What are you reading at the moment?

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Gage, Mar 12, 2006.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Just finished Assault Crossing by Ken Ford - 43rd Division crossing the Seine. Not an essential piece of WW2 reading per se but very well put together, lots of quotes from veterans and French civilians, and I liked that the size of the force - 43rd Division - allowed the author to relate the story of what happened to individual units down to the company levels at time. (Even if, sadly, that was because of individual companies that got cut off.)

    The only surprising note per se - maybe I should say I was shocked, anyway - was learning that General Thomas blamed a subordinate for an action he had urged which led to the loss of one of those companies. An anonymous quote about him was frank and unflattering.

    Well worth reading.
    Tom OBrien and Owen like this.
  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    This just arrived to feed my "Operation Totalize" habit. :D

    Just started reading and it looks like an interesting mix of information sourced from the unit's war diary, the regimental history ('the Blue Flash'), Marcus Cunliffe's personal diary and several other personal accounts by veterans who served in the unit during the NW Europe campaign.

    I had forgotten that they converted to Buffaloes for the Rhine Crossing.


  4. Waddell

    Waddell Active Member

    Night Fighter.jpg

    I finally finished Jimmy Rawnsley’s ‘Night Fighter’ which was first published in 1957, a dozen years after the war had ended. The book is authored by navigator Rawnsley, his pilot John Cunningham and a fellow navigator Robert Wright. The voice throughout the book, however, is all Rawnsley’s. As I understand it Wright was an accomplished writer who co-wrote the story.

    The book starts pre-war when Rawnsley was travelling through Germany and clearly identified the threat that Nazism presented to the world. He was in his early thirties, recently married and was a qualified electrical trades person. Upon returning home he enlisted with the RAF Auxiliary Air Force and by the time the war kicked off he was an air gunner before converting to a navigator and radar operator. The book follows his experiences flying with John Cunningham, whom Rawnsley almost worshipped as a pilot.

    The strength of the book is the narrative following the development of radar interception and the detailed descriptions of the mechanics and tactics of how they managed to develop the system to a high level of effectiveness. The aircraft they employed were initially Blenheims, followed by Beaufighters and eventually Mosquitoes. I particularly enjoyed the Beaufighter sections of the book, with Cunningham sneaking up underneath German bombers and pounding cannon shells into the unfortunate plane. You can also fell the plane shuddering with the cannon fire within the text.

    Like several other RAF memoirs I have recently read it is also touched with sadness as Rawnsley writes about the crews he served with who didn’t survive the war. There seem to have been many early on who perished in low level flying accidents or just disappeared into the sea. Throughout the book Rawnsley also occasionally revealingly records his self-doubt and lack of confidence in his own abilities. It seems strange but I put it down to the constant pressure he and his crews were under.

    Interestingly in the final section of the book Rawnsley talks about the post-war lives of some of his fellow fliers. A crew he found particularly interesting as an effective crew were that of Flight Commander Branse Burbridge and his navigator Bill Skelton. Both men understood each other according to Rawnsley and worked together ‘almost as one man’. What I found surprising was that post war both men studied religion, Burbridge becoming a lay preacher and Skelton a clergyman in the Church of England.

    Well worth reading if you are interested in RAF memoirs.

    Last edited: May 26, 2019
  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Although a little slow to get going, this is a well researched book on an extremely interesting subject. For an incident in world history so gigantic in consequence, partition seems not to have had too much exposure in historical discussions, or perhaps I just have not followed what seems such an obvious trail, coming directly out of WW2 and the British/Indian Army on the sub-continent.
  6. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Good to see Night Fighter get a shout, one of the all time best regarding RAF memoirs for me. I’ve just finished re-reading Mike Henry’s Air Gunner, which I remember being better to be honest. He had a very unstable war, never really being crewed up properly (20 different pilots for the 54 sorties he flew), repeatedly moving squadrons and going on liaison with the Navy. The majority of descriptions are off duty larks as I’m pretty sure he only mentions actually firing his guns in anger on one occasion against shipping.
  7. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Defending the Rock, How Gibralter defeated Hitler by Nicholas Rankin


    What I'd call a fairly "light" read but still a worthwhile look at a neglected area. By no means a technical book, the author concentrates more on the personalities. Left me feeling I wanted to know more - I had no idea about the Vichy French bombing raids on the rock.
  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Much about Mason-Mac?
  9. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Fighting the People's War.JPG

    I've got about 1/3rd of the way through this mighty tome (and it is a very mighty tome!) and have got to what I guess is Jonathon Fennell's central thesis about the underlying causes which led to the British and Commonwealth forces suffering a massive crisis of morale in 1942. The depth of his research (across the archives of UK, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa) is truly staggering and his tapping of morale and censor reports (and sickness and desertion figures) add substantial evidence to back up his theories.

    I don't think from what I have read so far that this book will add an enormous amount to our understanding of what happened operationally during the war but it certainly contains a comprehensive argument to support his claims as to why the British and Commonwealth armies struggled to cope with the German and Japanese forces during the first half of the war.

    I managed to get a copy from the library; but will probably end up buying a copy as I have been so impressed and as the reference notes point towards some enormously interesting and under-used research avenues.

    I'm very much looking forward to the latter half of the book and hoping not to be quite so depressed when reading it.


    bexley84, stolpi and Chris C like this.
  10. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Yes, he features prominently, as does the actor Anthony Quayle - wouldn't mind try to get his autobiog
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

  12. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Finally picked up a copy of Des Curtis book Most Secret Squadron. It’s great as a companion piece for Dambusters enthusiasts as the men of 618 were formed quickly and plunged into training in the hope that there would be a simultaneous attack on the Tirpitz by Mosquitoes as the Dams were attacked by 617. Problems with weapon development, aircraft supply and the Tirpitz being out of operational range resulted in delays although remnants of the squadron were sent to the Pacific theatre in the hope that Highball could prove useful against the Japanese Navy. Interesting stuff but obviously we know that the squadron was never used. It’s capped off by Curtis own experiences in tsetse aircraft attacking U Boats and his subsequent meet ups with U Boat personnel in the 90s.
    Chris C likes this.
  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately not available in English but very worthwhile is Hugo Levels & Eric Munnicks History of the Liberation of Midden- and Noord-Limburg. Planned as a Trilogy the first tome: with the subtitle: "Between hope and despair" (September - October 1944), some 450 pp., came out in 2016. It deals with 8 Corps operations during Market-Garden, the battle for Overloon and the German spoiling attack at Meijel (Peel marshes) … according to the author the first tome is now completely sold out.


    The second tome (about 650 pp.), with the subtitle "Through mud and mines to the Meuse", appeared last year and deals with the reduction of the Venlo - Roermond bridgehead along the Meuse River in November - December 1944 (among others Ops Mallard, Nutcracker). Well illustrated with many photos and maps.

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
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  14. Bernhart

    Bernhart Member

    Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler and my part in his downfall
    Chris C likes this.
  15. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    I have just downloaded the Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in 2nd World War 1939-1945 The Campaign in Italy.
    My father served with the CMO 10th Indian Division from Aug 1944 to July 1945. So I am looking forward to reading it.
    stolpi, Charley Fortnum and Chris C like this.
  16. Waddell

    Waddell Active Member

    No moon tonight.JPG

    I recently finished ‘No Moon Tonight’ by Don Charlwood, another RAF memoir. Charlwood was a navigator in 103 Squadron that initially flew the Handley Page Halifax before re-equipping with Avro Lancasters. The book covers his experiences from arrival at the airbase at Elsham Woods in Lincolnshire until after the completion of his thirty required missions, a target he did not initially believe that he would reach.

    This book is written, not surprisingly, in a sombre tone. Charlwood questions why the bombing campaign was carried out and laments the loss of many of his fellow RAF colleagues, in particular the twenty men he had gone through training with. They constantly reoccur throughout the book and finish as a testament to the loss of life. He wrote towards the end of the book that ‘Of the Twenty Men only five were now alive and two of the five were still operating’.

    Charlwood does a very good job of placing the reader into the mind of the young navigator and the stressful conditions he experienced. In effect Charlwood existed in two worlds at the time. He writes early on of the road that led uphill to the airfield that ‘Uphill it led to comradeship, fear and death; downhill to relief, safety and, I think, to loneliness’. The apprehensions and fears that built up strongly before and during the missions are described as are the sense of relief felt by the crews when they returned or a mission was scrubbed. It becomes very understandable why the airmen headed towards the mess or the local villages to drink away their worries shortly after.

    Charlwood finished his required missions and after a short period of time was transferred home to Australia. Oddly at that point in time, he, like several others, felt that he should sign on for more missions. He didn’t follow through on that, but clearly he had fallen to the charms England offered.

    Interestingly for an Australian he summarised his feelings towards England as follows ‘Perhaps the greatest was our attachment to England- her countryside, her capital, her pubs, her way of life and, more than all of these, her Air Force. We who had once laughed at the handle-bar moustache and the exaggerated speech had found the life of which these things were the symbols. And that life had become our life. This had happened without weakening or attachment to our own country’.

    A very insightful book into the experiences of an Australian airman serving in Bomber Command.

    Markyboy, Chris C, stolpi and 2 others like this.
  17. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    You may want to read his Journeys Into Night next.
    Waddell likes this.

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