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Section 1

Book Review By Michael D Booker (January 2005)


Editor: Jon Cooksey

Pen & Sword Military
Pen & Sword Books Limited
47 Church Street
South Yorkshire S70 2AS

ISBN: 1 84415 219 7
Published in 2004

UK Price: £16.99

To both the expert and enthusiast alike, Battlefields Review requires little if any introduction. Although it had only been in existence for a little over two years, it had a loyal following that included one of the widest ranges of readers one could imagine. Military historians, serving and retired armed forces personnel, battlefield guides, the many tourists who frequent the fields where history was made and finally, those who just liked a good read, all looked forward to this superb monthly magazine and therefore like myself, mourned its final publication just over a year ago. Therefore I am sure that the review in its latest form will be met with great enthusiasm by one and all, for as one would expect, it contains many excellent and thought provoking articles which have been written by some of the finest writers and experts in this fascinating field.

With articles covering a wide selection of subjects ranging from Waterloo through to the Atomic Bomb, this superb publications also includes up to date news and views, there are many excellent colour and black and white photographs and the splendid text is often backed up by very detailed maps and diagrams. Readers will also find the 2005 Diary of events included invaluable too, as it will enable them to plan out this 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar year well in advance, ensuring they don’t miss the action!

At £16.99, this publications represents good value for money-it was a welcome addition to my Christmas stocking and kept me busy over the festive period. I don’t want to wish time away, however next year’s edition is on my list for next year.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (March 2005)

The Tunnellers’ War 1914-1918

Authors: Peter Barton, Peter Doyle and John Vanderwalle

Publisher: Spellmount Publishers

ISBN: 1 86227 237 9

UK Price: £25.00

There is no doubt, that many excellent books have been written and published on the wide ranging and different aspects of the Great War, these include both general as well as specialist publications which are aimed at either the general reader or expert or often both. I have personally read many books on this tragic conflict, some I find fascinating, others are rather run of the mill and are possibly recycled from previous publications. This splendid title is however one that shines out and I am sure, it will be of tremendous interest to a wide audience of both amateur and professional military historians, researchers and general readers alike.

The war beneath the “killing fields” of the Western Front has in my opinion until now been overshadowed and often neglected by authors and publishers by what took place above the ground. This truly magnificent book will, without a doubt do much to draw attention to the skilful , yet unseen game of “cat and mouse” that was taking place in the damp and dirty tunnels underground.

I can honestly say that this volume made interesting reading and succeeded in stimulating my own interest in carrying out further research into this fascinating aspect of the Great War. The authors (all tunnelling experts), have in fact been inundated with enquiries on this subject since the publication of Sebastian Faulke’s “Birdsong” and have as a result carried out over twenty five years painstaking research, excavations and investigation to be able to produce this brilliant title.

The book is packed with a tremendous amount of gripping information and is backed up with a host of colourful maps, in excess of 450 colour as well as black and white photographs and many highly detailed and professional diagrams. Many of the photographs are unique and will keep the reader engrossed like I was for many hours.

If there is one book to buy on this intriguing subject, this is it – I am sure you will not be disappointed!

CD Review By Michael D Booker February 2005)

Version 2.0

ISBN: 1 897632 94 0
Publisher: Naval & Military Press Ltd
Unit 10
Ridgewood Industrial Park
East Sussex TN22 5QR
UK Price: £285.00
(Plus VAT £49.88)

The large number of war memorials still very much in evidence today, in just about every British town, city and even the smallest of villages, re-enforces the cost to our nation in terms of the unbelievable loss of life brought about by the Great War. One has only to scan the large number of names listed on even the smallest of these memorials in the average size town, to appreciate why almost every family in Britain was affected in one form or another during those dark years of conflict.

Today, as the interest in family and local history research has grown beyond all expectation, the demand for more detailed information relating to the Great War service and casualty records of our ancestors has increased too. Until recent years, research of this nature demanded a great deal of time and effort, together with many costly trips (or reams of correspondence) to record offices, libraries and Regimental museums around the country and once there, having to spend hours delving through many reference books and copious amounts of archive material (often to no avail).

For this reason alone, the first edition of Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 in CD form published in 1998 was greeted with much enthusiasm by both professional and amateur historian alike and was of course a great success. Therefore, I am sure this latest edition will prove to be even more popular and in greater demand, as it is much updated, with many new features and any previous errors and omissions rectified.

For those unfamiliar with this most brilliant programme, “Soldiers Died” is a fully searchable digital database that enables the user to search the vast amount of fascinating information covering 665,000 soldiers and 37,000 officers of the British Army who died in the period 1st January 1914 through to the 31st December 1921.Searching the data could not be made easier and can now be accessed by a wide variety of methods including – by Regiment, battalion, surname, first name, initials, rank, service number, place of birth, enlistment and residence, date and nature of death and theatre of war. The mine of information returned on the casualty will normally include decorations awarded, together with details of previous Regiments they may have served and earlier service numbers if applicable. As a bonus, the researcher can also print off a superb colour facsimile of the personalised memorial scroll that would have been sent to the next of kin at the time of death.

On the surface, this programme may seem expensive, but one should bear in mind the price is low compared to those costly rail tickets, long journeys, and overnight accommodation etc. to the various archive offices I mentioned earlier. I therefore personally have no doubts whatsoever as to the true value of this programme, having used it for many years, there is way would wish to be without it now. Family and local history groups, military museums, military historians, militaria collectors together with professional and amateur researchers, should not be without a copy either.

One added bonus for new purchasers of this superb programme is the 12 months interest free credit facility Naval and Military Press now offer. Owners of the first edition are not forgotten either- they can upgrade to version two for the value for money price of £65 plus VAT (£11.38). So what are you waiting for? - Buy it today, I guarantee, it will keep you engrossed for hours!

For more information on this magnificent programme, visit the publisher’s special web site

DVD Review By Michael D Booker March 2005)


Publisher: Imperial War Museum

UK Price: £19.99

Military historians and researchers like, will require little introduction to the vast collections, archives and research facilities of the Imperial War Museum. As one would imagine, the film vault there houses literally thousands of rare and fascinating war documentaries, preserved for the nation. Now, in partnership with military film specialist DD Video, the Museum is making many of these treasures available to the public on video and DVD.

One of the latest releases in the Imperial War Museum Collection is THE TRUE GLORY COLLECTOR'S EDITION. A superb feature length film, widely regarded as one of the greatest war documentaries ever made, was produced by the Allied military between1944 and 1945, as a permanent visual record of the campaign in Europe. It covers all the major engagements from D-Day through to the fall of Berlin and includes Omaha Beach, the Falaise Gap, Caen and Arnhem together with the liberation of Paris and the Battle of the Bulge.

This unique film which won a well-deserved Oscar for 'Best Documentary', was compiled from the best of over six and a half million feet of film. It includes some of the most devastating and memorable images of war ever captured on camera. In fact, over 700 frontline cameramen supplied material for the documentary - 32 of these were killed, 101 wounded and a further 16 reported as 'missing in action' during its making. This auspicious film also includes an introduction by General Eisenhower, who was personally involved with its making and a booklet of expert viewing notes. A further bonus, is the inclusion of an “alternative ending” – a never before seen sequence taking the story up to VJ Day.

I am sure this film will prove highly popular with expert and amateur alike and has simultaneously been released on both video and DVD, this exciting piece of history is now available priced £19.99 for either a VHS video double pack or a 2 –disc DVD.

For further details, contact DD Video, Unit 1, Pool Bank Business Park, High Street, Tarvin, Chester, CH3 8JH or call their 24 hour DD Video hotline on 01829 741490.

DVD Review By Michael D Booker March 2005)

(The DVD of the legendary BBC TV documentary series)


UK Price: £29.99

Great news for World War Two aviation enthusiasts! DD Home Video, the specialist DVD and video production company are about to release a three disc DVD uncut version of the fascinating and very successful BBC documentary series War in the Air.

The BBC originally produced this outstanding documentary series in 1954. The series which received hugh critical and public acclaim at the time, took two years to complete, it comprised of fifteen half hour episodes and covered the whole subject of aerial warfare between the years 1935 to 1950. Featuring the pick of nearly twelve million feet of Allied and enemy film footage, it was heavily weighted towards the role of the Royal Air Force.

Despite its great success and being widely regarded as one of the BBC's most outstanding documentaries of the period, it has never been repeated, It is interesting to note, that for decades, the series was considered essential viewing for every new RAF recruit and even given special showings at RAF bases, for this reason, many veterans will remember it and may wish to purchase it to reminisce.

The series starts with an ill-prepared RAF at the outbreak of war in 1939, its aircraft were outclassed and outgunned by a new generation of Luftwaffe fighters and bombers. World War Two in the air is then covered in great detail and every theatre of operations, from the Battle of Britain, the role of RAF Coastal Command through to the bombing of Nazi Germany and the air war against the Japanese, is included. The series culminates with the Berlin Airlift, and the air war in Korea with the new generation of military jets facing new threats and new enemies in the period we now know as the Cold War.

Hats off to DD, who have worked with the BBC and the Imperial War Museum to produce these superb DVDs DVD from pristine 35mm prints of the series. The sound and picture quality is exceptional and the Aviation expert Brad King has written a fascinating booklet with viewing notes to accompany the release.

Although WAR IN THE AIR is already available on video, as a two VHS double pack, I personally believe many enthusiast like myself will welcome this latest production on DVD. Priced at £29.99, this invaluable DVD will be available from the 21st March. For further details, see the DD web site :

Book Review By Michael D Booker (March 2005)

Prisoners of the
Japanese 1942-1945

Author: Brian Mac Arthur

Publisher: Time Warner Books

ISBN: 0316861421

UK Price: £20.00

As the 60th anniversary of VJ Day approaches, books on all aspects of the war in the Far East seem to appear on the shelves of high street book sellers. I can honestly say, I have read a great many of these in the last few months and this excellent work by Brian Mac Arthur ranks amongst the best to date.

There is no doubt that any member of the British or Allied forces who had the mis-fortune to be taken prisoner by the Japanese suffered in one way or another. Some suffered more than others. Many as we now know, did not live to tell the tale of their suffering or experiences and death was I am ashamed to say, was a merciful release from the agony and torture of their life in captivity.

The author consulted over 150 diaries of ex prisoners of war and spent an unbelievable amount of time delving into the depth of the archives to research what it was really like, in the notorious Japanese prison camps and along the many hundreds of miles of the infamous “Death Railway”.

As one would expect, the subject of torture and deprivation is covered in great detail, however the reader is also treated to a fascinating insight into the inspirational way s in which the men boosted their morale – they entertained themselves with camp concerts, sporting events and education courses, however it is the most resourceful way in which they made improvised medical equipment and drugs and performed life saving surgery that I found the most remarkable.

Many readers will be shocked at what they read and once again, many will also ask the question, “how could another human being treat their fellow men like this?” Besides being an interesting read, this book with its superb black and white photographs and excellent maps on the inside covers, will provide an ideal source of reference, however it will also serve as memorial to the brave men who suffered in the cause of freedom many decades ago.


2 January 2006

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