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Lest We Forget
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The Royal British Legion

Section 5

Book Review By Michael D Booker (November 2004)


Author: Bruce Barrymore Halfpenny

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

ISBN: 1 84415 066 6

Published In 2004

UK Price: £12.99

Anyone with the slightest interest in the R.A.F. during the Second World War will want to read this excellent volume. Well written by a former R.A.F. wartime pilot, it provides the reader with a fascinating insight into a very special breed of men - the courageous aircrew of Bomber Command. Flying a remarkable 300,000 operations over enemy territory during the war sadly resulted in fifty thousand of this brave and dedicated force being killed, when eight thousand aircraft were lost in action.

The superb collection of first hand accounts provided by veteran R.A.F. aircrew and support staff, together with a full account of all of Bomber Command’s Victoria Cross awards and a section detailing the development of the bomber airfield, make this excellent value for money book, compelling reading. However, the “icing on the cake” for me was the inclusion of a large number of superb and previously unpublished archive photographs.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (November 2004)


Author: Jon Latimer


ISBN: 1 84176 092 7

UK Price: £12.99

The events surrounding the epic siege of Tobruk between March and November 1941, have always fascinated me, due to the knowledge that my late father actually served there at the time and was heavily involved in the subsequent breakout battles.

To set the scene - the success of “Operation Compass” in January 1941, resulted in Allied forces sweeping through the Western Desert and pushing Italian forces towards the Cyrenaica region of Libya. The Italians were not expected to counter attack, however when Rommel arrived in Tripoli in February of that year, he had different ideas and instigated immediate encirclement tactics. A British retreat was therefore considered to be inevitable, until Wavell (the C-in-C Middle East), ordered the port of Tobruk (garrisoned by Australian forces) to be held at all cost. In mid-April, Rommel, using his tried and tested tactics, sent in his tanks with the aim of forcing a gap for his infantry to follow. The tanks received little resistance and succeeded, however when his infantry advanced, they were subjected to heavy attack and were beaten back and with his tanks now trapped, Rommel laid siege to the port. British attempts to break the siege (Operations Battleaxe and Brevity) failed, however in mid-November, Australian troops were partially replaced by British and Polish forces. General Auchinleck now launched “Operation Crusader” and succeeded in lifting the siege by the end of the month. Regretfully however, Rommel attacked again the following year and on this occasion, successfully captured Tobruk, resulting in the 35,000 strong garrison being taken prisoner of war.

Osprey publishers of this excellent title from the superb Campaign Series of books, need little introduction to the serious student of military history, however this fascinating book which contains many excellent photographs, detailed maps and superb drawings will prove to be invaluable to family history researchers too, who like me may well sit back having read and enjoyed it and say my Father (or a relative) was there!

Book Review By Michael D Booker (November 2004)


Author: Clifford Brazier

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

ISBN: 1 84415 136 0

Published In 2004

UK Price: £19.99

Due to the nature and extreme secrecy of the operations in which they were involved during the Second World War, the chances are that few people will have ever heard of the “Kent Fortress Royal Engineers”. However, at one time this small, exceptionally brave body of men, held more decorations for gallantry than any other British unit in existence at that time! This fascinating book, written by a former Commanding Officer of this unique unit, chronicles the events surrounding the largest demolition programme ever undertaken by the Royal Engineers.

As the German army advanced through Europe in Spring 1940, Winston Churchill’s aim was to deny them oil, hinder their further progress and ultimately delay the invasion of the British mainland for as long as possible. Therefore, at short notice, he personally tasked this small Territorial Army unit with destroying all oil reserves in the coastal ports, spanning an area from Holland down to the Bay of Biscay. Despite intense air attacks, extreme conditions and often just one step ahead of the German forces, men of this brave formation went ashore, successfully demolishing many oil installations and denying the enemy millions of gallons of fuel.

This is another excellent publication from this specialist military book publisher, which I am sure it will appeal to a wide range of readers and provide them with a most entertaining read and source of future reference.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (November 2004)

The Diary Of An Old Contemptible

Edited by: Peter Downham
Publisher: Leo Cooper
Pen & Sword Books Limited
47 Church Street
South Yorkshire S70 2AS

ISBN: 1 84415 135 2
First Published: 2004

UK Price: £25.00

Anyone with the slightest interest in the British Army and the Great War will want to read this superb book, it is an excellent read and provides the reader with the most fascinating insight into a very ordinary man’s war.

Edward Roe’s diaries are unique. They tell the incredible story of this young man from Ireland who in 1905, having read of the dashing exploits of the British cavalryman at Balaclava and the Peninsular War, decided to join the Irish Lancers at all costs. Despite his resolve not to be “fobbed off”, he was however “tricked” by the recruiting sergeant and ended up enlisting in the East Lancashire Regiment and served in both India and South Africa during the early 1900’s.

Having served King and Country for a designated total of nine years, Edward returned to his native homeland, where his stay was to be shot-lived however. Being one of the few fully trained and experienced soldiers on the army reserve at that time, his previous army experience was priceless and he was quickly recalled to the colours as war was declared in Europe. Seeing action in Northern France, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, he witnessed some of the most horrific sights imaginable during the following war years and despite being wounded on three separate occasions, Edward along with his precious diaries survived.

Today, these remarkable journals are preserved in the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment Museum in Preston and now form the basis of this truly excellent volume, which provides us with a wealth of information on the training our troops received, details of their living conditions at home and overseas and of course their life and experiences in the trenches.

Many unique photographs and diagrams back up the most interesting narrative, making this excellent publication a work of historical importance and a “must read” for Great War researchers and historians alike.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (November 2004)

The Neville Letters 1914-1916

Author: Ruth Elwin Harris.

Publisher: Naval & Military Press Ltd
Unit 10
Ridgewood Industrial Park
East Sussex TN22 5QR

ISBN: 1843425556


The events of the 1st July 1916 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme) are legendary in British military history, as over 19,000 of our troops were killed on that day alone.

Sadly, Captain Wilfred (Billie) Neville of the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment became one of those fatalities, when he was killed within the first few minutes of the British advance at Montauban. His name has become legendary too, as he was the young British army officer who, having likened the forthcoming attack on the German positions, to a game of football, where his Regiment was to play the Bavarians, had issued his men with footballs. – the aim being to boost his men’s morale by encouraging them to kick these balls across No Man’s Land, into the enemy positions.

This superb book is based on over 200 letters Billie wrote home to his family during his time in the army. Covering the period from his enlistment through to the day of his untimely death, these fascinating letters provide the reader with a most remarkable insight into this brave officer’s innermost thoughts as he prepared to face the enemy and the very real and demanding conditions, he along with his men endured during their time in the trenches.

Billie is the true story of a soldier with a sporting spirit, who in line with typical British tradition, certainly “played the game” through to the very end. Therefore, I am sure, this enlightening volume, which contains many excellent photographs will appeal to researchers, battlefield enthusiasts and military historians alike and at £11.50 represents exceptionally good value for money.

Book Review By Michael D Booker (December 2004)


Edited By: James Owen & Guy Walters

Publisher: Viking/Penguin
80 The Strand

ISBN: 0 6709 1423 1
Published in

UK Price: £20.00

As my interest in military history has grown over the years, I am unable to count the number of occasions I wish I had asked relatives and family friends about their military service during the two world wars. Sadly, as the years have passed, the majority of my older relatives, along with many veterans of these conflicts have long since passed away and more often than not, taken their memories and experiences with them.

I am sure therefore that many will agree with me and confirm there is nothing to compare with an eye witness account of an event or an action to give a true indication of what really happened during those dark war years, which are now such an important part of our world history. Therefore this superb volume, which is packed from cover to cover with over 300 eye witness accounts and personal recollections of everyone from the average and unknown civilian caught up in these terrible conflicts through to the famous generals and heads of state who gave the orders and made the ultimate decisions, will prove to be a firm favourite with researchers and historians alike.

Guy Gibson’s personal account of the famous “Dambusters” raid, made compelling reading, whilst Airey Neave’s recollection of his daring escape from the fortress prison of Colditz left me sitting on the edge of my seat. Having personally visited the bridge at Arnhem during the 6oth anniversary commemorations, I also found John Frost’s memoirs of this historical event most moving. These are just three of the many stories covered in this excellent book, one point to remember however, is that they are all true and told in the words of those who were there!

This in my opinion is certainly a “must buy” volume, as it is of significant historical importance and a valuable source of reference for the future. It is a most interesting read and at only£20.00, represents excellent value for money too.

Last updated 8 March, 2021

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