Book Review Micro Book Reviews

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by von Poop, Feb 24, 2019.

  1. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    Nigel Hamilton Montgomery Trilogy

    Monty: The Making of a General 1887-1942 ISBN 0-340-35482-8
    Monty: Master of the Battlefield 1942-1944 ISBN 0-340-36473-4
    Monty: The Field Marshal 1944-1976 ISBN 0-340-40785-9

    Coronet 1986

    Well worth ploughing through this sympathetic biography. Lots of insight into the mind of the Master and a lot more about the soul of the British Army.
     
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  2. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    That Eternal Summer.JPG

    Title:
    That Eternal Summer- Unknown Stories from the Battle of Britain.

    Author: Ralph Barker

    Publisher: William Collins & Son, 1990.

    Quick Review: Ralph Barker wrote this book in 1990, perhaps, to put all the feature short stories he had written about the Battle of Britain for the Sunday Express and the like into one basket. That is no bad thing if you like short magazine type stories which make for easy reading.

    Whether the stories are unknown is unlikely? For example the story of 82 Squadrons raid on Aalborg on 13th August 1940 is covered in other books in some detail and you would think there would be little to add. Barker, however, was a good researcher and writes in detail about the crews, in 82 Squadron’s case Squadron Leader Ted Lart, and his influence upon the unfortunate squadron. Barker interviewed aircrew who survived, spoke to Lart’s relatives and drew upon a Danish detective’s investigations into the crashed aircraft at the time to create a fuller picture of events. Being a fellow airman may also have been of great assistance when Barker interviewed airmen and relatives for the stories contained in the book.

    There are twelve stories, arranged chronologically with short descriptions of what was occurring at the time within the battle preceding the story. Most are centered on the fighter pilots, however, there is a story about the man who developed the ammunition for the fighters and several on bomber commands role during the battle.

    Several stories left a lump in my throat. I felt particularly sad for the Handley Page Hampden wireless operator/ air gunner who during a raid on Antwerp in August 1940, when his aircraft was hit, successfully fought and extinguished a fire in the bomb bay area of the aircraft, which the pilot eventually flew home safely. The brave man was awarded the VC but suffered smoke inhalation and damaged his lungs which eventually led to his discharge. He died in 1947 of tuberculosis, aged 25 years, leaving a wife and three young girls. It’s easy to forget how much those men sacrificed.

    A good collection of stories.


    Rating out of 5: 4.0.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
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  3. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Title: The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery

    Author: Witold Pilecki/Jarek Garlinski

    ISBN: 978-1-60772-010-2

    Quick review:-

    This book is an English translation of Captain Witold Pilecki's original 1945 Auschwitz report.

    Just like the previous book that I reviewed on Witold (The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather: Book Review - Micro Book Reviews) it includes details of his short life before and after Auschwitz, but clearly provides more detail of his POW life, while Jack's book probably has more detail leading up to his arrest.

    For example, in Jack's book it is revealed that Witold was actually 'volunteered' by a senior officer. Whereas in this book we learn about Witold losing his front teeth because he misunderstood an order, and also about a brutal Jewish Kapo that they called 'the strangler'.

    As to be expected, its another grim read, but a very important book which I highly recommend.

    Rating out of 5: 5



    I have posted a more detailed review here: Sergeant ACK-ACK: January 2020
     
  4. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    Desmond Scott 1.JPG

    Desmond Scott 2.JPG

    Titles: ‘Typhoon Pilot’
    & ‘One More Hour’

    Author: Desmond Scott

    Publisher: Arrow Books, 1987 & 1991.

    Quick Review: New Zealander Desmond Scott wrote ‘Typhoon Pilot’ in 1982 which details his story from the time of an unwanted staff posting at Bentley Priory in late 1942 through his posting as Squadron Leader of 486 (NZ) Typhoon Squadron and finally to his promotion to Group Captain (the youngest in the RAF) of 123 Wing, commanding four squadrons of Typhoons though North West Europe. Some years later he wrote ‘One More Hour’ which covers his early war years, largely flying Hurricanes with 3 Squadron RAF initially in the Orkneys before being moved south to No. 11 Group in Southern England. The second book covers some of the same ground as the first, but not in great detail.

    These books are well written in a straight forward manner that includes lots of smaller details of RAF life during the war. Scott writes modestly and in a very human way and it is obvious that the loss of his pilots and the men that he initially trained with over the years had a great affect upon him. I constantly had to remind myself that he was only twenty five years old when he was a Group Captain and think how difficult that must have been. There is a harrowing incident described in ‘Typhoon Pilot’ where Bomber Command sent a young pilots body to his base to be buried nearby. Unfortunately there was a mix up with another body and it fell upon Scott to explain and comfort the poor man’s young wife and his parents. He wrote that after they left he ‘put up the Engaged sign on his door, locked it, and was thankful to be left alone in silence’.

    To cope with the loneliness of command he was very fond of his dog Kim who ‘brought me that measure of understanding and comradeship which only a dog is able to bring’. I now understand why all those squadron leaders have dogs in war movies. But the book is not gloomy and there are plenty of funny accounts and anecdotes by Scott about his comrades, which push the books along at a light pace, and lots of flying stories about Typhoons.

    If I take anything away from the books, it is the vulnerability of the Typhoon to flak and the number of men who lost their lives to it. Interesting reading.

    Rating out of 5: 4.5 (for both).
     
  5. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    Dam Busters 1.JPG Dam Busters 2.JPG

    Title:
    The Dam Busters

    Author: Paul Brickhill

    Publisher: Evans Brothers (1951)

    Quick Review: Social distancing is allowing me to catch up on a few books. I managed to read an old classic, Paul Brickhill’s ‘The Dam Busters’. I read it because I have been watching a few James Holland documentaries and talks about the raid and have in mind to buy a copy of Max Arthur’s new book on the raid. So I thought the first book on the subject, printed in 1951, would be a good place to start.

    I won’t review the subject matter, as I am sure most have some awareness of 617 Squadron’s operations throughout the war, which is well covered by the book. What I did like was Brickhill’s writing. His writing is tight, suspenseful and straight to the point. I don’t recall having to go over any sections to check that I understood what he was saying. It is also written in that early post-war style, where it was more important to be polite when writing a sentence, instead of going straight to the point. An example is the following gem of a sentence describing Arthur Tedder’s persistence in trying to bring Barnes Wallis’s ‘earthquake bomb' to the attention of officials who just didn’t want to know about the persistent engineer-

    He brought the bomb and Victory bomber to the attention of several people in high places but the only result seemed to be a ubiquitous manifestation of courteous but implacable inactivity, often the only defence of hard-working officials plagued by importunate and impractical inventors”.

    Perhaps an area where the book falls down a bit due to its age is the reporting of the loss of crews throughout the text. There are various mentions of so and so disappearing and never being seen again. I guess when the book was written there was still not a lot of information as what happened to the crews, something that can often be found easily online now.

    A good read, particularly for its age.

    Attached is a news item about Russell Braddon’s book on Leonard Cheshire from a Sheffield newspaper, circa 1954, which found its way into my 1954 copy of the book.

    Rating out of 5: 4.0
     
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  6. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Title: The RAF in the Battle of France and Britain - A reappraisal

    Author: Greg Baughen

    Publisher: Fonthill Media 2016

    Quick Review: A bit of a departure for me as I read memoirs almost exclusively, but thought I'd try this as the author has released several books around this period including a study of the French air force and a whole book dedicated to the Fairey Battle. The basic premise is that Britain ignored the lessons of 1918 when it had established a collaboration between aerial support and the army, favouring a twenty year period of fear of unescorted bombers and the development of a bomber force itself. The big players of the time, Dowding and Portal in particular get roughly treated and the final conclusion is that the RAF mistakenly believed it could win the war single handedly, while the three failures of the German military at the time (allowing the army to escape at Dunkirk, the BoB and the Blitz) were the only times the Luftwaffe attempted to act independently. I have to say I found it a fascinating read as it is exactly as it says, a reappraisal of the common perception of the RAF at that period ie; that it was outmanned and had inferior machines but fought a tactically superior battle over Britain, which allowed time to develop a bomber force. There is certainly an element of hindsight being a wonderful thing of course, but Baughen shows that better tactics had been developed in WW1 and that lessons were not being taken from the success of the Blitzkrieg at the time.
     
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  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    This parallels what I have learnt from researching tank development - that tactics are vastly more important than quality of equipment. I think the endless comparisons of equipment that fill history books and internet forums are an enormous red herring.
     
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  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    "Up to a point Lord Copper - up to a point" The French myth that in 1940 they were overwhelmed by superior numbers of superior tanks when in fact in some respects they had armoured superiority but threw it away bears out your point but if the disparity between technical quality is sufficiently large then no tactical genius can compensate unless one's opponent is criminally stupid and inept
     
  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Oh yes, if it's Maxim guns versus spears then there is going to be no competition in a conventional battle.

    Then again, the way that various goat-herding peasants armed with AK-47's and Toyota pick-ups have essentially out-fought and out-lasted Western armies over the last 70 years demonstrates that even excessive levels of technological superiority can't guarantee success.
     
  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Be careful not to buy that book. It's awful.

    Badly written and tabloid-esque.

    And Cheshire is one of my personal heroes, so the author couldn't have hoped for a more sympathetic reader.

    The best is:

    Cheshire: The Biography of Leonard Cheshire VC, Om by Richard Morris.​
     
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  11. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    Duly noted. I have Guy Gibson's 'Enemy Coast Ahead' in mind.

    Scott
     
  12. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    Markyboy,

    Was wondering if you or any others have read this by the same author and can make any comments about the book? The subject matter would seem to mesh closely with the book you have read.

    Scott

    The rise of the bomber.JPG
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  13. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Hi, I've only read the one I've mentioned so far, but I'll be getting the others as I like his writing style. The one above is his second book, the France/BoB one being the third.
     
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  14. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    Wheels in the Storm.JPG

    Title:
    Wheels in the Storm

    Author: Wellesley Aron

    Publisher: Roebuck Society Publication, 1974.

    Quick Review: So this is an interesting book, a copy of which I picked up a while back, assuming it to be a memoir of an AIF soldier who fought in the Western Desert as the cover shows AIF trucks being loaded in the desert. The book is actually a memoir written by a Zionist and his experiences during the war establishing the first Jewish Palestinian unit in the British army. It follows the unit’s experiences from formation (when known as 5 Motor Transport Company RASC) through their training and onto Tobruk, where they served attached to 6th Australian Division throughout April to July 1941 during the siege of Tobruk. After Tobruk they were moved down to Quena to build a road to the Red Sea before moving back into action just before El Alamein and following on through Tripoli.

    They were moved to Malta just prior to the invasion of Sicily and reformed as 178 General Transport Company RASC. They moved into Italy and ended the war in the north of Italy as part of the Jewish Infantry Brigade.

    Major Wellesley Aron was the son of a wealthy Jewish Englishmen, who moved to Australia during the gold rush, before moving back to England. Wellesley was born in England and educated at Cambridge before migrating to Palestine in 1926, an ardent Zionist, looking to propel forward the Jewish State. Before the war commenced he had tried to influence Wavell into setting up stores and utilising the skilled manpower within Palestine. When war broke out he was the first Jew in Palestine to be commissioned into the British army.

    It is at this point I have a bit of a problem with the well-meaning Major, in that he seems to be in both camps throughout the book. There is no doubt that he had a right to serve in the British Army, having lost two relatives in the First World War on the Western Front, and being born and educated in England and Palestine being under British control at the time. After his unit had moved into Tripoli and Malta and particularly once in Italy his unit started picking up and rescuing a lot of stray Jewish refugees and did their best to get them relocated in Palestine. Much of this occurred unofficially using the unit’s trucks at night and a blind eye was turned to these activities as Wellesley was receiving support and funds from Jewish welfare agencies- although relocating them to Palestine was contrary to the official policy of returning them to their original countries.

    The area where I think his loyalty conflicted was in being aware of Haganah operatives within the unit who were constantly looking for captured enemy equipment and ammunition to send to Palestine to take up the fight if the Germans had taken Egypt or to stockpile for post-war use. I think he walked a fine line there.

    The book covers a lot of things that are rarely covered, such as friction between the Jewish Palestinians and the British officers and the fact that the Jewish Palestinians themselves came from many places, speaking many languages and it was up to Wellesley and his officers to teach them all Hebrew to unite them.

    Of interest is the mechanised equipment they were issued with. Prior to leaving for Tobruk they were issued with 90 new trucks which were taken off them once they reached the frontline. They were told to find 90 captured trucks and there is an interesting story as to how they managed to get the Spas, Fiats and Lancias working with the aid of Italian prisoners. They were replaced before El Alamein with new Bedfords which they kept in operation till the end of the war.

    Of note is the fact that the book was previously published in Israel with the subtitle ‘the Genesis of the Israeli Defence Forces’. That may be a bit ambitious, however, there is some truth to it. The reason the book was re-published in Australia was that Wellesley was invited to Australia by the Rats of Tobruk Association on the 25th Anniversary of the siege in recognition of the work his unit had done supporting the Australians at the time.

    A very interesting read of an interesting unit that seemed well respected within the 8th Army.


    Rating out of 5: 4.0
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
  15. Waddell

    Waddell Well-Known Member

    From the city from the plough.JPG

    Title:
    From The City, From The Plough.

    Author: Alexander Baron.

    Publisher: Imperial War Museum 2019.

    Quick Review: I’m not a huge fan of military fiction but am willing to bend a little on books written by people who were actually involved in the events described. I recently read ‘From the City, From the Plough’ by Alexander Baron and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in the British soldier’s life during the later stages of the war. The version I have is one of a recent series of Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics themed around fiction books written by WW2 participants.

    The story revolves around the fictional 5th Wessex Battalion and their preparations during the lead up to D-Day, their experiences of the landings and a final battle that I believe is based on the author’s experiences at Hill 112 in July 1944. Baron did a great job of creating various characters (both from the ranks and officers) and putting the reader into their lives throughout the period. The strength of the book is the smaller stories and minute details he describes of what was occurring at the time.

    Baron wrote in a very direct and descriptive style but was also economical with his words and did not linger on a subject making the book a nice flowing read.

    I found a recent article written by the novelist William Boyd which looks at the reason behind this series of books and reviews Fred Majdalany’s ‘Patrol’and Peter Elstob’s ‘Warriors for the working Day’. If anyone is interested here is the link-

    How the Second World War was written

    Rating out of 5: 4.5
     
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  16. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    1234.jpg

    Title:
    Through Adversity: The British and the Commonwealth War in the Air 1939-45, Volume 1

    Author: Ben Kite

    Publisher: Helion & Company (ISBN: 978-1912866236)

    Quick Review: This book is not a chronological coverage of the air war as such so if you are looking for daily coverage of various bombing raids as they happened or dogfights this is not the book for that. What this book covers is the various aspects of the air war during WW2 such as the tactics, routines, technology and how strategic decisions affected the outcome. It is not a dry account of the air war and covers aspects such as a day on a Battle of Britain airfield, coastal command and operations in the early days of the Japanese invasion of Malaya among other topics including Fleet Air Arm with plenty of first hand accounts.

    Rating out of 5: 4
     
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  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Does it have a structure? Does Vol 1 cover particular aspects or a specific theme?
     
  18. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    The easiest way to answer that is to show the contents. I believe volume 2 (which has been delayed by Covid-19) gives more coverage to the Australian & Kiwi air forces in the Far East/Pacific.

    ta1.jpg ta2.jpg
     
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  19. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Thanks

    Reminds me of Freedoms Battle Vol 2 - The War in the Air by Gavin Lyall 1976
     
  20. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    metal.jpg

    Title:
    The Men Inside The Metal: The British AFV Crewman in WW2, vol 1

    Author:
    Dick Taylor

    Publisher: MMP Books (2014)

    Quick Review: I found this a very engaging and informative volume. It is not very long (112 pages) but like other books by Taylor such as Warpaint and Into the Vally, the production quality is top-notch. There are many photographs, consisting of both historical pics and also photos showing surviving gear or uniforms worn by reenactors, some diagrams and even a few of "The Two Types" comics. In addition to the photographs included, references are given to additional images, typically to be found on the IWM website.

    Of course with a subject like this one can just look at a lot of photographs online but I do find it very helpful to have someone provide explanations about what exactly I am looking at.

    Volume 1 includes Uniforms, Badges & Insignia, Personal Equipment (webbing, holsters, packs, water bottles, etc), and Crew Equipment and Weapons (stowage, radios, weapons). Highly recommended.

    My only quibble (see the rating) is that I really would have liked 128 pages!

    Rating out of 5: 4.5
     

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