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Our Book Reviews


In the course of our research, we have found several books useful so we've listed and reviewed them. Select a category to browse the book list, use the form to search for a specific topic, or select from our featured reviews.

If you have read a particularly good book, we would welcome your recommendations too - Send us your book reviews.

Featured reviews :

  • Walcheren to Waterloo

    Andrew Limm
    This is not a comfortable read for anyone steeped in British military history. We are used to reading of victories, we are meant to win campaigns. This, on the other hand, is a story of defeats and failures. Andrew Limm tells it how it was, a level of political and military bungling which should have been an embarrassment to all concerned. He expertly describes four expeditions to the Low countries from their political origins to their military failures. He draws out what should have been lessons for the politicians and the generals of the time but which they failed to learn and as a consequence we’re doomed to repeat, and he goes on to explain that great scourge of the army, Walcheren fever, and how it was both known about and not prepared for. The theme running through the whole narrative is of how little evaluation was done and how very modest any army reforms were during the Napoleonic period.
    The huge amount of research undertaken by the author comes out in the text, the supporting notes and the bibliography. This could have resulted in a dry academic tome but although that quality is still there it is most readable. There are a few pertinent illustrations. My only complaint is about the maps. Yet again we see a book published with maps without scales and in the case of the Schedlt Estuary expedition the map does not show the island of Cadsand and yet in the text it’s importance to the expedition is repeatedly emphasised.
    This book is worth reading for the conclusion alone. Not only is it an excellent condensation of the previous chapters but it is a remarkable summation of Wellington as a military leader which captures his essence in a way superior to many more wordy works.
    We recommend this book without reservation.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • How the Navy Won the War

    Jim Ring
    To the general reader the idea of the Navy winning the First World war may appear odd. ‘Everyone’ knows of the mighty battles the army fought and that the Navy had only one major engagement. Reading this book will change their minds. As the author points out in the introduction ‘This story, by no means unfamiliar to naval and military historians, is one which has never captured the public’s imagination…’
    Throughout this book the interesting premise is well developed. Jim Ring has done his research well and could have presented a dry academic exercise but the story flows from event to event at a pace to reflect the developing situations in a gripping and most readable way. The land story, the sea story, the political and the military are intertwined and have a cohesion which makes for easy understanding.
    The book is not large, 232 pages, including a group of thirteen photographs. The content is, therefore, an overview with very little detail but the extensive seven page bibliography points the reader towards an extension of any of the events and persons they wish to follow up.
    This is a book should capture the public’s attention and imagination, as the author intended, and we thoroughly recommend it. After reading it the First World war will never appear the same again.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2018
  • The Cyprus Emergency

    Nick van der Bijl
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book covering, as it does, both the political and the military aspects of the Cyprus ‘troubles’ from 1955 to 1974. The narrative flows from event to event with little comment or opinion allowing the reader to understand the series of cause-and-effect which brought the island to its present state. There are three good maps and a set of photographs which well illustrate the text.
    I should here declare a deep personal interest as I served in Cyprus during the Emergency, 1958-61, and for a while was part of the security team at Government house. It is a slightly odd experience to look at a photograph in a ‘history’ book and to know that one was there standing in the next room. Also, to read about incidents in which one was involved including the death of a close comrade. The author perfectly captures the changes felt by the ‘boots on the ground’ when Hugh Foot became Governor and Major-General Kendrew was replaced by Major-General Darling as Director of Operations. Although I found that the book was a little uncomfortable in parts to read about intelligence and security failings, all accurately conveyed by the author, which we should have known at the time.
    According to my experience the book ‘rings true’ and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of our time and especially all those young National Servicemen who got their knees brown during the Cyprus Emergency.

    Pen and Sword Military, 2018
  • Battle on the Seven Seas

    Gary Staff
    Here we have a good read, a narrative of the German cruiser battles 1914-1918, with lots of quotes from the people who were there. Battle locations are world wide from the Pacific to the Black Sea with both global strategy and engagement tactics described. The account of the battle of Jutland, Skagerrak to the Germans, with its focus on the cruisers, is refreshingly different to the usual version of events. Also there are some excellent photographs of the warships including some uncommon ones showing battle damage.
    Three things stop this book from being excellent. The first is my very regular complaint about maps. There is an absence of scales on most of the many maps [28 maps only 2 with scales], and a few with too much information which is confusing. However, the six maps which cover the phases of the battle of Jutland are most helpful.
    The second is an absence of any detailed description of the ships involved, and I had to turn to my Jane’s Fighting ships of WW1 to get a real understanding of the comparative worth of opposing vessels. A drawing and a specification of each class of cruiser would have been of great help to the general reader. And lastly a glossary of technical terms and abbreviations used, including translations of the many German terms, would have been more than helpful. The addition of these things to the 232 pages would not have made the book unmanageable.
    In spite of those criticisms I still think this is a book well worth reading by anyone with an interest in World War One at sea.

    Pen & Sword MARITIME, 2018
  • Messines 1917

    Craig Deayton
    Craig Deaton tells the story of the Anzacs attack on the Messines Ridge on the 7th June 1917. An attack which began with the greatest explosion of mines ever executed, continued with the rapid achievement of the first objective and then dissolved into a chaotic bloodbath gaining the final objectives. The story moves seamlessly between the micro to the macro within a few paragraphs without any confusion to the reader. We see the role and hear the voice of the General and the private.
    This is a super read for anyone wanting to gain insight into the very essence of the First World war. There is brilliant staff work contrasting with the appalling blunders by senior officers. There are expectations of command which are beyond reason and there are achievements beyond possible. There is the heroism, occasionally amounting to suicidal actions, among men and especially among front line officers. There is compassion and savagery, carrying a wounded comrade back to safety under fire contrasting with the shooting of enemy soldiers who had surrendered.
    There are very many photographs scattered throughout the text and contemporary maps at the appropriate points. Here is my usual complaint about most modern books, there are not sufficient maps with scales and keys. A picture is worth a thousand words and so is a good map.
    What Craig Deayton cannot be faulted on are the appendices, the endnotes, the bibliography and the index all of which are of great help to the reader and point to the massive amount of research which has gone into the writing of this book.
    Clash-of-Steel thoroughly recommends this book.

    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2018