Below you find a growing list of books I have read and liked, these are specific about World War 2. For aviation related books, please check out the ‘Aviation Book Review’ page.


 


Attack on the Scheldt (Hardback)

By Graham A Thomas

The Struggle for Antwerp 1944

A most interesting book, well researched and very well documented. It takes us to the end of 1944, to a part of the Second World War that is not covered in great detail in the main literature. We all know about the landings in Normandy, Sicily, Anzio, and the Pacific landings aimed at pushing back the Japanese.
But there were other amphibious operations and the landings on Walcheren, one of the southern Dutch islands of the Zeeland province, where among them.

Being Dutch myself this book carries some extra value. I know all the places covered, and I did NOT know much about the battles taking place in that time. So a really interesting read.
I needed a dictionary though, because I had never heard of the town of Flushing, until I figured out that it is the British name for ‘Vlissingen’. Just as I thought the title of the book held a typo. ‘Scheldt’ is called ‘Schelde’ in the original language. I’d have preferred the original names being used, would have saved me some time and confusion.

The book has ample charts and maps, and an interesting photo section in the center. It goes into much detail on the operations, units involved (on both sides), and background of the why and when.
The British and Canadian troops fought a heavy battle in a small part of the theatre, and both sides lost a lot of men. Not to mention the large amounts of damage to the civilian infrastructure, what with many dikes breached and towns destroyed. The sad thing about the whole affair is that it was not really necessary. Had the allies pushed on beyond Antwerp while the Germans were still in disarray, instead of stop and then turning east to march after Montgomery’s pet plans, Zeeland would have probably been liberated without much battle.

In hindsight we all know better of course.

One thing that’s really ironic is that the flooding of the island beat the Germans in 1944 and helped free the citizens. Whereas 9 years later it was a national disaster when it happened again, this time as a result of a major storm.

 

Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 212
ISBN: 9781473850675
Published: 8th March 2017, available from the publisher here.


The Silent Attack (Hardback)

By Oscar Gonzalez, Thomas Steinke, Ian Tannahill

The Taking of the Bridges at Veldwezelt, Vroenhoven and Kanne in Belgium by German Paratroops, 10 May 1940

This 384 page hardcover book, printed on heavy paper, is a wonderful addition to my library.
It tells the story of the German glider/paratroops attacks of three Belgian bridges over the Albert Canal, providing rapid access for the German army to race into Belgium in May 1940.

The book is extremely well researched and very detailed in its battle reports, both from the German point of view as well as from Belgian eyewitness reports. There are also many many footnotes and source indices, as well as an extensive list of all German personnel of the SA Koch group and a bibliography list.

I found the introductory chapters (1 through 4) the most interesting in fact. The authors cover in depth the state of the Belgian defenses, it hopelessly outdated army doctrine and totally inadequate technology and equipment state and the politics leading up that that unprepared state.
Especially a lot of information on the Belgians was new to me (not having delved into this part of history too much before) and astoundingly they seemed to have been even worse prepared than the Dutch, thus not posing much of a resistance to the overwhelmingly well-trained German paratroopers.

At the other end of this spectrum of battle preparedness were the German armed forces, their preparation, training and innovative thinking, not to mention their much higher motivation level.
The book shows in great detail how the glider pilots were trained, how long in advance these sort of attacks were planned already, even though the actual attack date was on very short notice.

The next chapters describe the actual attacks, chronologically and ‘by attack or defense group’. This does cause some overlap and repetition, as sometimes an attack is described in detail by German documents and eyewitness reports, and is then repeated from a Belgian point of view.

In addition to the extensive and detailed research, the book also excels in a wealth of photos, most of which I personally had never seen.
Having said that, I wish the photos were larger ! Of course we are spoiled by the internet and large computer monitors these days where we can enlarge photos and see much more detail, but many of the photos are just too small to reveal much info. Pity.

Also a pity is that there are a few maps in the center of the book, but especially the three ‘attack chapters’ could have benefited from more (detailed) maps. As it is the reader has to mentally form a picture on who went where during the actions based on only 3 or 4 major base maps.

But apart from these two points of criticism I found the book very interesting and well written with a wealth of detailed information on this very explicit piece of history of the opening phases of the German attack in 1940.

By Oscar Gonzalez, Thomas Steinke, Ian Tannahill
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 384
ISBN: 9781781593851
Published: 30th May 2015

Available here from the Publisher

 


Inside the Afrika Korps (Paperback)

By Bruce Gudmundsson

The Crusader Battles, 1941-1942

This book has been compiled from records and interviews of one of the German’s General Staff, Col. Rainer Kriebel, who was the chief of staff of a panzer division. Kriebel was paid by the US Foreign Military Studies program after the war to write a number of studies on WW2. He was the general staff officer of the 15th Panzer Division in Africa from Spring 1941 till March of 1942 and so present when the ‘Crusader Battles’ took place.

The one thing that stands out to me when reading this book, is the impression one gets that the famous Rommel was in fact just ‘winging it’ during much of the time and wasn’t as ‘genius’ as often is claimed. Hampered by lack of information for sure, but he also seemed to take strange decisions….. and turning back on them later, at times.

One remark in the book somewhere is that he was probably a great commander of units in direct fighting, but a lot less of a strategic thinker than many publications may want us to believe.

The book itself is a wonderful mix of historic facts, very interesting background information (both German and allied) on fighting tactics, a separate part on ‘artillery in the desert’ and a running account of the main battles.
I especially liked the last part, on German defensive tactics. Hadn’t read that before yet and it is interesting t read how their tactics changed and evolved during the Afrika campaign.

Although there are little maps printed on various pages, I would have loved to have more and more detailed maps, especially ‘following’ the battles. Of course, you can do that yourself (and I did), but that then stops you from reading the book in bed (as I often do).

For my scale modeling friends a warning….. there are NO photos included in the book. But…. the publisher has some great alternatives for that purpose, such as  Images of War: Afrika Corps and  Rommel’s Desert Warriors, and to a lesser extent  Rommel’s Army in the Desert.

All in al a very interesting – and somewhat different from the ordinary – account of Rommel’s battles in Africa!

 

By Bruce Gudmundsson
Frontline Books
Pen & Sword Publishing
Pages: 332
ISBN: 9781848329935
Published: 6th October 2016

Click here to order directly from the Publisher

 


Operation Dragoon (Hardback)

By Anthony Tucker-Jones

The Liberation of Southern France 1944

Operation Dragoon is one of the lesser known operations in the Mediterranean. It is usually known as the liberation of southern France, but was a disputed operation right from the start. It took place AFTER the D-Day landings in Normandy and many thought it really did little to support the allied advance from Normandy towards the low countries and Germany.

This book describes Operation Dragoon, yes, but in fact it describes much more of what went on ahead of it. The arguments, bickering, doubts and discussions between the major powers and characters of that time. In fact the operation was promised to Stalin as a way to take the pressure off his major offensive in the east. But specifically Churchill didn’t believe it should be executed. He thought it was taking too many resources away from the allied other goals. Churchill also wanted a much larger presence in the eastern hemisphere.

Alas, that didn’t happen and in the end Operation Dragoon was executed, landing allied troops all along the French Riviera coast, where they met little resistance, for various reasons.
Only the second half of the book is in fact describing the actual battles, the first part being almost entirely about the political and military discussions leading up to the operation.

A very interesting account of what happened in that area and WHY things happened as they did.

By Anthony Tucker-Jones
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781848841406
Published: 15th October 2009
Last Released: 21st October 2009

 


SOE In France 1941-1945 (Hardback)

By Major Robert Bourne-Patterson

An Official Account of the Special Operations Executive’s French Circuits

If you are interested in WW2, and more in specific in the cloak and dagger and resistance part of it, then this book is for you! Major Robert Bourne-Patterson worked in the SOE in the war, and wrote down its history just after.
Or part of it at least, since much of the documents pertaining the SOE activities were destroyed, and many things were still very secret right after the war.

In spite of all the missing information this book is probably the most accurate as to the activities of the SOE in France, and a treasure cove of information for those interested in the details. Not only does it mention all those involved, their organizations and locations, it also shows what they actually did! Long lists with sabotage results for instance. Impressive.
Even more impressive if one takes into account that only about 15% of what happened remained documented !

It is written ‘by region’ and lists all that happened for/in those areas, including the missions, the people and the stores and material delivered to the resistance fighters and supporting SOE personnel.

I read the book with ‘We landed by Moonlight’ by Hugh Verity next to it on my desk. Verity’s book is written from the perspective of one of the Lysander pilots dropping agents in occupied France, and very much ‘connected’ obviously. It is interesting to recognize the names mentioned in the ‘Lysander book’ and read more about their actual activities in SOE in France! SOE in France gives Hugh Verity’s book the much needed background and detail from the organizational and operatives point of view.

I will continue to ‘use’ this book alongside my Verity book to further research the Lysander and other aviation activities for one of my other hobbies; WW2 flight simulation and scenery building.

 

By Major Robert Bourne-Patterson
Frontline Books
Pages: 266
ISBN: 9781473882034
Published: 6th October 2016

 


Operation Epsom

By Ian Daglish

Operation Epsom is a book in the series Over the Battlefield. And this book is a real gem! Chock full with aerial photos showing the locations where the battle ensued, and maps explaining which units were involved, and where they were or went. A book to my heart.

Operation Epsom was Monty’s first major battle in Normandy after the June landings and fought between newly arrived, inexperienced British troops and some very experienced SS Panzerkorps troops !

Ian Daglish has done a wonderful job researching and describing this operation, including going to the very places where it all happened and making ‘now’ photos of the various places. He also shows that many things that were taken for granted during many years, actually may have happened a bit different. Like orders not having gone through in time, units having been in a different place than we assumed until now, and more. Very interesting read.

I particularly like the very detailed accounts of the battles shown in detail on the many aerial photographs of the
era, overlayed with unit information like positions and movements. The author gives an overview of the aerial
photography units and operations in Appendix X, very interesting in particular for those not really familiar with
this very important part of WW2 warfare…… PR or Photo Reconnaissance!

All in all 272 pages full of very interesting information and great photos and maps !

by Ian Daglish
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 272
ISBN: 9781473845596
Published: 24th June 2015

 


cover-11134Up close and personal

The reality of close-quarter fighting in WW2

Another interesting book, although from the title I expected a somewhat different content. I was thinking it would be an account of the various trainings methods and their subsequent results of the various armed forces throughout the war.

well…. it is… to some extent.

Lee takes the book ‘Men Against Fire’, written in 1947 by then U.S. general S.L.A. Marshall as the basis for his own book. Marshall’s theory was that not more than 15% of soldiers in battle actually fired on enemy soldiers. With some correction factors, he maintains that only a quarter of troops in battle were actually firing.

So David Lee went out to research and see if this could be actually confirmed. At the end of the book it remains unclear how ‘precise’ this estimate is. What IS clear is that during the actual engagements in WW2 there were major differences, both in training, in strategy and in the actual battle theaters encountered.

I am not going to spill the beans here, but must admit there were large parts of the book that I really found interesting. Especially the first chapters about the British Commandos and their initial training, their raid on Dunkirk and further exploits, taking up almost half of the book. And also the famous ‘Snipe’ battle near El Alamein in the desert war in North Africa.

The book contains a lot of eye witness reports and diary extracts, making the ‘up close’ part of the title believable.

Apart from the Commandos and 2nd Rifle Brigade’s stories and exploits, there are chapters covering the Italian campaign and the fighting in the Pacific region too. Interesting to read about the very different circumstances….. and enemies!

Oh, and there are some MAPS included as well, to explain the tactical situation of some of the stories. Very good !

All in all another title I can recommend to those interested in more detail in the history of WW2 and some specific areas !

By David Lee
Frontline Publishing
Pages: 272
ISBN: 9781848328372
Published: 24th August 2015


SAS-mim-cover-11710SAS, Men in the making

An original’s account of operations on Sicily and in Italy
Yet another awesome book about a period in World War 2, the Italian Campaign. Awesome in particular because it was written by one of the combatants very shortly after the war, and hence fresh in memory and direct from a witness. These, frankly, are my favorite sort of books. What better way to experience what it was like 70 or more years ago than by reading the eye witness reports of that same time !

Having said that, the manuscript was only first read in 2012 by Peter’s son, many years after Peter David’s death, and published by his son.
Peter Davis was a young man who joined the British Army at the beginning of the war…. and he chose to join the special forces at that, the Special Air Service or SAS. The unit he described in the Italian campaign is actually called the Special Raiding Service.

The most intriguing part of this story is the fact that everything seemed rather laid back in many respects. Although these men were commandos, the story doesn’t bear any resemblance with Rambo or glorified special forces stories one might expect. On the contrary, Peter Davis himself writes in his introduction that he intended to remember the nice times and the humorous and personal things of army life.

Certainly his period in training during the run-up to the Italian campaign and the landings on Sicily seemed pretty relaxed and without much worries. Apparently the boredom of NOT getting into battle was the biggest annoyance for these young men !

After having just read another book that also describes those same landings (see my review of Nothing is impossible  ) the actions of Peter’s SRS unit seem very ‘lucky’ because the Italians they DID encounter did not put up much of a fight, and they were often in the rearguard of the action. Where regular soldiers might have found this an excellent deal, Peter describes their disappointment at many of these moments.

The book only covers his activities in Africa and Italy in detail, from the landings at Syracuse in Sicily, through their battle for Termoli all the way on the east coast of Italy. Having said that, as an epilogue there is also his report about their activities in France, after the D-Day landings !

Another excellent feature of this book is the wealth of private photographs included. Apparently one or more of Peter’s fellow soldiers were an avid photographers, because he and his colleagues are featured in many ‘snapshots’ throughout the book !

All in all a worthy read and an interesting and welcome addition I am sure to the knowledge of many of us WW2 historians.

By Peter Davis
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 281
ISBN: 9781473845602
Published: 3rd August 2015


daring-raids-cover-11079Daring Raids of World War Two

Heroic Land, Sea and Air Attacks (Hardback)
by Peter Jacobs

This book describes 30 ‘raids’ carried out by the allied forces during WW2. As the subtitle already indicates ALL forces are included, sea, air and land. As someone else already indicated, each and every operation justifies a book of its own, and most are indeed covered in one or more books already. But to have an overview of all these raids together in one book provides one with a great ‘index’ for further research and reading.
It also shows the many courageous and often imaginative operations that were carried out in these years, often by special elite troops, but also by some unexpected forces like the old Fairey Swordfish bi-planes. Aircraft that looked like they flew straight out of WW1 and were sitting ducks with their 100 mph top speed !

But did you know they were instrumental in attacking the Italian fleet in Taranto (Nov. 1940) and in helping sink the Bismarck in May 1941 !??

Other interesting stories include the better known units such as the Commandos, SOE or LRDG. Each and every soldier on any of the missions described was a volunteer and a hero, and many were decorated for their tremendous courage and commitment.

Some of my favorite stories include the Raid on St. Nazaire, the Dam Busters, and Pegasus Bridge. Each and every a classic. But some of the lesser known operations such as Bridges at Maastricht, Vaagso and Lake Commacchio are great reads too.

The book spends a limited number of pages on each operation of course, but it provides great insight in all of these special ops. One of my pet peeves is the lack of maps again. It would have been nice to have a map accompanying each story.

I think the book is especially useful to point you at these stories and make you go dig for more info on the ones that interest you most!

I dug up a few for you already, but there are so many more ! Click on the ones below !

Pegasus Bridge

Dam Busters

The St. Nazaire Raid

Killing the Bismarck

Get Daring Raids of World War 2 here directly from Pen & Sword

by: Peter Jacobs
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 237
ISBN: 9781783463336
Published: 17th June 2015


 

cover-11220Nothing is Impossible (Hardback)

A Glider Pilot’s Story of Sicily, Arnhem and the Rhine Crossing

By Victor Miller
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 402
ISBN: 9781473843660
Published: 17th June 2015

This is easily one of the best WW2 books I have read. Really. Victor Miller, one of the British glider pilots, wrote his ‘reports’ immediately after each operation, and added drawings to his notes as well. Back in 1994 his notes were published as a book, with the help of his sons. Not only was he a gifted glider pilot and a very brave soldier, he also had a great writing style that really captures the imagination of the reader, making you feel THERE. Also ‘amusing’ to us non-British readers are the many British expressions and way of wording things. I find it nice to read.

Victor’s story begins with his recollection of the training in the UK. Already a much appreciated story. I had never seen such a detailed account of the many hours and flights these glider pilots did before actually going into action. It also gives a great insight in the behavior of the Horsa gliders and their operation. And of the American WACO gliders that were used in the Sicily landings.

The subsequent transferal to Northern Africa and their first battle experience in Sicily (Operation Ladbroke) is a separate story in itself. Could well be a separate book too. Victors writing style is mesmerizing and you won’t put the book down easily. His descriptions of day to day life are just as interesting and vivid as his actual battle accounts!

If you thought that glider pilots were just flying and/or crashing gliders, think again. After landing they turned into infantry and fought alongside the troops they transported! Victor even gets taken prisoner on Sicily and is wounded as well. But he escapes from the island eventually and recovers from his wounds in North Africa and later back in England.

Another very interesting part of the book covers the training for D-Day. I never realized they did so many training flights, practicing formation flying and night landings in confined spaces. In the end, Victor was not chosen as one of the D-Day pilots. But his chance of new action came pretty soon afterwards when he was one of the Operation Market Garden pilots, putting British troops down north of the Rhine, near Oosterbeek and Arnhem.

The battle account of that relatively brief period is very detailed and really impressive. Victor and a number of his fellow glider pilots are dug in near Hotel Hartenstein in Oosterbeek, the British HQ, and they are under constant artillery and mortar fire for all their time down there. I have visited the area and the hotel (now a museum) many times, but only now do I have a true understanding of what the situation was during those few horrible days in September 1944. Victor’s account again is very vivid and one can feel each and every mortar grenade falling near their slit trenches.

Although Victor wasn’t near the bridge in Arnhem – the subject of most books about Market Garden – and he wasn’t in the front line, he was under direct enemy fire all those days and even from his vantage point in the park of the hotel, the battle was fierce, relentless and incredibly exhausting for all involved.

The remaining survivors are evacuated back across the Rhine after 10 days of fighting. That must have been one of the most frightening experiences, in the pitch dark and with the Germans closing in from all sides. The men had to row back in overladen boats themselves, fighting not only their fatigue and German bullets, but also the current of the large river !
Impressive!

The last part of the book describes the renewed training back in England and the subsequent landings across the Rhine again, this time in Operation Verity, landing on German soil just east of The Netherlands.
Compared to Market Garden and Victors experience there, Verity was a bit ‘easier’. Better prepared, larger numbers of allied attackers, immediate support by the 2nd Army all helped to make this a much quicker batlle for the allied. The fact that the opposing troops were of lesser quality helped too of course.

This book is a MUST READ for anyone interested in the actions of the airborne troops during World War 2, and seeing it through the eyes of one of the transport pilots is most interesting!

Available here from Pen & Sword Books

By Victor Miller
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 402
ISBN: 9781473843660
Published: 17th June 2015

 

 


waffenss-cover-11631The Waffen SS in Combat

(Images of War  series )

Frankly, after reading so many great books lately, this one was a bit of a disappointment. Seeing the title and knowing the work of the writer, I expected it to be more in-depth and more informative.

Although the collection of photos is most certainly impressive and of interest to those looking for info on what the SS soldiers looked like back in the day, the general style of the book could have been much better.

The author seems to have had a problem deciding what to do. There are a few ´introductions´ as precursor to some of the chapters, but not to all. Then there is a ´running commentary´ in a more or less chronological order underneath the photos….. and then some photos again have explanatory captions.
There are no maps or any other means of describing the operations mentioned underneath the photos. History books about battles need maps ! Well, that´s my personal view of course.
Also, I would have preferred the captions tell me where a photo was taken, and who or what is in it.

For a book with so little text, there are quite a few typos, especially in the German words and names (a German speaking corrector would have been an asset), and what’s worse, there are some photos where the caption is downright wrong !
Some examples: page 40 talks about the French campaign, but the picture is clearly taking in The Netherlands. Page 62 describes the two vehicles shown as halftracks, but they have 8 wheels ! These are NOT SdKfz 251’s. Page 90 claims the Stug tankhunters shown are Panzer III tanks.

The second part of the book then suddenly starts jumping from East Front to Normandy and the Ardennes, and back, leaving the timeline idea of the first part.

The book does not live up to the excellent tv documentaries by Carruthers and looks to be an ‘afterthought’ on how to make some more money on the photos he happened to have acquired.

The book is valuable for the many photos, especially for WW2 buffs and scale modelers, but don’t expect to learn much from it.

Available here from the Pen & Sword on-line bookshop.

By Bob Carruthers
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Images of War Books
Pages: 160
ISBN: 9781473833531
Published: 6th July 2015


 

 

d-day-berlin-105207D-Day to Berlin (Hardback)

Victory in Europe Day by Day

Here’s another great book especially for those interested in the battles in Normandy in 1944.
But let me start with some criticism first. From the title and subtitle of the book I was expecting a day by day account of the battle from the Normandy beach to the Berlin Reichstag. But truth is that more than half of the book concerns itself with the battles in Normandy, leaving ‘only’ some 80 pages for the ‘rest’. Since there are thousands of books on D-Day and the ensuing battles, but many less on the ultimate battles and mop-up in Germany itself, I think this is a missed opportunity.

On the positive side, the book does a wonderful job in outlining the struggle both the allied and the Germans had right from the word GO on June 6th, 1944. There IS a lot of background information provided, also on the German operations and decisions, and the many hundreds of photos are excellent !

The format of the book with separate pages with timelines and short day-by-day descriptions, longer more verbose descriptions of certain operations and boxes with short descriptions of specific weapons, activities or persons, is excellent. A documentary setup that doesn’t bore in any way !

Being of Dutch origin myself I was pleased with the rather extensive coverage of Operation Market Garden of course. A valiant effort by the poor British paratroopers at the time. I have often visited the airborne museum in Oosterbeek where their story is told and shown.

With books like these it is often difficult to please long-time specialist readers like me. Take the Battle of the Bulge. Another epic period with tons of documentation available! It is obviously only a small part in this overall book and might therefore disappoint. Not everything can be told in 12 pages. But there are some great photos and a good overall explanation, so especially if you have NOT studied this bit extensively there is some really good material.

And then the last part, January – May 1045, the thrust into Germany and the toppling of the Nazi regime…. 30 pages in all. Not too much, and certainly not covering the operations in as much detail as the ones in Normandy. But then again, things started to collapse exponentially after December 1944 and the action became more of racing through Germany villages and towns than battling for every yard of terrain as it had before. So I guess there was less to tell…..
Still, I will go looking for more books covering that period specifically.

Overall D-Day to Berlin is an excellent book filled with great photos and maps. It even pleased an old grumpy Normandy connoisseur like yours truly in spite of some criticism. Well worth your money.

D-Day to Berlin (Hardback)
Victory in Europe Day by Day
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781783462339
Published: 18th December 2013

 


 

10337-corinthcanalTarget Corinth Canal 1940-1945

By Platon Alexiades

When looking through the list of new titles I received a while ago from Pen & Sword, this book and its short description caught my eye. For one, I am not intimately familiar with that part of the second world war…. what went on in the Middle East and the Balkan I only know from occasional glimpses at books covering it.
Living closer to the area now, my interest is growing.

Target Corinth Canal is about efforts to frustrate Italian and German shipping through a small canal in Greece. A canal I, and most likely most of you, had never heard of. The author found the history more or less by accident, while looking for something else.
And I am glad he did. This is an adventure-like story about the efforts of a fairly small group of men, covering many years in the war, and starting already before the war! It is about the secret service and special forces, about adventurous Brits and New Zealanders, about the Italian and German war efforts, and most certainly also about the Greek resistance….. and the Greek not-so-resistant as well. Remember, part of Greece – specifically those serving the dictator of the time –
thought it smart to join forces with the Germans. The country was divided because of it. As was Italy later on in the war.

The book covers a number of special operations aimed at closing the canal, which was very important to Germany to transport supplies and troops from Europe to North Africa. It sometimes goes into too much detail, covering all the documents found and making my old brain spin, but in general it is a great story that seems to be part of a war movie instead of reality.
It is pretty incredible what people did in those days and well worth reading….. and admiring.

To my modeling communities I would say it offers some intriguing stories (and photos) that can be used as guidelines to build some ‘shipping dioramas’ including models that otherwise would not turn up on the radar….. like old Greek fishing boats, Italian navy ships and Italian and German FLAK, civilian fighters and covert operations. I’ll be curious to see if anything gets built !

Available from Pen & Sword here (and at a reduced price at the time of writing).

Target Corinth Canal 1940–1944 (Hardback)
By Platon Alexiades
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 265
ISBN: 9781473827561
Published: 29th April 2015


cover-picVictory in Italy

15th Army Group’s Final Campaign 1945

By Richard Doherty
Published by Pen & Sword Military

Here’s another very interesting book published by Pen & Sword about an important part of the wrapping up of the Second World War. This particular book – Victory in Italy – deals with the last part of the campaign in Italy, a campaign that was started already back to July 10th, 1943 with the landings on Sicily.

After a long campaign and hard fighting the Allied forces under General Mark Clark found themselves stopped south of a west-east front-line stretching roughly from Massa on Italy’s west coast to just north of Ravenna on the east coast, and south of Bologna. Winter came and it was decided to regroup and reinforce, before making the final push into the Po river plains and towards the Alps – Germany’s southern border.

Doherty’s book is a very meticulous reconstruction of all the units involved and the battles fought, detailing to a very high level where all units were and what they did. At some point, even too meticulous, because I must admit I sometimes lost ‘concentration’. Not having been a life time researcher of this particular area, many of the places and units were ‘strange’ to me and I sometimes had trouble memorizing units and places.

As always, my favorite way of reading such strategy books is to have some maps handy and refer back to them regularly. Indeed Doherty’s book provides quite a few nice maps (all together at the front of the book) and they provide a good general overview of the main campaign and some of the most important battles. But personally I could have done with MORE maps and some in greater detail.

That was my criticism on the book. Overall it is a great work of research and well written.

map-1-1920

What I found interesting personally, apart from the obvious learning about the campaign and players, were two things especially. One was the story about Hannibal and his army (yes, the one with the elephants) charging south and fighting the Romans in a major battle just south of Lake Trasimeno. That same spot was used as a training area to prepare for the amphibious operations in April of next year when the main push north started. Although we now live not far from that area, this was new to me and interesting to know. We’ll drive through with a different view of the landscape next time !

The other thing that struck me is the account of the Kangaroo Army. Today we are all familiar with APC’s and armoured infantry being carried into battle, but during WW2 this was still ‘new’. Where the Russians had infantry sitting on top of (and clinging to) their tanks, both the Germans and Allied had the foot soldiers ‘on foot’, and at best in trucks. With the introduction of the Kangaroo – basically Sherman and Priest carriages with the weapons taken off! – there suddenly was a whole new way of – rapidly – moving infantry into the battles !

Also interesting to read and maybe not much realized is the extensive part about the specialized (engineers) equipment and operations, called for by the special terrain. The Po valley looks very flat on our regular boring trips from the Alps going south, but in reality it is an area with many rivers and many protective dikes. The Germans and Italians had made extensive use of these dikes to build fortifications INTO them, often in multiple layers. In addition the dikes were high ans steep and the allied armour could not easily drive over them. So we all know about Hobart’s Funnies used extensively in the Normandy operation, but there were MANY special vehicles and solutions used in the Italian campaign as well!

The book was an interesting read and if nothing else, has triggered my interest in the Italian campaign and equipment, so I will be looking for more books with further detail on Italy !

You can order it straight from the publisher here !

Current price  £ 20,00

By Richard Doherty
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 246
ISBN: 9781783462988
Published: 7th January 2015

More about the Italian Campaign here on Wikipedia


PS-BloodyRoadTunis-10929The Bloody Road to Tunis

by David Rolf

Although I am ‘specialized’ in  World War 2 European Theatres, I DID read quite a lot about the war in Northern Africa back in my youth. And I built some interesting scale models at the time, notably of aircraft and of SAS vehicles and crews. Enough to rekindle my interest and digging deeper now that I have some more time.

David Rolf’s book is an excellent guide for that, and in specific in getting a better understanding of what went on after the allied landings of Operation Torch. David did a LOT of research, clearly visible from the truckload of references to material studied and quoted in each chapter.

Yes, he provides a detailed insight of all the troop movements and the many different units involved in the various battles, illustrated with some great maps! But equally important, at least to me, is that he describes the various commanders and officers involved, with their peculiarities, their strength, weaknesses and quarrels.

A war, any war, is much more than people shooting at each other in a string of battles. And a good book describing past wars and battles is also more than a listing of units and material (although this book does that too!).
A good war account provides the reader with background as to why and where, and provides insight in what happened as much as who did what. David Rolf’s book excels in the latter, describing the various tensions between allies and French, between Germans and Italians, and also shows the complicated role some of the French forces and commanders played. Not sure on which side they were, even today !

TIP: My way to enjoy the book to the fullest was to make a copy of the various maps pages, and keep the copies along while reading, so I could easily refer back to the description of the various places and troop movements. Particularly important if one is not familiar with all the local names.

I recommend the book to anyone wanting to know more and in detail of the operations following Operation Torch and the ultimate defeat of the Axis forces. And I also recommend it to wargamers of that region, since it lists all units and provides excellent accounts of the various stages and battles

By David Rolf
Frontline Publishing
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781848327832
Published: 2nd March 2015

Only  £ 11,99

You can BUY the book HERE at Pen & Sword’s on-line shop !


tigers-in-normandy-coverTigers in Normandy

by Wolfgang Schneider

Since I am working on our own Normandy 1944 scenery product for FSX, the book I recently received for review fits wonderfully into my current research and reading and I wanted to share my views on it with you.

Tigers in Normandy by Wolfgang Schneider and published by the Pen and Sword Publishing company in the UK is an excellent book that meticulously traces the whereabouts of ALL German Tiger tanks in Normandy during and after the allied invasion. It was originally written in 2004 under the title “Tiger im Kampf: Die Einsästze in der Normandie”. Schneider, a colonel in the present German army, has done a LOT of research and included many accounts by soldiers involved at the time.

Especially interesting is the fact that this book is not only about German tanks and troops, but also viewed, analyzed  and written by a German officer, whereas the majority of history books and movies dealing with this period and battlefield are always seen from the ‘allied side’. And although it focuses on the German side of the battles and operations, it is not ‘taking sides’ as such and Schneider provides some interesting analyses of some of the people and their actions.

Admittedly, I am more specialized in aviation and air warfare myself, and so some of the facts that surprised me will be well known facts for ground war specialists, but I think the book is interesting for those of us who are not so familiar with what happened on the German side in those Summer months in 1944.

The book follows a chronological path and the first thing that is flagged is the fact that there were NO Tigers in the area on June 6th. They were not anywhere near even, and although one unit happened to be on its way to Normandy, the others were not. Subsequently they had to start their voyage towards the new front and that was not an easy one! By then the German Luftwaffe was of course not a major force anymore, so the allied fighters and bombers were almost freely roaming the skies. With most rail tracks damaged by bombing and sabotage, the tanks had to take to the roads. And these were constantly under fire from ground attack aircraft, forcing the tanks to drive at night and hide during the day.

The Tigers were not only hampered in speed because of this, but they suffered from another problem too: tanks are not made to travel larger distances, certainly not in that era, and the wear and tear on the heavy equipment caused them to break down almost daily! It ultimately resulted in many tanks not being battle-ready.

The book shows where all units were on June 6th, their routes to Normandy and some of the ‘adventures’ along the way getting there. The next major event is the famous ‘battle’ in Villers-Bocage, where Michael Wittmann hit on the British and Canadian troops on their way around Caen. Schneider calls this chapter ‘The Mystery of Villers-Bocage” and provides a very detailed account and analyses of Wittmann’s actions. This too is an interesting part of the book for those not intimately involved in the tank battles of Normandy. The author argues that the widely held views on that particular engagement on June 12th 1944 are often incorrect, depicting Wittmann as a brilliant tank commander with a supernatural action that day. In reality it may well have been that Wittmann acted haphazardly and not very wise, although courageous, and Schneider also shows that the actual number of allied tanks and other vehicles destroyed by him were much less than is usually assumed.

Oh, I also read somewhere that the British were using Lysanders for artillery spotting…… I have done quite a bit of research on the SOE role of the Lysanders and much of the results of that research went into our Lysander product for the Microsoft Flight Simulator. But the little remark in this book has sparked my renewed interest in learning more of subsequent actions this old aircraft was involved in. So Thank You mr. Schneider for pointing that out!

What I really like about the book are the many, many photographs! And not only the old ones, but also the comparison photos showing old photos followed by ones of the current day situation. Sometimes it is amazing to see how little has changed in these past 69 years ! What I also greatly appreciate are the detailed maps annotated with the positions and movements of the units involved and also the maps showing WHERE photos were taken and in which direction.
It results in LOTS of leafing backwards and forwards to acquire the situational awareness to go with the written accounts of the action. I really appreciate the amount of time and thoroughness that has gone into this.

The book covers all the main (allied) operations that took place from June 6th (Operation Neptune of Overlord) through the final breakthrough of Falaise. In the Appendix section we find a list with allied units that took part in the various operations,  an overview of all the Tigers of the Heavy Armor Units 101, 102 and 503 and a listing of the losses of these.

There is only ONE thing I miss in the book: not being a tank specialist I would have really appreciated a chapter with some photos, specifications, explanation and maybe some cut-outs showing the workings and the innards of these formidable tanks. I know this can be found in other books, but it would have made the work really complete.

Other than that: highly recommended as part of the overall view on what happened in Normandy back in 1044 !

You can order Tigers in Normandy here. And there are many more interesting books in the Pen and Sword on-line bookshop.

In short:

Tigers in Normandy
by Wolfgang Schneider
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Hardback
376 pages
ISBN: 9781848848023
Published: 2 May 2012

£20.00 down from £25.00