Pen & Sword Books

Friday, March 31, 2023

Hitler’s Last Chance Kolberg: The Propaganda Movie and the Rise and Fall of a German City

Hitler’s Last Chance Kolberg: The Propaganda Movie and the Rise and

Fall of a German City written by Kevin Prenger and published by Frontline

Books - £22 - Hardback - Pages 192

Apologies but I couldn't get the book description to format properly on this post

but you can read it at the Pen & Sword Website.

Hitler’s Last Chance is a book/story of the city of Kolberg in Poland that was attempted to be

taken by Germany during the Second World War. The story can be split into three like most

wartime cities, you went from the city just being Kolberg, to be taken or attempted, to be taken

by Germany during the war and then the city fell to the Russians. But during this process, or at

least the part about Kolberg being taken over by Germany Goebbels saw this as a chance to

sell this story to Germany as a good or a ‘saviour’ type event as a propaganda film. Eventually,

this film would not see general publication due to the events. But the fascinating thing I

found about this story was the fact that you could see parallels with the conflict currently

going on in the Russia/Ukraine conflict, in which you have one country trying to take one city

because they believe they are doing the right thing or making the citizens free. The book is a

really nice look at propaganda, how it could be done or put into place and the reasons for it.

I think the book is more for those interested in how propaganda works and how it can be used

to influence rather than those into the wider story of the war. A book that made me think, and

one I would happily recommend to others.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Britain’s Industrial Revolution in 100 Objects

Britain’s Industrial Revolution in 100 Objects written by John Broom and

published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 320

The period of Britain’s Industrial Revolution was perhaps the most transformative

era in the nation’s history. Between about 1750 and 1914, life and work, home and

school, church and community changed irreversibly for Britain’s rapidly expanding

population. Lives were transformed, some for the better, but many endured abysmal

domestic and workplace conditions. Eventually improvements were made to

Britain’s social fabric which led to the prospect of richer and more fulfilled lives for

working men, women and even children. Focusing on 100 objects that either directly

influenced, or arose from, these changes, John Broom offers a distinctive insight into

this fascinating age. With plentiful illustrations and suggestions for visits to hundreds

of places of historical interest, this book makes an ideal companion for a journey into

Britain’s industrial past.

A brilliant subject matter, a fascinating and very interesting book, but then I do love this period of history and changes so maybe I’m slightly biased. We all very much learn about the industrial revolution from our days at school and this book is a bit like a throwback to those days, where we are introduced again to elements, items, people and changes that happened and might have forgotten about in a period of great change and upheaval. The book charts political upheaval through laws and events and the movement of people from the country into the cities.

A knowledgeable book with a lot of good effort by the author, I also enjoyed the links to places

and further reading after each object, which added an extra dynamic to the book. Certainly, a

book I enjoyed very much as I do all the ‘100 object’ books, but also a good book if you want to

learn more about the industrial revolution and what it bought. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Plot of Shame Us Military Executions in Europe During WW2

The Plot of Shame Us Military Executions in Europe During WW2 written

by Paul Johnson and published by Frontline Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 224

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery is the last resting place of 6,012 American

soldiers who died fighting in a small portion of Northern France during the First

World War. The impressive cemetery is divided into four plots marked A to D.

However, few visitors are aware that across the road, behind the immaculate fa├žade of the superintendent’s office, unmarked and completely surrounded by impassable shrubbery, is Plot E, a semi-secret fifth plot that contains the bodies of ninety-six American soldiers. These were men who were executed for crimes committed in the European Theatre of Operations during and just after the Second World War.

Originally, the men whose death sentences were carried out were buried near the sites of their executions in locations as far afield as England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Algeria. A number of the men were executed in the grounds of Shepton Mallet prison in Somerset – the majority of whom were hanged in the execution block, with two being shot by a firing squad in the prison yard. The executioner at most of the hangings was Thomas William Pierrepoint, assisted mainly by his more-famous nephew Albert Pierrepoint.

Then, in 1949, under a veil of secrecy, the ‘plot of shame’, as it has become known, was established in France. The site does not exist on maps of the cemetery and it is not mentioned on the American Battle Monuments Commission’s website. Visits to Plot E are not encouraged. Indeed, public access is difficult because the area is concealed, surrounded by bushes, and is closed to visitors.

No US flag is permitted to fly over the plot and the graves themselves have no names, just small, simple stones the size of index cards that are differentiated only by reference numbers. Even underground the dishonoured are set apart, with each body being positioned with its back to the main cemetery.

In The Plot of Shame, the historian Paul Johnson uncovers the history of Plot E and the terrible stories of wartime crime linked to it.

A really fascinating book that tells the tales of a group of American men, you would very rarely her about as these are the tales of US servicemen sentenced to death for crimes at the time were seen as heinous even during a time of war. The book is good in that it starts out with the Articles of War, the executioners and the plot where the majority of these men were buried in uncelebrated graves. The book then goes through the various stories on a year-by-year basis. The stories are explained in great detail and a really good amount of research has gone into this book, a very well informed book. Certainly a great book for those true crime fans.

Friday, March 24, 2023

The Berlin Blitz By Those Who Were There

The Berlin Blitz By Those Who Were There written by Martin W. Bowman

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 236

The Allied bombing of Berlin was the longest and most sustained bombing offensive

against one target in the Second World War. The Berlin Blitz By Those Who Were

There is a compelling, gripping and thought-provoking story of the Allied bombing

forces and the ordinary people on the ground, told in their own tongue and with

meticulous attention to detail. The result is a coherent, single story which unfolds

in a straightforward and incisive narrative.

This work draws attention in some detail to the major raids on the Reich capital by RAF Bomber Command from the late summer of 1940 to September 1943. It begins with the reliable but largely ineffective twin-engined Blenheims, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys, through to the introduction into front-line service of the four-engined ‘heavies’ - the Stirling, Manchester and Halifax, which bore the brunt of the bomber offensive until the advent of the incomparable Avro Lancaster in 1942 and the superlative Mosquito. On 30 January 1943, on the tenth anniversary of Hitler’s usurpation of power, two formations (each of three Mosquitoes) appeared over Berlin in daylight and interrupted large rallies being addressed by Goering and Goebbels.

Sir Arthur Harris, Commander-in-Chief, RAF Bomber Command, hoped to ‘wreck Berlin from end to end’ and ‘produce a state of devastation in which German surrender is inevitable’. But the ‘Big City’, as it was known to his faithful ‘old lags’, was never completely destroyed.

This book is very much how the title explains, in that it is about the people who were there rather than specifics about flights, bombings and airforces. The book is very much a collection of ideas and opinions of people that were involved in the various raids and bombing run with the build up to the events and the thoughts and feelings when they were in progress. Concentrating on the mid war period, the book relies heavily on what Bomber Command specialised in, that of the heavy bombers like the Stirlings, Lancasters and so on.

Like previous Martin W. Bowman books, he is clearly a leading WW2 historian and this shines through in the book and the writing. He has the ability to include technical details, opinions and story timeline all together to produce and easy to read book of a high standard. A thoroughly good read involving the Berlin Biltz, and one that certainly deserves recommendation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Wars of the Roses - The People, Places and Battlefields of the Yorkists and Lancastrians

Wars of the Roses The People, Places and Battlefields of the Yorkists and Lancastrians written by Paul Kendell and published by Frontline Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 224

The Wars of the Roses, which saw England and Wales ravaged by warfare for three decades and dynasties rise and fall, decimated the nobility of an entire generation, and saw the rise of the merchant class, the decline of medieval feudalism and opened the country to the enlightened ideals of the Renaissance. Such has been its lasting effects the red and white rose of the Tudors is still a national symbol.

This book is an exploration of the buildings, monuments, towns and battlefields of that turbulent era across both England and Wales – places that can still be visited and experienced today. The stories of the great battles of St Albans, Stoke Field, Wakefield, Towton, Barnet, Tewksbury and, of course, Bosworth, are told along with beautiful photographs to help guide the reader round these important sites, as well as the dozens of smaller engagements where the supporters of the Houses of York and Lancaster fought and died.

Here are castles and manor houses galore, all of which played their part in this protracted struggle for the throne of England, such as Richard of York’s imposing powerbase of Ludlow Castle and the magnificent Tudor stronghold of Bamburg. These are compared with the scant remains of Fotheringhay Castle, the birthplace of Richard III – the man whose remains were so dramatically uncovered in Leicester – and Micklegate Bar, York, was where Richard’s head was placed on a spike.

We see the Clocktower of St Albans and ‘Gabriel’ the bell that was rung in 1455 alerting of the Yorkist advance, as well as the Tower of London where Henry VI met his death and the possible burial place of the two princes.

These, and scores of other places, monuments, plaques, buildings and battlegrounds, represent not only a journey across England and Wales, but a journey back in time to the bloody conflict that was the War of the Roses.

A fascinating book in which the author Paul Kendall introduces us to another layer of the story of the War of the Roses, now most of us have read or have been told about the War of the Roses, but what happens here is that we are being lead and shown to the relevant places and people involved. This I believe helps us to better understand the story and those involved because we are being given the pictures and photos that help us understand what went on better. I found the book similar in style to the History in 100 Objects type books, but this was a little more focused. A great book and I’ve learnt so much from it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

Winston Churchill as Home Secretary

Churchill as Home Secretary Suffragettes, Strikes and Social Reform 1910-1911

written by Charles Stephenson and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 -

Hardback - Pages 280

There can be few statesmen whose lives and careers have received as much
investigation and literary attention as Winston Churchill. Relatively little however has appeared which deals specifically or holistically with his first senior ministerial role; that of Secretary of State for the Home Office. This may be due to the fact that, of the three Great Offices of State which he was to occupy over the course of his long political life, his tenure as Home Secretary was the briefest.

The Liberal Government, of which he was a senior figure, had been elected in 1906 to put in place social and political reform. Though Churchill was at the forefront of these matters, his responsibility for domestic affairs led to him facing other, major, challenges departmentally; this was a time of substantial commotion on the social front, with widespread industrial and civil strife. Even given that ‘Home Secretaries never do have an easy time’, his period in office was thus marked by a huge degree of political and social turbulence. The terms ‘Tonypandy’ and ‘Peter the Painter’ perhaps spring most readily to mind. Rather less known is his involvement in one of the burning issues of the time, female suffrage, and his portrayal as ‘the prisoners’ friend’ in terms of penal reform.

Aged 33 on appointment, and the youngest Home Secretary since 1830, he became empowered to wield the considerable executive authority inherent in the role of one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, and he certainly did not shrink from doing so. There were of course commensurate responsibilities, and how he shouldered them is worth examination.

This book looks at the year or so Winston Churchill was Home Secretary and his

involvement in a number of issues such as Feminism, Strikes, Suffragettes, Welsh

Miners and more. This was such a nice book to read purely from the fact that it

wasn’t about Churchill during WW2, which is usually the case. It was nice to read

about him during other points of his political career. Actually, I learned quite a bit

from this book in seeing how much social politics he was having to deal and the

way he went about things. Now he was obviously a young man then so I think he

actually improved with age because I found the way he acted sometimes or his

views were maybe a little of their age shall we say. A really good book I would

definitely recommend to others, especially if you want to read about Churchill in

periods other than WW2. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Welsh Castle Builders - The Savoyard Style

Welsh Castle Builders - The Savoyard Style written by John Marshall and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 344

The Edwardian castles of north Wales were built by a Savoyard master mason,

but also by many other artisans from Savoy. What is more extraordinary, is that

the constables of Flint, Rhuddlan, Conwy and Harlech were also Savoyards, the

Justiciar and Deputy Justiciar at Caernarfon were Savoyards and the head of the

English army leading the relief of the sieges of Flint and Rhuddlan was a future

Count of Savoy. The explanatory story is fundamentally of two men, the builder of

castles, Master James of St George and Justiciar Sir Othon de Grandson, and the

relationship of these two men with King Edward I. But it is also the story of many

others, a story that begins with the marriage of Alianor de Provence to Edward’s

father, Henry III, and the influx of her kinsmen to England, such as Pierre de Savoie.

It is impossible to understand the development of the castles in north Wales without an understanding of the Savoyards, where they came from and their impact on English and Welsh history. The defining work of Arnold Taylor in exploring the Savoyard history of Welsh castles is now many years past, and mostly out of print, it is time for the story to be revisited and expanded upon, in the light of new evidence.

I have to say that this book for me was a book of two halves, firstly it was a fascinating book and subject, with many interesting features and relationships and I really enjoyed it. The second part of the book was that I think you needed more of a knowledge of the subject to get the full impact of the book and what was happening. With the relationship between France, England and Wales throughout the book, it was a little complicated in parts, which is why a reader with a bit more in-depth knowledge would get more from the book. But I don’t want to deter people from this book but I found parts of the book revealing and it answered a couple of long standing questions. The book seems very well researched and the book contains many notes and sources, and I plan to do some further reading on the subject, it inspired me that much. An excellent book for those in the know, and certainly one I would recommend on this subject. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Ann Walker - The Life & Death of Gentleman Jack's Wife

Ann Walker - The Life and Death of Gentleman Jack’s Wife written by Rebecca Batley and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 240

Lesbian. Lover. Lunatic.

These are just some of the words usually used to describe Ann Walker, the often

overlooked wife of Anne Lister, better known by some as Gentleman Jack. Ann was

one half of England’s first same-sex marriage and yet the rainbow plaque that marks

their historic union on the wall of the Holy Trinity Church, York, features Ann’s name

in a font only half the size of her wife’s. Her story has been long forgotten.

Born into wealth and privilege Ann was one of the most eligible heiresses in 19th century Yorkshire and the question on everyone’s lips in 1830’s Halifax was why a respectable young heiress, with property, fortune and connection risked everything, even her freedom, to become entangled with the notorious Gentleman Jack?

The answer to this question reveals a woman of immense courage, faith, and determination, but her voice has remained silent….until now. Within the depths of Ann’s diary - discovered by Diane Halford in 2020 - the answers to some of the above questions can be found, as can insight into Ann as an independent woman.

The life of Ann is worthy of its own narrative and it is time for Ann to step out of the shadow of Gentleman Jack and tell her own story.

This book was an excellent read that would accompany the original TV series well, although I think you get more from the book and it stands well on its own. The author has written a good book that has been well presented and written. The book reveals more about Ann Walker than the Tv series, although I only saw a couple of episodes, an excellent book about a seemingly inspiring person.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Railway Crimes Committed in Victorian Britain

Railway Crimes Committed in Victorian Britain written by Malcolm Clegg and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 160

The vast majority of Britain’s railways were built between 1830 and 1900 which

happened to coincide with the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). By the turn

of the Nineteenth/Twentieth Century, over one hundred different railway companies

were operating in Britain on more than 22,000 miles of railway track.

Although these new railways brought prosperity to the nation and enabled goods and passengers to be speedily transported the length and breadth of the country for the first time, this remarkable feat of engineering brought with it some unwelcome side-effects, one of which was crime. Wherever crowds of people gather, or unattended goods are being transported, a few unscrupulous individuals and career criminals will usually emerge to ply their trade. Some railway staff members are also unable to resist the temptation of stealing money or goods passing through their hands.

This book gives an insight into the nature and types of crime committed on the railways during the Victorian era, incorporating such offences as theft, assaults and murder, fraud, obstructing the railways and various other infringements of the law.

Over seventy different cases mentioned in the book are true accounts of events which took place on the railway during the Victorian era, the details of which were obtained as a result of hours of researching British Newspaper Archives of that period. The author hopes that readers will get as much pleasure from analysing the various cases cited in the book, as he himself derived from researching and writing about them.

An interesting book, Railway Crimes Committed in Victorian Britain that does exactly what it says on the tin. A wide variety of crimes were committed on the railways and surrounds. The crimes listed range from the serious right down to the almost trivial, but It’s a good read to see a lot about the social issues and crimes going on at the time. While some stories or incidents got a few pages of writing, quite a few, the least serious got a paragraph. But like I said well written and a good read about crime on the railways. Certainly one for those interested in railways or the Victorian era.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Rituals of Death - From Prehistoric Times to Now

Rituals of Death - From Prehistoric Times to Now written by Stan Beckensall

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 176

We all must die, and how society deals with the disposal is fascinating in the way it
reflects the beliefs of the people of the time and ways in which they honour or do not honour the dead. Having excavated prehistoric burials, the author weighs carefully the evidence of what people might have thought of the dead through the way they buried them and what was put into the graves. These excavations were done mainly with the help of young people, and the way that this has been organised in order to get the maximum information has been an essential part of the task. The author provides much detail of this that makes it more interesting and personal.

Burial customs change, so the book includes a section on events such as the Black Death and cholera to show how such catastrophes change people's minds and customs.

The present problem of burial has been highlighted as it was then by the horror of an invisible disease, the effects of which we have to cope with. In the past the causes of the disease, when discovered, led to Public health inquiries into the causes, and to improvements in some burial grounds. The traditional burial in “God's little Acre' around a church provides with much information about people through their headstones and other monuments – something accessible to all who visit our churches today, and examples from Northumberland give a typical range of what we find there.

They say never judge a book by its cover, so my first impression was that this might be a bit of a bleak read due to its subject matter. Far from it, this book was interesting, revealing and very comprehensively research, thought out and written. The book goes from the prehistoric times of stone circles and mounds to more formal gravestones we see today. But that is only part of the story because the book looks at the rituals and the ways we celebrate life and death. For example, if you were a warrior you’d be buried in a shallow grave with your weapons and shield to show you were a warrior in life. Today this can’t really happen and so the gravestones have become more elaborate in look and design, therefore the gravestone tells the story of the person through text and ‘add ons’. An excellent and fascinating book that has been beautifully written but not in an overly sensible way. The pictures throughout the book are brilliant and actually tell the story, I’ve now learnt to look at the whole headstone including the back. I thoroughly recommend this book to all.

Monday, March 13, 2023

A Dark History of Gin

A Dark History of Gin written by Mike Rendell and published by Pen &

Sword Books - £20 - Hardback - Pages 208

A Dark History of Gin looks at the origins and development of a drink which seems 
to have a universal and timeless appeal. Historian Mike Rendell explores the origins 
of distilling in the ancient world and considers the how, when, where and why of the 
‘happy marriage’ between distilled spirits and berries from the juniper bush. The book 
traces the link between gin and the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium) and looks at 
how the drink was brought across to England when the Dutch-born William of Orange 
became king.

From the tragic era of the gin craze in eighteenth-century London, through to the emergence of ‘the cocktail’, the book follows the story of gin across the Atlantic to America and the emergence of the mixologist. It also follows the growth of the Temperance Movement and the origins of the Prohibition, before looking at the period between the First and Second World Wars – the cocktail age. From there the book looks at the emergence in the twentieth century of craft gins across the globe, enabling the drink to enjoy a massive increase in popularity.

The book is intended as a light-hearted look-behind-the-scenes at how ‘Mother’s Ruin’ developed into rather more than just a plain old ’G & T’.

I must admit that I came to this book with some preconceived ideas of how the book would run, expecting mainly a book about slavery & crime. But I must admit that I was wrong. What we have a is really comprehensive read through a timeline, that mainly focuses on Britain, but it does have a bit of America and the Scandinavian countries thrown in for good measure. The book begins with the juniper berry and follows through to being a cocktail and more mainstream drink in the modern world. We go through prohibition in America, the influence of the Low Countries, and what I really enjoyed the effect on politics and regulation through a number of acts, and some of the riots and disruptions that occurred.

I also quite enjoyed the appendices at the back of the book which have a number of gin

recipes and also the slang involved in the gin world, these quite interesting. This was

an excellent book with a lot of research and entertaining writing from Mike Rendell.

I must say a big thumbs up for the good amount of cartoons and drawings throughout

the book, these were both amusing and entertaining. I would certainly recommend this

book to any fans of gin.

Mines, Bombs, Bullets and Bridges

Mines, Bombs, Bullets and Bridges Memoirs of a WW2 Sapper written by

Brian Moss and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 256

Soldiers’ first-hand accounts of Second World War active service invariably make

inspiring and exciting reading but Mines, Bombs, Bullets and Bridges is exceptional

for several reasons. First, Brian Moss’s role as a bomb disposal specialist was

especially hazardous. Secondly, he was in the thick of the action from the start,

dealing with unexploded ordnance during the London blitz. He was then deployed

as a frontline sapper to North Africa and onto Sicily before landing on Gold Beach

on D-Day. Despite many close calls he was relatively unscathed until taken out by

a butterfly bomb at Nijmegen. Fortunately, despite serious injury he lived, quite

literally, to tell the tale but his war was over.

While the Author’s graphic account compares favourably with the very best wartime memoirs, it also has a unique element, namely examples of his outstanding artistic skill. It is truly remarkable that he not only managed to produce so many fine works under combat conditions and that he was able to draw such accurate maps from memory. His sketches and paintings bring a special dimension to this story.

A really good and fascinating book about a guy called Brian Moss, a Sapper that served during WW2, as a Bomb Disposal Specialist. Brian originally spent time serving during the Blitz until he was sent out to North Africa in his role and would then go on to serve in Normandy and Operation Market Graden. The book is about the work of Brian as he served, and has been edited by his son Michael. The book as well as being written by Brian also contains drawings, pictures and diagrams from Brian, but what also shines through his writings is his dark humour and self-confidence, which I assume you really need when you're facing that much possible danger every day. The book is enjoyable and written well but also put together well by his son, Brian comes out of this as a really nice fella. An enjoyable book which would go down well with men who had served in the Army.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Warships of the Soviet Fleets 1939-1945 Volume 2: Escorts and Smaller Fighting Ships

Warships of the Soviet Fleets 1939-1945 Volume 2: Escorts and Smaller Fighting

Ships written by Przemyslaw Budzbon , Jan Radziemski, Marek Twardowski and

published by Seaforth Publishing - £45 - Hardback - Pages 304

Seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War the details of Soviet ships,

their activities and fates remain an enigma to the West. In wartime such information was

classified and after a brief period of glasnost (‘openness’) the Russian state has again

restricted access to historical archives. Therefore, the value – and originality – of this

work is difficult to exaggerate. It sees the first publication of reliable data on both the

seagoing fleets and riverine flotillas of the Soviet Navy, listing over 6200 vessels from

battleships to river gunboats, and mercantile conversions as well as purpose-built


This second part of the three-volume series includes all the remaining fighting vessels not already covered in Volume I. Beginning with the Uragan class – rated as Escort Ships and the first seagoing warships designed by the Soviet Union – the book then moves on to Submarine Hunters, both large and small, Patrol craft, Minelayers and Minesweepers, and unusual types like Floating Artillery Batteries and Anti-Aircraft Defence Ships, concluding with Landing Ships and Craft. Many of these vessels have hitherto been poorly documented but given the nature of the land-centred Soviet war against Germany their contribution should not be underestimated. The details of their service and, not least, the circumstances of their loss, constitute a major addition to Western understanding of the Soviet Navy’s war effort.

This is undoubtedly one of the most important naval reference works of recent years and will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in warships, the Soviet Navy or wider maritime aspects of the Second World War. Furthermore, as recent Russian actions appear to revive Soviet-era aspirations, this book offers both new insights and valuable background of contemporary relevance.

This volume of the Soviet Fleets concentrates on the smaller boats of the fleet, covering vessels such as Escort Ships, Mine Layers, Patrol Boats, Submarine Hunters and much more. The research and technical details in this book is huge, and so much effort shows. The book is crammed with facts, statistics, photographs, drawings and tables all seem to be a first-class, and if anything I think I’ve learnt more about the Soviet fleet than I know about the Royal Navy. A fantastic book that will delight those who have an interest in the Soviet Navy, and I imagine the book would be good for model collectors or makers.

Battleground: The Western Dunkirk Corridor 1940 Ledringhem, Wormhout, Bambecque & West Cappel

Battleground: The Western Dunkirk Corridor 1940 Ledringhem, Wormhout,

Bambecque & West Cappel written by Jerry Murland - £12.99 - Softcover -

Pages 112

The story of 144 Brigade’s defence of Wormhoudt and Bambecque must rank

in importance alongside the defence of Cassel and Hazebrouck by 145 Brigade.

Brigadier Norman’s composite brigade was the final piece in the jigsaw of defence

on the western flank of the Dunkerque Corridor; it held the line south of Bergues,

containing the attacking German units at great cost, until the perimeter at

Dunkerque had been established.

The defence of Wormhoudt has long been associated with the massacre of British servicemen after they had surrendered. The events in the barn at La Plaine au Bois will always be considered one of the most appalling acts of the Second World War, carried out by elements of the Liebstandarte Regiment; almost second nature to these fanatical followers of Adolf Hitler. They found no easy victory at Wormhoudt, in an encounter that saw their regimental commander, Gruppenf├╝hrer Otto ‘Sepp’ Dietrich, taking shelter in a ditch away from the fury of the Cheshire machine gunners. Overshadowed by the events in the barn are the murders of civilians and British soldiers that took place as the Germans overwhelmed the fragile defence of the Warwicks. Their Medical Officer, marching into captivity, went past the bodies of men of A Company who he was sure had been murdered. An officer of the Worcesters wrote in his diary that all the wounded of his Company were shot by a commander of the Liebstandarte.

There is little other evidence to support the deaths of these men but there is little doubt that many British soldiers met a violent end after they had surrendered in the fields and on the pavements of Wormhoudt and Bambecque.

These Battleground books, in my opinion, are fantastic and vastly underrated books that both cover history of the event, the people involved and enables the reader to take part in what is experienced within the book. This particular book looks at the 144 Brigade and their spectacular defence of the Dunkirk Corridor against the Germans. The book gets across the events that happened, through text, pictures, diagrams and photographs, the book also picks out a number of individuals that have stood out from the norm and we get to hear about their history. Then finally the book acts as a tour guide by publishing the area as an area to go to, where to stay, eat and visit. Giving you a handy guide to if you wanted to, do your own visit. An excellent book, especially for those that like to take part in that hands-on experience.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Waffen-SS Dutch, Belgium, and Danish Volunteers

Waffen-SS Dutch, Belgium and Danish Volunteers written by Ian Baxter

and published by Pen & Sword Books - £14.99 - Softcover - Pages 154

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, numerous Dutchmen, Belgians

and Danes volunteered for the Waffen-SS. The largest division, SS Volunteer Legion

Netherlands operated in Yugoslavia and then Northern Russia. It was later

re-designated 23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nederland.

Fighting alongside the Nederland formation was the SS Volunteer Legion Flanders, manned mainly with Dutch speaking recruits from occupied Belgium. After being disbanded it was later reformed as the SS Assault Brigade Langemarck (SS-Sturmbrigade Langemarck).

The SS Volunteer Legion Walloon, recruited from French-speaking volunteers from German occupied Belgium, was sent to Russia and later integrated with the SS Assault Brigade Wallonia (SS-Sturmbrigade Wallonien).

Finally some 6,000 Danes served in Free Corps Denmark which went to the Eastern Front in May 1942. Within a year the formation was disbanded into Division Nordland, known as Regiment 24 Danemark

Drawing on a superb collection of rare and often unpublished photographs, this fine Images of War book describes the fighting history of each formation, notably the 1944 battle of Narva, which was known as the battle of the European SS. As its forces were pushed further back across a scarred and burning wasteland it describes how these Dutch, Belgian and Danish units became cut off in the Kurland Pocket until some were evacuated by sea. The remainder were killed or captured in front of Berlin in April 1945.

This particular book was rather interesting, mainly in my opinion you don’t get to hear much about volunteers working with the Germans. This book was of particular focus on those volunteers from Holland, Belgium and Denmark. These kinds of troops would help support the Germans in Yugoslavia and Northern Russia before a number were then sent on to the Eastern front. These soldiers were then given indoctrination to hate their enemy and see the Germans as the superior race, so it was still interesting to see they were still willing to accept help from other countries' men, but there was still the determination that the Germans were the top dogs. An interesting read indeed and I must say the supportive text in this series is always first-class.

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...