30 August 2016

G.I. Limey - A Welsh American's Second World War

GI Limey is a rags to riches tale of triumph over adversary, a real-life Boy’s Own adventure, laced with friendships forged in the heat of battle that only a soldier can truly understand. It in no way glorifies war with its shockingly honest description of combat, at times brutal to read, you are left in no doubt how death and destruction can haunt a soldier for the rest of their life.
Born in 1923 Clifford Guard’s childhood, in the south Wales town of Swansea, was filled with struggle, hardship and heartbreak as the Great Depression began to bite. He sees death from the beginning, as his infant sister dies in the workhouse having contracted diphtheria, before his younger disabled brother is taken into care and his parents divorce. On leaving school at 14, barely able to read or write, he seeks a way out of the squalor through running away to sea.
His eyes are opened to the world as he visits far off places in Canada, Africa, South America and Australia. When war breaks out he participates in the perilous Atlantic convoys before leaving his ship in New York, on hearing of the blitzing of his home town, to take the shortest route closer to the action through joining the American Army. In basic training Limey, as Clifford becomes known to one and all, meets Henry ‘The Greek’ Kallas and Ralph ‘Trixie’ Trinkley; together they become a band of brothers watching each other’s back and sharing lighter moments through the course of the war together.
After landing on Omaha beach, following D Day, they spend the next eleven months at the forefront of some of most fearsome fighting of the war as the German Army is beaten back across northern Europe and into its Homeland. Gripping first hand accounts of disabling tanks, house to house fighting, civilian suicide, facing fire from fanatical Hitler Youths, every aspect of the death, destruction and slaughter of war is recalled, not least the shock of liberating a death camp and uncovering appalling crimes against humanity.
Following the joy of the German surrender, celebrated alongside Russian women tank drivers on the banks of the Elbe River, Limey shows his humanity by helping feed the starving villages while serving in the Army of Occupation.
Following his release he settles in the United States and chases the American Dream but is to be forever haunted by all the killing he had both witnessed and carried out. Determined to turn things around he goes back to school and becomes a psychologist in order to better understand what we now recognise as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Having raised a family and enjoyed a successful career he retires back to his Swansea home. Last summer that one-time snotty-nosed kid, with a sock hanging out a hole in his shoe, was summoned to meet the Queen in Buckingham Palace to talk about his exploits.
Despite being 90-years-old Limey, who still has nightmares about the war, has one final mission… to share his story with the world in order to help ensure today’s servicemen and women are better supported following combat.
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14 August 2016

The Noise of Battle - The British Army and the Last Breakthrough Battle West of the Rhine, February-March 1945

Half of the book is a detailed description, mainly told in the words of participants, of three battles fought over four days in the Rhineland south of Goch between 27 February and March 2 1945. The battles were between 3rd Division supported by 6 Guards Armoured Brigade, and 8. Fallschirmjäger Division. For the first time the combined actions of over 50,000 men during 96 hours have been analysed from the ground up in an unprecedented attempt to provide understanding of a significant military event. 3 Scots Guards said of Winnekendonk, "It is suggested that this will surely rank as one of the finest small scale tank/infantry battles ever executed and well worthy of more close study." The fighting was bloody and heroic, and some controversial aspects are explained for the first time.

The other half of the book is an analysis of the units and people involved in the two divisions and their supporting armour and aviation. An answer is provided as to why only two months before the end of hostilities, 21 Army Group could manage only quite slow and costly progress. The answer comes from the analysis, and is tested through comparison with the contemporary Canadian Operation Blockbuster, and with two battles in the Hitler Line. Evidence is provided that there is no truth to recent claims that Montgomery's generalship was efficient and saved lives. Instead, it is shown that the military hierarchy, including Churchill, ignored the all-arms operational methodology under unitary command which Sir John Monash had developed to bring victory in 1918. In the Second World War, by contrast, the Royal Armoured Corps and 2 TAF never integrated with the infantry and artillery, and were never suitably equipped, being bound to the cultic pursuit of mobility. General Elles required that the Infantry Tank be immune to all German anti-tank guns, and his Matilda II was a major reason for the deliverance from Dunkirk and for the success of Operation Compass in North Africa. Compared with the Hundred Days of 1918, the author suggests that the British Armed forces in 1945 were relatively less efficient in all respects except that of killing German civilians in area bombing. This book's fully documented and researched conclusions provide a new and controversial interpretation of 21 Army Group.

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9 August 2016

Retreat and Rearguard - Dunkirk 1940

The miraculous salvation of the vast majority of the beleaguered and out-manoeuvred British Expeditionary Force and a large number of French troops from northern France in late May and early June 1940 remains a source of fascination to laymen and military historians. An ideal subject for Jerry Murland's Retreat and Rearguard series, Dunkirk 1940 covers the dramatic actions during the desperate fighting withdrawal from the Dyle Line to the evacuation points of Dunkirk, Boulogne, Calais and Dieppe.

As well as drawing together several lesser known accounts describing the engagements at Cassel, Arras and the Bergues-Furnes Canal, the author has unearthed numerous previously unpublished sources describing the myriad of rearguard actions that the BEF undertook during their retreat to the Channel coast.

It is through these personal accounts of the fighting that the true nature of those dark days of 1940 are revealed. In relating those often heroic battles and tragedies such as the Le Paradis Massacre and the defence of St Venant, Retreat and Rearguard - Dunkirk 1940 catches the atmosphere of desperate defiance that typified this never-to-be-forgotten period.

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Pen and Sword

8 August 2016

Missing Presumed Drowned

On 10 June 1940, Italians living in Britain learnt the news they had been fearing the most. Ten months into the Second World War, Mussolini’s Italy had entered the conflict on the side of Hitler’s Germany and declared war on Britain.

Overnight, Italians resident in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland became enemy aliens. In London, Leeds, Cardiff and Glasgow, Italian shops, cafés and restaurants were smashed and looted. The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was swift to act against the new potential threat from within and issued the order to arrest without charge and detain without trial every Italian man resident in Britain.

For thousands of first- and second-generation Italian men, this began an episode in their lives when they would languish for years in internment camps in the Isle of Man, Canada and Australia, until the end of the war. For hundreds it would be the start of a chain of events that would see them ‘missing presumed drowned’ after their transport ship, the Arandora Star, was sunk by enemy torpedo in the Atlantic Ocean while en route to internment camps in Canada. Stefano Paolini tells their story.

For more information on the Arandora Star, see the Colonsay site.

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2 August 2016

Churchill's Volunteer - A Parachute Corporals Story

Reg Curtis joined the Grenadier Guards in 1937. He had originally thought that he would spend four years with the Colours before fulfilling his ambition to serve in the City of London Police. This was not to be, and soon after the outbreak of war he found himself serving in perilous forward positions of the Maginot Line.

After a footslog across France and Belgium he came back to England via Dunkirk. It was then that he volunteered for the Para Commando, and after many experimental parachute drops and a vigorous course to toughen up the body and sharpen the thinking, he was successively dropped into North Africa, Italy, Sicily and finally Arnhem in Holland.

'Churchill's Volunteer' is an account of the author's experiences. His many valiant comrades of all ranks vividly come to life in these pages, and the book is a hearty celebration of them all, both living and dead.

Table of contents
Chapter I - Two Bob a Day Rookie
Chapter II - The Waiting Game, Then Catastrophe
Chapter III - A Volunteer for No. 2 Commando and 11th Special Air Service
Chapter IV - Unorthodox Methods of Training
Chapter V - Test of 1st Para Battalion in North Africa
Chapter VI - Slaughter of 1st Para Battalion at Djebel Mansour
Chapter VII - The End is Near in Happy Valley
Chapter VIII - Interlude Prior to 1st Para Battalion Assault in Sicily
Chapter IX - Preparation for the Last Battle
Chapter X - Action Stations and Away
Chapter XI - Six Days at the Tafelberg Hotel
Chapter XII - A German General Inspects
Chapter XIII - Destination Stalag IIB, via Apeldoorn
Chapter XIV - The Best Kept Secret of WWII

Reg died in February 2012 - Obituary

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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’.

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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 

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