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Section 11

Book Review By Michael D Booker (September 2006)


Author: Jean Paul Pallud

Publisher: After The Battle

ISBN: 1 870067 57 6

Published : August 2006

UK Price: £39.95

The specialist publisher After the Battle is perhaps better known to many for its excellent quarterly magazine featuring the many splendid then and now photographs and the superb range of fascinating military history related articles. One should not however forget that they also publish many excellent hard back volumes too and their latest publication is no exception.

Although the allied armies successfully landed on the beaches of Normandy in the Summer of 1944, the fight did not end there, as the enemy forces fought on with the aim of containing the bridgehead until a counter-attack could be launched. However after a further two months of hard fighting, an attempted counter-attack in the early August failed and Hitler had no alternative but to at last admit that his army was now on the road to defeat!

The incredible story behind Ruckmarsch begins here, and is told by the author in the familiar After the Battle then and now style. No less than 1000 splendid photographs support the excellent text covering the period when the German army retreated across France and lost almost 300,000 men in the process.

The author made some incredible discoveries during his extensive research in preparation for this excellent volume. I am sure you will make many discoveries too as you thumb through the numerous pages and marvel at the magnificent collection of photographs.

This volume is a masterpiece, it is a must buy for the serious military historian, researcher and battlefield guide and a must read for anyone with the slightest interest in the Second World War.

Thank you After the Battle for another wonderful book.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (October 2006)


Author: Guy Hartcup

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 1844154343

Published : August 2006

UK Price: £16.99

This excellent publication is a very welcome reprint of the 1977 edition of Guy Hartcup’s highly successful volume telling the detailed story of the famous Mulberry Harbour – a temporary harbour, that many consider to have been the most remarkable combined engineering and logistical achievement of the Second World War.

Following the unsuccessful raid on Dieppe in 1942, the allies realised that their task of capturing a port on the North coast of France was not going to be an easy one and therefore if they wanted to initially unload men, their vehicles and equipment and then successfully continue to re-supply them following the invasion, a suitable alternative had to be found.

The concept of building two artificial harbours was muted. Of course this was drastic measure and would be no easy feat, however under a cloak of secrecy and with the backing of Winston Churchill, the design, trials and construction took place at locations around the British Isles and just three days after D-Day, the components, which included over 30 jetties, around 10 miles of floating roadways, constructed out of no less than 600,000 tons of concrete were brought together and once successfully towed across the channel, were assembled at Arromanches and Omaha Beach.

When you consider the scale of the project, the potentially bad weather and poor sea conditions, together risks of attack from the air or by sea, it was remarkable that the harbour survived the crossing at all. Following a severe storm, the harbour at Omaha Beach was destroyed sooner than expected, therefore leaving the harbour at Arromanches to handle no less than 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes in the following 100 days!

This splendid book will no doubt appeal to a wide range of readers with an interest in both the Normandy Landings and Second World War in general, however it will also intrigue those with an engineering mind too, as it includes fascinating architects drawings and pictures whilst describing in detail, not just the men who made this miracle possible, but they methods used too.

WW2 enthusiasts – buy it now before it goes out of print again!

Book Review By Michael D Booker (October 2006)


Author: Stephen McGreal

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 387 8

Published : September 2006

UK Price: £19.99

Thank you Pen and Sword for yet another excellent publication, that is sure to be of great benefit to family and local history researchers and military historians with an interest in the Cheshire Regiments and Pals Battalions of the Great War.

This splendid volume - the result of years of painstaking research by the author, covers the history of the 15th, 16th and 17th Battalions of The Cheshire Regiment - units better known or more affectionately referred to as the “Bantams”. When war broke out the standard height for enlistment at the time was at least 5ft 3in tall, however after Birkenhead applied for permission to recruit shorter men, so many men from mining and industrial areas across Britain volunteered, that it was decided to form the 35th (Bantam) Division.

The author tells the story of this brave “little” army in excellent and highly readable detail. He covers the raising of the units and their training at home prior to their embarkation for France in January 1916 and then goes on to recall their actions and individual acts of bravery as they fought and were almost decimated at Bazentin Ridge and the Somme. These battles sadly led to the tough and sturdy men of the “Bantams “ being replaced by physically inferior troops and once conscription was brought into being, the division soon lost its “Bantam” status.

In the traditional Pen and Sword style, the excellent text is complemented with many superb and fascinating photographs of these gallant, short but well developed men and as well as including images of recruiting posters, it also features a full Roll of Honour and comprehensive list of citations for awards of gallantry.

This volume is invaluable and in my opinion is worthy of space in any library.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (October 2006)


Author: Ian Beckett

Publisher: Longman
Pearson Education EMA
Edinburgh Gate, Harlow

ISBN: 1405836202

Published in July 2006

UK Price: £9.99

If you are a military historian or family history researcher with an interest in the Great War and have around ten pounds to spare (yes - a bargain), here is one first rate work you will certainly want to include on your bookshelves.

The author of this splendid volume is acknowledged internationally as a specialist on the British army and the First World War– and as a result of his in depth research, where he has drawn on previously unpublished eye witness accounts and a wide range of other resources, he now provides the reader with a fascinating insight into this, the final major battle of 1914, which also marked the end of the “Race to the Sea”

As well as generally explaining both the significance and legacy of the actual battle, he also covers a wide range of fascinating, subjects that includes leadership and logistics, the land and terrain, the early actions and sorties, an overview of the armies in Flanders at the time and chapters on both Kindermord (the slaughter of the innocents) and the Race to the Sea. There is no doubt therefore, that everyone, no matter what their specialist interest might be, will find something of interest to them here.

In summary, although this is a paperback, it’s a snip at this low price and in terms of what the reader will get out of it, is worth much, much more!

Book Review By Michael D Booker (October 2006)


Author: Douglas Scott

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 404 1

Published :September 2006

UK Price: £25.00

Having worked with one of Haigh’s decendents several years ago and discussed his famous ancestor often, I found this excellent book based on the diaries and letters of Haig (from the start of his military career in 1861 to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914) to be absorbing reading. I am sure many others will find it fascinating too and agree with me, that this will certainly be an invaluable addition to any Military Historian’s or Great War enthusiast’s library.

Edited by the Grandson of Douglas Haig, this volume provides the reader with an excellent insight into this famous man. As Haig was the Commander in Chief of the British forces in France and Flanders for most of the Great War, much has already been written about him in the past 90 years! And even now, some 80 years after his death, he is still the subject of controversy.

It must be said that although Haig has been severely criticised for the way in which he directed his armies, he was considered by his peers / contemporaries to be a very accomplished soldier who had performed well in both South Africa and in the Sudan –where he was in fact recommended for a Victoria Cross for rescuing a wounded colleague! Many also believe that in spite of his failings, if it had not been for his influence upon organisation, tactics and training, our army would not have been as prepared as it was, for war in the first place!

Haig was a prolific and talented writer and therefore his diaries and letters reflect much about the man himself. There is no doubt that the editor of this volume has successfully produced a very readable and valuable publication and should be commended on the way in which he has skillfully brought together Haig’s own words with historical facts and fascinating mini biographies of the military, political and family figures of the time.

I am sure you will enjoy this volume as much as I did.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (October 2006)


Author: Simon Fowler

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 410 6

Published : October 2006

UK Price: £9.99

There can be few families in the British Isles who will not have had at least one of their ancestors who will have served in the British Army at some point in history. As the years pass and the elder relatives – “the fonts of all knowledge” from the wartime generations are no longer there, the ancestors service documents have gone missing and then, when we are left with just vague details, where do we begin our search for the facts and more the detailed information of our “fighting forefathers”?

One answer, thanks to Simon Fowler is this, his latest book dedicated to “Tracing your army ancestors”. Simon is without a doubt one of the country’s leading authorities on family history research. He is a prolific writer of family history related books and has a wealth of experience behind him. His special interest in military history and many unique contacts has successfully led to him providing the reader of the splendid publication with a great deal of valuable information, which is sure to provide them with a fascinating read and save them a vast amount of research time and a lot of money in the process too.

Although the author assumes the reader will have little experience in this specialist field of research, I personally think anyone, even the more experienced amongst us (including general military historians along with badge, medal and militaria collectors) with an interest in the British army will find it useful . He cleverly points those seeking further details on a particular battle or campaign in the right direction, whilst covering the organisation of the army in general, however the sections on how to access individual records of both officers and men together with citations for gallantry as well as rolls of honour will I am sure benefit the reader most.

Of course, one couldn’t expect, this volume will not provide all the answers you may seek, however I believe it is the ideal book to start with and by following the advice given and viewing the suggestions for further reading and research, it will put you well on the way to obtaining the valuable material you are seeking.

Therefore I think it is pretty safe to say that most family history researchers will find this reasonably priced fully illustrated volume invaluable and it obviously a must for their bookshelves too.

Last updated 17 February, 2009

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