31 January 2015

HMS Beverley - A "Town Afloat" and The Town Ashore 1940-1943

HMS Beverley - A "Town Afloat" and The Town Ashore 1940-1943 is a unique account of a "town" class destroyer and the East Yorkshire town she was named after.

When, in 1940, the Royal Navy accepted fifty aging American warships, Councillor Burden, the Mayor of Beverley, wrote to the First Lord of the Admiralty requesting him to name one of the ships after the town. He agreed, and from that day on the people of Beverley adopted the ship and took a considerable interest in her exploits.

This book connects the activities of the ship at sea with life in the East Yorkshire market town during the Second World War. HMS Beverley helped to develop links between the town and Beverely, Massachusetts, and also Merthyr Tydfil, which adopted the ship following Warship Week in 1941. It follows the history of the ship until her fateful sinking in April 1943 while on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic.

The author, Geoffrey Blewett spent many years tracing members of the crew and their families in order to write an accurate account of the ship and the town in wartime.

Available from:

20 January 2015

An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment: The Brutal Truth of Campo 21, 1942-1943

This book tells the little-known story of prisoner of war camp PG 21, at Chieti, Italy, between August 1942 and September 1943. The camp was grossly overcrowded, with little running water, no proper sanitation, and no heating in winter. Conditions (food/clothing) for POWs in Camp PG 21 were so bad that they were debated in the House of Commons.

The prisoners suffered under a violently pro-Fascist regime. The first Commandant personally beat up one recaptured escaper. A pilot was murdered by an Italian guard following his escape attempt. Tunnels were dug, and the prisoners were even prepared to swim through human sewage to try and get out. Morale in the camp remained remarkably high. Two England cricket internationals staged a full scale cricket match, and theatre and music also thrived.

After the Italian Armistice, in September 1943, the British Commander refused to allow the ex-prisoners to leave camp. Germans took over the camp, and most prisoners were transported to Germany. Some managed to hide, and more than half of these subsequently escaped. After the war, a number of the Camp staff were arrested for war crimes.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

18 January 2015

Fire and Ice: The Nazis' Scorched Earth Campaign in Norway

When Hitler ordered the north of Nazi-occupied Norway to be destroyed in a scorched earth retreat in 1944, everything of potential use to the Soviet enemy was destroyed. Harbours, bridges and towns were dynamited and every building torched. Fifty thousand people were forcibly evacuated – thousands more fled to hide in caves in sub-zero temperatures.

High above the Arctic Circle, the author crosses the region gathering scorched earth stories: of refugees starving on remote islands, fathers shot dead just days before the war ended, grandparents driven mad by relentless bombing, towns burned to the ground. He explores what remains of the Lyngen Line mountain bunkers in the Norwegian Alps, where the Allies feared a last stand by fanatical Nazis – and where starved Soviet prisoners of war too weak to work were dumped in death camps, some driven to cannibalism. With extracts from the Nuremberg trials of the generals who devastated northern Norway and modern reflections on the mental scars that have passed down generations, this is a journey into the heart of a brutal conflict set in a landscape of intense natural beauty.

Available from:
The History Press

13 December 2014

Omaha Beach Field Guide

The first field guide to the iconic and tragic Omaha Beach. The author, Brigadier General Theodore G. Shuey served under the command of Omaha Beach veterans, including General Cota. Sector by sector (with complete maps), he records the operations, relying upon the testimonies of veterans, as well as studying the battles from a military perspective, in relation to the role played by the German posts.

The book is highly illustrated, with photos from 1944 alongside modern colour photographs of the locations as they are today. This is also supplemented with photos of material and equipment used at the time, some of which has been found in Normandy in recent years. If you are considering visiting Omaha Beach, this book would be a good guide.

Published by Heimdal.

Available from:

The Gentlemen at War: Policing Britain, 1939-45

Very little has been written about the work of the police in the Second World War. The fire service, the wardens, the Home Guard - all have had books devoted to them. But the vital role played by the omnipresent police men and women, has been largely ignored. And yet policing tasks and responsibilities underwent an almost complete change virtually overnight. Draconian new laws were passed; policemen whose beats happened to include a Jewish ghetto found themselves interning some good friends, just because they came from Germany. New organisations were formed (wardens, Home Guard, AFS), many of which had responsibilities that tended to overlap those of the police. No longer did the country bobby have just a little poaching to worry about; he suddenly found a squadron of B17s based on his "patch", with its full complement of attendant US servicemen.

This book examines the changed role of the wartime police force and the effect the War had on the morals and mores of the population. It explores how shortages and rationing affected traditional standards. It reviews how the absence of menfolk and the influx of foreign troops was reflected in changes in moral behaviour, increased prostitution, sexual offences and vice in general. Other matters considered are the variations in crime patterns, the effect of the war on police/public relations and whether the experience fundamentally changed police attitudes and subsequent policing philosophies.

Using both primary sources (the memories of surviving members of the force) and secondary sources (official publications, contemporary books, magazines, etc.), The Gentleman At War successfully conveys the flavour of the period whilst providing an empirical analysis of the philosophy of policing in those uniquely troubled years.

Available from:

2 December 2014

An Englishman in Auschwitz

Leon Greenman was born in London in 1910. His paternal grandparents were Dutch, and at an early age, after the death of his mother, his family moved to Holland, where Leon eventually settled with his wife, Esther, in Rotterdam.

Leon was an antiquarian bookseller, and as such traveled to and from London on a regular basis. In 1938, during one such trip, he noticed people digging trenches in the streets and queuing up for gas masks. He hurried back to Holland with the intention of collecting his wife and return with her to England. The whispers of war were growing louder and louder.

In May 1940, Holland was overrun by the Nazis, by which time Leon and his family had been effectively abandoned by the British Consulate and stranded with neither passports nor money. Eventually, they were deported to Birkenau where Esther and their small son, Barney, were gassed on arrival. Leon was chosen with 49 others for slave labor. This book tells the story of Leon's remarkable survival, of the horrors he saw and endured at Auschwitz, Monowitz and during the Death March to Gleiwitz and Buchenwald camp, where he was eventually liberated.

Leon Greenman died in London in 2008. Read his obituary in The Telegraph.

Available from:
Vallentine Mitchell (currently out of stock)

30 November 2014

Neutral Shores - Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic

From September 1939 until the last days of the war in 1945 Ireland was host to a constant flow of casualties from the Battle of the Atlantic. Ireland's unique location situated near the vital shipping lanes of the Western Approaches placed the country in the immediate conflict zone once the war at sea began with the sinking of the British merchant liner Athenia on 3 September 1939, when 449 survivors landed in Galway city. Neutral Shores follows the story of how many merchant navy ships during the war were attacked and sunk, and their surviving crews left adrift on the hostile Atlantic Ocean in a desperate struggle for survival. For the fortunate ones sanctuary was found along Ireland's rugged Atlantic shores, where the local people took these men from the sea into their homes and cared for them without any consideration of their nationality or allegiances to any of the belligerent nations.

A Tale of Two Tankers
Destination Ventry
Arlington Court
A Bad Winter for Neutrals
The Happy Time
Clan MacPhee and Kelet
Disaster Off Donegal
No Safety for Stragglers
English Navvies in Ireland
Richmond Castle
Empire Breeze
Beginning of the End
Bay of Biscay
Appendix I - Ships sunk through belligerent action that landed survivors in Ireland
Appendix II - Explanation of the Allied convoy code

Available from:
Mercier Press