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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 :

  • Marengo

    T. E. Crowdy
    We have always known the plot of the story of the battle of Marengo reads more like fiction than fact. By 1630hrs on the 14th June 1800 the Austrians had won the battle of Marengo, their Commander in Chief left the battlefield to his deputy. By 2300hrs the Austrians had been routed and the French had won. Here, by the skin of his teeth, the myth of Napoleon’s invincibility was born. The hero triumphs in the end.
    T. E. Crowdy’s Marengo is not a novel but an excellent factual account. However he fills out the facts with detail and evocative descriptions which grip the reader as a good novel should. For example, pg.168, as he writes about Napoleon’s guards he can ‘see’ them and then the reader can too. It is obvious that Crowdy has done a massive amount of research and tried to place it before the reader with integrity and where necessary he has explained his dilemma. His note 4 to chapter 10 should be mandatory in every account of Napoleonic battles.
    The book has 316 pages, 41 appropriate mono or coloured plates, a useful set of end notes and an extensive bibliography. As to the maps, 17 of them, I can only make my usual criticism of the absence of scale for the first six. Also included are five and a half pages of description of the topography of the battle field which gives the third dimension to the maps. Who can see what from where is an important factor on any battlefield.
    This is a book has both story and information it can be both studied and enjoyed. We highly recommend it to all levels of readership

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • The Badges of Kitchener's Army

    David Bilton
    This book has the wow! factor. Packed full of information, a real reference gem.
    In its 351 pages, the badges of sixty nine infantry regiments are covered with explanatory text and over a thousand illustrations. Also, oft neglected, Divisional and Brigade badges are included. Every one of the illustrations of badges and of men wearing them is an original photograph. The text, often as an annotation to a photograph, is fully informative and where the author doesn’t have the necessary knowledge he says so. I rather fear that, after his thirty years research, if David Bilton doesn’t know then it is unlikely that the knowledge is anywhere to be found.
    This book will be of interest to many people from the person with a passing interest to the most knowledgeable collector. I defy anyone who picks it up intending to look at one regiment to put it down with out looking at a few more.
    We highly recommend this invaluable research tool.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • 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