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.

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