17 April 2018

Fortress Singapore: The Battlefield Guide

Fortress Singapore: The Battlefield Guide captures the essence of what Singapore was like during World War II when desperate battles were fought throughout the island. Sirens, bombs massacres, epidemics, shortages, concentration camps and POW centres were part of everyday life. Many of the original battle sites still remain in Singapore today.

This updated authoritative day-to-day account of the battle for Singapore includes two additional battle sites and numerous revised maps. More than 100 photographs capture the shock of war, the terror of occupation and the joy of liberation. A pictorial tour takes the reader to the war sites from battlefield to POW camps. It is through understanding what happened here that these sites come alive again, never letting us forget the brutalities of war; and the faith and inspiration of the people that laid foundations of modern Singapore. With information on how to visit these locations, this is the definitive guide to the Singapore battlefield.

Available from:
Marshall Cavendish

16 April 2018

Women's Experiences in the Holocaust - In Their Own Words

This book brings to light women’s experiences in the Holocaust. It explains why women’s difficulties were different to those of men. Men were taken away and the women were left to cope with children and elderly relatives and obliged to take on new roles. Women like Andrew Sachs' mother had to deal with organising departure for a foreign country and making choices about what to take and what to abandon. The often desperate hunt for food for themselves and those in their care more often than not fell to the women, as did medical issues. They had to face pregnancies, abortions and, in some camps, medical experiments. Many women wrote diaries, memoirs, letters and books about their experiences and these have been used extensively here.

The accounts include women who fought or worked in the resistance, like Zivia Lubetkin who was part of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Dr Gisella Perl was a doctor in Auschwitz under the infamous Dr Mengele. Some young girls acted as Kashariyot, underground couriers between ghettos. Their varied experiences represent the extremities of human suffering, endeavour and courage.

The author, Agnes Grunwald-Spier, is a survivor herself, born in 1944. Her mother struggled to keep her safe in the mayhem of the Budapest Ghetto when she was a tiny baby and dealt with the threat from Russian soldiers after the liberation of Budapest in January 1945.

Available from:
Amberley Books

2 March 2018

Battle of the Odon

The Battle of the Odon was a short, but fierce, action which was part of Operation Epsom - the attempt to breakout west of Caen, and capture the high ground south of the city at Bretteville. The battle pitched the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division and the 31st Tank Brigade against the II SS-Panzer Korps, and turned the small villages and fields of the area into a bitter battlefield.

George Bernage is a prolific author of titles on the Normandy Campaign, and his knowledge of the battles of 1944 is clear in this title. Bernage takes a detailed approach, covering the action day-by-day, supporting the story with numerous personal recollections from both German and British participants, as well as civilians. A particularly welcome aspect of the book, from my perspective, is the large number of both wartime photos, and also images of the locations as they appear today. These are also supported by illustrations of examples of equipment and uniforms used by the participating armies, which adds additional context.

The book was originally published in French by Heimdal, and this is a welcome English language version, which faithfully follows the high standards of Heimdal publications.

Contents:
Part One: The Scottish Corridor
In the Face of the Storm
25 June - Operation Martlet
The First Day - Monday 26 June

Part Two: The Offensive Stops at Hill
The Second Day - Tuesday 27 June
The Third Day - Wednesday 28 June
The Fourth Day - Thursday 29 June
The Fifth Day - Friday 30 June

Available from:
Pen & Sword

20 February 2018

All Soldiers Run Away: Alano's War - The Story of a British Deserter

All Soldiers Run Away: Alano’s War, the Story of a British Deserter is the tale of Alan Juniper’s wartime experiences in the North African and Italian Campaigns in WW2, as well as a wider look at the taboo subject of desertion both then and today.

From his first days with the Tower Hamlets Rifles in London to the scorching, unforgiving sands of North Africa, to that first, terrifying battle with Rommel and his Afrika Korps, we follow Alan Juniper through a series of intense and confusing encounters with the enemy and his eventual first desertion, subsequent incarceration, and grasp at a chance for freedom (in exchange for fighting in the Italian Campaign). Alan’s story presents a broken man in a broken landscape, struggling on in unbearable circumstances, from the brutality of night fighting in the hills of Perugia to another desertion and a period of unexpected peace in a small Umbrian village, where he is taken in by people who had, only months before, been the enemy.

All Soldiers Run Away is the search for Alan’s tale in lost battles, missing war diaries, and faded memories. Through his story and contrasting desertions, this text examines why the military and society condemns those who desert, and goes on to explore what duties soldiers have towards one another and their homelands. This story is indeed that of Alano’s war, but it is, just as much, the story of deserters in general, presenting a new perspective on that once-shamed act of desertion and asking the readers to come to new understanding of what it is we ask of our men and women in uniform.

This is a challenging book - it draws attention to a little discussed aspect of the Second World War, which has been quietly overlooked in the 70+ years since the war ended. Other than Vernon Scannell's Argument of Kings, I am not aware of another personal account that tackles the reasons and stories behind desertion during the war. For that reason alone, this is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the period, and the impact of war on those who experienced it.

Available from:
Lammi Publishing

5 February 2018

Frankforce and the Defence of Arras 1940

There is no other city in France that has the same associations in time of conflict that the British have with Arras. Since the campaigns of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, in the early 18th century, British soldiers have fought in and around Arras, occasionally as an enemy but, more often, as defenders of French and Allied democracy. Battlefield visitors to the area will immediately recognize the names of towns and villages that were as significant to the men of Marlborough’s army as they were to those who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

This book serves both as guide to the Second World War battlefields that surround the city and its environs as well as detailing the actions of the British armoured attack of 21 May 1940. The book looks at the strategic situation that led up to the famous Arras counter-stroke and, using material that has not been published before, examines the British and German actions between 20 and 23 May. The only Victoria Cross action that took place during this time is looked at in detail; as is the fighting that took place in Arras and during the breakout.

Despite its shortcomings, the counter-stroke achieved the essential element of surprise and caused widespread alarm amongst the German command and hit Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division at precisely the moment when his armoured units were ahead of the infantry and gunners. The British infantry fought well and both the Durham battalions were fortunate that their commanding officers and senior NCOs were men who had already fought in one conflict and possessed the determination to rally their less experienced junior ranks and fight on regardless. Such was the case with the two tank battalions, although sadly they lost both their commanding officers and over half the tanks that went into the engagement. The attack did enable the British to tighten their hold on Arras – albeit temporarily – and, as is often cited, built doubts in the minds of German High Command as to the speed of their advance and contributed to the subsequent Hitler halt order of 24-27 May.

The author has gone to some lengths to track down accounts from those individuals who served in the area during May 1940 and fought the enveloping tide of the German advance.

The book is supported by three car tours, one of which takes the visitor along the tragic path taken by the Tyneside Scottish on 20 May and two walking routes, which concentrate on Arras.

137 black and white photographs and a number of maps derived from regimental histories, and six tour maps provide the battlefield visitor with illustrations of the battlefields as they were in 1940 and as they are today.

This is an excellent addition to the Pen & Sword series 'Battleground Dunkirk', providing a comprehensive record of a less well known aspect of the campaign in France in 1940. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the period, and whose relatives fought with the BEF.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

21 January 2018

Air War Varsity

In Air War Varsity, Martin Bowman brings us the first book on Operation Varsity to include both British and US air and ground operations, as well as the US, British and Canadian paratroop and resupply missions, all presented together in one ambitious volume.

Operation Varsity-Plunder, the last large-scale Allied airborne operation of World War II, was certainly no walk-over. Varsity was the airborne part, whilst Plunder represented the British amphibious operations by the British Second Army. The airlift consisted of 541 transport aircraft containing airborne troops and a further 1,050 troop-carriers towing 1,350 gliders. The American 17th Airborne Division s C-46 Commando transports and Waco gliders joined the British 6th Airborne Division C-54s, C-47 transport aircraft, Horsas and Hamilcar gliders to form an immense armada that stretched for more than 200 miles across the sky.

The successful air attack involved more than 10,000 Allied aircraft and was concentrated primarily on Luftwaffe airfields and the German transportation system. The combination of the two divisions in one lift made this the largest single day airborne drop in history. In this account, Martin Bowman weaves first-hand testimony and a compelling historical narrative together with a variety of photographic illustrations, many of which have never been published before, in order to create a complete record of events as they played out in March 1945.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

10 January 2018

Why Am I Still Here? The Story of Paul Titz, a German Merchant Seaman and POW in WWII

Why Am I Still Here? is based around the letters of Paul Titz, a young merchant seaman from the town of Düren who, as the captain's steward on the scout ship Gonzenheim, ex Kongsfjord, took part in Operation Rheinübung in 1941. 

After the interception of the Gonzenheim by HMS Neptune, HMS Nelson and Swordfish of 825 Squadron embarked in HMS Victorious, and despite not being armed and never having fired a shot in anger - he became a POW for more than five years, including for seventeen months after VE Day. He moved from the camp at Donaldson's College, Edinburgh, to Knavesmire, York, and from thence to Canada. He was held along with other Enemy Merchant Seamen at Farnham and Sherbrooke in Quebec and at Monteith, Ontario, before returning to the UK only to die in wretched circumstances at No. 23 Camp, Farnham, Derbyshire just before he was likely to have been repatriated.

The author, Jean Hood, has done a thorough job of researching Paul Titz, and German Merchant Seamen held in British captivity during the Second World War. This book provides a fascinating insight into a little known and written about aspect of the experiences of German POWs during, and after the war.

Available from:

4 January 2018

Prisoner of the Swiss

During World War II, 1,517 members of US aircrews were forced to seek asylum in Switzerland. Most neutral countries found reason to release US airmen from internment, but Switzerland took its obligations under the Hague Convention more seriously than most. The airmen were often incarcerated in local jails, and later transferred to prison camps. The worst of these camps was Wauwilermoos, where at least 161 U.S. airmen were sent for the honorable offense of escaping. To this hellhole came Dan Culler, the author of this incredible account of suffering and survival. Not only did the prisoners sleep on lice-infested straw, were malnourished and had virtually no hygiene facilities or access to medical care but worse, the commandant of Wauwilermoos was a die-hard Swiss Nazi. He allowed the mainly criminal occupants of the camp to torture and rape Dan Culler with impunity. After many months of such treatment, starving and ravaged by disease, he was finally aided by a British officer.

Betrayal dominated his cruel fate - by the American authorities, by the Swiss, and in a last twist in a second planned escape that turned out to be a trap. But Dan Culler’s courage and determination kept him alive. Finally making it back home, he found he had been abandoned again. Political expediency meant there was no such place as Wauwilermoos. He has never been there, so he has never been a POW and didn't qualify for any POW benefits or medical or mental treatment for his many physical and emotional wounds. His struggle to make his peace with his past forms the final part of the story. Rob Morris’s introduction and notes provide historical background and context, including recent efforts to recognise the suffering of those incarcerated in Switzerland and afford them full POW status.


Read an interview with the author, Rob Morris.

Available from:
Casemate