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Our Reviews


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

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Featured reviews :

  • A Scots Grey at Waterloo

    Gareth Glover
    The sub-title on the cover is ‘The Remarkable Story of Sergeant William Clarke’ and that is just what this book is – a truly remarkable story. Clarke has written of his life from being a farm hand until, with the rank of Troop Sergeant Major, he left the regiment in 1825. The language is typical flowery early 19th prose. In the initial chapters much is in the Scots vernacular. Glover warns that the reader may find this challenging. But thanks in large part to Glover’s translations and annotations, which on occasions correct Clarke on matters of fact, I found the style of writing gave authenticity to the text. The whole book is a good read but some sections deserve special mention. The Gypsy King’s tale of his life as a soldier in the Seven Years war is illuminating. The account of the retreat from Quatre Bras is, in its detail, a clear indication of how well it was commanded and executed. What might have been a rout was anything but. Naturally the charge of the Union Brigade figures large and again shows us how every individual in a battle sees only his fight and never the whole battle. The final highlight, full of raw emotion, is Clarke’s description of the killing field as he was one of the regiment’s burial party on the 19th June. For example he reports seeing, among the heap of amputated limbs as he passed the field hospital, a leg which had belonged to a Highlander because it still wore the long socks which accompany the wearing of the kilt.
    At times the book reads like a novel, other times a journal and at other times like the report of a war correspondent; at no time is it dull. The discovery, recognition and publication of an important manuscript are to be applauded.
    We highly recommend it.

    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2017
  • Arras Counter-Attack 1940

    Tim Saunders
    By late May 1940 the German Panzer spearhead had reached the coast of France. This effectively cut off the British and French armies fighting in Belgium from the main body of France. The German extended lines of communication necessitated by the nature of Blitzkrieg were ripe for counter attack. Tim Saunders’s book is an account of the major attempt to cut the German lines of communication which took place around Arras.
    The counter attack was hastily put together. A serious lack of command and control leading to a lack of coordination between infantry, armour and artillery resulted in chaos and failure. The German effective response was largely due to their superior communications net and Rommel’s grip in command. Within two days the Germans out numbered the British to the point where three British infantry brigades faced four Panzer divisions.
    When the author first looked at this event writing it up in any coherent fashion must have seemed a daunting task. In making sense, for the reader, of chaos and confusion he has succeeded brilliantly. All through the book there many first-hand accounts and a large number of maps and photographs. The final chapter is an up to the minute guide to the battlefield.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • The Sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo

    Tim Saunders
    Here is a book that does just what it says on the cover and does it well and at the same time is an excellent insight into Napoleonic warfare in general. The sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo in 1810 by the French against the Spanish and the 1812 return match of the British/Portuguese against the French are dealt with in detail. The movements and engagements of the armies between the two events are covered sufficiently for the reader to grasp the strategic significance of the sieges. The book is rich in illustrations including photographs of things as they are today and one of the appendices is a battlefield tour guide.
    The text flows easily with many appropriate contemporary accounts covering many aspects of the soldiers lives. Two of them will stick in my memory for a long time. One is of an Irish woman dropping out of a very tough winter march to have a baby by the side of the road and who then rejoined the marching column. The other is of a major who had his arm amputated and then wandered around to find a bed for the night. There are many similar accounts which enrich the narrative and get the reader closer to the reality of Napoleonic campaigning. I often have cause to complain about the maps in modern books but I don’t need to here. To my joy the maps are excellent supports to the text, some are reproductions of contemporary maps and these are supported with new maps and battlefield plans which have both keys and scales.
    There are four useful appendices and the bibliography is contained within the notes attached to each chapter.
    We thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Napoleonic warfare and especially to anyone thinking of visiting this area of Spain. My hope is Tim Saunders is going to write a similar book on the siege of Badajoz, an altogether bloodier affair.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • Sir Alan Cobham, The Flying Legend.

    Colin Cruddas
    Published in association with The Aviation Historian Magazine.

    This book is an important biography of an important figure in British aviation who held a pivotal position in the development of flying in the inter-war period. It begins with the early life of Alan J Cobham, born in 1894 in Camberwell to a middle class family, then outlines his work in the garment industry and farming before, in 1914, he joined up in the Army Veterinary Corps. He served with distinction in France, becoming a Veterinary Sergeant in charge of the welfare of 1,500 horses on the Western Front. It then describes how, after some childhood exposure to aircraft at Brooklands he applied to the Royal Flying Corps and, with connections and a certain degree of luck, was accepted and went on to become a flying instructor.

    The biography follows on with his post war struggle to get a job, how he set up his own company with the Holmes brothers as a taxi pilot and went on to work for Airco, then de Havilland, in the air taxi and aerial photography business. However the book doesn’t dwell on the flying itself, as that was only one facet of the future Sir Alan’s success. It makes plain his organisational and leadership talents that would typify his approach. His long distance flights, to India, Cape Town and eventually Australia (for which he gained his Knighthood) are described, again placing emphasis on his ability to organise and finance the ventures as well as fly them. It points out the contributions of his relationship with influential figures like Sir Sefton Brancker and Lord Wakefield to his successes, but also to his view of aviation. He wasn’t one of the glory-seaking record breakers, though he did indeed break records. His focus was on proving that aviation had a commercial and practical future. Hence on his long-distance tours, such as the circumnavigation of Africa in a Shorts Singapore flying boat, he was making copious notes, reports and local contacts to lay the groundwork for future commercial air routes.

    This is further shown in his next, and probably more famous venture, the National Aviation Days. During the 1930’s he led a troupe (later 2 troupes) of aircraft, ground personnel and pilots around the country giving demonstrations and experience flights to thousands of ordinary people. His purpose, again clearly shown in this book, was not to thrill or be a ‘barnstormer’ but to educate and ‘acclimatise’ the public to aircraft, and build what was termed ‘airmindedness’. It also highlights the contributions made to the Air Days by the long suffering Dallas Eskell and Hugh Thompson, without whom the venture would have come to grief several times.

    This marks another shift in direction for the book. As the end of the 1930’s approached and Sir Alan's new company, Flight Refueling Ltd. showed more potential the book becomes more of a wider history of FRL than a biography of Sir Alan. It describes the major inventions in terms of both equipment and technique that FRL made to the in-flight refueling, including the important war-work it undertook in the 1940’s and the major developments since then.

    All in all, this is an timely reminder of the work of a key figure in the history of aviation, one often overlooked in the modern world in favour of his more attention-seeking contemporaries but one who materially helped contribute to the air industry today. I would have preferred more maps and a bibliography, but the included illustrations are useful and welcome, and the text is well-written, balanced and highly readable. Definitely to be recommended.


    Frontline Books (Yorkshire), 2018
  • The Two Battles of Copenhagen

    Gareth Glover
    This book covers the two battles of Copenhagen, the intervening years and what followed. Both the political and military aspects are dealt with in relation to one another. There is an extensive bibliography should the reader wish to follow up any thread in greater detail.
    I declare my bias I am a Gareth Glover fan and I am pleased to say that this book will not disappoint others like me. The narrative flows easily without getting bogged down in lists or too much factual detail. But the detail, the product of much research, is contained in the appendices of which there are thirty six. The author’s forte in flushing out hitherto unpublished first hand accounts is used to good effect. He makes clear the difference between reporting and opinion whenever he has exercised his judgement especially when dealing with variations between a number of original accounts.
    There are a number of illustrations throughout the book and a well chosen set of colour plates in the centre of the text. The weak point, true of almost every recently published book, are the maps. It is all very well to insert small facsimiles of the original maps which were used at the time but they are very little use without scales to the reader attempting to understand locations. I turned to the maps in The Great Gamble by Dudley Pope, published in 1972, and used its four excellent maps.
    This is a most readable, informative and enjoyable book which we fully recommend to anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic period.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018