Pen & Sword Books

Monday, April 10, 2023

Blood, Dust & Snow Diaries of a Panzer Commander in Germany and on the Eastern Front

Blood, Dust & Snow Diaries of a Panzer Commander in Germany and on

the Eastern Front written by Friedrich Sander and published by Greenhill

Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 448

‘The infantry is only a few metres ahead of us when suddenly, on the left of our tank, a Russian stands up. The swine had pretended to be dead when our infantry came past him! That’s an old classic, pretending to be dead and then firing from the rear. But that isn’t a good idea when facing tank-men like us… floor the accelerator! Turn left and run over him!

“Unvarnished, absorbing, gritty and pulling no punches. One of the best accounts of war on

the Eastern Front I have ever read.” - Peter Caddick-Adams

The war on the Eastern Front from 1941 to 1945 was the bloodiest combat theatre in the

bloodiest war in history. Oberleutnant Friedrich Wilhelm Sander experienced this bloodshed

first-hand when serving with the 11th Panzer-Regiment. This regiment made up the core of

the 6th Panzer-Division, one of Hitler’s top armoured formations, which was involved in

most of the major campaigns on the Eastern Front; campaigns such as Operation

Barbarossa and Operation Winter Storm.

Sander recorded his experience of these campaigns in astounding detail in some recently

-discovered diaries covering the period from April 1938 to December 1943, translated here

for the first time by historian Robin Schäfer. Written during the fighting, these diaries not only

offer an honest assessment of the war on the Eastern Front, but also provide an insight into

the mind of a young and highly politicised officer, and offer an intimate glimpse into the

close-knit community of a German Panzer crew.

A brutally honest, immediate and unfiltered personal account, Sander’s translated diaries

make for some uniquely fascinating reading about some of the most important campaigns

of the Second World War. Supported by more than 100 photographs and maps from the period,

Blood, Dust & Snow will be of great interest not only to readers studying the war on the

Eastern Front, but also to any historian researching the Second World War.

Blood, Dust & Snow is a diary from German Panzer Commander Friedrich Sandler

from WW2 who served mainly on the Eastern Front. In this diary, we obviously we have

translated from German which is done very well, and we seem to get a lot of books

now published where English is not the primary language. But I have to say that this

book is one of the best I have read for a while, not only the translation but also the

writing is very descriptive and informative which makes it stand out from the crowd.

The book brings across the hardships of being a Panzer commander and the vivid

descriptions and battle accounts are very realistic and make for a great read. The

map is also supported by a good number of photographs which really help support

the story. A hit for me, would happily recommend to other WW2 history buffs.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Sea Wolves Savage Submarine Commanders of WW2

Sea Wolves Savage Submarine Commanders of WW2 written by Tony Matthews

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

From the heart-rending account of the sinking of the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 — the worst maritime disaster in world history — through to a variety of other brutal actions carried out by numerous submarine commanders, including the sinking of the hospital ship Centaur in 1943, this book comes from the deep shadows of a tragic past to reveal the terrible truth of a secretive war that was responsible for the deaths of unimaginable numbers of innocent people.

Discover how merchant seamen were savagely machine-gunned in the water, callously

slaughtered with hand-grenades or simply left to the circling sharks. Elsewhere, hundreds

of doctors, nurses, ship’s crew, ambulance drivers and hospital orderlies were viciously

killed without compassion, despite being protected by the Geneva Convention.

Sea Wolves: Savage Submarine Commander of WW2 features true stories of deeply

murderous intent that lurked menacingly beneath the waves.

You could argue that this is a rather gloomy book and you could say that war is dark, but this book does look at 4 military situations in which a lot of death occurred. The four commanders were Nakagawa, Eck, Ariizumi & Marinsko and these commanders were involved in the sinking of a hospital ship, killing or torturing survivors and evacuating civilians. The stories or incidents were very well told and I suppose we have to remember the bad things that happen in the hope of never repeating them or just because everyone deserves to be remembered no matter how they killed. While this is a good book, if you want a broader telling of submariners at war, you would go for a different title. But the book does stand as a good and well-researched book and one I would be happy to recommend.

The Poppy Lady The Story of Madame Anna Guérin and the Remembrance Poppy

The Poppy Lady The Story of Madame Anna Guérin and the Remembrance

Poppy written by Heather Anne Johnson and published by Pen & Sword

Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 288

Madame Anna Guérin is the fascinating personality behind the title ‘The Poppy Lady’.

Her idea of the ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ gave work to women and children in the

devastated areas of France, in addition to offering support for First World War veterans.

Born in 1878, she was an early feminist, becoming financially independent. During the First World War, and the immediate years after the Armistice, many people knew of Madame Guérin’s reputation as a selfless fundraiser for French and American charities. Her speeches inspired many people to make generous donations.

Having had her name lost in the mists of time, this is the first biography of Madame E. Guérin. The book follows her extraordinary story as ‘The Poppy Lady’, a woman born before her time, but confined to anonymity for too long.

If I’m honest, being from an RAF family and in Scouting most of my life, I have attended Remembrance Day parades throughout my life. The one thing about this or the poppy is that I have heard at least about a dozen stories about the origin of the poppy and why we wear it. But I’m prepared to add this story or possible reason to the list, the book follows Madame Anna Guerin a french lady who toured much of America giving talks to people, and talking to important leaders. This was because she could see the devastation of the Great War and how it affected the places and all the people who had to fight in the war. Guerin was very successful in this and gathered many donations of wealth to help the cause. I agree with the claim in the book that modern generations have probably never hear of Madame Guerin, and there is a high chance that this is the original story of the Poppy origins, certainly one I will add to my list. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very informative and a lot of research has gone into it. For one of the most important days of the year I would happily recommend this book.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Elizabethan Rebellions Conspiracy, Intrigue & Treason

Elizabethan Rebellions Conspiracy, Intrigue & Treason written by Helene

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

Throughout her reign, Elizabeth I had to deal with many rebellions which aimed to undermine her rule and overthrow her. Led in the main by those who wanted religious freedom and to reap the rewards of power, each one was thwarted but left an indelible mark on Queen Elizabeth and her governance of England.

Learning from earlier Tudor rebellions against Elizabeth’s grandfather, father, and siblings, they were dealt with mercilessly by spymaster Francis Walsingham who pushed for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots due to her involvement, and who created one of the first government spy networks in England.

Espionage, spying and hidden ciphers would demonstrate the lengths Mary was willing to go to gain her freedom and how far Elizabeth’s advisors would go to stop her and protect their Virgin Queen. Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots were rival queens on the same island, pushed together due to religious intolerance and political instability, which created the perfect conditions for revolt, where power struggles would continue even after Mary’s death.

The Elizabethan period is most often described as a Golden Age; Elizabeth I had the knowledge and insight to deal with cases of conspiracy, intrigue, and treason, and perpetuate her own myth of Gloriana.

A really excellent book and read, kind of Royal history with all the interesting bits. This book concentrates on the parts that dominated Elizabeth I’s reign, the bits of real interest and intrigue such as the various plots Northern Rising, Ridolfi Plot, Throckmorton Plot, Babbington and Essex Plots. The author Harrison has written the book really well, explaining what went on and explained in a concise and clear way. I know a bit about Elizabeth I and the various things that went on but the author seemed to make everything clear and easy to read. Whilst I knew bits about the Elizabeth I story, these has filled in a lot of the gaps for which I appreciate, and it has made me want to read more on the subject which is always a good thing. An articulate and well-written book, I would think those that are students and people who would like to learn more will get the most out of this excellent read.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Road to Barbarossa Soviet-German Relations 1917-1941

The Road to Barbarossa Soviet-German Relations 1917-1941 written by

Norman Ridley and published by Frontline Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 320

From the chaos of the First World War, during which Germany and Russia had fought each other to a standstill, there emerged two societies whose diametrically opposed ideologies of communism and fascism represented the opposite extremes of the political spectrum. Despite this, in time the governments and military establishments in both countries were able to create an environment where political expediency led to both cooperation and an eventual alliance.

Western democracies found both systems repellent but the two countries, Germany and the Soviet Union, embodied vast resources of, in the case of the Soviets, raw materials and, in the case of Germany, huge intellectual, scientific and industrial expertise. Both offered massive opportunities for trade, but neither made comfortable partners. Britain, whose sympathies lay more with the Germans, and France, whose history tied them more to Eastern Europe, tended to treat both Germany and the Soviet Union as outcast states. 

Whilst animosity was rampant on a political level, both countries, now having equal pariah status in the eyes of the Western allies, began to see huge benefits in military and economic cooperation. Collaborative ventures for covert armament production and training facilities were initiated in 1921. These schemes would continue, with varying degrees of success, for more than a decade until the rise of Nazism in Germany put an end to it.

The Spanish Civil War saw not only thee two rival political philosophies but opposing military doctrines also being tested against each other on the field of battle. It is remarkable, therefore, that these two nations emerged from this maelstrom to re-discover the ‘spirit of Rapallo’. It was a spirit which culminated in the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939. Within weeks, both sides would display their unity as they fell together with ruthless efficiency upon the hopless Poland.

This book looks at how these two ‘strange bedfellows’ dealt with western hostility and found ways to accommodate each other in a bid to recover from the economic devastation and dismantling of their historic territorial boundaries. The extent to which cooperation was achieved is unusual given the circumstances, especially as they had to contend with the machinations of the Western Powers. 

I really looked forward to reading this book, and I can say I wasn’t disappointed. I think I was just looking forward to the fact that it was about the Eastern Front, but it was giving the reader that extra dimension of concentrating more on the political/relations/pre-war part of the Eastern Front. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the battles or military side of things, it’s just nice to get the added story and depth that the political part brings to the story, a bit like getting more of the story. The book covers fascinating part of relations such as The Bolshevik Revolution, The Lorcarno Treaties, The Rise of Nazism, The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and more. The book is well written and Ridley is an excellent writer in making the information easy to understand with all the various personalities involved. The book contains excellent sources and notes, and definitely a good book if you prefer reading more about the paperwork side of war. Highly Recommended.

Bomber Command Churchill’s Greatest Triumph

Bomber Command Churchill’s Greatest Triumph written by Roddy MacKenzie

and published by Air World Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 368

Roddy MacKenzie’s father served in Bomber Command during the Second World War,

but like so many brave veterans who had survived the war, he spoke little of his exploits.

So, when Roddy started on his personal journey to discover something of what his father

had achieved, he uncovered a great deal about the devastating effectiveness of Bomber

Command and the vital role it played in the defeat of Third Reich. He realised that the true

story of Bomber Command’s achievements has never been told nor fully acknowledged.

Roddy became a man on a mission, and this startlingly revealing, and often personal study, is the result. Bomber Command: Churchill's Greatest Triumph takes the reader through the early days of the Second World War and introduces all the key individuals who turned the Command into the war-winning weapon it eventually became, as well as detailing the men and machines which flew night after night into the heart of Hitler’s Germany.

The main focus of his book is the destruction and dislocation wrought by the bombing to reduce, and ultimately destroy, Germany’s ability to make war. In his analysis, Roddy dug deep into German archival material to uncover facts rarely presented to either German or English language readers. These demonstrate that Bomber Command’s continual efforts, at appalling cost in aircrew casualties and aircraft losses, did far more damage to the Reich than the Allies knew.

Roddy’s father served with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Roddy naturally highlights its contribution to Bomber Command’s successes, another aspect of this fascinating story which the author believes has not been duly recognised.

Bomber Command: Churchill's Greatest Triumph will certainly raise the debate on the controversial strategy adopted by ‘Bomber’ Harris and how he was perceived by many to have over-stepped his remit. But most of all, this book will revise people’s understanding of just how important the endeavours were of those men who flew through the dark and through the searchlights, the flak, and the enemy night fighters, to bring the Second World War in Europe to its crushing conclusion.

This book is a fascinating book by a man whose father served for Bomber Command during the war, the book looks at a number of things from the role of Bomber Command, the men involved, the men who flew the planes and bombed Germany to how the men in control were perceived. It’s quite an honest book and tries to tell the story of what went on within Bomber Command, but actually what people thought of those in control. I can actually agree with this point in that my father too was in the RAF, although after WW2. The image of those outside of an organisation will always have a rosier picture, it’s often only when your within it that you know the truth or certainly here more of the going ons. It was nice to read about how the German records saw the bombing and the results of how their public were suffering under the constant bombing campaigns. This book is a very well researched book and credit should go to the author who has written a great book. Being from an RAF family I would happily recommend this book which had a bit extra and was well worth the read.

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.

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...