Military History Encyclopedia on the Web

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8 December 2019

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeMedieval Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 3: The Battle of Vlaardingen - Frisian ‘pirates’ vs the Ottonians Focuses on one of the rare occasions in which a mainstream feudal army was defeated by unrated foes, taking place in the same Low Countries setting as many of the more famous examples. Looks at the full context of the battle, including the rise of the Ottonians, the nature of the Frisian troops who defeated the Royal troops and the battle itself. An interesting examination of a little known battle that played a major role in the history of the Low Countries [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeMedieval Warfare Vol VII, Issue 2: A War for England - The Battle of Lincoln, 1217 Mainly focuses on the First Baron’s War, which began as a revolt against King John but later turned into a clash between Prince Louis of France and his supporters on one side and the supporters of John’s young son Henry III on the other. Includes articles on two key sieges – Rochester and Dover, and the battle of Lincoln, one of the decisive land battles of the campaign [see more]
US Army Green Beret in Afghanistan 2001-02, Leigh Neville. A look at the crucial role of the Green Berets in the fall of the Taliban in 2001-2 and the attempts to capture high value targets in the aftermath of the initial campaign. Provides a good overview of the Green Berets, and takes an unusual approach to the main campaign, following the exploits of a fictional Green Beret team during the initial campaign that led to the fall of the Taliban, before focusing on real events later in the war (Read Full Review)
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1 December 2019

The True Chronicles of Jean le Bel, 1290-1360, trans. Nigel Bryant. The first English translation of the True Chronicles of Jean le Bel, one of the most important primary sources for the reign of Edward III and the early part of the Hundred Years War, written at the time by someone who actually participated in Edward’s early campaigns in Scotland, and who talked to participants in the events that he described. A remarkable and surprisingly readable source that gives us a rare insight into how the participants in these events saw them(Read Full Review)
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Runways to Freedom - The Special Duties Squadrons of RAF Tempsford, Robert Body. A splendid history of Nos.138 and 161 Squadrons, the Special Duties squadrons that carried agents in and out of occupied Europe, dropped supplies and generally supported the work of the resistance movements. Highly secret during the war, their records were declassified fairly quickly, but this is a rare full length study of the two squadrons, and is well overdue! Not quite a day-by-day history, but not far off, with coverage of just about every lost aircraft as well as many successful missions (Read Full Review)
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The Irish Brigade 1670-1745 – The Wild Geese in French Service, D P Graham. An excellent history of the Irish troops who went on to form the Wild Geese, the exiled Irish forces fighting for the French. At its best when looking at the Williamite War in Ireland in 1678-81 when the Irish troops were fighting directly for James II after he had been expelled from England, and on the period before that, when Irish troops served the French and Spanish because the Test Acts prevented most Catholics from joining the British forces (Read Full Review)
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11 November 2019

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 3 Roman against Roman, Caesar and Pompey in the Balkans Focuses on the key campaign in the fall of the Roman Republic, where an outnumbered Caesar came back from an early defeat to overcome Pompey and the main defenders of the Republic, removing the main opposition to his personal rule. Also looks at the sources for Legionary cavalry, the difficult art of the ambush and the presence of the cataphract in north-western Europe [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeMedieval Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 2: The English Invasion of Wales - The fall of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd Focuses on Edward I’s conquest of Wales and the fall of Llywelyn the Last, the last generally recognised independent native prince of Wales, with articles on the career of Edward I, Llywelyn’s slippery brother David, the war itself and Edward’s famous castles. Elsewhere ranges from Anglo-Saxon riddles to Korean peasant resistance to the Japanese during the Imjin War! [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Vol XII, Issue 1: Army for an Empire - Augustus’s new model military Focuses on the army used by Augustus during his rise to power and the reforms he put in place after the end of the civil war. Takes an unusual approach, built around a single long article on the main theme supported by small inserts to produce a useful study of the first Roman Imperial army. Supported by a series of articles on other Greek and Roman topics [see more]

10 November 2019

The White Chariot, Richard Denning. Book Four in a series set amongst the warring kingdoms of early seventh century Britain. Follows two half brothers from Northumbria as they try to gain allies for the opposing sides in the ongoing dynastic struggles between the two Northumbrian sub-kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia, with each of the brothers largely engaged in their own plot. An entertaining tale, set amongst the crumbling remains of Roman Britain and the warring kingdoms that replaced it (Read Full Review)
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Modern Snipers, Leigh Neville. Looks at the uses of the sniper in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, against the insurgencies that followed, and on domestic anti-terrorism and police duties. An interesting look at the surprising variety of roles carried out by modern snipers, from the obvious elimination of high value targets or military threats to long term reconnaissance duties. Also reveals just how many different organisations currently field snipers, from the world’s many Special Forces units to domestic police forces(Read Full Review)
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Churchill's Last Wartime Secret – the 1943 German Raid Airbrushed from History, Adrian Searle. Although I’m not convinced by the author’s case for a German raid on the Isle of Wight, his historical methods are sound, and he prevents the evidence for and against the story, and includes a detailed examination and debunking of similar stories from elsewhere around the coast. The idea of a raid on a radar base in 1943 is at best unproven, but the case is presented fairly, with much more balance than is often the case in this sort of book(Read Full Review)
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3 November 2019

The Regiment - 15 Years in the SAS, Rusty Firmin. A likeable, if rather sweary, autobiography of a member of the SAS who took part in the Iranian Embassy Siege, the Falklands War and several tours of Northern Ireland. The first half of the book covers the author’s transformation from very reluctant recruit to an enthusiastic gunner, then into the Commandos then finally the SAS, the second half his time in the SAS itself, ending with his views on the First Gulf War. Provides a valuable view of life in the SAS in the period that saw it rise to prominence after the Embassy Siege(Read Full Review)
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Hitler's Last Levy in East Prussia, Bruno Just. A difficult combination of a useful war diary and a troublesome introduction. The diary covers the struggles of a Volkssturm unit fighting in East Prussia, and rings true, but the introduction is appalling biased, distorting the nature of the war, exaggerating Soviet war crimes and ignoring the far worse German crimes. Worthwhile for Just’s account of the last few months of the war and the heavy cost paid by the Volkssturm for Hitler’s determination to fight to the last man, and his harsh criticism of the Nazi party and its leadership(Read Full Review)
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Objective Saint-Lo, 7 June 1944-18 July 1944, Georges Bernage. Looks at the brutal battles in the bocage country as the Americans attempted to reach Saint-Lo, a key road junction and the starting point for the planned breakout from Normandy. A very detailed account of the fighting seen from both sides, giving us a good idea of what it was like to take part in this hard fought battle, following the experiences of one particular German unit and two American officers in great detail (perhaps at the cost of the overall picture) (Read Full Review)
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27 October 2019

The British Navy in the Mediterranean, John D. Grainger. A nice approach to a key aspect of British military history, looking at the rise and fall of British naval power in the Mediterranean, from the earliest appearance of British warships protecting merchant ships in the sixteenth century, through the intermittent presence of British fleets in the sea during the long sequence of wars with France and Spain and on to the almost century and a half of dominance that began late in the Napoleonic Wars and lasted well into the Second World War. A fascinating examination of one of the key elements of Britain’s naval power(Read Full Review)
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A Tough Nut to Crack: Andersonstown, Steve Corbett. The story of a successful deployment of troops from an artillery battery in one of the most violent areas of Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles. A clear demonstration of the correct way to run a peacekeeping operation in difficult circumstances, a tour in which despite the best efforts of the IRA none of the soldiers were killed, and in which they managed to massively disrupt IRA operations in the Andersonstown area of Belfast. Covers the Bloody Sunday period, so we get to see the impact of that incident in Andersonstown (Read Full Review)
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Hannibal’s Road, The Second Punic War in Italy, 213-203 BC, Mike Roberts. A history of the last ten years of Hannibal’s campaign in Italy, after the most famous victories had already been won, and he had won over large areas of southern Italy. Suffers somewhat from the author’s pro-Hannibal bias, which sees him discount any reports of Roman victories while believing every tale of Punic success, but is otherwise a useful account of an often neglected period in which Hannibal was still able to win battlefield victories, but was unable to defend his new allies, slowly being pushed back into the far south before eventually having to return to Africa(Read Full Review)
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20 October 2019

Eagles over the Sea 1936-42, A History of Luftwaffe Maritime Operations, Lawrence Paterson. Looks at the origins of German naval air power during the First World War, its revival in the 1930s, the first combat tests of the Spanish Civil War and its role in the key battles during the first half of the Second World War, a period that included the battle of Norway, the battle of Britain, the forced German intervention in the Mediterranean, the battle of the Atlantic, the Arctic convoys and the period of most German success on the Eastern Front, all campaigns that involved naval aviation in some way (Read Full Review)
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Bayly’s War - The Battle for the Western Approaches in the First World War, Steve R. Dunn. A fascinating history of the first battle of the Atlantic in the Western Approaches, the waters around Ireland, looking at the overall course of the battle, the role of Admiral Bayly, commander-in-chief on the Irish station, and the impact of the American arrival in Ireland. Paints a picture of a very different battle to the more familiar one from the Second World War, with the key difference being the lack of any way to detect a submerged U-boat, leading to very heavy shipping losses. Also includes interesting material on the problems caused by Irish nationalism, peaking with the Easter uprising, but also causing more low key problems for most of the war (Read Full Review)
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Somme 1916 Battlefield Companion, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. A guide to the battle of the Somme built around a series of battlefield trails that visit the many Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries on the battlefield. An effective approach to this familiar topic, linking the cemeteries to the battles fought in their vicinity and attempting to explain where the men buried in each one were killed. Well designed for use as a guide, ring bound with oversized covers fold out covers useable as bookmarks, as well as keeping rain off the book. The tours themselves are largely road based, with visits the key cemeteries (Read Full Review)
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13 October 2019

Courage After the Battle – Peter Jackson-Lee. A thought provoking look at the long term impact of combat on military veterans, how they cope, and the various systems in place in help. Written by an ex-Royal Marine and Falklands veteran, and covers an impressively wide range of subjects, from the basics of evacuation to the treatments of the many wounds suffered, to the non-physical problems suffered by many veterans. Each section includes a historical survey, looking at how things have changed over the last century or so. A book that will be of great value for anyone trying to understand the long term impact of combat on Britain’s veterans, both civilian and veteran (Read Full Review)
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The Normandy Battlefields - Bocage and Breakout, From the Beaches to the Falaise Gap, Simon Forty, Leo Marriott & George Forty. A good visual guide to the fighting in Normandy, combining a good narrative of the battle, with an impressive selection of photographs, including a series showing the locations of key battles as they were in 1944 and how they are now, supported by a good introduction to the campaign and a series of studies of key aspects of the battle, from Allied air power to the Tiger tank. A good combination of well written history and illustrations (Read Full Review)
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British Cruiser Warfare – The Lessons of the Early War, 1939-1941, Alan Raven. A very detailed study of the first two years of cruiser warfare, looking at how the Royal Navy operated against its German and Italian enemies. A detailed chronological account of the fighting is followed by a series of invaluable studies of particular topics, providing an impressive level of detail of issues from anti-aircraft tactics and damage control to life onboard ship. Also includes a useful section on the impact of code breaking on both sides, and some excellent plans of key British cruisers (Read Full Review)
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6 October 2019

How Churchill Waged War - The Most Challenging Decisions of the Second World War, Allen Packwood. Looks at how Churchill operated as a war leader, the reasons behind many of his key decisions, the limits on his power and how he dealt with, and his changing level of influence as the war developed. Finishes with a look at his disasterous 1945 election campaign. Looks at his methods of working, and how he interacted with his military and political colleagues and international Allies to make the key decisions (Read Full Review)
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Escaping Hitler - A Jewish Boy's Quest for Freedom and his Future, Phyllida Scrivens. The fascinating story of Gunter Stern, a Jewish boy from the rural Rhineland to came to Britain on one of the ‘kindertransports’, where he became Joe Stirling, served in the Army and later became a Labour Politian, and a very successful businessman, Sheriff of Norwich and charity fundraiser with the Lions Clubs. You’ll struggle to find a better case for the benefits of immigration!(Read Full Review)
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The Book of Five Rings and Other Works, Miyamoto Musashi. Not what I’d expected – often portrayed as more of a philosophical guide to the life of the Samurai, it actually comes across as an advert for the author’s dojo, describing the benefits of his fighting style and attacking the flaws of his rival’s styles and schools. Also includes a good biography of Musashi and the context of his life, and five other works that are also attributed to him, giving us a good single volume edition of his entire works(Read Full Review)
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29 September 2019

The Pope’s Army – The Papacy in Diplomacy and War, John Carr. A military and political history of the Papacy, from the earliest years under Roman rule, through the long period where the Pope was also the temporal ruler of the Papal States, through the unification of Italy and on to the present day. An entertaining dash through the almost two thousand long life of one of the oldest institutions in the world (Read Full Review)
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Lincoln's Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin, James T. Huffstodt. A biography of a relatively minor Union general, with a unusually close relationship with President Lincoln, a friend and political colleague of his father. Not a terribly high ranking man, but one who was present at many of the major battles in the eastern theatre, and played a crucial role in the defence of Washington against Early’s raid and in the hunt for Lincoln’s assassins. Includes more material on his pre- and post- war lives than is often the case, which gives us a better view of the man and his times(Read Full Review)
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Antipater’s Dynasty – Alexander the Great’s Regent and his Successors, John D Grainger . A useful study of the short-lived dynasty founded by Antipater, Alexander the Great’s deputy in Macedonia during his great campaign, and continued by his son Cassander, who overthrew Alexander’s dynasty and declared himself to be king of Macedonia. A good choice of topic, filling a gap in the history of the period, and demonstrating just how significant this pair of father and son were in the creation and then the destruction of Alexander’s empire(Read Full Review)
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22 September 2019

In Action with the Destroyers 1939-1945 - The Wartime memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN, ed. Anthony Cumming. A very engaging autobiography, covering the author’s wartime experiences in destroyers, and in particular his time on the Griffin, a modern destroyer, but with limited AA capability. Dennis’s wartime career included the Malta convoys, the Arctic convoys, anti-invasion duties in 1940, the D-Day landings of 1944, a brief foray into the Indian Ocean at the height of the threat from Japan, the evacuation from Crete and an impressively wide range of other battles and theatres(Read Full Review)
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British Naval Weapons of World War Two – The John Lambert Collection Vol II: Escort and Minesweeper Weapons, ed. Norman Friedman. Starts with a lengthy historical introduction looking at the development of the massive escort and minesweeping fleets and the weapons they used, written by the renowned Norman Friedman, before moving on to the incredibly detailed plans, which cover everything from full plans of the ships themselves to the tiniest details of their weapons, all supported by detailed annotations. Very useful for anyone looking to model these ships or attempting to identify particular weapons (Read Full Review)
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The Samurai, Stephen Turnbull. A good introduction to the history and culture of the Samurai, written by a renowned expert on the topic. Covers an impressively wide range of topics, including the overall history of the Samurai, their arms and armour, their attitude to death, the part they played in warfare, the impressive Samurai castles and the final end of the Samurai era after the Meiji Restoration (although their role as warriors had ended centuries earlier). (Read Full Review)
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15 September 2019

Blake, Victoria, Far Away. Three overlapping stories – the experiences of two POWs in Italy, the stories they chose to write in captivity and the long term impact of the war on their descendents. The first is based on the author’s father’s experiences, the third presumably at least in part by the author’s own life and looks at the long term impact of the war on the POW’s relatives.  An engaging read that drew me in, with three stories that link together convincingly(Read Full Review)
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Building the Gort Line – The BEF and its Defences in France 1939-40, Dave Thurlow. Looks at the fortifications built by the BEF in France in 1939-40, a set of fortifications that are often overlooked as they were abandoned at the start of the German campaign of 1940 and only briefly used during the retreat to Dunkirk, but that occupied much of the attention of the British army. Also looks at how the BEF’s work in France influenced the anti-invasion defences built in Britain after Dunkirk. An impressive amount of work went into these fortifications, but the events of 1940 proved that a thin crust was of no use against a powerful armoured assault(Read Full Review)
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Kleinkrieg - The German Experience with Guerrilla Warfare, from Clausewitz to Hitler, Charles D. Melson. An examination of the German attitude to Guerrilla Warfare during the Second World War, centred on a reprint of two original documents – Kleinkrieg of 1935 and the wartime ‘Fighting the Guerrilla Bands’ of 1944. Both give an insight into the German techniques of anti-guerrilla warfare, the first giving some idea of the pre-war attitudes, the second the practical methods used(Read Full Review)
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8 September 2019

Armies of the Greek-Turkish War 1919-22, Philip S. Jowett. Combines a look at the very varied armies of this war with a history of the war itself, which is now largely forgotten, despite involving sizable armies on both sides and ending with one of the first examples of large scale ethnic cleansing. Covers a wide range of troops, from the regular Greek and Nationalist armies to the varied irregular forces that fought on both sides, and in particular on the Turkish side (Read Full Review)
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Destroyer at War – The fighting life and loss of HMS Havock from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939-1941, David Goodey and Richard Osborne. HMS Havock was one of the most active British destroyers of the Second World War, taking part in the Norwegian campaign, the fall of Holland, the battle of Matapan, the evacuation from Greece and Crete, the campaign in North Africa and the efforts to keep Tobruk and Malta supplied, before eventually being lost after running aground while attempting to escape from Malta (Read Full Review)
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The Dawn of the Carrier Strike and the World of Lieutenant W P Lucy DSO RN, David Hobbs. Looks at the development of British naval aviation between the wars, the damage done by the policy of dual control, the Navy’s battles to regain control of its own aircraft, and the first proper carrier campaign in history, the Norwegian campaign of 1940, where almost all of the types of carrier operations carried out later in the war were first attempted, although admittedly on a small scale. Shows how the Navy coped with the problems of dual control, and how quickly it learnt lessons during the Norwegian campaign (Read Full Review)
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1 September

All Things Georgian – Tales from the Long Eighteenth Century, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. An entertaining collection of stories from the long Georgian era, mainly focusing on the stories of interesting women, ranging from high ranking aristocrats to infamous fraudsters, with many involving brief bursts of fame or notoriety, often ending with a return to poverty. Lacking in any military releveance, but it does give a good idea of what life was life in Britain during a period of near constant warfare, and some idea of the often riotous nature of Georgian society (Read Full Review)
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The Long Shadow of Waterloo – Myths, Memories and Debates, Timothy Fitzpatrick. An unusual approach to the battle of Waterloo, looking at the way in which the battle was remembered in the countries most closely involved, including the victors, where the main battle was over who had been responsible for the victory, in France, where the blame game began almost as soon as the fighting was over, and in Belgium, where the battle remained controversial for many years afterwards (Read Full Review)
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US Navy Battleships 1886-98 – The pre-dreadnoughts and monitors that fought the Spanish-American War, Brian Lane Herder. Looks at the first capital ships constructed for the ‘New Navy’, marking the rebirth of American naval power after the navy had been run down in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Built in response to a scare triggered by the purchase of modern warships by the major powers of North America, these ships won the naval battles of the Spanish-American War, a key step in the development of American imperialism and the rise of US naval power(Read Full Review)
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18 August 2019

To War with the 4th, Martin King, Michael Collins and Jason Nulton. A history of the US 4th Infantry Division, focusing on the First and Second World Wars, where the division fought in some of the most important American battles in Europe, with material on the Vietnam War and War on Terror. A good split between a clear narrative of the fighting and eyewitness accounts that gives both a clear history of the division’s role in the fighting, and a good feel for the nature of the battles (Read Full Review)
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Malta Strikes Back - The Role of Malta in the Mediterranean Theatre 1940-1942, Ken Delve. Looks at the wider role of Malta during the defensive period of the war in the Mediterranean, a period normally dominated by accounts of the siege and the constant air attacks. Here we also get the offensive role of the island, the function that made Malta so valuable to the British cause. The focus is on the air war – this is part two of a three part history of the air war in the Mediterreanean – so we learn about the medium bombers and torpedo bombers based on the island, sometimes operating in the middle of some of the heaviest enemy bombing(Read Full Review)
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The Last British Battleship – HMS Vanguard 1946-1960, R A Burt. Looks at the long development and brief service career of the last British battleship (and the last battleship launched anywhere in the world), designed early in the Second World War but not completed until after the war had made battleships effectively obsolete. This book completed Burt’s study of the British battleship, filling the one gap left in his work. The lack of any really service record for the ship means that this is effectively a large design study, but an interesting one(Read Full Review)
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11 August 2019

Dawn of Victory - Breakthrough at Petersburg, March 25-April 2, 1865, Edward Alexander. A look at the final week of the long sieges of Richmond and Petersburg, between Lee’s failed assault on Fort Stedman on 25 March and the evacuation of Richmond on 2 April. Although the retreat to Appomattox is more famous, it was these battles that really sealed the fate of Lee’s army, preventing him from making the clean break he needed if he had any chance of escaping into the south. This is a good clear account of that crucial last week(Read Full Review)
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Fight Like the Devil - The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, Daniel T. Davis. A detailed examination of the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, looking at how the battle developed on both sides, the many myths and debates of the first day, the role of the key officers on both sides, and the eventual result of the fighting. This was an encounter battle, with both sides pouring troops into the fight as the day went on, with limited interventions by Lee or Meade, so the emphasis is on the role of key commanders at a lower level, and the results of their efforts (Read Full Review)
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Confederate Artillery Organizations: An Alphabetical Listing of the Officers and Batteries of the Confederacy 1861-1865, F. Ray Sibley Jr. A very specialised book, giving an alphabetical listing of all known artillery units to serve in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, with a list of their commanding officers, and brief notes about most of them, mainly in the footnotes. If you need this information this book with be invaluable (Read Full Review)
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29 July 2019

Lutzen and Bautzen - Napoleon's Spring Campaign of 1813, George Hafziger. A very detailed account of the spring campaign of 1813, starting at the end of the retreat from Moscow, tracing the creation of a fresh French army, Napoleon’s victories at Lutzen and Bautzen, and his inability to turn either of them into a war winner. This was Napoleon’s last realistic chance of saving his Empire, and thus a more significant campaign than is often acknowledged. Once the campaign ended in an armistice and Austrian joined the war against him, Napoleon’s last real chance of surviving had gone, so this campaign and its two main battles deserve this detailed examination (Read Full Review)
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The Defence of Sevastopol 1941-1942 - The Soviet Perspective, Clayton Donnell. A look at the prolonged siege of Sevastopol, which saw the Soviet garrison pin down an increasingly sizable German force at a key point during their invasion of the Soviet Union, only finally falling in July 1942, after the start of the main German offensive of the year. A detailed study of the impressive Soviet defence of a city that had not really been prepared to be attacked from the land, but that sucked in a large German army and kept Manstein, one of Hitler’s most able generals, tied up in a side theatre at a key point in the war(Read Full Review)
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York’s Military Legacy, Ian D. Rotherham. A look at the military history of a city that was for many years the most important in the north, effectively the northern capital of England for much of the medieval period, as well as sitting on a river that made it accessible from the sea, and on one of the two key routes between England and Scotland. Focuses on events that took place in and around the city, so we get plenty on 1066 or the English Civil War, but relatively little on the World Wars (Read Full Review)
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21 July 2019

The Two Handed Sword – History, Design and Use, Neil Melville. A detailed history of the European two handed sword, a surprising agile but still fairly rare weapon that was used in some numbers during the later Middle Ages and early modern periods. Looks at the development of the weapon (a surprisingly complex subject), its use in combat, the many regional variations, the evidence for how it was wielded, and its evolution into a prestige, non-combat weapon (Read Full Review)
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Air Combat – Dogfights of World War II, ed. Tony Holmes. A collection of four Ospreys, looking at the Spitfire vs Bf 109, F4F Wildcat vs A6M Zero, La 5/7 vs Fw 190 and F4U Corsair vs Ki-84 Frank, an interesting cross section of the fighter battles of the Second World War. Some are more crucial than others, but all are interesting, and the book costs less than buying any two of the existing volumes, so is good value for money (Read Full Review)
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Eisenhower's Thorn on the Rhine - The Battle for the Colmar Pocket, 1944-45, Nathan N. Prefer. Looks at the fighting on the southern end of the Allied front in France in 1944-45, where American and French troops attempted to reach the Rhine, while the Germans held on to Colmar and parts of southern Alsace. Traces the course of the battle as well as the problems faced by the commanders on both sides of this hard fought backwater, at a time when both sides were running short of men but still had ambitious aims (Read Full Review)
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16 June 2019

Fontenoy 1745 - Cumberland's Bloody Defeat, Michael McNally. Looks at a key French victory during the War of the Austrian Succession, where the British infantry enhanced their reputation after advancing into a trap and nearly winning an improbably victory despite being attacked from three sides. Traces the campaign that led to the British being drawn into that trap, and the failures elsewhere on the battlefield that meant that the famous infantry attack had little real chance of success, leading to a French victory that began a successful conquest of the Austrian Netherlands (Read Full Review)
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General Sir Ralph Abercromby and the French Revolutionary Wars, 1792-1801, Carole Divall. A biography of one of the more competent British generals of the Revolutionary Wars, killed at the height of his success during the expulsion of the French from Egypt. Inevitably most of his experiences during the Revolutionary War came during the unsuccessful campaigns in northern Europe, but he managed to emerge from these campaigns with his reputation largely intact, and won fame with his death during a successful campaign. An interesting study of a less familiar part of the British struggle against revolutionary France (Read Full Review)
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The Royal Navy 1793-1800 – Birth of a Superpower, Mark Jessop. An unusual approach to the history of the Royal Navy during the Revolutionary Wars, with each chapter starting with an account of the life of a semi-fictional character, tracing their experiences in key aspects of the war, before moving on to a more historical narrative.  Covers the main events of the war, including the early battles, the mutinies, and the various theatres of war, as well as the life of the normal sailor(Read Full Review)
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9 June 2019

Victoria Crosses on the Western Front - Somme 1916, 1 July 1916-13 November 1916, Paul Oldfield. Splits the story into two halves, first a series of narratives of the various stages of the battle looking at the context of how the VCs were won, and then a longer section of biographies, covering the lives of VC holders themselves as well as their families. The first half provides a readable narrative of the battle and it’s Victoria Crosses, the second half is much more of a reference work(Read Full Review)
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Verdun - The Left Bank, Christina Holstein. Looks at the key battles on the left bank of the Meuse at Verdun, which saw the Germans attempt to capture a series of French viewpoints that allowed their artillery to hit the Germans operating on the right bank. Two thirds of the book provides a history of these bitter battles, the final third provides three tours of this generally unvisited area. One of the better examples of this genre, with good clear narratives that explain why these battles were so important, and give a clear idea of their progress without getting bogged down, supported by three tours that provide extra context to the fighting (Read Full Review)
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Bombers Fly East - WWII Operations in the Middle & Far East, Martin W. Bowman. A variety of stories of bomber operations over the Mediterranean, eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle and Far East (despite the title), covering quite a range of missions and different aspects of the bomber campaign. Some are based on the memoirs of a single individual, others are more general histories of part of the air war, so there is quite a bit of variety, and the stories themselves are generally very interesting (Read Full Review)
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26 May 2019

The Composite Bow, Mike Loades. A splendid examination of this complex but elegant weapon, looking at its construction, the skills needed to use it effectively, the types of bows, arrows and supporting equipment in use, the different national traditions and the military use of the bow by both mounted and foot soldiers. An impressive book that packs a great deal of information into its 80 pages, and greatly benefits from its author's own experience as an archer (Read Full Review)
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Sir Alan Cobham – The Flying Legend who brought Aviation to the Masses, Colin Cruddas. A biography of one of the most famous British airmen of the inter-war period, a pioneer of long distance aviation, publicist for air power (running a series of popular touring air shows) and a pioneer of air-to-air refuelling, most famous for ‘Cobham’s Flying Circus’, four years of touring air shows that were seen by 75% of wartime aircrew volunteers!(Read Full Review)
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German Destroyers, Robert Brown. A guide to the German destroyers of the Second World War targeting those who wish to build models of these modern but flawed warships. Lots of good detail on their technical specs, physical appearance and how it changed over time, along with reviews of the various kits available, and examples of some high quality builds. Could do with brief service histories, but otherwise useful (Read Full Review)
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19 May 2019

Period Ship Modelmaking – An Illustrated Masterclass, Philip Reed. A lavishily illustrated account of the creation of two models of the American privateer Prince de Neufchatel, one waterline model and one with a full hull. I’ve no idea how useful it will be for the ship modeller, not being an experienced scratch builder, but it is a very pretty book, and the end results are very impressive. Most of the work is covered in great detail (apart from the original creation of the ship’s hull, which only gets a single short paragraph!)(Read Full Review)
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Aboard the Farragut Class Destroyers in World War II, Leo Block. Looks at life onboard the eight ships of the Farragut class, the first newly designed destroyers built for the US Navy after the First World War, and the prototypes for the ‘1,500 ton’ destroyers. Written by a veteran of these ships, using his own knowledge and the memories of the decreasing number of surviving crewmen to produce an in-depth picture of the life of the enlisted men on these small but hard hitting warships(Read Full Review)
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War Bows, Mike Loades. Looks at the longbow, crossbow, composite bow and Japanese Yumi, largely based on previously published Osprey books, but updated for this combined edition. Brings together four fascinating topics to provide a useful overview of the many types of war bow that were used from western Europe to Japan, and the varied types of archery that developed around them.  Useful to have all four together in a single volume, allowing a more direct comparison between the different types(Read Full Review)
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12 May 2019

A Military History of China, David Richard Petriello. An ambitious attempt to cover several thousand years of Chinese history in a single volume, from the earlier legends to the conflicts of Communist China. A generally successful book, despite getting a little too bogged down in the fine details of many of the ancient and medieval campaigns, with a useful examination of the motivation behind China’s external wars. Supported by over 100 maps, which make it easier to trace the course of events and identify the very many kingdoms that appeared in the area now covered by modern China (Read Full Review)
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Waterloo - The Campaign of 1815 Volume 2 - From Waterloo to the Restoration of Peace in Europe, John Hussey. A good history of Waterloo and its aftermath using the most recent research and ignoring long held ideas that have since been disproved. Has a useful focus on the command decisions made by the senior leaders on each side, and how they impacted on the eventual result of the campaign. Provides a well balanced examination of the successes and mistakes on both sides, as well as placing Waterloo in the wider context of the 1815 campaign (Read Full Review)
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Empire and Espionage, Spies in the Zulu War, Stephen Wade. Looks at the use of military intelligence by both sides in the Zulu War, demonstrating that the Zulus actually began the war with the better intelligence capabilities, and a clearer idea of their opponents plans and abilities than the British did. Also looks at the wider context of British military intelligence, including its development over time and its place in the world of the 1870s and Britain’s increasing obsession about Russian expansionism, including a fear that they might be about to attack the Suez canal, cutting the British Empire in half(Read Full Review)
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14 April 2019

F4U Corsair vs Ki-84 'Frank' Pacific Theatre 1945, Edward M. Young. Looks at the development of these two advanced fighters, the training of their pilots and the handful of clashes between the two types – only around twenty in total, mainly over the Japanese Home Islands and Okinawa. Includes good sections on the development of the two fighters, the training of their pilots, with a detailed look at the limited number of clashes between them. An interesting read that does demonstrate some of the flaws in some entries in this series, in this case that the clash being examined wasn’t an especially important part of the overall battle in the air (Read Full Review)
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Murat’s Army - The Army of the Kingdom of Naples 1806-1815, Digby Smith. A very pretty book, based on the paintings of Henri Boiselier, produced in the first half of the 20th Century. The book is dominated by full colour, full page reproductions of his illustrations of the many and varied uniforms worn in Murat’s small and not terribly effective army of Naples. Each comes with a brief caption that explains what we are looking at, and any errors in the original painting (normally fairly trivial).(Read Full Review)
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Apache Warrior vs US Cavalryman, Sean McLachlan. Looks at the forty-year long struggle between the US Cavalry and the Apache tribes of the US south-west, which lasted from the US conquest of the area in 1848 to the final surrender of Geronimo in 1886. Benefits from focusing on the two main combatants in these was – the entire fighting force of the Apache tribes and the US Cavalry, to present an overview of how the conflict was eventually won by the United States(Read Full Review)
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31 March 2019

Cruiser Birmingham - detailed in the original builder’s plans, Conrad Waters. Fascinating study of the cruiser, built around the builder’s plans from 1937, the wartime refit of 1943 and the major reconstruction of 1952. These are impressively well drawn, colourful documents, that contain a wealth of detailed information on the layout of these cruisers, allowing us both to appreciate the care and attention required to produce these powerful weapons of war, and their second nature as a large floating village, complete with band, workshops, kitchens, and eventually a cinema(Read Full Review)
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Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem, Stanley Lane-Poole. Originally published in 1898, but relying mainly on Arabic sources written by Saladin’s contemporaries, supported by accounts of the Third Crusade for the later part of the book. Provides a very readable account of Saladin’s career, from his unexpected promotion to ruler of Egypt, through his conquest of Syria and on to the defeat of the Crusaders at Hattin, the conquest of Jerusalem and the successful defence of the city against the forces of the Third Crusade. Generally favourable towards Saladin, although without becoming overly biased, and largely accurate due to the reliance on the main contemporary sources(Read Full Review)
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Operation Barbarossa 1941 - Hitler against Stalin, Christer Bergström. A splendid account of Operation Barbarossa that clears away many of the misrepresentations that have often distorted our picture of this massive campaign. Takes advantage of the opening of Soviet archives after the fall of the Soviet Union to provide a balance to the more readily available German sources, and relies more on working documents and contemporary reports than on the often badly biased post-war memoirs. Gives a clear idea of how the Germans won their early victories, the surprise of their collapse outside Moscow at the end of the year, and of the importance of both German and Soviet aviation in the eventual result of the conflict (Read Full Review)
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17 March 2019

The Great Illyrian Revolt – Rome’s Forgotten War in the Balkans, AD 6-9, Jason R Abdale. Looks at one of the most costly wars fought during the reign of Augustus, a massive rebellion in the Balkans that eventually sucked in fifteen Roman legions, as well as Augustus’s heir Tiberius and marking the start of the military career of Germanicus. Perhaps a little too prone to including speculation to fill gaps, but does make it clear where the evidence runs out and the guesswork begins. Fills an important gap in the military history of this crucial period in Roman history(Read Full Review)
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Stopping Hitler - An Official Account of How Britain Planned to Defend itself in the Second World War, Captain G.C. Wynne. Starts with an official account of Britain’s defensive plans from 1933 to 1945, produced in 1948, followed by a series of wartime documents that provide the concrete details of the plans. A fascinating look at how the British military perceived the threat from Germany, how that changed over time, and how the various types of invasions were expected to be defeated(Read Full Review)
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Battleship Warspite –detailed in the original builder’s plans, Robert Brown. Fascinating study of the Warspite based around the original builder’s plans, both from her original contruction and the 1930s reconstruction. Shows the ship in incredible detail, showing just how complex these massive warships were. The details plans are accompanied by excellent explanatory notes, following the design, development and modifications of the Warspite over nearly forty years. Benefits from the use of a magnifying glass to pick out the impressive wealth of fine details!(Read Full Review)
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10 March 2019

Battles on the Seven Seas - German Cruiser Battles 1914-1918, Gary Staff. Looks at the activities of German cruisers during the First World War, covering the major naval battles in the North Sea, the exploits of the surface raiders early in the war, the role of the two German cruisers in Turkish service and the limited fighting in the Baltic. A useful counter to the tendancy to see these events from the British point of view, made possible by the author’s impressive use of German sources(Read Full Review)
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Augustus at War - the struggle for the Pax Augusta, Lindsay Powell. A year-by-year study of all of the wars fought during Augustus’s reign, covering a suprising amount of offensive wars, in which Augustus and his generals doubled the size of the Roman Empire. Looks at both the central role of Augustus and his family and the part played by other Roman aristocrats, who were still willing to struggle for glory during this period, buying in to the idea that the Republic still existed under Augustus(Read Full Review)
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The Liberation of Europe 1944-1945 - The Photographers who Captured History from D-Day to Berlin, Mark Barnes. A photographic history of the campaign in north-western Europe, as seen by the photographs of the newspaper group that owned The Times during the Second World War. Covers a wide range of topics, from the D-Day landings to the post-war Nuremburg Trials, with interesting notes on the technical aspects of war photography in the period, as well as detailed captions often based on the original wartime notes(Read Full Review)
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3 March 2019

Offa and the Mercian Wars - the Rise & Fall of the First Great English Kingdom, Chris Peers. Looks at the rise and fall of Mercia, the dominant English power of the Eighth Century, first emerging under the pagan Penda, before reaching its greatest power under Offa, one of the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Does a good job of dealing with the more obscure corners of Mercian history, and tells the interesting story of a kingdom that might have formed the nucleus of a united England (Read Full Review)
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Waterloo - Rout & Retreat, the French Perspective, Andrew W. Field. Looks at the least familiar part of the Waterloo campaign, the French retreat in the aftermath of the battle, their attempts to restore some order in the defeat army and perhaps defend Paris, and the political attempts to negotiate a peace without an Allied occupation of Paris. Based on eyewitness accounts of the period, this paints an unvarnished picture of the collapse of an army and the increasingly uncertain attempts to try and organise a defence of Paris (Read Full Review)
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Greek and Macedonian Land Battles of the 4th Century BC, Fred Eugene Ray Jr. Looks at 187 battles fought during one of the most dramatic centuries of Ancient History, a period that started with Sparta the dominant power of Greece and ended with the successors of Alexander the Great squabbling over the ruins of his Empire. An interesting study of a period in which Greek warfare evolved dramatically, ending the dominance of the simple Hoplite army and seeing the rise of cavalry as a battle winning weapon (Read Full Review)
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24 February 2019

America's Commandos: U.S. Special Operations Forces of World War II and Korea, Leroy Thompson. Starts with a brief overview of the creation and use of American special force units during the Second World War and in Korea, before moving onto a good but not well organised selection of photographs. Does its job of illustrating the uniforms and equipment of these units, but needs chapter headings! (Read Full Review)
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Agent Michael Trotobas and SOE in Northern France, Steward Kent & Nick Nicholas. A compelling account of the creation of one of the more successful SOE circuits in northern France, the death of its charismatic leader and creator, and its activities after his death. Includes a satisfying large amount of information about the ‘Farmer’ circuit’s operations, as well as the events that led to Trotobas’s death. Also provides an insight into the problems that can be caused by placing unsuitable agents into the field, where everyone had to trust each other, often under intense pressure(Read Full Review)
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Clan Fabius Defenders of Rome - A History of the Republic’s Most Illustrious Family, Jeremiah McCall. Traces the history of one of the most important families in the early and middle Republic, from their legendary origins, through the Samnite Wars and peaking with the career of the famous ‘delayer’, a key figure in the Second Punic War who played a major part in saving the city from Hannibal. Finishes with the slow decline of the family, which began before the collapse of the Republic, and ended as the family disappeared from the records in the early Empire.(Read Full Review)
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17 February 2019

Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole - Captain John Hannaford, one of the last Bomb Disposal Officers of WWII, Pat Strickson. A biography of one of the longest surviving Bomb Disposal Officers, inspired by the discovery of one of his post-war paints on sale in a local shop soon after his death, tracing his route into bomb disposal, his experiences in the field, as well as focusing on the author’s motivation for writing the book, and the progress of their research efforts. A compelling and often poignant story of a very brave man, thrust into one of the most dangerous jobs of the entire war(Read Full Review)
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Sailors behind the Medals - Waging War at Sea 1939-1945, Chris Bilham. Gives brief overviews of the careers of twenty three medal winning members of the Royal Navy during the Second World War, illustrating just how varied the experiences of different sailors could be. Covers the entire naval career of each man, rather than just their medal winning exploits, and focuses on the general experiences of their ships more than their individual life stories. (Read Full Review)
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Operation Agreement - Jewish Commandos and the Raid on Tobruk, John Sadler. Looks at a disastrous raid on Tobruk carried out just before the battle of El Alamein in an attempt to disrupt Rommel’s supply lines, but that ended as a total failure, with the loss of most of the troops that got into combat, as well as two destroyers and a cruiser. Provides a good case study of how not to mount a Special Forces operation, starting with not basing your plans on wishful thinking and not over-complicating things!(Read Full Review)
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3 February 2019

Setting France Ablaze - the SOE in France during WWII, Peter JacobsSetting France Ablaze - the SOE in France during WWII, Peter Jacobs. Looks at the activities of SOE in the organisation’s main theatre of operations, tracing the slow and often costly expansion of SOE’s activities, which finally paid off in 1944, when the organisation’s networks helped to delay and distract the Germans at key moments, slowing down the arrival of reinforcements in Normandy and forcing the Germans to leave troops in less important areas. Perhaps has a little too much focus on the failures and the loss of so many agents, but otherwise a good account of the organisation’s activities(Read Full Review)
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Bradley vs BMP Desert Storm 1991, Mike Guardia. Looks at the first clash between the main Soviet and American infantry fighting vehicles, when US troops clashed with the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm. Includes a good technical history of the two vehicles as well as an account of their role in Desert Storm, where the Bradley was by far the more effective of the two vehicles, despite the BMP having some technical advantages (Read Full Review)
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March by Moonlight - A Bomber Command Story of Ops and Evasion, Captivity and Friendship, Jack Love & Barry Love. A fascinating autobiography focusing on the co-author’s initial evasion attempts after his aircraft crash landed in France, and then his time in a series of POW camps, including the famous Stalag Luft III. Includes a compelling tale of an almost successful attempt to evade capture after the crash, followed by Jack’s time in the camps, and his observations on the life of the average POW, not involved in the constant efforts to escape(Read Full Review)
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27 January 2019

Spy of the Century – Alfred Redl & The Betrayal of Austro-Hungary, John Sadler & Silvie Fisch. Looks at one of the most famous spies of the period before the First World War, simultaneously the head of the Austro-Hungarian counter-espionage service and a Russian spy. A potentially interesting story that really needs to be better organised than it is here in order to give a clearer picture of what Redl actually did and what impact it might have had (Read Full Review)
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Pharaoh Seti I - Father of Egyptian Greatness, Nicky Nielsen. Excellent biography of the father of Ramesses II, tracing the key developments of his decade long reign, which saw Egypt recover from a period of religious and dynastic confusion, and set the stage for the long reign of his more famous son. Traces his early life, military campaigns and monumental construction projects as well as some of the more ordinary aspects of life in Seti’s Egypt. The author makes a good case for seeing Seti’s reign as key to the success of his son(Read Full Review)
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The Royal Navy's Air Service in the Great War, David Hobbs. An impressive history of the RNAS, the organisation that developed many of the principles of naval aviation while under intense pressure during the First World War, only to disappear into the RAF in 1918. Traces the impressive development of the service, which ended the war on the verge of attempting a massed torpedo bomber attack on the German fleet in its anchorages, a precursor of Taranto and Pearl Harbor that was only abandoned because of the end of the war (Read Full Review)
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20 January 2019

Nanjing 1937 - Battle for a Doomed City, Peter Harmsen. A compelling but rather depressing look at the campaign that ended with the sack of Nanjing, one of the most serious Japanese war crimes of the Sino-Japanese War. Looks at the way in which the Japanese army in China slipped out of the control of the leaders at home, the advance to Nanjing, the siege of the city and the six-week long sack that followed (Read Full Review)
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Real War Horses - The Experiences of the British Cavalry 1814-1914, Anthony Dawson. Looks at the performance of the British cavalry from Waterloo to the first year of the First World War, the last hundred years of classic cavalry warfare, and one in which the quality of the British cavalry varied quite alarmingly, probably reaching a peak of efficiently towards the very end of the period. Starts with a brief overview of how the cavalry was organised, before concentrating on eyewitness accounts of life in the cavalry, mainly using letters home, many published in the press at the time. The result is as atmospheric study of the last century in which the cavalry was a major battle winning weapon (Read Full Review)
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The Waterloo Archive Volume V: German Sources, ed. Gareth Glover. A super selection of sources translated from German, reflecting the experience of the numerically most important nation at Waterloo, with Germans making up a sizable part of Wellington’s army, as well as Blucher’s Prussians. Almost entirely focuses on those troops in British or Dutch service, with the Prussians getting a single article. Covers the cavalry, artillery and six infantry divisions, as well as an inquiry into the behaviour of part of the medical corps. A useful selection of sources not previously available in English(Read Full Review)
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