26 February 2020

The Home Front 1939-1945 in 100 Objects

A lifesaving gas mask. A ration book, essential for the supply of food. A shelter stove that kept a family warm whilst they huddled in their Anderson shelter. A leaflet dropped by the Luftwaffe that was designed to intimidate Britain’s populace during the threat of invasion. A civilian identity card over-stamped with the swastika eagle from the occupied Channel Islands. A rare, previously unpublished, snapshot of legendary American bandleader Glenn Miller playing at a UK air base. A twisted remnant of German V2 rocket that went to space and back before exploding over London, the result of equally twisted military science. Colourful flag bunting that saw the VE celebrations in 1945: All disparate objects that together tell the moving and important story of Britain’s Home Front during the Second World War.

The ordinary objects featured in this book, whether those produced in their millions to the far from ordinary or unique, all portray and exude the highs and lows of the British people during six years of war. From the deprivations of rationing and the bombing of the Blitz, to the cheery songs, elegant fashions and ‘Dig For Victory’ spirit, are all captured in colour.

The phrase ‘If only this could talk …’ is often heard: in this book, the objects almost can. All the objects have a general contextual background history and any specific known associated story is also included, all in a clear form, with cross-references to related subjects.

This is an essential visual reference book for anyone with an interest in collecting Home Front items, and also for anyone who wants to find out more about the sort of items that have been handed down within families or have been tucked away in drawers for years. The contextual information explaining the significance of these objects is  fantastically detailed, making this a very impressive publication. The author, Austin J. Ruddy, is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about his subject, and this comes across in his writing. Recommended.

Available from:
Pen & Sword Books

24 December 2019

Christmas Under Fire, 1944

How was Christmas celebrated and experienced during 1944, the last year of World War II?

Bastogne in Belgium, Christmas 1944. Plagued by biting cold and the nerve-wracking sound of exploding mortar bombs, American soldiers sang Christmas carols. They ate their meagre rations, yearning for well-laid Christmas dinner tables and roasted turkey. On the Eastern front, German military assembled to listen to Christmas music on the radio, if they had a little respite from the bloody battle against the advancing Red Army. After reading the latest mail from Germany, they wiped away their tears, thinking of their families back home. 

In liberated Paris as well as in other European cities, Christmas was celebrated no matter how limited the circumstances may have been. In the major cities in the western part of the Netherlands, occupied by the Germans, civilians scraped the very last bits of food together for a Christmas dinner that could not appease their hunger. POWs in camps all over the world looked forward to Christmas parcels from home. Even in Nazi concentration camps, inmates found hope in Christmas, although their suffering continued inexorably.       
Christmas Under Fire, 1944 describes the circumstances in which the last Christmas of World War II was celebrated by military, civilians and camp inmates alike. Even in the midst of war’s violence, Christmas remained a hopeful beacon of western civilization.
Christmas Under Fire, 1944 has been written by Kevin Prenger, owner of the highly recommended website  Tracesofwar.com

You can read the first chapter here

Available from:
(Paperback and Kindle)

19 November 2019

Killing Hitler's Reich: The Battle for Austria 1945

In the dying days of World War Two, when the fate of nations was being decided by the triumvirate of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin, Hitler’s Austrian homeland provided a scenic backdrop for the last stand of Army Group South. Killing Hitler’s Reich, The Battle For Austria 1945, is the history of the bloody Battle for Austria in 1945. Austria’s fate held major ramifications for postwar Europe and the entire free world, yet there is no complete account of the campaign written in English.

Given the scale of the fighting and the scope of the consequences, this book fills a major gap in the literature of World War Two. On VE Day Army Group South listed 450,000 men still under arms in four armies. It was this massive force that made General Dwight Eisenhower change the entire focus of American ground operations to cut off Germans from retreating into the National Redoubt.

Moreover, it was Austria not Berlin, that proved to be the graveyard of the Waffen SS. No less than 15 of Himmler’s divisions ended the war there. And as the German war effort disintegrated into chaos, high ranking Nazis fled the dying Reich through Austria and into Italy. Some made it, many didn’t. Killing Hitler’s Reich follows the chase and capture of some of the most notorious, such as Himmler’s Second in Command, Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Long overlooked by historians, Killing Hitler’s Reich finally places this critical campaign in its proper historical place.

Available from:
Casemate Publishing

16 November 2019

Voices from the Arctic Convoys

With the invasion of Russia by Germany in 1941, Britain gained a new ally and a responsibility to provide material for the new front. More than four million tonnes of supplies such as tanks, fighters, bombers, ammunition, raw materials and food were transported to Russia during a four-year period. The cost was high and by May 1945, the campaign had seen the loss of 104 merchant ships and sixteen military vessels, and the thousands of seamen they carried.

The Arctic route was the most arduous of all convoy routes. The ever-present threat of attack from German U-boats and Luftwaffe bombers such as the dreaded Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor were not all the Arctic convoys had to contend with. They had to deal with severe cold, storms, fog, ice floes and waves so huge they tore at the ships’ armour plating.

It is to the memory of these brave men that this book is dedicated and the stories of the immeasurable contribution they made to the Allied efforts during the Second World War have been collected for this book by their veteran comrades.

Voices from the Arctic Convoys contains the personal stories of 28 veterans, who served on ships including: 
  • HMS Ledbury
  • HMS Nabob
  • HMS Sheffield
  • HMS Swift
  • HMS Javelin
  • HMS Bulldog
  • HMS Shera
  • HMS Belfast
  • HMS Bluebell
  • HMS Nigeria
  • HMS Keppel
  • HMS Malcolm
  • HMS Milne
  • HMS Wren
  • HMS Apollo
  • HMS Magpie
  • HMS Berwick
  • HMS Zephyr
  • HMS Achates 
  • HMS Bermuda
  • SS Induna
  • SS Empire Baffin
  • SS Empire Elgar
  • SS Soborg
  • SS Charlbury
  • Northern Wave
Available from:
Fonthill Media

30 September 2019

The Persecution of the Jews in Photographs - The Netherlands 1940-1945

The Persecution of the Jews in Photographs, the Netherlands 1940-1945 is the first book of
photographs about the persecution and deportation of the Jews in the Netherlands. A remarkable number of photographs have survived of the process from the initial isolation to the final extermination of the Jews. Both the professional photographers commissioned by the occupying forces, and amateurs, took moving photographs. Ordinary Dutch citizens recorded razzias, in some cases secretly. They also photographed the introduction of the Star of David, the Jews who went into hiding, and the role of perpetrators and bystanders.

On 10 May 1940, the day of the German invasion, there were 140,000 Jewish inhabitants living in the Netherlands. In addition, there were more than 20,000 German-Jewish refugees in the country. The German occupying forces gradually introduced anti-Jewish measures, step by step. The first train left for the Westerbork transit camp on 14 July 1942, followed up by the deportations to the Auschwitz extermination camp. 107,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands, The full extent of their terrible fate only became known after the war: at least 102,000 were murdered, died of mistreatment or were worked to death in the Nazi camps. This tragedy has had a profound effect on Dutch society.

Photographic archives and private collections were consulted in the Netherlands and abroad. Extensive background data was researched, which means that the moving pictures have an even greater force of expression. The result is an overwhelming collection of almost 400 photographs, accompanied by detailed captions. This book reflects the memory of the persecution of the Jews in photographs.

The book supports an exhibition at the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam. Find out more about the exhibition. 

Available from:
W Books

Arras Counter-Attack 1940

On 21 May 1940 during the ill-fated Dunkirk Campaign the British launched an operation spearheaded by two tank regiments to help secure the city of Arras. This was the only significant armoured operation mounted by the British during the campaign.

Poorly coordinated and starting badly, the Matilda tanks ran into the flanks of Rommel’s over extended 7th Panzer Division. With the German anti-tank guns unable to penetrate the armour of the British tanks, Rommel’s infantry fell into chaos as the Matildas plunged deep into their flank. The Germans were machine gunned and started to surrender in large numbers but with the British infantry lagging well behind, fighting their own battles in the villages, there was no one to round them up.

Into this scene of chaos entered Rommel whose personal leadership and example started to steady his troops and organise an effective response. This was classic Rommel but in the aftermath, he claimed to have been attacked by five divisions.

The Arras counter-attack contributed to Hitler issuing the famous ‘halt order’ to his panzers that arguably did much to allow the British Army to withdraw to Dunkirk and escape total destruction.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

13 September 2019

Steel Wall At Arnhem: The Destruction of 4 Parachute Brigade 19 September 1944

The deployment of the British 1st Airborne Division somewhere in Europe prior to the end of the War was indeed a case of coins burning holes in the pockets of SHAEF . The Allied High Command was anxious to commit to battle a Division that, while it contained some elite units, was not fully trained, had carried out only one divisional exercise and was contained several officers who were either unfit or unsuitable for Airborne command.

On Monday 18 September 1944, the aircraft and gliders carrying the men and equipment of 4 Parachute Brigade took off from airfields in the south of England. For the first time from its creation in North Africa the Brigade was going into battle as a unified formation albeit not fully trained and far from experienced.

Within 24 hours the Brigade would cease to exist, having achieved nothing more than the deaths of good men for no good reason. Despite the fine words of Winston Churchill that the operation had not been in vain and Montgomery was 90% successful, there is more logic to be found in the words of the Great War poet Wilfred Owen when he wrote in his poem Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. There were those commanders who were indeed ardent for some desperate glory .

This is a full account of the Brigade and its actions at Arnhem. Contains 221 photos & 3 maps.

Available from:
Casemate Publishers