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Section 5

Book Review By Michael D Booker (April 2006)

Blood, Sweat and Arrogance
The Myths of Churchill’s War

Author: Gordon Corrigan
Publisher: Wiedenfield & Nicholson

ISBN: 029784623X

First Published in April 2006

UK Price: £20.00

Gordon Corrigan certainly leaves no stone unturned when researching the content for his books. He is like a little terrier who digs away until he finds what he is looking for and is fearless when it comes to giving his opinion on any subject. As a result, he has produced some of the best military history books in the shops and on library shelves today, that will not only entertain the reader, but provide a great deal of information that is sure to be invaluable to the researcher and military historian alike, enabling them too, to form or revise their own opinions or pre-conceived ideas.

This particular volume is no exception and in the same way he overturned the myths surrounding the Great War in his book “Mud, Blood and Poppycock”, he now challenges the assumptions about the Second World War too. In typical “Corrigan” style, he explains why he believes Churchill was in fact responsible for the state of our armed forces in 1939 and how his interference caused a string of disasters, that brought us very close to losing the war altogether.

Controversy does not worry Gordon Corrigan in any way, shape or form, as he goes on to overturn the reputations of many of our famous generals, including the great General Montgomery himself, whom he believes owes his reputation to being more skilful with a pen, than he was as a commander!

By now, you should have an indication of the style of this brilliant author who, in my opinion is without a doubt one of our greatest military historians too. You may not agree with what he has written, however I can guarantee that you will enjoy this volume and you too, will want to go on and ask further questions yourself.

DVD Review By Michael D Booker (April 2006)


Author: Gary Sheffield & Dan Todman

Publisher: Tempus Publishing
The Mill
Brimscombe Port
Gloucestershire GL5 2QQ

ISBN: 186227083X

UK Price: £20.00

It is common knowledge that the command and control structure of our forces in the Great War has often been the subject of criticism. This unfortunately has reflected badly on the reputations of many senior officers of that period and led to many derogatory the expressions, including the famous “Lions led by donkeys”.

This excellent volume, written by two leading military historians, is a new interpretation of the British command structure in the Great War and through their thorough and painstaking research, their findings actually debunk many of the myths surrounding this unsatisfactory school of thought.

They examine the complex practicalities of command at that time and from the new evidence provided, the reader will be able to judge for themselves, that the commanders facing the criticism may actually have been a lot more effective than many have thought and this after all led to the British Army being at its peak of efficiency in 1918.

This is very much a specialist volume that goes into great detail. It will therefore, without a doubt appeal to military historians, battlefield guides and Great War enthusiasts alike and is a must for any serious researcher’s bookshelves!

Book Review By Michael D Booker (April 2006)


Author: David Turner

Publisher: Melrose Books
St Thomas Place

ISBN: 09548480 – 1- 2

UK Price: £11.99

This revealing account of the sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak, was written by the author in memory of his late uncle, who sadly died along with 833 fellow officers and shipmates when the mighty warship was sunk at Scapa Flow, by the German U-Boat - U47 in October 1939.

The author has skilfully used recently de-classified documents that include official statements and reports together with eye witness accounts that have recently come to light, to provide the reader with a fascinating and truly remarkable insight into what actually happened on that fateful Autumn day.

His painstaking research has brought to life hard facts, that include tales of courage, suffering and human sacrifice together with controversy too, as it is still believed to this day, that an undercover German spy actually guided the U-Boat through, what were considered to be impenetrable defences to reach its target.

This volume will be an invaluable tool for the researcher who is keen to learn more about an ancestor who became a casualty or was involved in one way or another in this dramatic incident. As it provides detailed accounts of the sinking of the Hood and Bismark too, it will provide interesting reading for a wider audience including naval historians and WW2 enthusiasts alike.

DVD Review By Michael D Booker (May 2006)


DD Home Entertainment

Retail Price:
£12.99 for VHS
£14.99 for DVD

Here is one DVD or video that just about every military historian, battlefield guide, history teacher and researcher will want to buy!

To mark the 90th anniversary of the start of the Somme Offensive, the BBC have produced an extraordinary new documentary which puts the entire action in a fresh and new light. This superb production - a lasting tribute to those who served on one of the bloodiest days in military history, will be released on DVD and Video by DD Home Entertainment on the 19th June – excellent timing for those attending the anniversary events or visiting the area this summer.

Cynics may say “what is there, that we don’t know already?” This excellent production reveals how British tactics changed over the months of the campaign and turned defeat into victory. The Somme is usually seen as the darkest hour of the British Army, when almost 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day of battle alone, and a further 37,000 were wounded. As everyone knows, British commanders at the time were accused of military incompetence, however there was more to the Somme than just senseless slaughter - it was due to what was learnt on those blood-soaked fields, that the British Army developed strategies and tactics and went on to defeat its German enemy.

This special film features superb and highly authentic dramatic re-enactments which vividly recreate the experiences of soldiers on both sides. There is splendid contemporary combat footage and it compares the assault on Thiepval by a company of the 2nd Salford Pals on July 1st 1916 with an attack on the same objective by men of the 12th Middlesex in September that same year. By then, in just a few short months, the horrific lessons illustrated by the decimation of the 'Salford Pals' had led to new battlefield innovations - such as advanced air observation, the 'creeping barrage', tank support and, more importantly, more power to commanders in the field.

There is no doubt, that this DVD and Video is a spectacular gripping account of the true battle of the Somme, it is authentic and deeply moving too. It is really as offers an entirely fresh perspective on events, while its dramatisation of real soldiers' experiences provides a soldier's eye view of the fighting as never before. As a bonus feature to the actual programme, there are a further eleven minutes of rare and precious Somme Battlefield re-enactments originally made for the cinema. These personalise the War to identifiable acts of bravery; including the winning of a V.C. for tending the wounded in 'No Man's Land', a messenger's determination to deliver despite his terrible injuries and always offering a soldier's eye view of the hardship and danger of war in the trenches.

All in all, this really is a must buy for your collection at the suggested Retail Price: £12.99 for VHS and £14.99 for DVD, If you don’t treat yourself to anything else this month – put your name down for this!

Book Review By Michael D Booker (April 2006)

The Last Survivors of The Great War

Author: Richard Van Emden & Steve Humphries

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

ISBN: 1-84415 319 3

First Published in 2006

UK Price: £9.99

Cynics may well say we have seen enough books published in the past year or so that are based on interviews with survivors of The Great War. It is true that there have been many of these to date and I am sure, that there will be more will come as we approach the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme this year, however I can thoroughly recommend this particular volume as not only does it make fascinating reading, but due to its handy size and very reasonable price, it is ideal to take on holiday or when travelling.

Although I have read the majority of books that fall into this category, I found this one so interesting and thought provoking, I was unable to put it down. Besides featuring many excellent black and white photographs that help put the excellent narrative into perspective, it is packed to the hilt with true and often remarkable stories and personal reminiscences that cover every human emotion possible.

In common with similar books recently published, a great many of the survivors featured, have since passed away since, therefore bringing it home to us all, just how important these volumes are for both today’s and future generations to come.

This volume of course covers the tales of those who fought at the front, it also features the stories of nurses, munitions workers and those of the children and young women who remained at home, who lost their fathers, finacees and husbands too.

In summary, any one with the slightest interest in the Great War will, I am sure thoroughly enjoy reading this publication – it’s a must for your library!

DVD Review By Michael D Booker (May 2006)


Author: Henry Hanning
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Pen & Sword Books Limited
47 Church Street
South Yorkshire S70 2AS

ISBN: 1844153851

Published in May 2006

UK Price: £30.00

Of course, the Guards Regiments of the British Army need little introduction worldwide due to the major role they play on ceremonial and state occasions, however few outside the Regiment will realise that the Grenadier Guards (or the First Regiment of Foot Guards), are about to celebrate their 350th Anniversary this year – hence the timely publication of this splendid volume.

As the volume has been written by an ex Grenadier Guards officer and in close association with the Regiment itself, readers can rest assured that the wealth of information ( not normally available, or easily accessible to “outsiders” ) contained between the colourful covers is fully detailed and accurate in every way.

This excellent publication was honestly a treat to read, as it was packed to the hilt with a more than generous amount of fascinating detail written in a very readable style. Coupled with the wide range of excellent colour and black and white photographs, detailed time lines, maps and reproductions of early paintings, I have no doubt that it will be especially appreciated by both serving and ex Grenadiers, family history researchers, military historians together with militaria and medal collectors alike.

In a nutshell, it is a concise Regimental History, reference work and photograph album in one beautiful volume, it includes full details of the Regiment’s battle honours, key personalities, Victoria Cross winners and Regimental customs, together with a resume of both its operational and ceremonial roles over its long and distinguished history.

Anyone who has had the honour of serving in this fine Regiment or has any connection with it, will certainly want a copy of this brilliant title - I for one am proud to have it in my own collection!

Last updated 17 February, 2009

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