24 July 2018

The First Bridge Too Far - The Battle of Primosole Bridge 1943

For the very first time, the Battle of Primosole Bridge is brought to life in a well-researched narrative solely dedicated to one of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles for British airborne troops of World War Two.

Primosole Bridge in Sicily (13-16 July 1943) provided the stage for the first instance of opposing elite paratroopers parachuting into battle and then fighting each other in a see-saw battle raging under the blazing Mediterranean sky. It's a story of courage and determination. A story of legendary military units and their commanders. A story that now, on the eve of its 75th Anniversary, finally needs to be told.

The British paratroopers of the famed Parachute Regiment's 1st Parachute Brigade, known as the ‘Red Devils', fought their equally esteemed German paratrooper opponents, known as the ‘Green Devils', in a battle of attrition central to the entire success of the Allies' first invasion of Hitler's Fortress Europe. These two sets of elite Devils fought each other to a stand-still in Hellish conditions. The paratroopers found themselves cut-off behind enemy lines with dwindling ammunition and ever-growing enemy forces encircling. Their courage and determination in standing up to overwhelming odds allowed the ground forces to arrive and capture the bridge in the nick of time before it was destroyed. The hard-won experience gained by the 1st Parachute Brigade was again tested only a year later at the Battle of Arnhem, the battle christened a bridge too far. It was in fact an almost identical battle, but on a larger scale, to the ferocious fight that the British paratroopers had faced only months previously. The Battle of Arnhem is well documented. The Battle of Primosole Bridge, which provided the foundations for the men and planning for the legendary events at Arnhem, is virtually unheard of and needs to be told at last in order to honour the sacrifice of the Britain's unsung war heroes.

Available from:
Casemate Publishing

6 June 2018

Allied Armor in Normandy

Throughout the summer of 1944, the Allied forces readily employed tanks and armored vehicles to gain ground in the bloody campaign of Normandy. Heavily armed, they provided a kind of support which no number of infantrymen could offer, battling their way through enemy lines with their guns blazing. From the US 2nd Armored Division named ‘Hell on Wheels’ to the British ‘Achilles’ tank, the encounters they had in battle were explosive.

This volume of the Casemate Illustrated series explores the Normandy invasion from the perspective of the Allied Armored divisions, looking at how armored vehicles played a central role in the many battles that took place. It includes over 40 profiles of tanks and armored vehicles, from the American Sherman and Stuart tanks to the bulldozers and amphibious vehicles designed for the beach.

With detailed diagrams and many photos illustrating the composition of the Allied armored divisions and tank regiments present at Normandy, this volume explains the crucial part played by tanks in gaining a foothold in Normandy after the D-Day landings, as well as the significance of many other types of armored vehicles.

Table of Contents
  • Timeline of Events
  • Allied Armored Divisions in Normandy
  • American Armored Divisions
  • British Armored Units
  • Allied Tanks in June
  • Initial British Offensives
  • Caen: From Stalemate to Breakthrough 
Originally published in French as one of the Militaria Magazine Hors-Serie, this title provides a good all-round introduction to Allied armored vehicles and units that participated in the Battle of Normandy. Those who already have knowledge of the topic may not find a lot of new information here, however if you want to learn more about the subject or want to gain a broad understanding of the use of armored units in Normandy, this is a good introduction.
 Available from:
Casemate

Panzer Ace - The Memories of an Iron Cross Panzer Commander from Barbarossa to Normandy

Richard Freiherr von Rosen began the Second World War as a gunlayer on a Pz.Mk.III, rising to become a highly decorated senior Lieutenant on a King Tiger. Von Rosen's memoirs are based on his wartime diary and field post letters, and are illustrated with more than 400 contemporary photographs.

He fought in many key confrontations of the war, including the Eastern Front where he was involved in action during Barbarossa, at Kursk, and later in Hungary where he commanded a battle group (12 King Tigers and a flak Company). On the Western Front, he also participated in the Battle of Normandy, where he led a company of King Tigers.

This is not a simple account of German tank action in the Second World War. This is a personal account that brings to life the success, discomfort, frustrations, and enjoyment of simple pleasures in the daily routines of a Panzer company.

Originally published in German by Flechsig Verlag, this is a welcome addition to the rather limited number of English language memoirs of German Panzer crew. It is a substantial book - nearly 400 pages long - and is recommended to anyone with an interest in the Panzerwaffe in the Second World War.

Available from:
Greenhill Books


Sword Beach - British 3rd Infantry Division / 27th Armoured Brigade

In this addition to the Battleground Europe series, Major (retired) Tim Kilvert-Jones focuses on the action by 3rd British Infantry Division and attached units at Sword Beach from D-Day 6th June 1944 to the fall of Caen in July 1944. Following the structure of his previous work in the series Omaha Beach, the author draws on both memoirs and extensive interviews with veterans to create a dynamic guide to book this fascinating story of undaunted courage, and dashed hopes.

Caen was the pivotal main objective for General Montgomery's invasion plan.The 3rd Division's failure to capture the city on 6th June lead to major recriminations during and after the war as former allied commanders and other vested interests argued the causes of failure. The truth is as always simpler than the arguments and recriminations.

While still struggling to establish a secure beachhead on D-Day. The division was attached by powerful elements of 21st Panzer division. This was the only effective armoured counterattack mounted by the Germans during the invasion phase. The result was a devastating defeat for the Panzers under the combined arms guns of the 3rd Division, but vital hours had been lost and the Germans were given the time to defend the City.

With the multitude of books relating to the broad story of D Day, titles which focus in depth on the specific beaches - and specifically the British and Canadian beaches - are welcome. If you have an interest in the landings at Sword Beach on 6th June 1944, and are planning a visit to the area to see where the actions took place, then this book is certainly worth obtaining.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

4 June 2018

The Dunkirk Evacuation in 100 Objects - The Story Behind Operation Dynamo in 1940

At 18.57 hours on Sunday, 26 May 1940, the Admiralty issued the directive which instigated the start of Operation Dynamo. This was the order to rescue the British Expeditionary Force from the French port of Dunkirk and the beaches surrounding it. The Admiralty believed that it would only be able to rescue 45,000 men over the course of the following two days, ‘at the end of which’, read the signal to Admiral Ramsey at Dover, ‘it was probable that evacuation would be terminated by enemy action’. The Admiralty, however, was wrong.

Between 26 May and 4 June 1940, when Dynamo officially ended, an armada of ships, big and small, naval and civilian achieved what had been considered impossible. In fact, in this period a total of 338,682 men had been disembarked at British ports. Such a figure has exceeded the expectations of most. Little wonder, therefore, that an editorial in The New York Times at the beginning of June declared, ‘So long as the English tongue survives, the word Dunkirk will be spoken with reverence’.

Through 100 objects, from the wreck of a ship through to a dug-up rifle, and individual photographs to large memorials, all of which represent a moving snapshot of the past, the author sets out to tell the story of what came to be known as The Miracle of Dunkirk. The full-colour photographs of each 100 items are accompanied by detailed explanations of the object and the people and events which make them so special or relevant.

While similar in concept to Roger Moorehouse's The Third Reich in 100 Objects, this book provides a different approach. Not just another re-telling of the Dunkirk story, Martin Mace's book highlights many facets of the evacuation, which creates a rich narrative about the wider story of Dunkirk. Details of individual Little Ships, the Wormhout Massacre, the story behind some of the famous photos of the evacuation, experiences of RAF pilots through log-books, and how Dunkirk was featured in wartime books and paintings are all woven together to explain the story in great detail. If you have any interest in Dunkirk, I would seriously consider adding this book to your collection.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

31 May 2018

Veterans: Faces of World War II

Ichiro Sudan trained to be a kamikaze. Roscoe Brown was a commander in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators. Charin Singh, a farmer from Delhi, spent seven years as a Japanese prisoner of war and was not sent home until four years after the war ended. Uli John lost an arm serving in the German army but ultimately befriended former enemy soldiers as part of a network of veterans-people who fought in the war and know what war really means.

These are some of the faces and stories in the remarkable Veterans, the outcome of a worldwide project by Sasha Maslov to interview and photograph the last surviving combatants from World War II.

Soldiers, support staff and resistance fighters candidly discuss wartime experiences and their lifelong effects in this unforgettable, intimate record of the end of a cataclysmic chapter in world history and tribute to the members of an indomitable generation. Veterans is also a meditation on memory, human struggle and the passage of time.

For more information on the book, visit the Author's website - https://veterans.sashamaslov.com/ and see this article on Lenscratch

Available from:
Princeton Architectural Press

 

20 May 2018

Swastika Over the Aegean

Swastika Over the Aegean is a unique pictorial record of the last decisive German victory of the Second World War. Following the Italian armistice in September 1943, British and Dominion forces were sent to reinforce their new Italian allies in the Dodecanese. The Wehrmacht responded with a succession of air-sea landings, notably on the islands of Kos and Leros: German infantry carried out beach assaults and, more than two years after sustaining frightful losses in Crete, Fallschirmjäger were deployed in several airborne operations.

Both sides relied on conventional and unconventional ground forces. German paratroopers were drawn from the Luftwaffe and Division Brandenburg; the latter also fielded coastal raiders and assault troops. The Allies had on call a battalion of The Parachute Regiment, several infantry battalions, and Raiding Forces, which included the Long Range Desert Group, Special Boat Squadron, Commandos and Ieros Lohos (Greek Sacred Squadron).

By the end of November 1943, after a series of remarkable actions at sea, in the air and on land, Allied forces in the Dodecanese had been subjected to a resounding defeat: 234 Infantry Brigade ceased to exist, and key Aegean islands would remain under German occupation until the final Allied victory.

This limited edition book published in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the battle for the Dodecanese features hundreds of photographs together with detailed maps and rare wartime documents.

See some example pages here.

Available from: 
Direct from the Author, Anthony Rogers: E-Mail
(The book is available on Amazon too, but at a much higher price than direct from the Author)

27 April 2018

Echoes of the Merseyside Blitz

Merseyside has a long and varied history, one which its sons and daughters are justifiably proud. It has come through many struggles, but perhaps its darkest hour was the air raids that were launched against it in 1940 and 1941. Around 4,000 people lost their lives and many prominent buildings and houses were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. All of this occurred in the space of just 18 months, a period which changed the face of the region irrevocably.

Using a variety of new sources Echoes of the Merseyside Blitz draws together a timeline of the blitz for the whole region, showing at a glance what was happening on any given night during that period. Taking carefully selected photographs, Neil Holmes tells the story of Merseyside s blitz through a series of ghost photographs, where historic wartime images are blended with their modern counterpart to create a fascinating window in to Merseyside s past.

Neil Holmes clearly has extensive knowledge of the period of the blitz on Liverpool and the surrounding areas, and anyone who has an interest in the history of the city will find this book fascinating. In addition to the daily record of bombing and the effective 'ghost photographs', there is also a short chapter on 'Spotting signs of the Blitz' which identifies remnants of the period still visible today. I hope that there will be additional titles in this series, as I would personally be very interested to see a similar publications on other locations.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

22 April 2018

Warhorses of Germany: The Myth of the Mechanised Blitzkrieg

While many films have attempted to convey the experience of the Second World War European battlefield, none adequately portray the mayhem and suffering that befell untold thousands of horses, their bodies impacted by bullet, flame and bomb as well as disease, starvation and backbreaking toil in the searing heat of summer and the freezing winds and snows of winter. In great part, the role of the horse in the Second World War, and in particular their use by the Third Reich, has been eclipsed by the iconic images of the German mechanised Blitzkrieg.

In reality the so-called ‘military juggernaut’ was a myth – the Nazi war machine less metal and more horse flesh. While many of the horses were raised in military breeding centres, others were literally wrenched from farmers’ fields and strapped into harnesses, often fine-bred and unprepared for the rigours that awaited them.

The original photos in this book were in most part taken by German soldiers using their personal cameras to capture their special relationship with their four-legged comrades as well as recording the suffering and death they shared in a war that showed no mercy to any living thing, man or beast.

The War Horses of Germany provides an illuminating new insight into a little considered element of the Second World War. The use of horses by the Wehrmacht has been referred to in passing in the memoirs of Allied soldiers - particularly in relation to the devastation found in the Falaise Pocket where large numbers were killed alongside German troops - but this title provides an indepth look at the reliance on these animals to further the goals of the German Army, and is a valuable contribution to knowledge of the period.

Available from:
Amberley Books

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.

Having recently returned from a trip to Singapore, I can highly recommend obtaining a copy of Fortress Singapore. It is packed with information on the sites in Singapore, and I found it extremely useful. I was not aware of the book prior to my visit, and stumbled across a copy at the Evernew Bookstore at the Bras Basah Complex (one of the few secondhand bookstores in Singapore). You can also pick up a new copy at Kinokuniya bookstore or others - or order one direct from the publisher.

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