Category Archives: Non Fiction

Review of “Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower’s Campaign for Peace” by Alex von Tunzelmann

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Excellent and very readable account of the Suez Crisis of 1956

Alex von Tunzelmann has put together an excellent account of the political manoeuvring that resulted in the 1956 Suez Crisis and how that crisis prevented a more effective response to the Soviet invasion of Hungary that occurred at the same time.

It’s an incredible story of British, French and Israeli duplicity and conspiracy with US President Eisenhower valiantly trying to prevent a potential World War whilst trying to fight an election.

The writing is excellent and whilst the content itself could be quite dry the author recounts the story in style that keeps your attention via an hour by hour account featuring a colourful group of international politicians.

With the 60th anniversary approaching I’d highly recommend this for anyone wanting to understand the modern Middle East and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Hitler’s Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich” by Ben H. Shepherd

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Fascinating revisionist history of the Wehrmacht

Ben Shephard pulls aside the curtain of respectability that many accounts of the German Army are cloaked in, demolishing the image of an honourable and decent fighting force compared to the SS.

In a detailed account he highlights countless occasions where the Wehrmacht are complicit in war crimes showing that many took part and a few notable exceptions complained. What some may find surprising is the early war conduct of some of July 21st conspirators.

However, the book is not purely about war crimes, but also about the combat performance of the Wehrmacht. Shephard shows how the early war effectiveness was eroded away once the gargantuan task of taking on the Soviets was clear and shows how the army still continued to retain its cohesion even when the outcome of the war was clear.

I’d recommend this for anyone who wants to read a more rounded view of the 3rd Reich and some insight into how ordinary men descend into barbarians.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Britain’s War: Into Battle, 1937-1941 (Britain’s War #1)” by Daniel Todman

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A hefty tome, but fast moving and very well written.

The book is expansive with 1937 to 1941 strategic, political, economic, military, cultural and social commentary covered in equal measure.

Todman covers details of the period generally ignored by many volumes. Whilst this might appear to be a dry subject he manages to inject a very readable style with many eyewitness accounts. The book continues to the end of 1941 with a second volume to follow covering the remainder of the war.

A thoroughly fascinating read – Highly recommended.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Churchill’s Last Wartime Secret: The 1943 German Raid Airbrushed from History” by Adrian Searle

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No hard evidence, but an interesting and well researched tale nonetheless.

Adrian Searle lives on the Isle of Wight and has written several history books. This book details the evidence he has compiled to validate the tale of a German raid on the Isle of Wight in 1943 to steal radar equipment.

The book gets into the evidence of the raid in the last two thirds with the first third detailing and debunking tales of other alleged German raids including the infamous Shingle Street story.

There’s also a chapter covering details of the British raid on Bruneval which again was to steal radar equipment and which bears some similarities to the alleged German raid.

Searle then goes onto to showcase his three key characters all of whom are unfortunately now deceased. The first two appear to be reputable characters, one a former war crimes investigator and local Isle of Wight historian and the second a German city senior archivist and apparent veteran of the raid. The third is a second hand source offered by a local military historian.

These combined with some archival evidence, such as an ARP report of “dingies full of Germans in the sea” put forward some scant flesh on the bones of what would result in a major re-write of British World War 2 history.

True or not, there’s shades of the early pages of Jack Higgins “The Eagle Has Landed” when Searle searches local cemeteries for evidence of British and possibly hidden German casualties.

I’ll leave you to decide, but you can’t deny Searle his diligence in his research and coming up with a rattling good tale that I for one would be delighted to be true.

I received this book free from Pen & Sword and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness” by Craig Nelson

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Fast flowing new account of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Craig Nelson provides an expansive book that tells the often told story of the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s been a while since I’ve read Prange’s standard on this subject “At Dawn We Slept” so I have little to compare, however I found this a comprehensive account with some interesting later chapters covering how some of the characters fared in later life and the modern day Japanese and American perspective.

Divided into three parts it’s a substantial read at 500 plus pages but does flow at quite a pace. Part one covers Japanese-U.S. relations, the growing tension in the Pacific, and Japanese war planning. Part two covers the attack itself including midget submarines. Part three covers the aftermath of the attacks, rescue efforts, salvage efforts, as well as a whistle stop tour of the Pacific campaign to the dropping of the atomic bomb.

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a present day view of the attack it’s ramifications both at the time and also to the present day.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of ” The Battle Of The Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War” by Jonathan Dimbleby

Immensely readable account of probably the most critical campaign of World War 2

Well known British broadcaster and author Jonathan Dimbleby has produced a scholarly yet accessible account of the campaign that if won by the Germans would have forced the surrender of the UK and most likely either the defeat of the Soviet Union or a forced peace.

Whilst he visits many areas that are well known such as the sacrifice borne by the merchant navy’s 30,000 casualties and the 75% casualty rate amongst U-Boat crews he also challenges many of the received views.

Most notable is the part played by the Ultra decrypts where he claims that whilst they were useful, technological advances in airborne radar and the deployment of long range aircraft were more critical. He argues that the Ultra decrypts were negated to a significant degree by the lesser known German code breaking efforts which resulted in them reading the British and Allied Merchants Ships code and a breakthrough in February 1942 where they broke the code used for communication with many of the Atlantic convoys.

The Battle of the Atlantic is the subject of a number of books but Dimbleby has successfully added several refreshing new viewpoints and created a book that is readable for the general reader too.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie

Intriguing, chilling, and colourful insight into the most famous Cold War espionage case.

Guy Burgess has often been thought as the least damaging of the Cambridge spies, however Andrew Lownie’s book argues strongly against this view.

Burgess himself is a complex person, charming and repulsive in equal measure, he was the consummate networker. Despite being drunk and openly gay at work when such activity was illegal the fact he wasn’t fired or found out earlier is astounding.

Lownie details Burgess’s formative years which goes some way to explain his decision to spy for the Soviets. The book is accessible, enjoyable and informative, however I did find some aspects difficult to follow, particularly keeping track of the seemingly endless list of Burgess’s lovers.

I recommend watching this excerpt of a rare TV interview with him when he was in Moscow which is mentioned in the book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e36KM…

I find the Cambridge 5 case fascinating in that the “old boy network” of MI6 just couldn’t comprehend that that one of their own (i.e of their class & upbringing) would spy for another country, which led them being able to continue for so long.

A fascinating read for anyone interested in espionage, the cold war and political motivation.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.