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Books - Second World War - Western Europe

Italy

From Warsaw to Rome - General Anders’ Exiled Polish Army in the Second World War, Martin Williams. Looks at the dramatic story of the Polish army that was formed from prisoners of the Soviets released after the German invasion of the USSR, before managing to get transferred to British control in Persia, eventually becoming a very effective military formation that played a vital part in the campaign in Italy and most famously the capture of Monte Casino (Read Full Review)
Eagles over Husky - The Allied Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign, 14 May to 17 August 1943, Alexander Fitzgerald-Black. Looks at the massive air campaign that supported the invasion of Sicily, examining what was done and why, and asking how effective the campaign was. Perhaps a bit too willing to defend the air forces against some valid criticisms, but still provides a very valuable analysis of the air campaign as an event in its own right, as well as looking at the impact it had on the Luftwaffe and the overall situation in Italy (Read Full Review)
Rome City in Terror: The Nazi Occupation 1943-44, Victor Failmezger. A compelling look at the nine months that saw Rome occupied by the Germans and treated as a hostile city, complete with its own Gestapo network, assault on the Jewish community and the familiar Nazi atrocities. Also looks at the increasingly impressive partisan movement within the city, and the escape lines that helped support large numbers of POWs, as well as the Allied spy networks that flourished in the city. Perhaps a little short on the life of normal Romans, but otherwise a compelling look into life inside the occupied city, and one of those books that really takes you into its world (Read Full Review)
Churchill’s Hellraisers – A Secret Mission to Storm a Forbidden Nazi Fortress, Damien Lewis. A very entertaining account of Operation Tombola, a joint SOE and SAS mission in northern Italy that joined with the Italian resistance to attack the HQ of the German LI Corps. A very readable and atmospheric book covering a fascinating raid, slightly marred by insisting on calling the Corps HQ the 14th Army HQ throughout the book. Otherwise good, with an adventure story stone that brings the story to life (Read Full Review)
Spearhead of the Fifth Army - the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Italy, from the Winter Line to Anzio, Frank van Lunteren. A very ‘up close’ study of the combat experiences of the 504th PIR, covering the advance to the Winter Line, the fighting at the Barbara and Bernhardt Lines and the regiments’ participation at Anzio. Very good on the day-to-day experiences of the combat troops, perhaps not so good on putting them in the wider context(Read Full Review)
Monte Cassino: A German View, Rudolf Böhmler. Very good on the nitty gritty of the fighting carried out by Bohmler’s paratroops, who were responsible for much of the determined defence of Cassino monastery and town, so we get a good feel for the day-to-day experience of the paratroops. Not so strong on the overall picture or the political background, which is sometimes dominated by a desire to rehabilitate the reputation of the German army in a Cold War context(Read Full Review)
Storming Monte La Difensa: The First Special Service Force at the Winter line, Italy 1943, Bret Werner. Covers two unusual topics - an attack on an Italian mountain other than Monte Cassino, and a joint US-Canadian Special Forces unit. This was the only time the First Special Service Force was used in a truly Special Forces role, and it performed brilliantly, successfully climbing a cliff behind the German position and attacking them from above, in an attack that resembles many later war movies! [read full review]
Eighth Army in Italy 1943-45: The Long Hard Slog, Richard Doherty. A good account of the twenty month long campaign on the Italian mainland, looking at the performance of the multi-national 8th Army and its three commanding officers, as they fought to overcome a series of strong German defensive positions. Shows why the campaign took a year and a half, and how the 8th Army finally achieved victory. [read full review]
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Glider Pilots in Sicily, Mike Peters. Looks at the first major British airborne operations, during the invasion of Sicily, and the role played by the glider pilots who flew their flimsy aircraft into battle and then fought as infantry. Traces the development of the Glider Pilot Regiment, their training as 'total soldiers', the disastrous early operations and the impressive way in which the glider-borne troops recovered from their chaotic journey to Sicily to carry out their missions. [read full review]
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Italian Navy and Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-45, P. Crociani & P.P. Battistelli. Looks at 10th MAS Flotilla, the best known and by far the most successful Italian special forces unit, as well as the San Marco naval infantry, Air Force paratroops and assault troops. Also looks at the period after the Italian armistice, where a reformed Xa MAS and the Fogore Parachute Regiment fought for Mussolini's fascist rump state. [read full review]
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Rossano A Valley in Flames, Major Gordon Lett. A first-hand account of life with the Italian partisans during the Second World Word, written by the British commander of the International Brigade, a partisan group that operated in the Rossano valley, and that contained a mix of locals and escaped Prisoners of War and forced labourers. Also includes an account of the battalion's cooperation with an SAS mission that was dropped into the valley. [read full review]
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The 16th Durham Light Infantry in Italy, 1943-1945, Peter Hart. Using interviews conducted from the mid 1980s, this book tells the story of the 16th Durham Light Infantry's time in Italy as seen by the men of the unit. The result is a very valuable ground level view of the world of the fighting men, supported by a good overall account of the campaign. [read full review]
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S.A.S. in Tuscany, 1943-1945, Brian Lett. A study of three S.A.S. operations behind enemy lines in Tuscany between the period of the Italian armistice in 1943 and the end of the war in 1945. The first ended in tragedy, the second was a great success, the third achieved comparatively little, so the author is able to compare and contrast three very different missions that took place in the same small area of Italy. [read full review]
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SAS Trooper - Charlie Radford's Operations in Enemy Occupied France and Italy, Charlie Radford, ed. Francis Mackay. Follows the military career of a pre-war army apprentice through his time as a sapper and in the SAS, where he fought behind German lines in France and took part in Operation Cold Comfort, one of the less successful SAS missions in Italy. [read full review]
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