17 July 2015

Arnhem on the Horizon - The Story of WWII Glider Pilot Sgt Johnny Wetherall

In September 1944, around 1,300 men piloted military gliders from England to the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden. Among them was Sgt Johnny Wetherall, a 19 year old Glider Pilot from Oxford. During the battle which ensued Johnny was wounded and captured, taking him on a journey across war torn Europe.

This true story follows his time training as a Glider Pilot, fighting in the Battle of Arnhem, lingering in prisoner of war camps and his eventual, unconventional journey home to England. It has been pieced together using letters and accounts from Johnny and fellow pilots from his Squadron, and is combined with an overview of wider events of the time to tell the real story of what these men went through.

Available from:
Baverstock & Pasley

21 June 2015

Steiner's War - The Merville Battery

The War years as experienced by a young Austrian who was conscripted from an anti-Nazi family into the German Army in World War Two.

After service on the Eastern front he decides to become an officer to protect his family at home from persecution by the NSDAP. On recovering from a severe wounding he is sent to Normandy and made temporary commander of the Merville gun battery as a second lieutenant aged 24. No more senior replacement arrives and he finds himself in command of the Battery on D-Day, 6th June 1944.

From the 6th June until 17th August 1944 he holds a key position as the foremost German artillery unit commander against British invaders, ably supported by his battery Sergeant Major.

The majority of the story consists of verbatim accounts by German and British servicemen.

During the period 1983-2003 the author, Major Michael Strong, undertook research and display work for the Merville Battery museum in Normandy. This book and "Sid's War" are the outcome. 

Available from:
Amazon

Hitler's Last Army - German POWs in Britain

After the Second World War, 400,000 German servicemen were imprisoned on British soil, some remaining until 1948. These defeated men in their tattered uniforms were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Britain used the prisoners as an essential labour force, especially in agriculture, and in the devastating winter of 1947 the Germans helped avert a national disaster by clearing snow and stemming floods, working shoulder to shoulder with Allied troops.

Slowly, friendships were forged between former enemies. Some POWs fell in love with British women, though such relationships were often frowned upon: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW …!’ Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners, from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended.

Having collected and read numerous books on German POWs in the UK, I can say this is probably the best book on the topic published in the last 20 years. If this is an area of interest, I strongly recommend Robin Quinn's title.
You can find out more and read extracts at http://www.robin-quinn.co.uk/

Available from:
The History Press
400,000 GERMAN TROOPS ON BRITISH SOIL! In 1940, when Adolf Hitler planned to invade Britain, his greatest wish was to read a headline like this. Yet, five years later, there really were 400,000 German servicemen in the UK – not as conquerors but as prisoners of war. They were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners: from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended. ‘Being taken prisoner was for the other side, not us,’ one man remembers. ‘A strange new existence was about to begin,’ another says. ‘We were in a kind of limbo, a vacuum between the old life and whatever the future held.’ Britain used the prisoners to provide essential labour, especially on farms. In time, friendships were forged between former enemies. ‘We met the farmers, we met English people and liked them as human beings,’ says one German ex-soldier. ‘We didn’t want to let the farmers down so we worked hard.’ Some POWs fell in love with British women, although such relationships were often condemned: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW!’ - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/military-history-books/world-war-2-books/hitler-s-last-army-24711.html#sthash.w6vqEpj2.dpuf
400,000 GERMAN TROOPS ON BRITISH SOIL! In 1940, when Adolf Hitler planned to invade Britain, his greatest wish was to read a headline like this. Yet, five years later, there really were 400,000 German servicemen in the UK – not as conquerors but as prisoners of war. They were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners: from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended. ‘Being taken prisoner was for the other side, not us,’ one man remembers. ‘A strange new existence was about to begin,’ another says. ‘We were in a kind of limbo, a vacuum between the old life and whatever the future held.’ Britain used the prisoners to provide essential labour, especially on farms. In time, friendships were forged between former enemies. ‘We met the farmers, we met English people and liked them as human beings,’ says one German ex-soldier. ‘We didn’t want to let the farmers down so we worked hard.’ Some POWs fell in love with British women, although such relationships were often condemned: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW!’ - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/military-history-books/world-war-2-books/hitler-s-last-army-24711.html#sthash.w6vqEpj2.dpuf
400,000 GERMAN TROOPS ON BRITISH SOIL! In 1940, when Adolf Hitler planned to invade Britain, his greatest wish was to read a headline like this. Yet, five years later, there really were 400,000 German servicemen in the UK – not as conquerors but as prisoners of war. They were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners: from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended. ‘Being taken prisoner was for the other side, not us,’ one man remembers. ‘A strange new existence was about to begin,’ another says. ‘We were in a kind of limbo, a vacuum between the old life and whatever the future held.’ Britain used the prisoners to provide essential labour, especially on farms. In time, friendships were forged between former enemies. ‘We met the farmers, we met English people and liked them as human beings,’ says one German ex-soldier. ‘We didn’t want to let the farmers down so we worked hard.’ Some POWs fell in love with British women, although such relationships were often condemned: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW!’ - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/military-history-books/world-war-2-books/hitler-s-last-army-24711.html#sthash.w6vqEpj2.dp
400,000 GERMAN TROOPS ON BRITISH SOIL! In 1940, when Adolf Hitler planned to invade Britain, his greatest wish was to read a headline like this. Yet, five years later, there really were 400,000 German servicemen in the UK – not as conquerors but as prisoners of war. They were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners: from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended. ‘Being taken prisoner was for the other side, not us,’ one man remembers. ‘A strange new existence was about to begin,’ another says. ‘We were in a kind of limbo, a vacuum between the old life and whatever the future held.’ Britain used the prisoners to provide essential labour, especially on farms. In time, friendships were forged between former enemies. ‘We met the farmers, we met English people and liked them as human beings,’ says one German ex-soldier. ‘We didn’t want to let the farmers down so we worked hard.’ Some POWs fell in love with British women, although such relationships were often condemned: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW!’ - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/military-history-books/world-war-2-books/hitler-s-last-army-24711.html#sthash.w6vqEpj2.dpuf
400,000 GERMAN TROOPS ON BRITISH SOIL! In 1940, when Adolf Hitler planned to invade Britain, his greatest wish was to read a headline like this. Yet, five years later, there really were 400,000 German servicemen in the UK – not as conquerors but as prisoners of war. They were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners: from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended. ‘Being taken prisoner was for the other side, not us,’ one man remembers. ‘A strange new existence was about to begin,’ another says. ‘We were in a kind of limbo, a vacuum between the old life and whatever the future held.’ Britain used the prisoners to provide essential labour, especially on farms. In time, friendships were forged between former enemies. ‘We met the farmers, we met English people and liked them as human beings,’ says one German ex-soldier. ‘We didn’t want to let the farmers down so we worked hard.’ Some POWs fell in love with British women, although such relationships were often condemned: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW!’ - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/military-history-books/world-war-2-books/hitler-s-last-army-24711.html#sthash.w6vqEpj2.dpuf
400,000 GERMAN TROOPS ON BRITISH SOIL! In 1940, when Adolf Hitler planned to invade Britain, his greatest wish was to read a headline like this. Yet, five years later, there really were 400,000 German servicemen in the UK – not as conquerors but as prisoners of war. They were, in every sense, Hitler’s Last Army. Using exclusive interviews with former prisoners, as well as extensive archive material, this book looks at the Second World War from a fresh perspective – that of Britain’s German prisoners: from the shock of being captured to their final release long after the war had ended. ‘Being taken prisoner was for the other side, not us,’ one man remembers. ‘A strange new existence was about to begin,’ another says. ‘We were in a kind of limbo, a vacuum between the old life and whatever the future held.’ Britain used the prisoners to provide essential labour, especially on farms. In time, friendships were forged between former enemies. ‘We met the farmers, we met English people and liked them as human beings,’ says one German ex-soldier. ‘We didn’t want to let the farmers down so we worked hard.’ Some POWs fell in love with British women, although such relationships were often condemned: ‘Falling pregnant outside marriage was bad enough – but with a German POW!’ - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/military-history-books/world-war-2-books/hitler-s-last-army-24711.html#sthash.w6vqEpj2.dpuf

3 May 2015

23 Days - A Memoir of 1939

23 Days are the wartime memoirs of Antoni Jozef (Joe) Podolski, written by him some 44 years after the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939.

It records his fight against the invading Russian Army, his subsequent capture, imprisonment and brutal interrogation before being sentenced to death and spending 23 days on death row in a prison in the town of Orsha, Russia.

A reprieve condemned him to the Vorkuta Gulag in the Arctic Ural Mountains. His subsequent escape to England via Finland is described followed by details of his return to Europe through Lithuania as a member of SOE. Finally a reunion with Polish Forces in the Middle East was made possible after the Nazi invasion of Russia caused the Soviets to become an uneasy ally of Poland.

He returned to England once more and became a fighter pilot with the Polish Air Force at the tail end of hostilities, all by the ripe old age of 22.

He died in Norfolk in 1999 aged 76.

Read more about Joe's experiences, including free extracts here

Available from:

30 April 2015

Stretchers Not Available - The Wartime Story of Dr Jim Rickett

Jim Rickett was a family doctor in 1940. He was called up in 1943 and was working in Italy in early 1944 when he received an urgent posting to join the commandos. They were working with the SOE (Special Operations Executive) on the island of Vis. Occupation of the island gave control of the Adriatic and Hitler's European supply lines.

His job was to set up a hospital to deal with the wounded brought back from raids on the nearby islands under enemy occupation. He had to get out there immediately and was told the supplies from Italy would be very difficult. There were no evacuation facilities. A German attack was imminent. The island was to be held at all costs. At the outset he had nothing. He had to set up a makeshift hospital from scratch. Initially he had to operate with a kerosene lamp for light. Later they managed to get wiring from a crashed Liberator plane and set up electricity using an old diesel generator. They bartered and stole to get the unit operational. A hospital clinic on the German occupied mainland was raided to acquire an X-ray machine.

 The story is modesty told at first hand and shows the incredible initiative and resilience of the team. When a heavy influx of casualties was expected from a commando raid, Jim Rickett wired to Italy for two hundred stretchers. The unhelpful reply came back “Stretchers not – repeat not – available. To what use would they be put?” Despite the setback, they managed to get a hospital facility running and operational by working continuously for days on end. The small unit became highly effective, provided some light-hearted moments, and became the social centre of the island.

What was family doctoring like prior to the NHS? Told as a first-hand account Jim Rickett’s diary builds a cameo picture of the community under the intense stress of the 1940/41 Blitz. His GP practice was near Portsmouth which was heavily bombed. Much of his work is now unthinkable. A caesarean operation had to be done on the dining-room table. The story tells vividly of the severe bombing at the time of the “Fire Blitz” on Portsmouth in January and in April 1941. This was one of the most severe raids of the blitz. It is an incredible archive of that time.

Available from:
Authorhouse

4 February 2015

Coastal Command's Air War Against the German U-Boat - Images of War

This book is a new addition to the Images of War series, and summarizes the story of how RAF Coastal Command overcame the German U-boat danger during the Second World War. It explores how the escalation of the U-boat war promoted the development of anti-submarine warfare, leading to victory over this menace in the Atlantic.

At the start of the war, RAF Coastal Command had virtually no real chance of either finding or sinking Germany's submarines, but within a short period of time, new methods of detecting and delivering deadly ordnance with which to sink this underwater threat were dreamt up and implemented.

It took the men of Coastal Command long hours patrolling over an often hostile sea, in all types of weather, but their diligence, perseverance and dedication won through, saving countless lives of both merchant and navy seamen out in the cold wastes of the Atlantic and contributing much to the final victory over Nazi Germany.

As expected, the book is packed with photos of both Coastal Command, but also of their targets, the U-Boats of the Kriegsmarine. It is a good introduction to the experiences of Coastal Command during this period and it would be interesting to find out about the sources of the photos included (this isn't listed in the text).

Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 - The Cinderella Service
Chapter 2 - No. 19 Group Over the Bay in 1942
Chapter 3 - No. 15 Group - and Iceland, 1942
Chapter 4 - Air Headquarters Gibraltar, 1939-42
Chapter 5 - No. 15 Group, 1943
Chapter 6 - Iceland, 1943
Chapter 7 - Conflict over the Bay, 1943
Chapter 8 -  D-Day and the Final Months

Available from:
Pen and Sword

Stout Hearts - The British and Canadians in Normandy 1944

Stout Hearts is a book which offers an entirely new perspective on the British Army in Normandy. This fresh study explores the anatomy of war through the Army's operations in the summer of 1944, informing and entertaining the general non-fiction reader as well as students of military history.

There have been so many books written on Normandy that the publication of another one might appear superfluous. However most books have focused on narrating the conduct of the battle, describing the factors that influenced its outcome, or debating the relative merits of the armies and their generals. What was missing from the existing body of work on Normandy specifically and the Second World War generally is a book that explains how an army actually operates in war and what it was like for those involved, Stout Hearts fills this gap.

Stout Hearts is essential reading for those who wish to understand the ‘mechanics’ of battle. How does an Army care for its wounded? How do combat engineers cross obstacles? How do tanks fight? How do Air and Naval Forces support the Army? But to understand what makes an Army ‘tick’ you must also understand its people. Therefore explanations of tactics and techniques are not only well illustrated with excellent photographs and high quality maps but also effectively combined with relevant accounts from the combatants themselves. These dramatic stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things are the strength of the book, bringing the campaign to life and entertaining the reader.

Ben Kite provides the reader with an excellent insight into the details of how each separate part of the British and Canadian Armies in Normandy worked. I have read many books on this campaign, and this really does offer something new to the reader - an excellent combination of first hand accounts and operational details.

The table of contents shows the breadth of coverage:

Introduction and Campaign Overview
'Closing With The Enemy' - The Infantry
'Neptune's Trident' - Naval Support
'First In, Last Out' - Engineers
'Queen of the Battlefield' - Artillery
'By Air to Battle' - Air Power and Air Support
'Knowledge Gives Strength to Arms' - Intelligence and Reconnaissance
'Penetrating the Fog' - Command and Control
'Faithful in Adversity' - Medical Services
'Grim Summer' - Life in Normandy 1944
'From Mud, Through Blood To The Green Fields Beyond' - Armour
'Our Greatest Generation'

Appendices
A Order of Battle for 21st Army Group
B Allied Naval Forces in Operation Neptune
C Allied Air Forces
D Divisional Organisation
E Tanks - Armour, Speed and Weight
F Tanks and Anti-Tank Guns - Performance Against Armour
G Mortar and Artillery Capabilities
H VIII Corps Fire Plan for Operation Bluecoat
I 51st Highland Division Intelligence Summary No. 200
J 5th Camerons Operation Order No. 3 for Operation Totalize

Bibliography (12 pages!)

Available from:
Casemate