13 July 2017

Beachhead Assault - The Story of the Royal Naval Commandos in World War II

The Royal Naval Commandos had one of the most dangerous and the most important tasks of any in World War II - they were first on to the invasion beaches and they were the last to leave.

Formed in 1941 as the Royal Naval Beach Parties, many lost their lives in the Dieppe raid. After Dieppe they became fully fledged fighting Commandos with their legendary Fairbairn Sykes commando knives, organised into units from A Commando through to the all Canadian W Commando.

Under their officers who were designated as Beachmasters, the Royal Naval Commandos led the way in on the beaches as part of the Allied landings in Madagascar, Dieppe, North Africa, Pantelleria, Sicily, Salerno, the Volturno River, Anzio, Arakan, D Day, Elba, Walcheren and Commachio. Their work on the beaches was crucial to the success of the Allied invasions.

After the War the Royal Naval Commandos were disbanded and forgotten. Their wartime role was given to the Royal Marines. But now through the personal accounts of many of the Royal Naval Commandos themselves this book tells their remarkable story. It is a story which covers their beginnings early in the War and their training, both at their base HMS Armadillo at Ardentinny in Scotland and the famous Achnacarry Commando training school, through to the invasions where they led the way in.

Beachhead Assault includes a Foreword by Man and Boy author Tony Parsons, whose father was a Royal Naval Commando who fought at Elba. It also contains a preface by Ken Oakley, Chairman of the Royal Naval Commando Association.

Available from:
Frontline Books

11 July 2017

295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company Audio Book

The 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (FA) was a Field Army company of the United States Army from April 16, 1943, until January 1, 1946. Serving under the First, Second, Third, Seventh, and Ninth Army divisions, the company participated in the liberation of Europe during World War II.

Mike Rockett's grandfather, James T. Rockett, served with the Company, and he has created an audiobook which details the history of the Company, and their service.

Information on the 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company can be found on Mike's site - www.295th.com, including interviews with some members and a number of photos. A summary of their service can be found here:

1 Training
1.1 Camp Sutton
1.2 Camp Toccoa
1.3 Camp Campbell
1.4 Tennessee Maneuvers
1.5 Camp Forrest
1.6 Fort McPherson
1.7 Camp Gordon
1.8 Fort Jackson
1.9 Camp Kilmer
2 Battle Operations
2.1 Port of Embarkation
2.2 Liverpool, England
2.3 Wem
2.4 Ninth Army
2.5 Weymouth
2.6 Le Havre, France
2.7 Camp Twenty Grand
2.8 Vis, Belgium
2.9 Maastricht, Holland
2.10 Tegelen, Holland
2.11 Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany
2.12 Sterkrade, Germany
2.13 Detmold, Germany
Occupation in Post-War Europe
3.1 Ammendorf, Germany
3.2 Gotha, Germany
3.3 Karlsfeld, Germany

The audio book contains the full narrated story of the Company, and contains many additional details not featured on the website.

Available to download from:
Amazon

7 July 2017

Cassel and Hazebrouck 1940: France and Flanders Campaign

This is the first detailed account of the rearguard action that took place between 25 and 29 May 1940 at Cassel and Hazebrouck on the western perimeter of the Dunkirk Corridor.

By 25 May the decision to evacuate the BEF via Dunkirk had already been taken, Lord Gort, commanding the BEF in France, had given instructions to Lieutenant General Sir Ronald Adam to relinquish his command of III Corps and prepare a perimeter of defence around Dunkirk. As part of the western defensive line of the Dunkirk Corridor, 145 Brigade were deployed to Cassel and Hazebrouck with the instructions to hold the two towns until the last man.

Under the command of Brigadier Nigel Somerset, the brigade occupied Hazebrouck with the infantry of 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion and Cassel with the 4/Ox and Bucks Light Infantry together with the regulars of the 2nd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. Attached to Somerset s meagre force was a number of units that had previously been part of two of Gort s ad hoc formations - Macforce and Woodforce, and it was with these men that the two towns were fortified against the advancing German armoured divisions.

While Hazebrouck was overwhelmed very quickly, the hilltop town of Cassel held out for much longer with German forces failing to consolidate any penetration of the perimeter. The book looks closely at the deployment of units in both towns and focuses on the individuals involved in the defence and the subsequent break-out, which ended in capture or death for so many.

There are two car tours that explore the surrounding area of Cassel and the deployment of platoons within Hazebrouck. These are supplemented by two walking tours, one in Cassel itself and the second further to the west of the town around the area controlled by B and D Companies of the 2nd Gloucesters. The book is illustrated with ten maps and over 100 modern and contemporary photographs.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

28 June 2017

Paras - Voices of the British Airborne Forces in the Second World War

This book is full of untold short stories of men who created a legend, the legend of the British airborne forces during the Second World War.

Impressed by the performance of the German paratroopers in Belgium and the Netherlands in 1940, and on Crete in 1941, Winston Churchill ordered the creation of a British Airborne force of no less than 5,000 parachutists. Their task was to land behind enemy lines and take and hold or destroy key objectives while ground troops advanced toward them. The result was the 1st and 6th Airborne divisions, and this is their story, as told by the men themselves.

Covering everything from the initial training at Hardwick Hall and Ringway through their first operations in North Africa and Italy, to D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine, this is a compelling account of the war fought by the paratroopers and their comrades in the glider units.

Contents:
  • The British Airborne Forms
  • Hardwick Hall: The Selection Process Begins
  • Ringway: The Parachute School
  • The Glider Pilot Regiment
  • Tunisia, Sicily and Italy
  • Normandy: 6 June 1944
  • Arnhem: 17 September 1944
  • Over the Rhine and Walking to the Baltic

Available from:
Amberley Publishing

26 June 2017

'Evans Above... The Life and Times of an Army Chaplain 1942-81

'Evans Above tells the story of the Reverend Walter Evans' service as an Army Chaplain from 1942 to 1981, with a break after World War 2 as a Rector of a parish in Gloucestershire when he was a TA Chaplain.

He had an unusual variety of postings, and was in North Africa and Italy from January 1943 until the end of the War. This included a spell with the Jewish Infantry Brigade Group in Italy, Belgium and Holland in 1945, ministering to the 20% non-Jewish elements within it. He was the only Church of England Chaplain who served with them. He also served with the 184 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in the UK (1942/43), 79 (Herts Yeomanry) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery in North Africa and Italy (1943/45) and the 56 Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery in Italy (1945).

When the war was over he saw service in Belgium, Holland, Germany (twice), and many locations across the UK. His last uniformed posting was to the SAS at Hereford. He was re-employed after leaving the Army proper as Chaplain to The Royal Hospital Chelsea, for nearly ten years.He was Mentioned-in-Despatches in Italy, and again a decade later in Kenya. He was made an MBE (Military) in 1966.

Available from:
Amazon (Out of Print)

13 June 2017

Air Battle of Malta - Aircraft Losses and Crash Sites, 1940 - 1942

In the Second World War, Malta was subjected to continual air attacks during a siege lasting nearly two and a half years.

This is part of that story, from the early days in June 1940, when only a few Gladiator biplanes were available to combat Italian bombers and fighters, to the intervention of the Luftwaffe and the tenuous defence by outclassed Hurricanes, culminating in the desperate months of fighting following the arrival on Malta of the first Spitfires in March 1942.

Of more than 1,000 aircraft destroyed during the battle, many fell into the Mediterranean or were written off in landing, and at least 200 crashed among the Maltese Islands.

This book documents all known aircraft crashes that occurred in and around Malta and Gozo during 1940-42, describing in detail the circumstances of each loss and what became of the pilot or crew, including some who even today are officially listed as missing.The immediacy of eyewitness accounts from both sides provide a fascinating perspective of an epic battle - much of the material is previously unpublished, not least the narratives by those who were there.

Available from:
Greenhill Books

10 June 2017

Too Young to Die - Canada's Boy Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in the Second World War

John Boileau and Dan Black tell the stories of some of the 30,000 underage youths - some as young as fourteen - who joined the Canadian Armed Forces in the Second World War. This is the companion volume to the authors' popular 2013 book Old Enough to Fight about boy soldiers in the First World War. Like their predecessors a generation before, these boys managed to enlist despite their youth. Most went on to face action overseas in what would become the deadliest military conflict in human history.

They enlisted for a myriad of personal reasons -- ranging from the appeal of earning regular pay after the unemployment and poverty of the Depression to the desire to avenge the death of a brother or father killed overseas. Canada's boy soldiers, sailors and airmen saw themselves contributing to the war effort in a visible, meaningful way, even when that meant taking on very adult risks and dangers of combat.

Meticulously researched and extensively illustrated with photographs, personal documents and specially commissioned maps, Too Young to Die provides a touching and fascinating perspective on the Canadian experience in the Second World War.

Among the individuals whose stories are told:
  • Ken Ewing, at age sixteen taken prisoner at Hong Kong and then a teenager in a Japanese prisoner of war camp
  • Ralph Frayne, so determined to fight that he enlisted in the army, navy and Merchant Navy all before the age of seventeen
  • Robert Boulanger, at age eighteen the youngest Canadian to die on the Dieppe beaches
Available from:
Lorimer
Casemate (UK)