25 March 2009

New and Forthcoming - 25th March

The new and forthcoming titles this week include School of the Sea - the story of a Merchant Navy sailor, The Russian Patriot - a unique recollection of a Russian soldier who fought with Vlasov's Russian Army of Liberation alongside German forces, and Escape from St. Valery-en-Caux - the escapades of a British Army officer during the Battle of France in 1940 and his subsequent escapes from German and Vichy imprisonment.

School of the Sea
by Stephen Richardson (Whittles Publishing)

Based on his daily diary entries, Stephen Richardson recounts his development as a merchant mariner starting with his apprenticeship from 1937-41 on Elysia, a passenger ship on the India run. For the remainder of the Second World War, he served as an officer on cargo ships, where he experienced episodes such as seeing ships sunk in convoy, hearing bombs drop beside the ship when in port during heavy air raids and the horrific experience of being torpedoed. The extremes of nature - winter storms on the North Atlantic; navigating in convoy through floe ice and avoiding icebergs; fog and the ever-present danger of collision; the extreme heat experienced in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, without air conditioning are all accurately described. He also relates the problems encountered when sailing on worn-out ships that would normally have been scrapped had it not been for the war.

Available from:
Whittles Publishing

The Russian Patriot
-->A Red Army soldier’s service for his Motherland and against Bolshevism
by Sigismund Diczbalis (The History Press)

The only personal memoir of a rank and file Russian-born veteran of the Russian Army of Liberation to be published in English, this looks like an intriguing title.

Sigismund Diczbalis, a committed young communist, was originally a member of the Red Army. Captured and imprisoned by the Germans, he was offered a way out from almost certain death by being ordered to infiltrate an anti-partisan unit. Soon he became an anti-Bolshevik, joining General Vlasov’s Russian Army of Liberation that was devoted to toppling Stalin and restoring social democracy in Russia. The following year Sigismund was re-captured by Soviet spy-hunters, SMERSH, which meant an automatic death sentence but somehow managed to escape.

Sigismund Diczbalis was born in Saratov, Central Russia in 1922. He now lives in Australia.

Update February 2011:
Sadly Sigismund Diczbalis died this month in Brisbane, aged 89.
Source: Nick Holdsworth (Co-Author, The Russian Patriot)

Available from:
The History Press

Escape from St. Valery-en-Caux
The Adventures of Captain Bradford
by Andrew Bradford (The History Press)

The dramatic story of Captain Berenger Colborne Bradford, Adjutant of the 1st Battalion Black Watch, compiled by his son using diaries and letters, coded messages and correspondence between his family and the War Office in their desperate effort to hear news of his safety. This book tells of Captain Bradford's experiences between 1939 and 1941, during which time he was in the thick of the action in France, leading up to the surrender of the Highland Division at Saint Valery-en-Caux in June 1940. While being marched into captivity Capt. Bradford managed to escape once from the Germans and then seven further times from the Vichy French. This account details his journey to safety in Gibraltar, spanning France, Spain and North Africa, including a night crossing of the Pyrenees and an astonishing 700-mile voyage in a 17ft sailing boat.

Available from:
The History Press

24 March 2009

Mollie & Other War Pieces

A. J. Liebling (1904-1963) was an American war correspondent for the New Yorker. He sailed to Algeria in November 1942 to cover the fighting on the Tunisia front, later participated in the Normandy landings on D Day, and was with the Allied forces when they entered Paris.

'Mollie & Other War Pieces' is a collection of short stories written by Liebling during the war, focusing attention on individual soldiers, sailors and airmen who he met during his time overseas. In the original newspaper stories, these individuals remained anonymous. In the book Liebling has provided their names, in most (but not all) cases.

The stories include 'Confusion is normal in combat' - Liebling's search for the truth behind a 'legendary' soldier in the US 9th Division in Tunisia. Mollie (real name Karl Warner) was reknowned for outlandish dress, attitude to Army discipline, and bravery. Posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Mollie was killed in 1943. The story is supported by excellent descriptions of his daily experiences in Tunisia with the US Army.

'For Boots Norgaard' considers Liebling's time with a P-38 Squadron in Tunisia; 'Direction: Paris' describes the advance across France and the liberation of the French capital; 'And So To Victory', Liebling's famous account of D Day was written while onboard LCIL-88 at Omaha Beach; and 'The Massacre' - a chilling account of the murder of civilians in the village of Comblanchien in Southern France by German forces in August 1944 - an event which seems to be little known 65 years later.

Having picked up this book in a remainder shop, I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be one of the best written personal recollections I've read in a long time. Granted, it was written by a professional journalist, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone with an interest in personal recollections of WWII.

Available from:
Bison Books (University of Nebraska Press)

Further reading:
Comblanchien - photo gallery (website in French)

18 March 2009

A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race: WW2 Experiences of a former RAF Navigator & POW

Cy Grant, born in British Guyana, was one of about 400 Caribbean men who joined the RAF as aircrew in the Second World War.

He came to Britain and joined the RAF in 1941, qualifying as a navigator, and was posted to 103 Squadron. As part of the crew of an Avro Lancaster, his plane was shot down during a raid on Gelsenkirchen in June 1943. It was only his third operational mission. Bailing out, he landed in Holland, where he was captured and sent first to Amsterdam - where his photo was taken by the Germans. It was later to appear in the newspaper Volkischer Beobachter, with the caption 'A member of the RAF of indeterminate race'.

Imprisoned in Stalag Luft III until 1945, the camp was evacuated before the invading Russians, and Cy and his fellow prisoners were sent to Stalag IIIA at Lukenwalde, where they were liberated by Soviet troops (although not actually release for a number of weeks!).

Cy Grant's memoir provides a unique perspective on the war, coming from a Caribbean volunteer with the RAF and POW. Cy states that the only racism he encountered while serving was the institutional form, from within some of the higher echelons of the RAF, and none from any of the rank and file Canadian and British airmen who he served with.

Obituary: Cy Grant (from The Daily Telegraph 15th February 2010)

Available from:
Woodfield Publishing

16 March 2009

Welsh Sailors of the Second World War

Welsh Sailors of the Second World War is predominantly a book of first-hand accounts of the experiences of Welsh men and women serving in the Merchant Navy, the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm, dockyards and naval bases during the Second World War.

The book also contains chapters focusing on particular snapshots of the war at sea - the contribution of one Welsh Port, Barry, to the Merchant Navy; the sinking of the Anglo Saxon by the German raider Widder and the survival of two of her crew members after 51 days adrift in the Atlantic; the sinking of the SS Elwyn; and the story of the war service of the seven Hortop brothers.

The personal recollections recall service on a large number of Royal Navy and Merchant Navy ships and Fleet Air Arm Squadrons including (but not limited to) 767 Squadron and HMS Ark Royal (sinking of the Bismark); HMS Swift; Merchant Aircraft Carriers; LCTs at D Day, Merchant Navy crewmen on the Russian and Atlantic convoys; the sinking of the MV Empire Cromwell; HMS Jamaica; HMS Catterick; a DEMS Gunner on the Empire Prince; HMS Talent; MV Dolius; LST 165; 206 Squadron (Coastal Command); Baron Oglivy; HMS Glasgow; MV Empire Confidence; HMS Warspite; HMS Frobisher; MTB 469; and the Royal Navy Patrol Service.

At over 400 pages, this is a considerable book - the coverage is comprehensive, and is going to be of interest to anyone with an interest in the Royal and Merchant Navies during the war.

Available from:
Glyndwr Publishing

Further reading:
Barry Merchant Seamen

New & Forthcoming - 16th March

I've received some information on a few recent and forthcoming books from The History Press and Stackpole books:

Red Star Under the Baltic: A Soviet Submariner in World War II by Viktor Korzh (Stackpole Books).

The author served on a Soviet submarine during the war, and this memoir describes his experiences hunting German shipping in the shallow waters of the Baltic
. Originally published in Russian in 1966, this is a rare book that covers the war from the angle of a Soviet submariner. The author died in 1993.

Available from:
Pen & Sword (UK Edition)

Burma 1942: Memories of a Retreat
The Diary of Ralph Tanner, 2nd Battalion The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
by Ralph Tanner and David Tanner (The History Press)

Burma 1942 is taken in part from the diary and maps kept by Ralph Tanner, who served as a Second Lieutenant with 2nd Battalion The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the fighting retreat to the Indian border, and from the official Battalion war diary by Major Chadwick. It includes information on the Battalion in 1941, who they were, their equipment and what they were trained for, and considers the series of disasters at Moulmein, Sittang, Toksan and Yenangyaung which left them increasingly unable to fight as a unit. It serves as a tribute to the strength of the men of the battalion - most of whom were conscripts - and of whom a fifth were killed and have no known grave.

Available from:
The History Press

Armoured Guardsmen: A War Diary from Normandy to the Rhineby Robert Boscawen (Stackpole Books)

Shortly after D-Day, Robert Boscawen, fresh from Cambridge and Sandhurst, found himself in Normandy with his Coldstream Guards tank unit. During the months that followed, he kept a diary recording the Guards Armoured Division's almost constant activity in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany until, having already had three tanks shot from under him, he suffered severe burns and had to be evacuated, one of only two survivors of his crew. Following a lengthy convalescence after the war and a career in business, he served in Parliament from 1970 to 1992.

Available from:

12 March 2009

God, Honour and Country

Stanislaw Jozefiak escaped from Poland in 1939, travelling via Romania, Turkey, Greece, Eygpt and France to England. Arriving in 1940 as a member of the Polish Airforce, he continued his training and joined 304 Squadron as a WOP/AG in 1941. Shortly after he was forced to bail out of his damaged Wellington after a mission to Boulogne, landing near Tunbridge Wells. Badly wounded, his recuperation took nine months. 4 of his crew were killed, with only one other member, Sgt Nilski, surviving.

He returned to 304 Squadron, and continued with missions to places such as Essen, Cologne, Lubeck and St Nazaire. in May 1942, his squadron was transferred to RAF Coastal Command, patrolling the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay for U-boats. In March 1943 he received the Virtuti Militari and during his career received the Krzyz Waleczny (Cross of Valour) four times.

In July 1943 he started training as a pilot, and in 1945 was posted to 317 Squadron, flying Spitfires. Very shortly after this, the war ended in Europe, although he continued to serve for a number of years.

This book provides substantial information on Stanislaw Jozefiak's service with the Polish Airforce, and this certainly makes the book work reading. There is also a fair amount of information on his post war experiences, which may not be of great interest to all readers, although his perspective on the changes in post-Cold War Poland make for interesting reading.

Believed to be out of print.

Further reading:
Polish Air Force Operations Books: 304 Squadron
History of 304 Squadron

A Long Night for the Canteen Boat - The Story of HMS Cassandra

A Long Night for the Canteen Boat is subtitled 'The Torpedoing and Salvage of HMS Cassandra December 11th 1944.

HMS Cassandra was torpedoed by the U-387 during the night of the 11th December 1944 while part of a convoy from Murmansk. 62 members of her crew were lost. HMS Cassandra was towed back to Kola Inlet and was later returned to the UK.

This interesting little book is a compilation of the recollections of 16 members of HMS Cassandra's crew, describing the torpedoing, their experiences marooned in Murmansk while the ship was repaired and interaction with the Russians, and their return to the UK. While the book covers a very specific incident, it provides an enlightening insight into the experiences of Royal Navy crews who escorted the convoys from the Shetlands to Russia.

From the publisher Arcturus Press

Further reading
HMS Cassandra memorial and Roll of Honour
HMS Cassandra information on naval-history.net
Photos of HMS Cassandra

8 March 2009

Memories of World War II - Volume 2

Memories of World War II - Volume 2 is a collection of first hand accounts from members of the Dorset 84 Branch of the Normandy Veterans Association. Published in 2004 it contains approximately 40 stories of varying lengths, all of which describe experiences from D Day to VE Day in Europe.

They include the story of LCT 628 at D Day by a member of the crew; the experiences of a soldier with the 53rd Medium Regt Royal Artillery & 3rd Regiment RHA at Dunkirk, North Africa, Salerno and in Normandy; memories of a tank commander on Gold Beach with the 114th Royal Armoured Corps; a description of Operation Varsity (crossing the Rhine) with the 6th Airborne Division; and the story of a member of the RASC from Normandy to the end of the war in Germany.

A number of the stories in Memories of WWII are quite brief, however the stories listed above go over several pages. The book is a paperback, in A4 format, and contains a small number of photographs, mostly of the authors. It also contains a nice fold out map of the landing beaches and the order of battle on D Day & during the battle of Normandy.

If you have enjoyed reading books from the 'Forgotten Voices' series, then Memories of WWII will be of interest to you.

Believed to be out of print.
As the book was locally published, the cheapest copies will probably be found in Dorset secondhand bookshops. Online, it is available at:

Further reading:
Return to Normandy - a story by a member of the Dorset 84 Branch of the NVA

7 March 2009

What Price Bushido?

Alf 'Blackie' Baker was captured by the Japanese in Singapore in February 1942. 'What Price Bushido?' is his story of his treatment as a FEPOW.

However, while a considerable number of stories have been published by FEPOWs about the treatment in POW camps in Thailand (the 'Death Railway'), Alf Baker's story is very different.

He was one of the 600 Artillerymen who were transported to Rabaul, New Britain (now Papua New Guinea - see Google Map) in October 1942. When the war ended three years later, only 18 men remained alive. 517 of these men were taken to Ballale in the Solomon Islands, from which none returned alive - a terrible incident which seems to have been lost in history.

Before I read this book I had no idea about what happened at Rabaul and Ballale. Alf Baker's book includes a Roll of Honour of both the lost and the survivors. It is a fitting tribute to the men who lost their lives while POWs of the Japanese.

Believed to be out of print, although I have seen copies in secondhand bookshops in Devon.

Further reading:
The story of Alfred William Burgess (killed at Ballale)