28 July 2016

The 1st Household Cavalry 1943-44: in the Shadow of Monte Amaro

The mettle of the famous First Household Cavalry Regiment was tested to the maximum in action in the mountains of Italy in 1943–44. This book explores a largely undervalued and forgotten part of a costly and complex struggle. We directly experience what it was like to be there through the words of those who were.

In late 1943 1st HCR was sent to Syria to patrol the Turko-Syrian border, it being feared that Turkey would join the Axis powers. In April 1944, 1st HCR was shipped to Italy. The Italian campaign was at that time well underway. During the summer of 1944, 1st HCR were in action near Arezzo and in the advance to Florence in a reconnaissance role, probing enemy positions, patrolling constantly. The Regiment finally took part in dismounted actions in the Gothic Line – the German defensive system in Northern Italy.

Based upon interviews with the few survivors still with us and several unpublished diaries, there are many revelations that will entertain – and some that will shock. The 1st Household Cavalry 1943–44 is published on the 70th anniversary of the actions described, as a tribute to the fighting force made up from the two most senior regiments of the British Army and, in the words of His Grace the Duke of Wellington who has kindly provided the foreword, ‘to gain insight into why such a war should never be fought again’.

Available from:
The History Press

18 July 2016

You Never Know Your Luck - Battle of Britain to the Great Escape: The Extraordinary Life of Keith 'Skeets' Ogilvie DFC

When the Royal Canadian Air Force wouldn't accept him as a pilot in the summer of 1939, Keith ‘Skeets' Ogilvie walked across the street in Ottawa and joined the Royal Air Force. A week later he was on a boat to England and a future he could not have imagined.

Some unusual luck won him a transfer as a Spitfire pilot to No. 609 (White Rose) Squadron, just as the Battle of Britain was being joined. Over the next months he firmly established his credentials with six confirmed victories and two probables, along with several enemy aircraft damaged. Shot down over France the following July, he was fortunate to be treated for grievous injuries by top German surgeons. Skeets' home for the balance of the war was Stalag Luft III prison camp. He was the second last man out of the ‘Great Escape' tunnel but was recaptured three days later. For reasons he never understood, Skeets was one of 23 escapees who were spared from being murdered by the Gestapo. 50 of his fellows were not so lucky.

In London on a night off from flying duties, Skeets had been introduced to a fellow Canadian expatriate, Irene Lockwood. While he was testing the limits of his luck, his future wife was experiencing her own adventures in London, living through the daily stress of the Luftwaffe bombing campaign and working with MI12, and later as a wartime photographer with the RCAF.

You Never Know Your Luck is the story of two modest people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and who rose to the occasion like so many of their contemporaries. Skeets' and Irene's own words and memories are the foundations on which the experience of wartime unfolds. A unique perspective from individuals who never failed to wonder at their own fortune.

Battle of Britain London Monument - further information on P/O  Keith Ogilvie 

Available from:
Casemate

17 July 2016

A Spitfire Pilot's Story - Pat Hughes: Battle of Britain Top Gun



Pat Hughes is today perhaps the greatest unsung hero of the Battle of Britain. Ranked sixth in the ‘ace of aces’ of the aerial campaign of summer 1940, he shot down at least fourteen enemy aircraft, mostly the Spitfire’s closely matched rival the Messerschmitt Me 109.

As a flight commander in 234 Squadron he advocated bold, close-in tactics and during July 1940 scored the squadron’s first victories of the epic battle for air supremacy. The burden of command fell on his shoulders before the squadron transferred to the heart of the Battle in the south-east of England, where he endured the heaviest and most sustained period of fighting of the Battle of Britain.

Revered by his fellow pilots, Hughes began a shooting spree on 15 August that only ended when he was killed during the first huge daylight attack on London on 7 September. In his last three days alone he contributed at least six kills. His death in mysterious circumstances left Kathleen, his bride of just six weeks, a war widow. This volume is illustrated with over forty photographs, including many from his family that have never before been published.


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30 June 2016

Lucie Aubrac: The French Resistance Heroine Who Outwitted the Gestapo

In May 1943, a young Frenchwoman called Lucie Aubrac engineered the escape of her husband, Raymond, from the clutches of Klaus Barbie, the feared Gestapo chief later known as the "Butcher of Lyon."  When Raymond was arrested again that June, Lucie mounted a second astonishing rescue, ambushing the prison van that was transporting him. As a founding member and leader of the important French Resistance group Liberation-Sud, Lucie served as a courier, arms carrier, and saboteur who engineered these and other escape plans on behalf of her husband and other Resistance fighters.

Spirited out of France with Raymond by the RAF, Lucie arrived in London a heroine. For the postwar generation the couple embodied the spirit of "the real France": the one that resisted, and eventually expelled the Nazis. However, in 1983, Klaus Barbie made the bombshell claim that the Aubracs had become informers in 1943, betraying their comrades. The French press and the couple themselves furiously denounced this as slander, but as worrying inconsistencies were spotted in Lucie's story, doubts emerged that have never quite gone away. Who was Lucie Aubrac? What did she really do in 1943? And was she truly the spirit of la vraie France, or a woman who could not resist casting herself as a heroine? Siân Rees' penetrating, even-handed account draws from letters, newspaper articles, and other archival materials, as well as several interviews, to decipher the truth behind Lucie and her husband's wartime endeavors and near fall from grace. It offers a portrait of a brave, resourceful woman who went to extraordinary lengths for love and country. 

Read The Guardian Obituary of Lucie Aubrac (1912 - 2007)

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Chicago Review Press

28 June 2016

The Faustball Tunnel: German POWs in America and Their Great Escape

On December 23, 1944, twenty-five German prisoners of war broke out of an Arizona prison camp not far from the Mexican border by crawling along a 178-foot tunnel. By Christmas day, they were looking for ways to reach Mexico and Axis sympathizers who would help them. Drawing on extensive interviews with the escapees and formerly classified documents, John Hammond Moore tells their incredible story―one of the few untold dramas of the war.

Many of the men imprisoned at the Papago Park camp were among the Nazis' toughest and smartest U-boat commanders and their crews. Expecting trouble, their American guards marveled at how well the men adjusted to camp life. Spirits were high and the compound neatly raked several times each day. But the guards failed to realize the men were digging a tunnel right under their eyes. They hid their activity by building a volleyball (faustball) field. Twenty-five escapees used makeshift tools and coal shovels issued them by the camp to hack through the rocky soil. Once free, they disguised themselves as merchant seamen, consular officials, and workers armed with false identification papers. The men lasted six weeks on the outside before being recaptured. Their breakout, told here is breathtaking detail, remains the most sensational mass escape ever to take place from a POW camp on American soil.

Available from:
Amazon

6 June 2016

The Second World War Through Soldiers' Eyes - British Army Life 1939-1945

What was it really like to serve in the British Army during the Second World War?
Discover a soldier's view of life in the British Army – from recruitment and training to the brutal realities of combat. Using first-hand sources, James Goulty reconstructs the experiences of the men and women who made up the 'citizen's army'. Find out about the weapons and equipment they used; the uniforms they wore; how they adjusted to army discipline and faced the challenges of active service overseas.

What happened when things went wrong? What were your chances of survival if you were injured in combat or taken prisoner? While they didn't go into combat, thousands of women also served in the British Army with the ATS or as nurses. What were their wartime lives like? And, when the war had finally ended, how did newly demobilised soldiers and servicewomen cope with returning home?

The British Army that emerged victorious in 1945 was vastly different from the poorly funded force of 865,000 men who heard Neville Chamberlain declare war in 1939. With an influx of civilian volunteers and conscripts, the army became a ‘citizen’s force’ and its character and size were transformed. By D-Day Britain had a well-equipped, disciplined army of over three million men and women and during the war they served in a diverse range of places across the world. This book uncovers some of their stories and gives a fascinating insight into the realities of army life in wartime.

James Goulty has utilised personal testimonies from the Imperial War Museum, Northumberland Archives and interviews he has carried out himself, combined with memoirs, diaries and written accounts from numerous archives including Durham County Records Office, Lincolnshire Archives, Tyne & Wear Archives to ensure first hand testimony in central to The Second World War Through Soldiers' Eyes.

Table of Contents
  • Call Up and Training
  • Life on Active Service
  • Enduring Active Service
  • Prisoner of War Experiences
  • Casualties and Medical Matters
  • The Aftermath c. 1945-46
  • Bibliography
Available from:
Pen & Sword

27 May 2016

Raiders from the Sea

The Special Boat Service was a small force during the Second World War, never more than about 300 men. But that did not stop it from inflicting great damage on the enemy. In the Mediterranean and in the Aegean, which the German controlled after the fall of Greece and Crete, this small commando force kept up a constant campaign of harassment, this pinning down enemy forces and preventing their joining other fronts.

They traveled at night to their targets, using submarines, small surface vessels or canoes, with the commanders of vessels often putting themselves in danger in order to help the men carry out their dangerous and secret missions. They were reliant on the co-operation of the fiercely independent Greeks and in particular the Cretans, all working together in their common objective against the German invaders.

John Lodwick took part in the SBS Mediterranean campaign, and writes from personal experience. For it is more than the story of daring exploits and wartime sabotage. It is above all the story of the remarkable men who made up the force: men such as Anders Lassen, 'the Dreadful Dane' who was awarded a posthumous VC, Fitzroy Maclean, Eric Newby, Jock Lapraik, and Lord Jellicoe, who commanded the squadron for almost two years and who contributed a foreword to the 1990 edition of the book.

Individualistic in themselves, together the men of the Special Boat Service formed a deadly, cohesive fighting force which contributed much to the war in the Mediterranean and to whom John Lodwick's book is a tribute.

Available from:
Amazon