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Section 8

Book Review By Michael D Booker (July 2006)

(ISBN: 1 84415 432 7)
(ISBN: 1 84415 443 2)

Author: Jack Sheldon

Pen & Sword Books Limited

UK Price: £12.99 Each

The recent media coverage of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme will I am sure renew existing interest or create interest for the first time in this, one of the bloodiest battles in our history. In the summer months there is usually a steady flow of visitors to this area, some travel in private cars and others in groups, what ever their reasons, most leave wanting to learn more of events at the time of the battle itself and therefore this excellent series of books will provide them with many answers they seek and a great deal of other useful information too.

The two latest titles cover – Thiepval, now famous for the Lutyens’s massive memorial to the missing which bears the inscriptions of the names of over 72,000 British and Commonwealth troops who were killed and have no know graves. In the Autumn of 1918, this was the site of three months of bitter fighting, as British troops tried to capture this key area of the landscape which the Germans had turned into an impregnable fortress. Beaumont Hamel is another name which conjures up appalling visions too, as it was here on 1st July 1916 that thousands of men of VIII Corps, British Fourth Army, were killed or wounded for no gains whatsoever. This volume covers the actions there at that time and also the Old Front line from Redan Ridge to the Ancre.

Theses excellent handy sized publications are without a doubt ideal to use whilst on tour. They include many then and now photographs and make full use of original maps too. These coupled with other archive information and the excellent personal accounts of those who actually fought there, will take the reader stage by stage through the battles. They will therefore be beneficial to a wide range of readers from the expert military historians and family history researchers, through to the casual day tripper, who may be interested to learn that many of our now famous historians or the finest of battlefield guides actually kindled their interest in the Great War and distinguished careers from one of these short day trips to the Somme!

Book Review By Michael D Booker (July 2006)


Published By Naval & Military Press Ltd

UK Price: £14.50

Often referred to by the British Tommy as “Kaiser Bill”, Wilhelm ll was in fact the Grandson of Queen Victoria. He became 9th King of Prussia and 3rd Emperor of Germany in 1888 and “reigned” until he was forced to abdicate in November 1914. As a result of his strict upbringing and his military and academic education, he was very much an autocratic monarch, who was opposed to socialism and supported German imperialism in a very militaristic way. He actually ousted Chancellor Otto Von Bismark from office and despite the late British Queen being his Grandmother, promoted anti-British foreign policy to the extent that he even supported South Africa during the Boer War.

He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1908 and for the next few years stepped back and therefore played a less dominant role, however he continued to support imperialism and backed Tirpitz when he suggested building a fleet of ships to match that of the British Royal Navy. He encouraged Austro-Hungarian aggression after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and became Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces during the Great War. William was forced to abdicate in early November, 1918 and fled his beloved country with his family and lived in Holland for the remainder of his life until he died in 1941.

He actually wrote two volumes of autobiography – this title covering the period 1878-1918 (originally published in 1922) and My Early Life (Published in 1926).

I must admit that although this is not one of the first titles I would have purchased, I did find it provided me with very interesting reading, as it gave me a great insight into the thoughts of this famous man, who played an important role in Germany during the early part of the century and the Great War. It is very much a publication for the serious historian, however I would suggest that any Great War enthusiast or Battlefield Guide should read it as it will give them a much wider perspective of events during the crucial period of world history too.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (July 2006)


Author: Bernard Lowry

Publisher: Shire Publications Limited
Cromwel House
Church Street
Princes Risborough
Buckinghamshire HP27 9AA

ISBN: 07478 0651 9

Published : June 2006

UK Price: £10.99

Here is yet another very helpful little book from Shire, that will prove to be very useful on days out around the country, as well as stimulating further research into sites that we so often pass by and take for granted.

Discovering Fortifications covers “fortresses” of all shapes and sizes and in numerous locations around the British Isles . In fact every period in our history from the Tudor to the Cold War period is included and the fascinating and very readable text will keep readers of all levels from children to the expert engrossed for hours.

In usual Shire style, this volume is once again packed to the hilt with many splendid black and white and colour photographs and easy to read maps. There is a very useful list of addresses and list of forts around the UK and suggestions for further reading.

I feel sure this volume will be a handy companion in the car, useful for school history projects and the family and local history researcher is sure to find a use for it too.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (July 2006)


Author: Flying Officer Squire “Tim” Scott

Publisher: Pen and Sword
47 Church Street
South Yorkshire S70 2AS

ISBN: 1 84415 390 8

Published in July 2006

UK Price: £19.99

This is the story of three RAF aircrew, who having baled out from their crippled aircraft following the raid on the viaduct at Arnsberg, found themselves on the run in Nazi Germany during March 1945.

Although there are none of the usual tales of heroics we normally associate with this type of story, it does however provide interesting reading as the pilot, who having given the order for his crew to abandon their failing aircraft, remarkably managed to fly his aircraft back to British shores and land in one piece!

However, those who parachuted to “safety” were soon captured after landing and having been imprisoned in a village jail were treated remarkably well by the villagers , considering they were enemy airmen who had recently bombed their homeland.

They were soon taken away for interrogation. After which, they marched 120 miles through German towns and villages to their final destination of the Wetzlar Prisoner of War Camp. The journey to this, the principal POW camp dedicated to holding American and British airmen, involved hitchhiking and being transported by various types of transport including farm vehicles and railway trucks and their being accommodated in some very unconventional and makeshift gaols along the way. Their actual stay in the POW camp was however a short one, as they were soon rescued by allied forces, just 20 days after bailing out and 36 hours behind barbed wire.

This volume is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers including anyone interested in subjects that include general World War 2 and the RAF, Prisoners of War and escape and evasion.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (July 2006)


Author: Anthony Clayton

Publisher: Longman
Pearson Education EMA
Edinburgh Gate, Harlow

ISBN: 0582894093

Published in July 2006

UK Price: £20.99

This is a very useful volume for the both the casual researcher and military historian alike. In fact I would also stick my neck out and say that anyone with the slightest interest in the British Army – especially Sandhurst cadets and up and coming NCO’s should not be without a copy, as is makes fascinating reading and also provides an excellent source of research for the future.

This excellent volume covers every period of our history from the English Civil Wars to the present day and the major wars and campaigns fought during that time are covered and the well written text is supported with some fine copies of engravings and photographs too.

The book is set out in chronological order and the overviews of each period are especially useful as they provide information on the conditions experienced at the time, the tactics and equipment used and features everything else including recruiting, manning strengths, promotion procedures and levels of pay at the various times. There are excellent chapters dealing with logistics, amalgamations and the support arms and the appendix covering the more recent “Options for change”, brings it smack up to date.

I personally enjoyed reading it and believe other readers will find the biographies and extracts from personal memoirs of officers from the different periods covered most enlightening. Although the title is “The British Officer”, I believe it is more general than that and in fact offers a pretty good insight into the army as a whole - an army that has in fact served us well over the years and will, I am sure do so in the years to come.

Last updated 17 February, 2009

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