11 November 2011

Rossano - Valley in Flames - An adventure of the Italian Resistance

In July 1942, Major Gordon Lett was taken prisoner at the fall of Tobruk. After fourteen months in the notorious prison camps at Bari and Chieti, he escaped at the Armistice of September 1943 from the camp at Veano and took to the mountains above the Cisa Pass. Rather than return to England, he founded and led an entirely non-political band of highly-successful partisans, the Battaglione Internazionale.

The group fought and harassed the Brigate Nere and the Germans along the Magra valley from North of Pontremoli to La Spezia for 18 months. They were so influential to the success of the Allied advance that permanent lines of communication with the Allies were established, supplies dropped by air and, later, SAS troops sent in to assist the Brigade. 500 Allied troops escaped to safety via Rossano.

In the first few months of peace, Lett became a liaison officer of No 1 Special Force, SOE and twice crossed the lines. He was the first Allied officer to enter La Spezia in April 1945, together with the partisans. He was awarded the DSO for his services and received the Medaglia Argento al valor militaire from the Italian government. Today there is still a strong bond between many of those mentioned in the book and the Lett family. This edition of the work includes a foreword by Freya Stark.

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Pen & Sword Books

Mudville Heights: Memoirs of the US Navy Anti-submarine Squadrons at RAF Dunkeswell, Devon During WW2

The Battle for the Atlantic proved to be one of the most important strategies of WW2. U-boats were sinking allied shipping at an alarming rate and with such appalling loss of life. In order to combat those losses RAF Coastal Command began to set up and operate a number of anti-submarine squadrons, and for once the tables began to turn on the German Navy.

Strikes on U-boats out in the North Atlantic and Bay of Biscay continued for nigh on 3 years, but despite the tables being turned, tons of merchant ships still fell prey to U-boats and the RAF seemed destined to battle on alone, then in 1943 the USAAF set up a land based anti-sub unit at St.Eval, Cornwall which was operated for several months with B-24 Liberators, before switching to a new airfield at Dunkeswell in Devon on 6th August.

Despite the success of the USAAF, Dunkeswell was destined for change once again when in September squadrons of the US Navy Fleet Air Wing Seven began to arrive, and would remain here until the end of WW2 flying the Navy version of the B-24 Liberator the PB4Y-1 .

On arrival it was soon realised that conditions on the base were far from adequate, with roads and paths around the living quarters just a sea of `mud` the men had to wear knee high boots just to trek across to the wash rooms, and it was those conditions combined with harsh winter elements that prompted someone to nick-name the base "Mudville Heights" and from then on, as one crew member put it "The name just kinda stuck!".

In this new book, the author tells the fascinating story of Dunkeswell as an airfield in WW2, with first hand accounts from the men who served there. Stories of a dedicated bunch of young Naval Aviators destined to fight it out with the dreaded U-boat menace above the icy depths of the North Atlantic & Bay of Biscay, flying their PB4Y-1 Liberators laden with high octane fuel and high explosives, through appalling weather and hostile conditions, enduring patrols of anything up to 16 hours in order to bring freedom to our nation.

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6 November 2011

Come Back To Portofino - Through Italy with the 6th South African Armoured Division

Using archival sources and private documents recently unearthed, Come Back to Portofino chronicles the journey taken by volunteers in the 6th South African Armoured Division. From training camps in Egypt through to the summer of 1945 the ‘Div’ left its mark on towns and villages across Italy. From Monte Cassino to the outskirts of Venice and the River Po, the
campaign lasted exactly twelve months.

During the advance through Rome up to Florence, it was a case of constant movement and violent contact with the enemy. Experiences which left an enduring impression on returned soldiers included the periods of rest at Siena and Lucca as well as the four miserable winter months in the northern Apennines. Overall, the casualty rate was surprisingly low considering the ideal ambush country and mountain defences which had to be overcome. In the rifle companies however, the rate of attrition was high and replacements were few. Among the South Africans who are buried in Italy, there are those who died in vehicle accidents, from drowning and falling out of windows or from suicide. For the ordinary soldier the most important part of everyday life was contact with home or foraging for food and wine, and even enjoying the company of signorine when operations permitted.

Nevertheless, it was not one long happy camping trip as was often portrayed in the press. The
cast is made up of the famous regiments and ordinary South Africans who participated in these
epic events.

Authored by James Bourhill, this new title adds a rarely heard perspective to the campaign in Italy.

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