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28 August 2009

Ancient Warfare Special Issue 2009: The Varian Disaster – the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. A good selection of articles to mark the 2000th anniversary of one of the most significant battles in European history. The articles cover the earlier Roman conquests in Germany, the Roman and German armies, the battle itself, a look at the battlefield and at the aftermath of the battle. [see more]
Spanish Armada: The Great Enterprise against England 1588, Angus Konstam. A useful book that places the Armada campaign in its wider context, with a focus on the two fleets, their ships, commanders, men and fighting styles, and some interesting material on the Spanish Galleon and the English Race-built Galleon [go to full review]
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Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the Last Clan Battle, ed. Tony Pollard. This book contains a well chosen series of articles that examine at the last major battle to be fought on British soil in the light of recent archaeological research on the battlefield itself. With articles on the campaign, the two armies, the battle, the battlefield and its aftermath this book provides a good up-to-date and balanced view of this battle [go to full review].

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25 August 2009

Scottish Arms and Armour, Fergus Cannan. A look at the design and manufacture of Scottish arms and armour from the Middle Ages to the end of the Jacobite rebellions, with sections on edged and missile weapons, firearms, body armour and shields, and an interesting section on the smith. Lavishly illustrated in colour this book will be of use to anyone with an interest in Scottish military history.
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A Commanding Presence: Wellington in the Peninsula 1808-1814. Ian Robertson. A well written account of the British involvement in the Peninsular War that focuses on the day-to-day experiences of the British soldier, and in particular the struggle against the Spanish and Portuguese climate and landscape. As a result the book should be of interest to both new and more knowledgeable readers. [see more]
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9 August 2009

Wartime Childhood, Mike Brown. A look at the impact of the Second World War on Britain's children, from rationing and schooling to evacuation and bombing raids. The text is supported by a huge number of pictures (over eighty in fifty six pages), illustrating just about every point made in the text. This is a useful book for teachers, covering an area that is part of the English National Curriculum. [see more]
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The British Soldier of the Second World War, Peter Doyle. A look at the experiences of the British soldier during the Second World War aimed at the family historian. Brief outlines of the main campaigns of the war are followed by sections on the uniforms, weapons and equipment used by the soldiers, supported by just over ninety photographs, most in colour. A short but well focused book that would indeed be of interest to the family historian looking to understand their ancestors' time in the army. [see more]
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5 August 2009

Fireship: The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail, Peter Kirsch. A lavishly illustrated look at one of the most feared weapons of the age of sail. This is a very impressive piece of work – well written and researched, wide ranging in scope and with detailed accounts of most of the key fireship attacks from the sixteenth century wars against Spain to the Greek War of Independence. An essential read for anyone interested in naval warfare in the age of sail. [see more]
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Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume III Issue 3 . This edition focuses on the individual heroic warrior, both in reality and in Homer. There is a good mix of articles, looking at Homer's work, its influence on Philip II and Alexander the Great, the shield of Achilles, Achaean armour, awards for bravery in the Roman army, the berserker and two interesting but little known sources. This is a good mix of interesting well written articles. [see more]

30 July 2009

F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Enduring Freedom, Tony Holmes. This book covers the use of the  F-14 Tomcat in Operation Enduring Freedom to conduct long range bombing strikes in Afghanistan. It shows how a combat aircraft can be adapted when it is fairly redundant in its original role. A well illustrated Osprey, full of comments from the actual pilots. [see more]
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Warsaw 1944: Poland's Bid for Freedom, Robert Forczyk. A fascinating Osprey covering a famous but neglected event in the Second World War. It is balanced, highlighting not only the bravery of the Polish resistance but also their shortcomings which were to hinder any chance of success. The main battle is divided nicely and this helps to make clear what a chaotic and confusing conflict was at times. A very good read and of interest to anyone wanting to learn more about urban resistance warfare. [see more]
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23 July 2009

Roosevelt's Rough Riders, Alejandro de Quesada. A look at the recruiting, training, equipment and motivation of one of the few military units to be better known than the war they took part in. Even though Roosevelt didn't command the unit until after it had arrived in Cuba, it was always associated with him. As a result it attracted recruits from across the United States, and its performance on the San Juan Heights ensured its fame. De Quesada looks at the raising and training of this unit, and the elements that made it so famous. [see more]
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The Great Islamic Conquests, AD 632-750, David Nicolle. This is a good introduction to and overview of one of the most significant series of conquests of all time – the wars that marked the end of the ancient world and the rise of a new religion. Starting with a useful outline of pre-Islamic Arabia and her neighbours, Nicolle then moves on to examine the life of Muhammad, the Ridda Wars, the early Arab conquests and the rise and fall of the Umayyad dynasty. [see more]
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Operation Dragoon, 1944: France's other D-Day, Steven J Zaloga. A well illustrated and clearly written account of the Allied invasion of southern France, an undeservedly little known campaign which came at about the same time as the breakout from Normandy and helped force the Germans to evacuate most of France. This volume follows the course of the campaign from the landings on 15 August 1944 to its end on 14 September, when the troops that had landed in the south of France officially moved from the Mediterranean to the European theatre of operations. [see more]
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Petersburg, 1864-65: The Longest Siege, Ron Field. A look at the penultimate campaign in Virginia during the American Civil War, the long siege that kept Lee pinned down from the summer of 1864 into the spring of 1865 while the Confederacy was being destroyed behind him. This volume concentrates on the main battles of the siege, providing a good overview of the course of this lengthy campaign from the first tentative attacks in the summer of 1864 to the Confederate defeat at Five Forks and the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond in the following spring. [see more]
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3 July 2009

Chinese Walled Cities, 221 BC-AD 1644, Stephen Turnbull. A fascinating look at this little-known topic, covering a very long time span, with detailed case studies of key fortified cities and accounts of a number of sieges. Includes some excellent pictures of a number of very impressive surviving city walls. [see more]
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Niagara, 1814: The Final Invasion, Jon Latimer. This entry in Osprey's campaign series looks at the largely forgotten Niagara campaign of 1814, the last American offensive during the War of 1812. The campaign is notable for involving the first significant victory of the US army over British regulars during the War of 1812, and the battles are described in some detail [see more].
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Actium 31 BC, Downfall of Antony and Cleopatra, Si Sheppard. Despite its title this book actually looks at the entire course of the rivalry between Octavian and Mark Antony, tracing their rivalry from the temporary peace patched up at Brundisium in 40 BC to the eventual outbreak of open war and the decisive battle at Actium. Sheppard also includes a chapter on the evolution of the ancient warship, while still finding the space to cover Actium itself in some detail. This is one of the stronger entries in the campaign series and a well structured and informative look at a key period in Roman history. [see more]
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24 May 2009

Solferino 1859: The Battle for Italy's Freedom, Richard Brooks. The battle of Solferino was the main event in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, a key moment in the unification of Italy, and the first battle to be decided at least partly by the extensive use of the railway and steamships and rifled artillery. It also led directly to the foundation of the Red Cross, but despite these claims to fame it has since been overshadowed by the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. Brooks' volume is an excellent single-volume account of the entire campaign, and will be of value to anyone with an interest in nineteenth century warfare [see more].
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World War II Axis Booby Charges and Sabotage Tactics, Gordon L. Rottman. This examination of German and Japanese booby traps of the Second World War benefits from an unusually large number of extracts from contemporary reports, designed to allow Allied troops to safely bypass the traps under discussion. The same source provides a large number of illustrations, giving the book a real flavour of the times. The result is a informative look at an interesting topic, with a focus on the details that were important at the time [see more].
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Royal Marine Commando 1950-82 - From Korea to the Falklands, Will Fowler. This book focuses on the daily life of the Royal Marine Commando, from enlistment to combat, with an emphasis on how things changed over the thirty two years covered, a period bookmarked by conventional wars in Korea and on the Falkland Islands, but that was largely dominated by a wide variety of more unusual engagements that tested the flexibility of the Commandos. Fowler's book helps explain why the Royal Marine Commandos were so successful at adapting to these different difficult conditions [see more].
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Maori Fortifications, Ian Knight. This book looks at a relatively unknown topic – the Pa fortifications built by the Maori from pre-colonial times to the end of the 1860s. The book looks at the fortifications themselves and the part they played in the Maori Musket Wars and the New Zealand Wars, fought between the Maori and the British. The book charts the evolution of the Pa from the pre-gunpowder era, where they were typified by multiple lines of palisades and ditches, through the era of the 'gunfighter Pa', which produced a number of fortifications so well adapted to the use of the musket that they were able to resist attack by British regular troops, and into the final period of construction, where the Pa began to resemble contemporary European and American redoubts. Knight has produced a well organised book that clearly tracks the relationship between attacker and defender in the evolution of the Pa, something not always made clear in works on fortifications [see more]
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Chindit 1942-45, Tim Moreman. The Chindits were the most controversial of the many different elite units raised by the British during the Second World War, and ever since a debate has raged on whether their achievements justified the terrible toll in casualties or the effort that went into creating the force in the first place. Here Moreman looks at what went into making a Chindit, starting with their selection (or rather the lack of any initial selection process), then moving on to the rigorous training which at one point saw 70% of a British battalion on the sick list. This played a part raising the initial morale of the Chindits to a high enough level to allow them to survive the terrible conditions they had to endure on the two major Chindit operations – Operations Longcloth and Thursday – key elements of which are examined to see how the theory was put into practice [see more]
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1o May 2009

Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume III Issue 2: Alexander's Funeral Games. This issue focuses on the prolonged and intensive period of warfare that followed the death of Alexander the Great, when his generals fought for power, at first hoping to inherit Alexander's entire empire and later to preserve their new kingdoms. After a general overview of the wars the articles pick out some of the more interesting aspects of the wars, including the rollercoaster career of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the important early battle at Gabiene. [see more]

Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume III Issue 2: Alexander's Funeral Games
Casca: Napoleon's Soldier, Tony Roberts This instalment of Casca's adventures takes him on Napoleon's doomed invasion of Russia and the retreat from Moscow. Two subplots support the main action, as well as giving a nice insight into the motives behind the Polish involvement in the invasion. The focus is on the retreat from Moscow, which takes up half of the novel, so we see the disaster that befell Napoleon's army from the bottom up. [see more]
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The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields. This entry in the Battle Orders series looks at the Roman army during the Principate – the period that started with the rise of Augustus and that saw the establishment of the Pax Romana. Fields looks at the organization, equipment, battlefield tactics and command and control of the army, and concludes the book with a look at the campaigns fought by the army, and four key battles – Saltus Teutoburgiensis, the defeat of Boudicca, the second battle of Cremona and Mons Graupius. [see more]
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5 April 2009

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume III Issue 1. This is the first magazine that we have reviewed, and contains a wide-ranging selection of articles looking at the role of the mercenary in ancient warfare, from the Nubian archers of the Pharaohs to the Germanic auxiliaries of the later Roman Empire. These are well written articles aimed at the educated general reader with an interest in the topic, with a focus on the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. [see more]
The D-Day Companion, ed. Jane Penrose. A selection of thirteen separate essays on different aspects of the D-Day lands, from the initial planning to post-war memorials; this is an excellent piece of work that sets the D-Day landings firmly in context. An excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about Operation Overlord, but its wide range of topics means it is likely to be of value to anyone with an interest in the subject. [see more]
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2 March 2009

North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958-75, Gordon L. Rottman. Osprey Warrior 135. This entry in Osprey's Warrior series looks the North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam, following the route a NVA soldier would take on his way from civilian life in the north to a combat mission in the south. Given that it was the NVA that carried out most attacks in the south, this 
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28 February 2009

French Poilu 1914-18, Ian Sumner. A valuable addition to the Warrior series, this book looks at the day-to-day life of the French infantryman during the First World War. Sumner looks at the pre-war organisation of the French army; the operation of conscription before and during the war; the training received by new recruits; the equipment used by the infantry, including their personal weapons and the trench artillery and their food, pay and life in the trenches. He also includes a section on the infantry tactics used by the French during the war, supported by a first hand account of an infantry attack early in the war [see more].
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The Art of War: Restored Edition, Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini. Jomini's Art of War was one of the most important works of military theory to come out of the Napoleonic Wars, and for many years dominated military thinking on both sides of the Atlantic. This edition uses the standard translation of 1862, but with the addition of Jomini's introduction which includes some fascinating insights into his rivalry with Clausewitz. No longer an essential book for every budding military commander, the Art of War is still invaluable for anyone with a serious interest in the Napoleonic Wars. [see more]
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15 February 2009

World War II Jungle Warfare Tactics, Stephen Bull, Osprey Elite. The subject of jungle warfare tactics has fascinated many people and contains many myths. This book tries to cover a large subject in 64 pages, a mammoth task but one which it does remarkably well. The content is clear and very interesting de-bunking various myths such as Japanese superiority in jungle warfare but without throwing the baby out with the bath water and does highlight some of the Japanese strengths in this area. The book is an excellent introduction to the subject.
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