Pen & Sword Books

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

British Transport Police - A Definitive History of the Early Years & Subsequent Development

British Transport Police - A Definitive History of the Early Years & Subsequent

Development written by Malcolm Clegg and published by Pen & Sword Books

- £25 - Hardback - Pages 256

This book traces the history of the British Transport Police, the National Police Force

responsible for policing the railways of England, Scotland and Wales. The roots of

the Force go back almost 200 years, starting with the development of the railways

during the Nineteenth Century. Hundreds of railway companies were founded and

although mergers and amalgamations took place, by the end of the century, well over

100 railway companies were operating, most of which employed railway policemen.

The first railway policemen were recruited to work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1826. Other railway companies quickly followed and by the 1850s, railway policemen with their smart uniforms and top hats were a common sight on Britain’s railways.

During the Twentieth Century, railway companies continued to merge before being nationalised in 1948. The following year, the British Transport Commission (BTC) was created to oversee not only the newly nationalised railway network, but also the nation’s docks, shipping, inland waterways, road transport, road haulage and other companies.

Also in 1949, the British Transport Commission Police (BTC Police) was created to take over the policing of these newly nationalised institutions. All the former railway, dock and canal police forces were then absorbed into the new BTC Police Force.

The BTC was abolished in 1962, having incurred serious financial losses. The BTC Police was renamed the British Transport Police in 1963 and has continued to operate ever since. It no longer polices the docks, harbours and canals for reasons outlined in this book.

Well this was an interesting book, and quite a revealing book in that I learnt quite a bit about another part of the police force and how it has progressed over the years. I suppose to today, that we would generally think of the British Transport Police as being London centric, but it certainly didn’t start out that way, in fact its origins were in the north of the country working for specific companies. It was also intriguing to learn that it expanded its scope to include not just railways but places like docks, canals and the road network too. The book also explains the development of these and eventually the demise really as these specific workplaces were then bought under regional forces.

The book also looks into different types of crimes encountered too or those that were specific to transport hub type places. The author has done a really good job in setting this book with plenty of good level research and detail. I’ve learnt a lot from this book and it was nice to read a book about the police that was different to ‘Jack the Ripper’ and murder cases. The back of the book has lot of additional information too which I found quite moving but good to learn about. This has been a brilliant book to read and would happily recommend it to anyone, especially if you were considering joining the police force. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace - British Spigot Weapons of the Second World War

Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace - British Spigot Weapons of the Second

World War written by David Lister and published by Frontline Books - £25 -

Hardback - Pages 264

Unlike conventional mortars, a spigot mortar does not have a barrel through with

the round is fired. Instead, the general concept involves a steel rod – the ‘spigot’ –

onto which the bomb is placed before it is fired. This design was, as David Lister

reveals, the basis of a number of successful weapons used during the Second

World War.

The myth of the PIAT man-portable anti-tank weapon is, for example, tied closely to British paratroopers struggling in the ruins of Arnhem with an inadequate design, one inferior to the German equivalent. Similarly, the myth of the Blacker Bombard is of a useless weapon, one of dubious quality, that was dumped on the unsuspecting Home Guard.

In reality, neither scenario is the case. Both weapons were devastating creations of war, often superior to any other nation’s counterpart.

At sea, the Hedgehog anti-submarine weapon was another powerful spigot weapon. It was undoubtedly capable of sweeping the U-boats from the sea and even winning the Battle of the Atlantic before it had really begun. That it did not is one of the great scandals of the Second World War, one hidden by wartime secrecy until now.

In Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace the author explores a large number of spigot weapons from the Second World War, many of which were created by the fertile mind of one of Britain’s great weapon inventors, Latham Valentine Stewart Blacker.

I must admit I started to read this thinking I wouldn’t really find it interesting, but quite the opposite, I really enjoyed this book. The book looks at small arms weapons that would be used against anything bigger than a man. We had the spigot gun used to take out a tank from a roadside, a PIAT, another anti tank weapon and then the Hedgehog, a weapon that would shoot small rockets to attack submarines. A whole range of weapons were shown, displayed and explained. A really fascinating read, and I commend the author David Lister for writing a detailed well explained book which was easy to read and understand. The book was complemented by some really good photographs and diagrams which also helped understand the weapons and processes they went through. I would definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Hitler’s Traitors - German Resistance to the Nazis

Hitler’s Traitors - German Resistance to the Nazis  written by Susan Ottaway

published by Pen & Sword Books - £19.95 - Hardback - Pages 224

This is the story of the groups and individuals that opposed Hitler and his government

and tells of their heroic, but largely ineffective, efforts to rid themselves of the most evil

regime in modern times. They came from many different backgrounds - Protestant

pastors, catholic bishops, politicians, military men, students and even a member of the

Waffen SS. Sadly, by the time the Nazi regime came to an end most of those Germans

who had resisted it were dead, arrested, imprisoned, tried and executed in the most

barbaric manner.

This book takes a look at individuals and groups that were opposed to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. While I found this book an interesting read, the book starts out with the rise of Hitler and the emergence of the NSDAP party in post-war WWI Germany. Then the last two-thirds of the book was dedicated to the resistance against Hitler, which was good and interesting to read, but it wasn’t really anything new or anything we hadn’t already heard before. The book felt like a book of its time of publishing both in style and reading. The book was published in 2003, and while the info is good, it feels of the year 2003. I must say though that the b/w photos in the middle of the book were of interest, and a number I hadn’t really seen before. A good book if you're interested in getting into the subject.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

March Past! Memoir of a Commando Leader from Lofoten to Dieppe & D-Day

March Past! Memoir of a Commando Leader from Lofoten to Dieppe & D-Day

written by Lord Simon Frazer and published by Frontline Books - £25 -

Hardback - Pages 400

At the outbreak of war in 1940, Simon Frazer, the 15th Lord Lovat and a former

Guards officer, was mobilized from the reserve list to join the Lovat Scouts, the

British Army’s first sniper unit that had been formed by his father during the Boer

War. The following year he volunteered for one of the new Commando units then

being created.

Lovat was personally involved in the training of the Commando troops on the West coast of Scotland. He was eventually attached to, and led, No.4 Commando. On 3 March 1941, Nos. 3 and 4 Commando launched a raid on the German-occupied Lofoten Islands. In this successful attack, Operation Claymore, the commandos destroyed fish-oil factories, petrol dumps, and even eleven ships. They also seized encryption equipment and codebooks, as well as captured 216 German troops.

Promoted to temporary major, Lovat led 100 men of No.4 Commando and a 50-man detachment from the Canadian Carleton and York Regiment in a raid on the French coastal village of Hardelot in April 1942. For this action he was awarded the Military Cross on 7 July that year.

Lord Lovat was involved in further raids against the German-held French coast, most notably Dieppe, during which No.4 Commando destroyed the coastal battery at Varengeville-sur-Mer in a text-book commando attack. This resulted in Lovat being awarded the DSO.

Such was the effect the Commando raids had on German morale, Lovat had 100,000 Reichmarks placed on his head, dead or alive.

Promoted to brigadier, Lovat formed the 1st Special Service Brigade (later the 1st Commando Brigade) which stormed ashore on D-Day to secure the eastern flank of the attacking forces. In this, he famously instructed his personal piper, Bill Millin, to pipe the commandos and himself ashore, in defiance of specific orders not to allow such an action in battle. In the subsequent fighting Lovat was seriously wounded, effectively ending his active career.

March Past! Is a book about Simon Frazer, the 15th Lord Lovat who would become on of

the original men who help set up and train young Commando soldiers based up in Scotland.

In fact if you read those old Commando comic books as a kid, Lord Lovat was one of those

men the comic books could have been based upon. His career, where he fought, what he did

and achieved were feats of heroes. This book is based upon his memoirs and they have

been put together in a great way that shows the real portrayal of a real hero who achieved

some astounding feats in WWII. The other thing that stood out was this was a man who was

blessed with being from a ‘higher’ position, and yet he was one of those men who mixed well

with his fellow soldiers, he was one of the guys. A really good book put together well and

really sells the story of a real hero.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Hitler's Henchmen - Nazi Executioners and How They Escaped Justice After WWII

Hitler's Henchmen - Nazi Executioners and How They Escaped Justice After WWII

written by Helmut Ortner and published by Frontline Books - £18.99 - Hardback -

Pages 136

Helmut Ortner reveals a staggering history of perpetrators, victims and bystanders in

Hitler’s Germany. He explores the shocking evidence of a merciless era – and of the

shameful omissions of post-war German justice.

Johann Reichhart was a state-appointed judicial executioner in Bavaria from 1924 until the end of the war in Europe. During the Nazi era, he executed numerous people who were sentenced to death for resisting National Socialism, including many of those involved in the 20 July 1944 bomb plot on Adolf Hitler.

As a member of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, the SS organisation responsible for administering the concentration and extermination camps, Arnold Strippel served at a number of locations during his rise to the rank of SS-Obersturmführer. These included Natzweiler-Struthof, Buchenwald, Majdanek, Ravensbrück and Neuengamme, where he was responsible for murdering the victims of a series of tuberculosis medical experiments. Like Reichhart, Erich Schwinge was also involved in the legal sphere during the Third Reich. A German military lawyer, in 1931 he became a professor of law and, from 1936, wrote the legal commentary on German military criminal law that was decisive during the Nazi era.

Aside from the part they played in Hitler’s regime, these three men all had one further thing in common – they survived the war and restarted their careers in Adenauer’s Federal Republic of Germany.

In Hitler’s Henchmen, Helmut Ortner uncovers the full stories of Reichhart, Strippel, Schwinge and others like them, Nazi perpetrators who enjoyed post-war careers as judges, university professors, doctors and politicians. Had they been gutless cogs in the machinery of the Nazi state, or ideologized persecutors? Ortner reveals that it was not only their Nazi pasts that were forgotten, but how the suffering of the victims, including resistance fighters such as Georg Elser and Maurice Becaud, and their relatives was suppressed and ignored.

This book looks at various people that were part of the Nazi regime managed to escape blame and carry on a significant lifestyle after the war. The whole book was well written and quite interesting, with quite a bit of research gone into it in what is usually a complicated Nazi regime, but I should probably say that I preferred the second half of the book. Which veered off more into two lesser known assassination attempts on the life of Hitler. In summary I liked this book and I found it quite interesting, but I felt it was two books in one.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Hurricanes in Action Worldwide

Hurricanes in Action Worldwide written by Adrian Stewart and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £22 - Hardback - Pages 224

The Hawker Hurricane was the RAF’s most valuable fighter asset in the Second World

War, yet even today is relatively under-appreciated by the general public. Yet from the

early months of the war it was the single engine fighter most often encountered by the

Luftwaffe and during the Battle of Britain it made 80% of the successful interdictions of

enemy formations.

As this superbly researched book written by a leading authority on the air war reveals, this was only the start of the Hurricane’s war service. Its reliability and versatility ensured that variants saw action in more war theatres worldwide than any other fighter. Indeed, as the RAF’s Official History recalls ‘Everywhere the Ubiquitous Hurricane was to be seen’.

This book follows the ‘Hurri’ to Russia, Malta, North Africa and as far afield as Burma, Sumatra and Java.

Seaborne versions fought in the Battle of the Atlantic and defended the Mediterranean convoys. In the ground attack role Hurricane fighter bombers made countless sweeps over occupied Europe. Pilots’ first-hand accounts supplement the text.

Readers are left in no doubt as to the massive contribution that the Hurricane made to ultimate victory.

As the blurb says on the back of the book, the hurricanes were the planes of the RAF that were doing the donkey work of the flying rather than the ‘glorious’ Spitfire that gets all the praise. This book intends to sell the hurricane to the reader which it does do a great job in doing, as it talks about the heroes, the dogfights and we hear all the stories from around the world where the hurricanes had a strong influence. But there was a minor point for me in the book and that was that it seemed to be missing something, maybe there was a lack of characters, or maybe it was just me and all we wallow in is the glories of the Spitfire. But other than that this was a good read, and it was nice to read about the Hurricane rather than the Spitfire. The book has enough good pictures, and those who are big fans of the Hurricane will enjoy this book.

Landscapes of the Norman Conquest

Landscapes of the Norman Conquest written by Trevor Rowley and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 368

For a long time, the Norman Conquest has been viewed as a turning point in English

history; an event which transformed English identity, sovereignty, kingship, and culture.

The years between 1066 and 1086 saw the largest transfer of property ever seen in

English History, comparable in scale, if not greater, than the revolutions in France in

1789 and Russia in 1917. This transfer and the means to achieve it had a profound

effect upon the English and Welsh landscape, an impact that is clearly visible almost

1,000 years afterwards.

Although there have been numerous books examining different aspects of the British landscape, this is the first to look specifically at the way in which the Normans shaped our towns and countryside. The castles, abbeys, churches and cathedrals built in the new Norman Romanesque style after 1066 represent the most obvious legacy of what was effectively a colonial take-over of England. Such phenomena furnished a broader landscape that was fashioned to intimidate and demonstrate the Norman dominance of towns and villages.

The devastation that followed the Conquest, characterised by the ‘Harrying of the North’, had a long-term impact in the form of new planned settlements and agriculture. The imposition of Forest Laws, restricting hunting to the Norman king and the establishment of a military landscape in areas such as the Welsh Marches, had a similar impact on the countryside.

This is an extraordinary book, the amount of detail, research and knowledge is fantastic. To me as someone interested in local history and knowledge this book is perfect and packed with detail. It was really good to find out how the Normans would want to put their own stamp on a new country, just like other groups that have invaded previously. Even something little like learning how the Normans wanted a presence in most towns, it was good to read the reasons why and how. Or learning about burghs, hundreds & wapentakes, and how land was divided up on a Norman basis. The book contains a really good number of photographs both black & white and colour, along with good detailed maps. The bibliography was also very useful and I will be diving into that too for more local research. As I said I found this book to be a really good read and very informative, I will definitely be re-reading this one and can only recommend this book to everyone.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Fortress Kingdom - The Wars of Aethelflaed and Edward the Elder, 899–927

The Fortress Kingdom - The Wars of Aethelflaed and Edward the Elder, 899–927

written by Paul Hill and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback -

Pages 248

In this the second part of his four-volume military and political history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Paul Hill follows the careers of Æthelflæd, Alfred the Great’s eldest daughter, and Edward the Elder, Alfred’s eldest son, as they campaigned to expand their rule after Alfred’s death. They faced, as Alfred had done, the full force of Danish hostility during the early years of the tenth century, a period of unrelenting turbulence and open warfare. But through their military strength, in particular their strategy of fortress building, they retained their hold on the kingdom and conquered lands which had been under Danish lords for generations.

Æthelflæd’s forces captured Derby and Leicester by both force and diplomacy. Edward’s power was always immense. How each of them used forts (burhs) to hold territory, is explored. Fortifications across central England became key. These included Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford, Warwick, Chirbury and Runcorn (Æthelflæd) and also Hertford, Witham, Buckingham, Bedford and Maldon (Edward), to name a few.

Paul Hill’s absorbing narrative incorporates the latest theories and evidence for the military organization and capabilities of the Anglo-Saxons and their Danish adversaries. His book gives the reader a detailed and dramatic insight into a very sophisticated Anglo-Saxon kingdom.

This is an incredibly well written and researched book about early British history involving

Aethelflaed, Alfred the Great’s daugther & Edward the Elder. This is the time around

Aethelflaed’s emergence and chance to expand the kingdom, during a period in which

she had to contend with the Saxon’s being present. The book looks at her dominance

politically and militarily, and I enjoyed learning about how influence played a big part

with how the emergence of wanting a strategic presence in various towns around

England to gain a presence and influence with the local population through the

building of burghs. This book is the second part of 4 books and this book has been

a brilliant read and has been thoroughly enjoyable and learn from. Most certainly


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Naval Eyewitnesses - The Experience of War at Sea, 1939–1945

Naval Eyewitnesses - The Experience of War at Sea, 1939–1945 written by

James Goulty and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 264

Although many books have been written about naval actions during the Second World

War – histories and memoirs in particular – few books have attempted to encompass

the extraordinary variety of the experience of the war at sea. That is why James

Goulty’s viv-id survey is of such value. Sailors in the Royal Navy and the Merchant

Navy experienced a war fought on a massive scale, on every ocean of the world, in a

diverse range of ves-sels, from battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines to merchant

ships and fishing boats. Their recollections are as varied as the ships they served in,

and they take the reader through the entire maritime war, as it was perceived at the time

by those who had direct, personal knowledge of it.

Throughout the book the emphasis is on the experience of individuals – their recruit-ment and training, their expectations and the reality they encountered on active service in many different offensive and defensive roles including convoy duty and coastal de-fence, amphibious operations, hunting U-boats and surface raiders, mine sweeping and manning landing and rescue craft. A particularly graphic section describes, in the words of the sailors themselves, what action against the enemy felt like and the impact of casualties – seamen who were wounded or killed on board or were lost when their ships sank.

This is an excellent book about life in the Royal Navy during World War Two, this book looks at the views and opinions of most ranks on board from a wide variety of ships and vessels. I think this is what makes this book is all the opinions of the variety of shipmen, how they see things, the thoughts on the war and also the daily routines of being on board a ship or submarine. In fact, I enjoyed all of this book because the information at the start of the book was also informative and useful like the timeline and the abbreviations. A solid book that really informs you about life in the Navy during WW2.

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Son that Elizabeth I Never Had

The Son that Elizabeth I Never Had - The Adventurous Life of Robert Dudley’s

Illegitimate Son written by Julia A. Hickey and published by Pen & Sword Books

- £22 - Hardback - Pages 224

Sir Robert Dudley, the handsome ‘base born’ son of Elizabeth I’s favourite, was born amidst

scandal and intrigue. The story of his birth is one of love, royalty and broken bonds of trust.

He was at Tilbury with the Earl of Leicester in 1587; four years later he was wealthy,

independent and making a mark in Elizabeth’s court; he explored Trinidad, searched for the

fabled gold of El Dorado and backed a voyage taking a letter from the queen to the Emperor

of China. He took part in the Earl of Essex’s raid on Cadiz and was implicated in the earl’s

rebellion in 1601 but what he wanted most was to prove his legitimacy. Refusing to accept

the lot Fate dealt him after the death of the Queen, he abandoned his family, his home and

his country never to return. He carved his own destiny in Tuscany as an engineer, courtier,

shipbuilder and seafarer with the woman he loved at his side. His sea atlas, the first of its

kind, was published in 1646. The Dell’Arcano del Mare took more than twelve years to write

and was the culmination of a lifetime’s work. Robert Dudley, the son Elizabeth never had, is

the story of a scholar, an adventurer and an Elizabethan seadog that deserves to be better


For someone who was considered ‘base born’ or illegitimate, Robin Dudley actually turned out to be a fine young man who had to fight or prove he deserved better than what life had labeled him. He tackled numerous jobs, the type that were of the kind you would expect with connections, as he was an engineer, shipbuilder, explorer to mention a few. Clearly a man that gets little notice or attention, but he turns out to be a rather interesting character. An intriguing book that has been very well written by the author Julia A. Hickey.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Free French Spitfire Hero

Free French Spitfire Hero written by Jan Leeming & René Mouchotte DFC

and published by Air World - £25 - Hardback - Pages 320

René Mouchotte was born on 21 August 1914, at Saint Mande, Paris. He joined

the Armée de l’Air for his period of military service in 1934, obtaining his flying brevet.

Though Mouchotte returned to civilian life, he was called up at the outbreak of war in 1939, becoming a Sergeant-Pilot instructor in North Africa. When France capitulated in June 1940, Mouchotte and fellow pilot Charles Guerin decided to make their way to the United Kingdom. Along with four other French pilots, Mouchotte made the short flight to Gibraltar on the morning of 30 June. From there he traveled on to Britain, being accepted into the RAF soon after their arrival.

The Battle of Britain was already several weeks old when Mouchotte was posted to 245 Squadron, then based at Aldergrove, on 11 September 1940. A week later he transferred to 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron at Prestwick. Flying Hurricanes, it was with 615 Squadron that Mouchotte became a flight commander, shot down a Junkers Ju 88, and earned a Croix de Guerre. He moved to Turnhouse as Deputy ‘A’ Flight Commander with 340 (Free French) Squadron. He was promoted to captain in March 1942 and awarded the DFC.

On 18 January 1943, Mouchotte returned to Turnhouse to form and command 341 Squadron, which transferred to Biggin Hill. On 15 May 1943, Mouchette and Squadron Leader E.F.J Charles shared the sector’s 1000th victory. Two days later, Mouchotte destroyed a Me 109.

Commandant René Gaston Octave Jean Mouchotte DFC, CdeG – one of ‘The Few’ of the Battle of Britain – became one of the most famous Free French pilots of the Second World War, during which he served alongside such notables as the legendary Group Captain ‘Sailor’ Malan and the Wing Commander Al Deere. It is Commandant Mouchotte’s diaries, written between 1940 and 1943, that form the basis of this book. The diaries are introduced and contextualized by the renowned aviation historian Dilip Sarkar, who also forensically examines the story behind Biggin Hill’s 1000th ‘kill’ and the circumstances of René’s last flight, adding new detail to both events.

The thing about history that always stands out to me is that you will never stop learning about something new when it comes to history. Such a big conflict and involving so many people in so many ways, you have a never ending list of stories that people have experienced. Now I have never heard of Rene Mouchotte, a free french pilot during WW2 who would eventually come to Britain to fly in our air force and would distinguish himself. Sadly he died coming from a bombing raid on a V2 rocket launch site, crashing just off the coast of Belgium. His is a very fine story told throughout this book in a diary format and it really is interesting and my favourite kind of read. This book will be of interest to aviation fans and I would say it would interest most people as it is a very intriguing read. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Medieval Royal Mistresses

Medieval Royal Mistresses - Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes

written by Julia A. Hickey and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback -

Pages 224

Marriage for Medieval kings was about politics, power and the provision of legitimate

heirs. Mistresses were about love, lust and possession. It was a world that included

kidnap, poison, murder, violation, public shaming and accusations of witchcraft.

Ambition and quick wits as well as beauty were essential attributes for any royal

mistress. Infamy, assassination and imprisonment awaited some royal mistresses

who tumbled from favour whilst others disappeared into obscurity or respectable

lives as married women and were quickly forgotten.

Meet Nest of Wales, born in turbulent times, whose abduction started a war; Alice Perrers and Jane Shore labelled ‘whores’ and ‘wantons’; Katherine Swynford who turned the medieval world upside down with a royal happy-ever-after and Rosamund Clifford who left history and stepped into legend.

Discover how serial royal womanisers married off their discarded mistresses to bind their allies close. Explore the semi-official roles of some mistresses; the illegitimate children who became kings; secret marriage ceremonies; Edith Forne Sigulfson and Lady Eleanor Talbot who sought atonement through religion as well as the aristocratic women who became the victims of royal lust.

Most of the shameful women who shared the beds of medieval kings were silenced, besmirched or consigned to the footnotes of a patriarchal worldview but they negotiated paths between the private and public spheres of medieval court life - changing history as they went.

An interesting and intriguing read about some of the women involved in Medieval relationships amongst kings and princes throughout Europe. There seems to be a variety of different reasons for these relationships such as love, seeking power and some that were born into a position where a relationship was a likely outcome. It was nice to read about women in this position rather than just the male viewpoint and I really liked that they took a European wide look rather than just sticking British. A lot of research done and well written certainly one for people into Women’s history through the medieval period.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Royal Yachts Under Sail

Royal Yachts Under Sail written by Brian Lavery and published

by Seaforth Publishing - £50 - Hardback - Pages 160

From the time of the Restoration of Charles II, when he returned to England from Breda

and was presented with the yacht Mary by the burgomaster of Amsterdam, Royal yachts

began to be defined as such in England and built with that special purpose in mind.

They were built luxuriously and used for royal visits to the fleet, for diplomacy and for

racing and cruising for pleasure.

Charles II took more of an interest in the sea than any other English monarch. He built a fleet of royal yachts, fine examples of ship design and decorative art, and he can be said to have been the father of yachting and of royal yachts. His successors were less keen on the sea but travelled to Europe on missions of peace and war; and royal yachts took part in regime change several times. In 1689 Queen Mary was bought over to join her husband William of Orange and complete the ‘Glorious Revolution’. In 1714 George I arrived from Hanover to establish a new dynasty. And in 1814, in a reverse process, King Louis XVIII was taken back to France to restore the monarchy after the defeat of Napoleon.

This important new book is the first to describe the building and decoration of the yachts in such detail, using many newly discovered sources; and it is the first to describe their uses and exploits, often taking their royal passengers into controversy or danger. Besides the yachts themselves, it reveals much about the character of the kings, queens and princes involved – the impetuousness of the future William IV for example, or his brother George IV’s surprising love of sailing. It describes the design, accommodation, and sailing of the yachts, as well as their captains and crews.

Royal Yachts Under Sail is a beautiful-looking book, it’s a coffee table size book, so one that’s not so easy to read laid in bed. I have to start with the fact that this book is choc full of brilliant and beautiful artwork of fantastic royal ships, scenes, sailors and ports of interest. The pictures in my opinion really bring the book and subject to life, and the standard of art is just very beautiful. The book also contains maps, diagrams, illustrations and plans which are of equally high standard too. 

The book explains the story of the start of the Royal Yacht era with the return of

Charles II, but these boats were not just your standard boat, these boats were

vessels of high luxury, style and expense. Their opulence would bring stature,

standing and status to the monarch and his country. This is a fascinating book

if you're into learning about boat building, with much talk about plans, ease of

building, standards of building and work. This book was a fascinating read I

have enjoyed reading and would easily please anyone who loves to read about

early sailing or model makers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Laugh or Cry

Laugh or Cry written by Gary Bain & Peter Hart and published by

Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 224

'Awakened by great shouted oaths below. Peeped over the side of the manger and

saw a Belgian lass milking and addressing a cow with a comprehensive luridness

that left no doubt in my mind that British soldiers had been billeted here before.'

Private Norman Ellison, 1/6th King’s Liverpool Regiment

Humour helped the British soldier survive the terrible experiences they faced in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. Human beings are complicated, and there is no set pattern as to how they react to the outrageous stresses of war. But humour, often dark and representative of the horrors around them could and often did help. They may have been up to their knees in mud and blood, soaking wet and shot at from all sides, but many were still determined to see the ‘funny side’, rather than surrender to utter misery. Peter Hart and Gary Bain have delved deep into the archives to find examples of the soldier’s wit. The results are at times hilarious but rooted in tragedy. You have to laugh or cry.

I’ve only just done my top 10 books for 2022, and here we have a very early contender for my top 10 list for 2023. I think this book was made for me as I loved the humour in it, either that or being from a forces family I could understand the humour and the comments of men away from home serving in the military. The book is absolutely packed with first-hand quotes from men serving on the frontline, and the book covers many different topics that would affect men at war such as the Home Front, getting Back Home, prospects of being killed, going over the top, the top brass, life living in the trenches and working with each other from all different backgrounds.

The book goes along nicely going from one quote to another, it’s an easy read because the book is written very well indeed. I also enjoyed some of the quotes that might be seen as a little near the knuckle or not very PC, which is what you want because these are the words written by the men themselves rather than what we have to read sometimes these days. Written by a couple of excellent historians, I can’t really fault this book at all, and is surely a must of any Great War fans.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Armies of Anglo-Saxon England 410–1066

Armies of Anglo-Saxon England 410–1066 written by Gabriele Esposito

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 176

In the early 5th century, Germanic Angles, Saxons and Jutes crossed the North Sea in increasing numbers and began settling among the ruins of the former Roman province of Britannia. This led to centuries of warfare as these 'Anglo-Saxons' carved new, independent kingdoms at the point of the sword, fighting the native Britons and each other. From the late eighth century they also had to face the threat of the Vikings, at first as opportunistic raiders but increasingly bent on conquest. The last Viking invasion was defeated by Harold Godwinson at Stamford Bridge but he was defeated by the Normans in that same fatal year of 1066, ending the Anglo-Saxon Age.

Gabriele Esposito gives an overview of Anglo-Saxon military history, narrating the great campaigns, such as those of Alfred the Great of Wessex and Harold Godwinson. He discusses in detail the composition of Anglo-Saxon forces, their tactics, weapons and equipment, detailing developments across the period. The informative, accessible text is supported by dozens of colour images showing replica Saxon war gear in use.

The author Gabriele Esposito has written another fantastic book here again, she brilliantly

picks out a group/tribe and brings you everything you would want to know about them.

Down to what they wear everyday and in battle, what tools/instruments/weapons they

would use and even down to their tactics and organisational skills in war. They really do

make fantastic reading and probably what isn’t celebrated enough is the pictures and the

quality of them. I would say that this is the second of her book I have read and I have fully

enjoyed both and they are fast becoming my favourite Pen & Sword series, and that must

mean they are good because we’re talking high quality here.

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...