else, at a time when royals were seen as the stars of that period. I enjoyed reading this book and loved learning more about a woman who the world doesn’t get to know much about. Yet another excellent book from Catherine Curzon.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Forgotten Heroes of the Battle of Britain

Forgotten Heroes of the Battle of Britain written by Dilip Sarkar MBE and

published by Air World Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 344

Lasting sixteen weeks during the momentous year of 1940, the Battle of Britain ended

with the Luftwaffe having failed to achieve the decisive victory that Hitler had demanded.

Whilst the technical details of the aircraft and weapons involved are, of course, crucial

to our understanding of the events that summer, the Battle was fought by human beings

– and it is that human experience and contribution, to this author, is the most important

thing to acknowledge, record and share.

Nearly 3,000 Fighter Command aircrew fought in the Battle of Britain, immortalised by Churchill as ‘The Few’. Of these, 544 lost their lives that blood-stained summer and 700 more would die before the Second World War ended – a victory very likely impossible had The Few not held out in 1940.

The names of some of these young men, aces such as Douglas Bader, ‘Sailor’ Malan and Eric Lock, were well-known to the free world at the time – and certainly the legless Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader remains, even today, the best-known British fighter pilot of the war. However, the vast majority of The Few remained anonymous, owing partially to Air Ministry policy and equally a desire to play down their august achievements. Since the Second World War, the memoirs of a number of the Few have been published, privately and commercially, and books have been written about others.

The record is a rich legacy, overall – and yet, if we investigate the Battle of Britain further, we find many forgotten heroes, no less deserving of recognition. This book, therefore, seeks to explore the lives and contributions made by certain of these men, to give currency back to their brave deeds. In truth, the list of deserving subjects is virtually endless; those included in this book are individuals whose stories have crossed the author’s path at some stage during his long career – and which he feels are truly ‘Forgotten Heroes'. 

Having done a lot of reading about the Battle of Britain in recent months, I was looking forward to reading this book especially as it concentrates on the less publicised pilots in the Battle of Britain. This book was a really good and fascinating read, I really enjoyed learning about new characters to me, the bravery and strength of these men is extraordinary and this book really does show how this country owes them an awful lot. The book was good in that it wasn’t just a retelling of events, I quite enjoyed all the comments and additions by the family members and friends which added love and meaning to the stories. Another part of the book I enjoyed was the coverage of tactics and flying during the battle, clearly showing the skill and thought that had to go into being a fighter pilot.

I enjoyed the book immensely and judging by the thorough bibliography at the back of the book, Dilip Sarkar MBE is clearly a leading expert on the subject, and one to take notice of. The book contains some great photos and there are lots of personal family photos throughout the book. I would most definitely recommend this book as one of the best I’ve read in a while and an easy read. This will have your attention until the end, and highlights some great characters I enjoyed learning about.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Women of the American Revolution

Women of the American Revolution written by Samantha Wilcoxson and published

by Pen & Sword Books - £20 -Hardback - Pages 192

Women of the American Revolution will explore the trials of war and daily life for women in

the United States during the War for Independence. What challenges were caused by the

division within communities as some stayed loyal to the king and others became patriots?

How much choice did women have as their loyalties were assumed to be that of their

husbands or fathers? The lives of women of the American Revolution will be examined

through an intimate look at some significant women of the era. Some names will be familiar,

such as Martha Washington who travelled to winter camps to care for her husband and rally

the troops or Abigail Adams who ran the family’s farms and raised children during John’s

long absences. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton is popular for her role in Hamilton the musical,

but did you know she was also an early activist working tirelessly for multiple social causes?

Decide for yourself if the espionage of Agent 355 or the ride of Sybil Ludington are history or

myth. Not all American women served the side of the revolutionaries. Peggy Shippen

gambled on the loyalist side and paid severe consequences. From early historian Mercy Otis

Warren to Dolley Madison, who defined what it means to be a US First Lady, women of the

American Revolution strived to do more than they had previously thought possible during a

time of hardship and civil war.

At long last, I get a book to review on one of my favourite subjects, American history. This

book Women of the American Revolution looks at the leaders or those that were particularly

strident in a number of causes around the American Revolution. I liked this book due to the

wide variety of women mentioned as it was a broad spectrum both for and against

independence. We read about Martha Washington and Elizabeth Hamilton and also we

should mention Agent 355. I enjoyed the book and found it well written and balanced but

also it helped me learn more about people I hadn’t known about. A good thought out read.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Final Curtain: Burma 1941-45 Veteran’s Stories

The Final Curtain: Burma 1941-45 Veteran’s Stories written by Jeremy Archer and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 312

The Final Curtain: Burma 1941-1945 comprises interviews with some of the very few

surviving veterans of this most arduous of campaigns. In their own words, soldiers, sailors

and airmen now aged between 95 and 101 vividly recount the experiences that they

endured more than seventy-five years ago. This is oral history at its best, from officers and

men of 14th Army, which comprised some 100,000 British and other Commonwealth

personnel, 340,000 from the Sub-Continent and 90,000 East and West Africans. The

interviewees include individuals from all these groups. Their accounts cover the retreat

from Burma, the Chindit operations behind Japanese lines, the hard-fought struggle in the

Arakan, the crucial battles at Kohima and Imphal, and the final advance to Rangoon,

culminating in a decisive victory.

The veterans featured in this fascinating collection include a Primus (Archbishop) of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a former Chairman of Manchester City Football Club, and the Principal of the Accra Polytechnic in Ghana as well as two career Army officers. Regardless of their post-war achievements, all the contributors share the distinction of having served in a hugely demanding and ultimately victorious campaign against a merciless enemy. Their accounts make for inspiring and unforgettable reading.

Burma, one of the hardest types of battlefield to fight in due to the heat, terrain and jungle conditions. This book The Final Curtain: Burma is a fantastic book where the reader hears from a good number of allied servicemen who fought in connection with Burma, these stories come from men who served in all branches of the armed forces. I call this book fantastic because it is a book containing stories from the men involved, their experiences, thoughts and the events that happened to them. This is so important because it is first-hand experiences, such a valuable resource in history. The author Jeremy Archer has done a great job in getting these stories and putting them together in such an easy-to-read manner, the maps in the book are good and there is a good number of photos throughout. I would certainly recommend this book highlighting such an important part of WWII.

The Harwich Striking Force

The Harwich Striking Force written by Steve R Dunn and published by

Seaforth Publishing - £25 - Hardback - Pages 336

The Harwich Force has made its name and will not be forgotten during the future annals
of history’; so said Rear Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt on Armistice Day 1918. But that fame has not endured. Yet for the whole duration of the First World War, the Harwich Striking Force was the front line of the Royal Navy, a force of cruisers and destroyers defending the seas for the Allies.

Under a charismatic and aggressive leader, Reginald Yorke Tyrwhitt, U-boats, German cruisers, destroyers and light craft all met their ends at the hands of the Force, as did enemy seaplanes and Zeppelin airships. The Harwich ships were at sea almost daily throughout the war, haunting the German coast and the Friesian Islands, pioneering aerial attack from the sea, developing naval carrier aviation and combined air/sea operations, and hunting for enemy submarines and minelayers in the North Sea. The Harwich Force also took part in major naval battles alongside the Grand Fleet’s battlecruisers, and protected merchant ships operating in the dangerous waters around Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Britain.

The author also assesses the role played by the other Royal Navy formations at Harwich: submarines, auxiliary minesweeping and patrol vessels, the Felixstowe seaplane base and the town itself. And when the war was finally won, the Force gained further fame when the German U-boat fleet was surrendered there.

Lavishly illustrated, this book is an enthralling account of the men of the Harwich Force, of their grit and brave sacrifice and the key part that they played in the final Allied victory against Germany.

I enjoy it when a Steve R Dunn book arrives for review, your guaranteed a very good and comprehensive read. It’s probably reading Dunn's books that have encouraged my reading of everything naval or maritime in recent years. The Harwich Striking Force goes through the highs and lows encountered by the striking force and what a fantastic job they did throughout WWI, facing German U-Boats, cruisers, destroyers and even light aircraft, seaplanes and zeppelins. The Harwich Force was fundamentally holding their own led for the most part by their tenacious leader in Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt. The ability of Tyrwhitt to organise and plan manoeuvres would hold off and help secure the North sea area, providing a vital win for the allied cause. 

The book, in my opinion, is very well written and a lot of research has gone into this book, there are a good number of photographs throughout the book with maps and diagrams too. I always enjoy the notes and tables at the back of a book and this book doesn’t disappoint with excellent appendices, notes and a bibliography. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I guessed I would, it really is a good read and kept me hooked for a good few days. Most definitely recommended.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The World’s First Football Superstar - The Life of Stephen Smith

The World’s First Football Superstar - The Life of Stephen Smith written

by Owen Arthur and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback -

Pages 296

Buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of the small village of Benson in

Oxfordshire lies the body of a footballing world champion from a bygone era

shrouded in the mists of time. His name was Stephen Smith. This footballer of

the Victorian and Edwardian era could claim as many league title winning medals

as John Terry and Wayne Rooney, more league winners medals than Eric Cantona,

Frank Lampard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer.

This book is the never before told story of a footballer born at the end of the Industrial Revolution, son of agricultural labourers who became a miner, working underground combining that job with one as a professional footballer to rise to the top of the footballing world. Smith won trophy after trophy in the best and only professional league anywhere in the world at that time. He also scored the goal that made England World Champions in 1895.

Smith, at the top of his game in a move that mirrored the Premier League breakaway of 1992 and the recent ill-fated European Super League then joined the newly formed Southern League at a time when the Football League started to cap player wages. He did this in order to ensure his family’s future as well as end his reliance on his part-time earnings from mining. Football’s zeitgeist has fundamentally changed very little in the last 130 years for those inside the industry.

This book is the story of Stephen Smith, England’s leading footballer at the turn of the 19th century, this man would have been the equivalent of the likes of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Having the world at his feet, he was playing at a number of clubs and England, winning a plethora of trophies. Pen & Sword Books always exposes my knowledge of sporting history because I think like many, very few will have heard of Stephen Smith. But his story is interesting to learn and if anything makes me wish we could have some more of him present today. A really good book and makes me think about how good football used to be.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Titanic - Day By Day

Titanic - Day by Day written by Simon Medhurst and published by Pen &

Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 400

After the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912, the story hit the headlines worldwide.

Details of the tragedy were displayed on the front pages of every newspaper and

magazine, and were talked about in every home.

The events that happened on that fateful night should never be forgotten. In this unique book, each page is filled with information for every Titanic enthusiast, whether seasoned or a beginner. For each day of the year, there are births and deaths of passengers and crew alongside relevant newspaper articles from the time. These are details of true-life events as seen by the eyes of the world in 1912.

Also included are Titanic facts and Titanic survivor quotes. This allows the reader to discover more about the tragedy as it unfolded before the eyes of witnesses, and to delve into the British and American inquiries to see what really happened.

Simon's great-grandfather Robert Hichens, one of the six quartermasters of the Titanic, was at the helm when the ship hit the iceberg. He survived on lifeboat number six. His experience on Titanic is one of hundreds recounted in this book, passengers and crew alike.

Titanic Day by Day has a worldwide appeal to all ages because of the wealth of information and facts within. The book can be picked up both for casual reading or used every day of the week and enjoyed. It is distinctive in the way that it covers facts and information on Titanic’s passengers and crew in a daily format. With the information displayed throughout a full year, this allows for a uniquely straightforward exploration of details about the people who perished in the waters of the Atlantic and those that survived. This will keep their stories alive for generations to come.

This book is very much a personal book concentrating on the passengers rather than the disaster itself. The book looks at every day throughout the year and looks at the personal events of the people who were on board on that date. What this allows is the personal stories of the people and how the disaster affected them, and it should be said that the accounts are of those passengers but also the crew members on board. This was a nice easy read, but it should also be said that it was very informative and detailed, there has been a lot of research gone into this book.

Friday, October 14, 2022

A Tailor in Auschwitz

A Tailor in Auschwitz written by David van Turnhout & Dirk Verhofstadt and

published by Pen & Sword - £22 - Hardback - Pages 240

David Van Turnhout and Dirk Verhofstadt traced the story of David's Jewish grandfather,

Ide Leib Kartuz. Fleeing from antisemitism and violence, he came to Antwerp in 1929

and set up business as a tailor. The family he left behind ended up in the ghetto of

Radomsko. Each and every member of the family was gassed at Treblinka. In Belgium,

Kartuz joined the resistance movement, but was arrested by the Nazis in 1942 and

deported to Auschwitz. On arrival there, his wife and two children immediately died a

horrible death.

He survived in a unit of tailors where he repaired camp clothing and SS guards' uniforms, sometimes receiving special orders from SS officers. Kartuz endured an inhuman death march to Mauthausen. After the war, back in Antwerp, he made tailored suits for bankers and other business people. His final battle was against the Belgian state, for recognition as a Belgian citizen, member of the resistance and war victim. Very few people realise how difficult it was for Jewish people to survive after liberation.

The authors dig deep into the core of the Holocaust and investigate every trail from Radomsko to Miami. In the Auschwitz archives, they discover unpublished witness statements by tailors in Block 1. And completely unexpectedly, they also discover a cousin of Ide's, living in Florida. She had survived as a child by hiding in an attic in Brussels and speaks for the first time about those dark days. It took the authors a year to wind their questing way through important discoveries and setbacks but in this tribute, an unknown piece of history has finally been given a face.

This book is the story and struggle of Jewish tailor Ide Leib Kartuz who had been sent along with millions of other Jews to concentration camps in Europe during WW2 at the hands of Hitlers Nazi’s. The one reason that kept Kartuz from being killed in the concentration was his expertise and skills as a tailor, German guards and staff would appreciate the work and skill he could do in making clothing for the guard's wives and families. Kartuz would be picked up pre-war as a successful tailor but would make his way back there after the war to carry on his profession, but we find out about all the suffering and hell that went on. While the book is never going to be an easy read, this book is written well and an emotional story has now been written, sharing the levels of depravity that man can stoop to. Along with many other books like this, this book can tell a story that should never be forgotten. It is though heartwarming to know that Ide Leib Kartuz would go on to live to a good age.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Spies Who Changed History

Spies Who Changed History written by Nigel West and published by Frontline

Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 256

Spies have made an extraordinary impact on the history of the 20th Century, but fourteen

in particular can be said to have been demonstrably important. As one might expect, few

are household names, and it is only with the benefit of recently declassified files that we

can now fully appreciate the nature of their contribution.

The criteria for selection have been the degree to which each can now be seen to have had a very definite influence on a specific course of events, either directly, by passing vital classified material, or indirectly, by organizing or managing a group of spies. Those selected were active in the First World War, the inter-war period, the Second World War, the Cold War and even the post-Cold War era.

These include Walther Dewé who formed a spy ring in German-occupied Belgium during the First World War. This train-watching network, known as ‘White Lady’, reported on German troop deployments and possible weaknesses in the German defences. Extending its operations into northern France, the ring provided 75 per cent of the information received by GHQ, British Expeditionary Force. By the time of the Armistice in 1918, Dewé’s group had a staggering 1,300 members.

Olga Gray, the 27-year-old daughter of a Daily Mail journalist, was employed as a secretary by the Communist Party of Great Britain. In 1931 she undertook a mission for MI5 to penetrate the organization and discover its secret channel of communication with Moscow. Gray learned that the Party’s cipher was based on Treasure Island and this breakthrough enabled the Party’s messages to be read by Whitehall cryptographers.

These, and other surprising stories, are revealed in this fascinating insight into a secret world inhabited by mysterious and shadowy characters, all of whom, though larger than life, really did exist.

This book Spies Who Changed History, basically tells the stories of 24 spies from around the world in each chapter, these range from the Great War up to the end of the Cold War. These are all well-written and go into good detail about the spying missions, the cause and the outcome. I quite enjoyed this book as the stories were more factual rather than the added-on fiction or adjectively based. So I think those who want more detail in their reading will enjoy this book. I have also read a couple of Nigel West books previously and his book is always of a detailed kind and are comprehensively informed. A good book for the spy lover.

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...