31 January 2015

HMS Beverley - A "Town Afloat" and The Town Ashore 1940-1943

HMS Beverley - A "Town Afloat" and The Town Ashore 1940-1943 is a unique account of a "town" class destroyer and the East Yorkshire town she was named after.

When, in 1940, the Royal Navy accepted fifty aging American warships, Councillor Burden, the Mayor of Beverley, wrote to the First Lord of the Admiralty requesting him to name one of the ships after the town. He agreed, and from that day on the people of Beverley adopted the ship and took a considerable interest in her exploits.

This book connects the activities of the ship at sea with life in the East Yorkshire market town during the Second World War. HMS Beverley helped to develop links between the town and Beverely, Massachusetts, and also Merthyr Tydfil, which adopted the ship following Warship Week in 1941. It follows the history of the ship until her fateful sinking in April 1943 while on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic.

The author, Geoffrey Blewett spent many years tracing members of the crew and their families in order to write an accurate account of the ship and the town in wartime.

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20 January 2015

An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment: The Brutal Truth of Campo 21, 1942-1943

This book tells the little-known story of prisoner of war camp PG 21, at Chieti, Italy, between August 1942 and September 1943. The camp was grossly overcrowded, with little running water, no proper sanitation, and no heating in winter. Conditions (food/clothing) for POWs in Camp PG 21 were so bad that they were debated in the House of Commons.

The prisoners suffered under a violently pro-Fascist regime. The first Commandant personally beat up one recaptured escaper. A pilot was murdered by an Italian guard following his escape attempt. Tunnels were dug, and the prisoners were even prepared to swim through human sewage to try and get out. Morale in the camp remained remarkably high. Two England cricket internationals staged a full scale cricket match, and theatre and music also thrived.

After the Italian Armistice, in September 1943, the British Commander refused to allow the ex-prisoners to leave camp. Germans took over the camp, and most prisoners were transported to Germany. Some managed to hide, and more than half of these subsequently escaped. After the war, a number of the Camp staff were arrested for war crimes.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

18 January 2015

Fire and Ice: The Nazis' Scorched Earth Campaign in Norway

When Hitler ordered the north of Nazi-occupied Norway to be destroyed in a scorched earth retreat in 1944, everything of potential use to the Soviet enemy was destroyed. Harbours, bridges and towns were dynamited and every building torched. Fifty thousand people were forcibly evacuated – thousands more fled to hide in caves in sub-zero temperatures.

High above the Arctic Circle, the author crosses the region gathering scorched earth stories: of refugees starving on remote islands, fathers shot dead just days before the war ended, grandparents driven mad by relentless bombing, towns burned to the ground. He explores what remains of the Lyngen Line mountain bunkers in the Norwegian Alps, where the Allies feared a last stand by fanatical Nazis – and where starved Soviet prisoners of war too weak to work were dumped in death camps, some driven to cannibalism. With extracts from the Nuremberg trials of the generals who devastated northern Norway and modern reflections on the mental scars that have passed down generations, this is a journey into the heart of a brutal conflict set in a landscape of intense natural beauty.

Available from:
The History Press