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Section 9

Book Review By Michael D Booker (August 2006)

Major and Mrs Holt’s Pocket Battlefield Guide – Somme
Major and Mrs Holt’s Pocket Battlefield Guide Ypres Passchendaele

Author: Tonie and Valmai Holt

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 395 9

ISBN: 184415 377 0

Published : July 2006

UK Price: £6.99 Each

The Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele need little introduction to the military historian Great War enthusiast and many family historians as the events there around 90 years ago left a mark on French soil and in British history that can never be deleted.

It is a known fact that an ever increasing number of researchers, enthusiasts and casual trippers visit these areas each year, obviously some are more interested than others and it is the casual visitor or those with limited time, that these two splendid books are aimed.

Major and Mrs Holt produce the best guides to the battlefields one can wish to buy, they are without a doubt quality products and are invaluable to a wide range of readers. Despite these new volumes being a fraction of the price and size of the more detailed Holts publications, they do not lack detail and anyone contemplating a visit to these two famous battlefield areas would be advised to take a copy with them on tour.

In usual Holt’s style, they are fully comprehensive and feature excellent colour pictures and maps, excellent itineraries with map references and mileages together with a wealth of other up to date information and facts, that will make any visit to these areas so much more enjoyable.

Its well done and thanks once again Major and Mrs Holt for your valuable contribution to this fascinating subject.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (August 2006)


Author: Roni Wilkinson

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 393 2

Published : July 2006

UK Price: £19.99

The sudden demand to increase recruits into the British Army at the outbreak of the Great War, resulted in Lord Derby’s suggestion to create units made up of men from the same work place, schools and clubs etc., in their local areas. At that time patriotism was at a high and his call was soon answered. Quickly battalions made up of every area and social scale of the community were formed, trained and went to war.

These battalions with around a 1000 men in each gained distinction. There is no doubt, that they fought well and along with the army in general, they suffered high casualty rates too, leaving many British cities, towns and villages with a loss that took several decades to actually recover.

Many books - including the highly detailed large format series previously published by Pen & Sword, covering the experiences of men who served in the Accrington, Hull, Salford, Leeds , Barnsley, Manchester and Tyneside Pals battalions have already been written, however this particular volume provides the reader with a compact yet comprehensive account of these units and therefore provides an excellent overview of all battalions in one volume, making it a must for the bookshelf.

This excellent volume, written by an author with over 50 years publishing experience and editorship of the famous Battleground Europe series, sets the scene and then covers everything the reader and researcher wants to learn - from the efforts to raise the battalions, through to equipping and training them and then the lead up to the actual battles in which they fought and the events thereafter. There are some very nice black and white photographs (including superb aerial views), which are in turn supported with maps and other photos featuring unit badges and formations signs. With the detailed Order of Battle also included, this makes a very useful volume that will be of interest to any Great War enthusiast, military or family historian and both badge and medal collectors alike.


Book Review By Michael D Booker (August 2006)


Author: James Falkner

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 379 7

Published : May 2006

UK Price: £12.99

This significant event - a major battle in the Spanish War of Succession, was fought on the 23rd May 1706 on what is now Belgian soil, at Ramillies-Offus near to the city of Namur. The major players were John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who commanded an alliance of 62,000 British, Dutch and German troops and the Duc De Villeroi, who in turn commanded 60,000 fully equipped, well trained French and Bavarian troops.

Despite Malborough’s success at Blenheim in 1704, the following year was disappointing for his alliance, although he had planned to march with his army from the Netherlands to Italy and drive the French out of that country once and for all, the French were now in fact well on their way to conquering the whole of Italy. An unexpected French offensive on the left bank of the Rhine led to a change of plan for Marlborough and he was now forced to move towards Liege with the aim of luring Marshall Villeroi into battle there.

The French had settled into strong defensive positions and when battle actually commenced, it lasted just four hours. What many may have and still consider to have been impossible, the French were miraculously beaten by Marlborough’s troops and this led to him successfully capturing the cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent.

This excellent volume from Pen and Sword’s splendid Battleground Europe series is believed to be the only publication written to date, that is dedicated to this specific battle. It is both handy sized and very affordable. It includes a very useful guide for walking the battlefield , therefore making it a handy companion for anyone wishing to visit the battlefield. In common with other titles in this series, it is packed full of black and white photographs and copies of period engravings and paintings. There are a few colour plates, plus some very useful maps too. The detailed bibliographical information on the key personalities involved and tables of casualties including those wounded and killed will be helpful to the more serious researcher and student of military history.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (August 2006)

Russia’s War On Finland 1939-40

Author: Robert Edwards

Publisher: Wiedenfield & Nicholson

ISBN: 184415 343 6

Published : July 2006

UK Price: £20.00

This detailed volume covers the interesting story of the Russian invasion of Finland in November of 1939. Sometimes known as the “Winter War”, this was a short, savage and little understood war that could easily have led to Stalin’s military and political defeat and a totally different outcome a few years later.

At the time, the Russian Army had a reputation for being one of the best in the world - as well as having air superiority and more advanced technical equipment it also outnumbered its opponents at the rate of 4 to1! Despite offers of help from both France and Britain, due to Finland’s location, this was not possible and the Finn’s were alone! Everyone therefore expected a complete walkover and the Finns to be annihilated , however this brave and proud nation fought well and “gave the Russians a run for their money” and brought the invader to a complete stop. It was only after a total of four months savage fighting and the massacre of over a million troops did the mightier army push through.

Covering just about everything one would need to know about this campaign during a crucial period in history, this splendid volume includes highly detailed notes to compliment the text and an excellent bibliography for those who wish to carry out further and related reading. There are some interesting photographs and the appendix includes a copy of the transcript of the Russio -Finnish treaty too.

This is a serious book that will be of interest to specialist military historians and students of international relations and politics.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (August 2006)


Author: Allan Mallinson

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Limited

ISBN: 184415 448 3

Published : August 2006

UK Price: £25.00

This splendid title is sure to provide the reader with a fascinating insight into a rather special Regiment, which, although was not formed until as recently as 1992, can through its forbearer Regiments (13th,15th,18th and 19th Hussars), trace its history back as far as the early 1700’s at the time of the first Jacobite rebellion.

The Light Dragoons is an amalgamation of two former Regiments-the 13th/18th Royal Hussars and the 15th/19th Kings Royal Hussars - Regiments with both long and proud histories and a record of exemplary service to the crown. The were initially raised for reconnaissance and patrolling or scouting duties, however they quickly established a reputation for their daring and courage and in the early days, saw active-service in all corners of the world including India, North America as well as in Spain and Portugal. They fought under Wellington at Waterloo and took part in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. In common with most British Regiments, at the end of the 19th century they went on to serve in India and South Africa and during the Great War, fought with distinction both in the trenches and on horseback. Further amalgamations took place in 1922 and during the Second World War, after being mechanized, were amongst the first tanks to land on French soil during the Normandy invasion. They subsequently fought through France, Belgium and Germany until the enemy surrendered in 1945. In more recent years, they formed a major part of the British Army of the Rhine and have seen active service in Malaya, Aden , Northern Ireland , Bosnia and Iraq.

Allan Mallinsons volume is not one of the traditional “stuffy” Regimental histories and as well as being an excellent read, will be invaluable to any researcher with an interest in either the present day Regiment or any of its constituents. It features many excellent colour as well as black and white photographs, together with full lists of both Commanding Officers through the ages and gallantry awards received. Information on weapons and equipment used will be useful too.

This certainly is a volume for a wide range of readers – from the casual reader to family history researchers, military historians and both former and present day members of the Regiment itself.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (August 2006)


Author: Martin Dillon with the late Roy Bradford

Publisher: Mainstream Publishing

ISBN: 1 84018 723 9

Published : 2004

UK Price: £9.99

This exciting book written by a clever combination of a professional writer and a former member of British Army Intelligence who served during the Second World War, is guaranteed to provide fascinating reading for the military historian and casual reader alike. Due to the excellent appendix which features details of individuals who actually took part in various raids and operations during the war, anyone researching the history of the SAS especially in its formative years will find it invaluable.

Although this book is sold as a biography of one of Britain’s most decorated soldiers of the Second World War, it covers so much more. To be honest, it is one of just a few books I didn’t want to put down and therefore read it from cover to cover in a short space of time, as practically every page was filled with extraordinary and heroic tales, that if you did not know better could have come from a Boy’s Own style war comic!

With no less than four Distinguished Service Orders to his credit the name of Paddy Mayne is still a legend in Special Forces circles and with the older generation in his native Northern Ireland. He was a pioneer in desert tactics and although David Stirling is known for actually forming the SAS, it was Mayne who certainly made it all work in those early years.

The authors have used a wealth of information including eyewitness accounts and many previously classified documents to produce this first class publication – it is a must for any Second World War enthusiast’s library .

Last updated 17 February, 2009

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