Military History Encyclopedia on the Web

2018 onwards - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - April-December 2012 - November 2011-March 2012 - July-October 2011 - January-June 2011 - March-December 2010 - January-April 2010 - September-December 2009 - January-August 2009- 2008 - 2007

31 December 2017

The First Afghan War 1839-42 - Invasion, catastrophe and retreat, Richard MacRory. A deeply relevant look at the first, and most disastrous, British intervention in Afghanistan, which saw the complete destruction of a British army, in what was one of the worst setbacks ever suffered by the British army in India. Covers the reasons for the invasion, the initial campaign, the wasted year at Kabul, the build-up to disaster, the failed retreat and the army of retribution, which allowed the British to put a gloss on the war [read full review]
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Dutch Armies of the 90 Years' War 1578-1648 (1) Infantry, Bouko de Groot. Traces the dramatic evolution of the Dutch armies during the long war of independence, which saw the Dutch Republic emerge as one of Europe's military superpowers. Part one focuses on the infantry, which began as unwieldy blocks of poorly trained men, and developed into a powerful, flexible force, using new tactics and centrally produced weapons (Read Full Review)
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Dutch Armies of the 80 Years' War 1568-1658 (2) Cavalry, Artillery and Engineers, Bouko de Groot. Traces the impressive development of the Dutch cavalry, artillery and engineering forces during the long wars of independence from Spain, a period in which they went from being improvised forces created at great speed to highly professional specialists, with advanced artillery and increasingly proficient and well equipped engineers, allowing the Dutch to carry out ever more ambitious campaigns (Read Full Review)
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24 December 2017

Friends of the Wigwam - A Civil War Story, John William Huelskamp. An entertaining historical novel before and during the first half of the American Civil War, mainly tracing the lives of a small group of young friends, linked originally by their discovery of a hidden riverside cave, and following the group as it was split up by the war. Largely based on genuine historical events, with a mix of fictional and real characters (Read Full Review)
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The Boat that Won the War - An Illustrated History of the Higgins LCVP, Charles C. Roberts, Jr. A detailed examination of the history, design and construction of the LCVP, the most famous landing craft of the Second World War and an iconic vessel that played a key part in amphibious operations from Normandy to the Pacific. Supported by a huge array of detailed plans, contemporary photographs and wartime documents, and written by someone who has restored one of these boats, this is a very valuable look at this key weapon (Read Full Review)
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Wartime Standard Ships, Nick Robins. Looks at the surprisingly wide variety of ‘standard’ ships produced by the Allied and Axis nations during the two World Wars, covering their design, construction, civil service and military usage. Could have done with more basic info for those without a background in maritime matters, but is otherwise an interesting look at the massive industrial effort that defeated both German U-boat campaigns and produced many of the ships used in the inter-war and post-war periods(Read Full Review)
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17 December 2017

Hannibal's Oath - The Life and Wars of Rome's Greatest Enemy, John Prevas. A good biography of Hannibal, covering his entire life from childhood to his death in exile, as well as the famous period of dramatic victories over the Romans in Italy. Pitched at the interested non-historian, and covers his entire life story, from childhood, through the long years of war in Italy to exile in the east. Paints a picture of an obsessed figure whose career in Italy peaked early, and who spent most of his time in Italy unable to find a way to come to grips with the Romans, before continuing to campaign against them even when in exile (Read Full Review)
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Chattanooga 1863 - Grant and Bragg in Central Tennessee, Mark Lardas. Good account of the entire Chattanooga campaign, from the moment the Confederates arrived outside the city, through the siege and on to the series of battles which saw Grant break the siege and force the Confederates back onto the defensive. Gives a clear picture of the contrast between the lethargy and dysfunctional command structure on the Confederate side and the energy levels injected into the battle by Grant and his trusted subordinates (Read Full Review)
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Camden 1780 - The annihilation of Gates' Grand Army, David Smith. An account of the last successful British campaign of the American of Independence, which saw them capture Charleston and then destroy Gates' Grand Army at the battle of Camden, but which failed to have any long term success, as the Americans were soon able to regain control of everywhere outside the reach of a large British garrison, marking the failure of the 'Southern Strategy', and the beginning of the end for the British (Read Full Review)
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10 December 2017

Pyrrhus of Epirus, Jeff Champion. A useful biography of one of the more adventurous leaders of the generation that followed Alexander the Great, twice king of Macedon, twice king of Epirus, once king of Sicily and one of Rome's most dangerous early opponents, even if his victories did come at such a cost that his name has become associated with costly self defeating victories. Does a good job of tracing his career through the often fragmentary sources, and of placing him in the context of his times Read Full Review
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Fixer & Fighter - The Life of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, 1170-1243, Brian Harwood. Follows the turbulent career of one of the key figures during the reign of King John and Henry III, and one of the victors in the war that established the infant Henry on the throne after the death of his father. A self made man, Hubert suffered several periods of out favour, and even had to go on the run for a period late in his career, despite his constant support for John and Henry Read Full Review
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Hell on Wheels: The Men of the US Armored Forces, 1918 to the end of the 20th century, Christopher J. Anderson. A photographic study of the US armoured forces, covering the period from the armoured cars of 1917 to the end of the twentieth century. Focuses largely on the crews and their equipment, showing how that has evolved over the years. Includes coverage of both World Wars, Korea and the first Gulf War, as well as peace time operations Read Full Review
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3 December 2017

The Forgotten War Against Napoleon - Conflict in the Mediterranean 1793-1815, Gareth Glover. Covers the full range of British commitments in the Mediterranean theatre, from the early siege of Toulon through to the brief campaigns that accompanied Napoleon's return from exile in 1815. A well researched and readable account of more than twenty years of warfare that covered the full length of the Mediterranean, making it clear just how significant the British commitment was in this theatre [read full review]
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Tiger Tank, Marcus Cowper. A fairly short, well balanced account of the Tiger I and Tiger II, looking at their development, technical descriptions and examples from their combat record, as well as looking at some of their main opponents - the Firefly and IS-2. Focuses on a selected series of individual tank battles to examine the combat performance of the Tiger - Tiger I vs Sherman Firefly in the west and Tiger II vs IS-2 in the east [read full review]
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Railway Guns – British and German Guns at War, John Goodwin. After a rather rushed introduction, really gets into its stride when discussing British railway guns in the south-east during the Second World War, looking at the demands they made on the rail network, how the individual guns were operated, where they were located, what their targets were, and many of the occasions on which they fired. Supported throughout by an impressive collection of photographs covering the full range of the topic [read full review]
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26 November 2017

Kursk 1943 – The Southern Front, Robert Forczyk . Looks at von Manstein's flank of the German attack during Operation Citadel, and suggests that one of the main reasons for the German failure was poor planning on their side, combined of course with the massively improved performance of the Red Army, and the repeated delays to the start of the offensive that allowed the Soviets to build three strong defensive lines and gather their reserves ready to deal with the threat. In individual clashes the Germans sometimes prevailed, but the overall campaign very quickly bogged down, and was cancelled after only eight days [read full review]
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The French Army at Verdun, Ian Sumner. The battle of Verdun was the defining experience of the First World War for the French, and a huge proportion of the army took part the defence of the fortress city. This photographic study covers an impressively wide range of topics, from the muddy chaos of the front lines to the massive supply operation, with aerial photographs to give a dramatic overview of the impact of the fighting [read full review]
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British Battle Tanks - World War I to 1939, David Fletcher. An excellent history of British tanks from the earliest developments, through the battles of the First World War and on into the post-war period. Strongest on the First World War tanks, which fill the first three quarters of the book, helping to explain the problems faced by the developers, how they coped with the problems of the battlefield and how the design was improved in the light of experience, making it clear that the tanks of 1918 were actually very different from the tanks of 1916, despite looking very similar [read full review]
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19 November 2017

The Frost Weeds, Vietnam: 1964-1965, James Oliveri. The memoirs of a conscripted radio operator who served in Vietnam just before the start of the main American intervention. The period and the nature of his work means that we thus get an account of the attempts to cooperate with the South Vietnamese, as well as tales of life in the isolated bases scattered across remote areas of the country. A useful memoir that covers a less familiar period of the war [read full review]
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Taranto 1940 - The Fleet Air Arm's precursor to Pearl Harbor, Angus Konstam. A useful account of the Fleet Air Arm's most dramatic achievement of the Second World War, sinking three Italian battleships in harbour at Taranto a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A good text that covers the complex series of wider operations that accompanied the raid on Taranto, along with a detailed account of the attack, and supported by some particularly useful 3D maps of the attack itself [read full review]
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Wellington’s Headquarters – The Command & Administration of the British Army during the Peninsular War, S.G.P. Ward. A classic history of the administrative side of Wellington’s army in the Peninsular War, looking at the systems involved, the people who made them work and their relationship with the duke of Wellington. Demonstrates that Wellington largely worked within the existing system (even to the extent of not having much control of the staff officers under his command), while moulding it to suit his individual method of command [read full review]
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12 November 2017

Germany Ascendant – The Eastern Front 1915, Prit Buttar. Covers the key year on the Eastern Front of the First World War, a year that saw the Russians briefly threaten to invade Hungary, but ended with them pushed out of Poland, away from East Prussia and out of most of Austrian Galicia, after a series of battles that also established Germany's dominance over Austria. This was also the year in which the Central Powers successfully invaded Serbia, thus achieving Austro-Hungary's original war aim [read full review]
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With the German Guns - Four Years on the Western Front, Herbert Sulzbach. The First World War diaries of a German war volunteer who went on to serve in the British Army during the Second World War. Sulzbach served in the artillery on the Western Front from 1914-1918, and took part in the great German offensives of 1918 as well as the final retreat. His diaries are thus an invaluable insight into the views of a reasonable, tolerant member of the German arms forces [read full review]
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U-Boats Beyond Biscay - Dönitz Looks to New Horizons, Bernard Edwards. An account of selected exploits of the U-Boats operating away from the normal North Atlantic battle, looking at 1941-January 1943. Starts and ends at somewhat random points, and lacks much context, but within those limits the accounts of individual U-boat battles are good, with interesting material on the previous experiences of both the U-boats and merchant ships [read full review]
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4 November 2017

Samurai Assassins - 'Dark Murder' and the Meiji restoration, 1853-1868, Romulus Hillsborough. A fascinating study of one of the darker elements of the crisis that eventually led to the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the official restoration of Imperial rule, the use of assassination to eliminate the political supporters of the Shogunate, and later by supporters of the Shogun attempting to defend the status-quo. Somewhat ironically the opponents of the Shogunate got their way, only for the newly restored Imperial government to destroy the feudal world and with it the Samurai class [read full review]
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US Navy Light Cruisers 1941-45, Mark Stille. Covers the five classes of US Navy light cruisers that saw service during the Second World War, with sections on their design, weaponry, radar, combat experience. Nicely organised, with the wartime service records separated out from the main text, so that the design history of the light cruisers flows nicely. Interesting to see how new roles had to be found for them, after other technology replaced them as reconnaissance aircraft [read full review]
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Hitler's Forgotten Flotillas - Kriegsmarine Security Forces, Lawrence Paterson. Looks at the role played by smaller warships in the German war effort, covering minesweepers, patrol ships, mine layers, submarine hunters and fleet escort ships - the ships that fell between the fast 'E-boats' and larger destroyers and above.  Combines good background information with a clear narrative framework of their activities and a good selection of accounts of individual engagements [read full review]
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29 October 2017

The Gestapo - A History of Hitler's Secret Police, 1933-45, Rupert Butler . More of a general history of Nazi repression than a focused study of the Gestapo, with a tendency to focus on the major events - the Röhn Purge, the career of Heydrich, the attempts to assassinate Hitler and not on the day-to-day activities of the Gestapo. Good on the areas it covers, and does include a fair amount of material on the Gestapo, but could have been better focused [read full review]
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American Knights - The Untold Story of the Men of the Legendary 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion, Victor Failmezger. Tells the story of the first Tank Destroyer battalion to be formed in the US army, from its original creation in the United States, through its wartime service in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. Heavily based on the recollections of a core group of members of the battalion (all of whom survived), this gives us an insiders view of the use of one of the more controversial weapons in the US armoury during the Second World War [read full review]
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Atlanta 1864 - Sherman Marches South, James Donnell. Covers one of the most important campaigns of the American Civil War, the start of Sherman's devastating march across the heart of the Confederacy, both a crucial military victory and a key element in Lincoln's re-election as President. A good text, supported by a well chosen series of maps, starting with one that covers the opening of the campaign and gives an overview of the entire campaign area, and moving on to maps for each series of battles that give a really good idea of Sherman's fluid movements [read full review]
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22 October 2017

The Thinking Man's Soldier - The Life and Career of General Sir Henry Brackenbury, 1837-1914, Christopher Brice. A biography of a Victorian soldier who made his name away from the front line, and in particular as head of the Intelligence Department and the successful head of the Ordnance Department during the Boer War, where the army had to cope with demands on a unprecedented scale. An interesting view of life in the British Army as it changed from the disastrously amateurish force of the Crimean War into the increasingly professional force that fought the First World War [read full review]
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Military Technology of the First World War - Development, Use and Consequences, Wolfgang Fleischer. Focuses on the technology used by the German army, with a particular focus on those weapons that played a direct part in the battles on the Western Front - machine guns, flame throwers, gas, artillery, mortars and tanks. Very useful to have a book written from the German point of view. Well illustrated, and the text is supported by a good selection of eyewitness accounts describing the impact of the new technology as seen by those who were using it [read full review]
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Rikugun - Guide to Japanese Ground Forces 1937-1945 - Volume 2: Weapons of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Ground Forces, Leland Ness . Looks at an impressively wide range of the weapons used by the Japanese military during the Second World War, covering personal weapons such as machine guns or grenades, the full range of artillery and anti-aircraft guns, aircraft detection systems, tanks, mines, chemical weapons (including smoke generators) and even river crossing equipment. A very useful reference work on the equipment of the Japanese armed forces, providing both a narrative account of developments in a particular area and weapon by weapon technical details [read full review]
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15 October 2017

Ancient Warfare Vol IX, Issue 6: A Feast for Dogs & Crows - The Aftermath of BattleAncient Warfare Vol IX, Issue 6: A Feast for Dogs & Crows - The Aftermath of Battle An unusual theme, focusing on the aftermath of war, looking at the fate of the victors and vanquished, the return home and the celebrations of victory as well as the fate of the dead or the captive. Interesting to follow on from where most accounts of battles end,  . Also looks at the real role of the Praetorian Guard, and the nature of the cuneus in Roman fighting. [see more]
Ancient Warfare Vol X, Issue 6: Ancient Rome in Turmoil - The Year of the Four EmperorsAncient Warfare Vol X, Issue 6: Ancient Rome in Turmoil - The Year of the Four Emperors Looks at one of the more familiar topics in Roman history, the turmoil that ended the reign of Nero and with it the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and ended the period of internal peace first established by Augustus. Mainly focuses on topics that are away from the main events of the civil wars, demonstrating just how widespread an impact the year of crisis had across the Empire. [see more]
Ancient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 2: On the Cusp of Empire - The Romans unify ItalyAncient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 2: On the Cusp of Empire - The Romans unify Italy Focuses on the period which saw Rome defeat its last enemies in peninsular Italy, the first stage on the road to Empire. An interesting focus on the Greeks of southern Italy, Rome's last major enemies , and a fascinating look at two newly discovered frescos recovered from grave robbers by the Italian police that give us images of some of Rome's enemies in this period. [see more]

8 October 2017

Sumter After the First Shots, Derek Smith. Looks at the famous Confederate siege of Fort Sumter and the much longer, but also less successful Union siege, part of a wider, and equally unsuccessful attack on Charleston. Demonstrates the limits of artillery before the introduction of high explosive shells, and the perils of having a split command, which hamstrung the Union campaign at key moments. A useful account of the longest siege of the American Civil War, which only ended when Sherman's advancing army forced the Confederates were evacuate Charleston [read full review]
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Rikugun - Guide to Japanese Ground Forces 1937-1945 - Volume 1: Tactical Organization of Imperial Japanese Army & Navy Ground Forces, Leland Ness. A valuable reference book that provides a well researched and detailed guide to the often confusing ground forces of the Japanese army and navy, tracing the creation, career and end of every significant unit, as well as their many changes in organisation, and the actual troops allocated to these units (often very different to the official structure). Includes some interesting material on how the army in particular reacted to the changing war situation, but is mainly intended as a reference work [read full review]
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Operation Dragoon - The Invasion of the South of France, 15 August 1944, Andrew Stewart. A reprint of the Naval Staff History of Operation Dragoon, one of a series of studies written during and immediately after the war. Focuses very much on the naval aspects of the campaign, and on the initial battles close to the coast. Gives a clear picture of just how sizable a naval effort was involved in the invasion, both before, during and after the beach landings, including a major minesweeping effort, convoy escorts, the invasion fleet itself, air support and gun support for the coastal battles. [read full review]
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17 September 2017

Guardian Angel: Life and Death Adventures with Pararescue, the World's Most Powerful Commando Rescue Force, William F. Sine, USAF (Ret.). The autobiography of a member of a parachute rescue unit in the USAF, a special forces unit dedicated to rescue and retrieval missions, capable of operating in just about any environment. A likeable account of life in an extraordinary unit, although one that doesn’t hide some of the grimmer aspects of their work, which also involves recovering the bodies of dead American servicemen as well as the more positive rescue missions. [read full review]
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The Italian Folgore Parachute Division – Operations in North Africa 1940-43, Paolo Morisi. A history of an elite Italian paratrooper division that was trained for the invasion of Malta, but used as normal infantry on the El Alamein front and in Tunisia, where it was almost wiped out. Covers the units formation, training, the extensive preparations for the invasion of Malta, and its short combat career at Alam Halfa and 2nd Alamein, where the original division was almost wiped out, and the final days in Tunisia where the survivors fought under a parent division [read full review]
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Chindit vs Japanese Infantryman 1943-44, Jon Diamond. Looks at the battles between the Japanese infantryman in Burma and Wingate's Chindits, a deep penetration force that operated deep into Japanese held territory. Covers the training and plans for both sides, one battle from the first Chindit operation in 1943 and two from the larger operations of 1944. Includes some interesting material on the Japanese view of the Chindits [read full review]
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9 September 2017

Burma Road 1943-44 - Stilwell's assault on Myitkyina, Jon Diamond. Looks at the multinational Allied invasion of northern Burma, which ended with the capture of Myitkyina and the opening of a land route to China. Nice to have a book that looks at this battle in its own right, rather than a preliminary to the reconquest of southern and central Burma or a footnote to the Chindits [read full review]
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Spies, Scouts and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign, Thomas J. Ryan. Looks at the intelligence resources available to the Union and Confederate commanders during the Gettysburg campaign, the information they provided and the impact (or lack of) that that information had on the events of the campaign. A valuable addition to the literature on Gettysburg, looking at a key element of the campaign, and an area in which the Union forces had a clear advantage of their Confederate opponents [read full review]
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A Social History of British Naval Officers 1775-1815, Evan Wilson. A different take on a familiar topic, uses a database of randomly selected commissioned and warrant officers to examine the overall experiences of the British naval officer during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and their place in Georgian society - who were they, where did they come from, what was the typical career for the different types of naval officers. Also examines how (and if) they qualified as 'gentlemen', a key element of social status in Georgian Britain [read full review]
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3 September 2017

Tours of Duty - Vietnam War Stories, ed. Michael Lee Lanning. A collection of a large number of Vietnam War stories, ranging in size from a small paragraph to several pages, and covering everything from a single incident to someone's entire service in country. Not presented in any particular order, so we get a kaleidoscopic view of the war, which perhaps reflects the way it seemed at the time to those taking part in it. [read full review]
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In the Words of Napoleon - The Emperor Day by Day, ed. R.M. Johnston. Originally produced in 1910 from a wide range of Napoleonic sources in an attempt to produce an artificial 'Napoleon Diary'. The result is an entertaining read, although the lack of references is unfortunate, and like any selection of writings we are limited by the original editor's choices. Despite those limits, it does provide an interesting insight into how Napoleon saw his own actions, and how his attitudes changed over time [read full review]
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A Military Transformed? Adaption and Innovation in the British Military, 1792-1945, ed. Michael Locicero, Ross Mahoney and Stuart Mitchell. A series of articles looking at the ability or willingness of the British military to adapt, covering both organisational change and the response to new technology, and cover all three services. The wide range of topics and long time period reduces the cohesion of the work, but the individual articles are of interest in their own right, and provide some food for thought [read full review]
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27 August 2017

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare IX Issue 5: At the Point of a Sarissa - Warriors of the Hellenistic Age Focuses on the soldiers of the Hellenistic era, a period in which vast multinational armies competed for control of the Empire of Alexander the Great, while smaller powers attempted to maintain some form of independence, before all were swallowed up by Rome and Parthia. Mainly focuses on the soldiers themselves, but also has some interesting articles on the wider period, as well as a look at disease in the Roman army and on Hadrian's Wall. [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare IX Issue 4: Clash of the Colossi - The First Punic War Focuses on the First Punic War, a clash between the expanding Roman Empire and the long established Carthaginian Empire, then the dominant naval power of the western Mediterranean. Looks at two of the rare land battles of this war, the use of elephants and the all important naval clashes. Away from the theme covers the debate on PTSD in Ancient Greece and also includes a short story set during the time of Alexander the Great. [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare IX Issue 2: Struck with the Club of Hercules - The ascendancy of Thebes. Of the many states that dominated Ancient Greece, Thebes probably had both the most dramatic and shortest time in charge, running from their victory over the Spartans at Leuctra in 371 BC to the death of Epaminondas at Mantinea in 362 BC, but this decade changed the balance of power in Greece permanently. This issue focuses on those ten years, looking at the key figures and the key battles. Away from that looks at Roman tombstones, and the idea that Rome and China might have had contacts [see more]

19 August 2017

The Illustrated History of the Vietnam War, Andrew Wiest & Chris McNab. Somewhat lacking on coverage of the Vietnamese view of the war, but excellent on the American side of the war, explaining not only what the US did, but why, and why so much of it went wrong. Good coverage of the wider war in South East Asia, looking at how the conflict affected Laos and Cambodia as well as the US Home Front. A good selection of pictures, but again almost entirely from the US side [read full review]
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Heinkel He 111 - The Early Years - Fall of France, Battle of Britain and the Blitz, Chris Goss. A photographic history of the early career of the Heinkel He 111, tracing its development, early use in Spain, and the first campaigns of the Second World War, to the end of the Blitz. Provides more context to the pictures than is normally the case, often tracing mission that led to the picture, and the fate of each aircraft's crews, and thus greatly increasing the value of the book [read full review]
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Secret Days - Code Breaking in Bletchley Park, Asa Briggs. The wartime memoirs of Lord Asa Briggs, one of post-war Britain's most distinguished historians, recounting his experiences at Bletchley Park, where he worked in Hut Six, playing a part in decoding the Enigma codes. A valuable mix of personal recollections of Bletchley Park and wider explanations of the role and background of Brigg's colleagues, and the links between BP and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge [read full review]
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13 August 2017

Panzer Operations: Germany's Panzer Group 3 during the Invasion of Russia, 1941, Hermann Hoth. Provides us with the views of one of the senior German tank commanders of the crucial fighting in 1941 on the Eastern Front, the commander of the 3rd Panzer Group. Looks at the problems faced by the Germans during this first campaign, and how some of them were overcome. Makes it clear that there were periods of very hard fighting throughout this campaign, although perhaps overstates the German difficulties. Also gives an idea of the problems caused by a lack of a clear campaign aim after the initial battles. A valuable primary source for this campaign, although as with virtually all such accounts the biases of the author have to be taken into account [read full review]
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The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood, Stephen M. Hood. A selection of the private papers of General John Bell Hood, notorious as the general who lost Atlanta and then destroyed his army during an invasion of Tennessee. These papers were believed to be lost for many years, but were actually in the hands of some of Hood's descendents. The documents selected here cover a wide range of topics, from Hood's serious injuries to his time in command and on to his post-war life [read full review]
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Instrument of War - The German Army 1914-18, Dennis Showalter. Looks at the nature of the German Army during the First World War, and how that impacted on its ability to fight the sort of war it ended up having to cope with after the initial attempt to knock the French out of the war in the first campaign failed. An interesting examination of the German Army, and also valuable for giving us the German view of the major battles on the Western Front [read full review]
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6 August 2017

Mad for Glory - A Heart of Darkness in the War of 1812, Robert Booth. Looks at the voyage of Captain David Porter of the US Navy into the Pacific, and his eventual defeat at the hands of Captain James Hillyar of the Royal Navy in the battle of Valparaiso, an isolated naval action on the coast of Chile, that came at the end of a remarkable but controversial voyage. Includes fascinating material on the Chilean revolution, Porter's adventurous if rather misguided voyage across the Pacific, the battle itself and its aftermath [read full review]
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The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in France 1917-1921, Samantha Philo-Gill. A history at the WAAC, formed in a successful attempt to use women's labour to release category A men for service at the front line. Traces the development of the corps from the original debates of 1916 to its formation in 1917 and service in 1917-18. Organised by topic, and covers recruitment, daily life, the work itself and the risks of the being in the Corps, as well as the slow post-war disbandment of the corps [read full review]
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Defending India: The Foreign Policy of Governor-General Lord Minto, 1807-1813, Amita Das and Aditya Das. Focuses on the period between 1807 and 1813, which began with the British worried about a possible French invasion of India via Persia, and ended with the conquests of Mauritius and Java, largely eliminating European threats to the British position in India. Also looks at how the perceived external threat from the French influenced Lord Minto's policy towards the other Indian powers and Persia [read full review]
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30 July 2017

Cataphracts - Knights of the Ancient Eastern Empires, Erich B. Anderson. Looks at the heavily armoured horsemen found in armies across the Ancient Middle East, most famously in the armies of Parthia, Persia and the Byzantines. Traces the development of heavily armoured troops, their use in battle, the variants in use with different powers, and their eventual decline during the Byzantine period. A useful single volume history of the heaviest cavalry type of the ancient world. [read full review]
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Thunder Bird in Bomber Command, Sean Feast. A biography of Lionel Anderson, the brother of Gerry Anderson, covering his all too brief career in the RAF during the Second World War, and built around the lively letters he sent home while training in the United States, covering his flying training, descriptions of the local area and adventures while on leave. Concludes with a look at his period of active service, which tragically ended on his first mission on the de Havilland Mosquito. The result is a very entertaining biography that covers an unusual area of the RAF experience of the war [read full review]
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Wellington's Hidden Heroes - The Dutch and Belgians at Waterloo, Veronica Baker-Smith. Looks at the contribution made by the army of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Wellington's victory in the Waterloo campaign, where it made up one third of his army. Makes good use of Dutch and Belgian sources to produce a useful account of the role that this newly formed army played in Wellington's victory, although sometimes exaggerates the bias against this army in English language histories [read full review]
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22 July 2017

'The Devil's to Pay' John Buford at Gettysburg, a History and Walking Tour, Eric J. Wittenberg. Focuses on the role played by John Buford's cavalry brigade on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, where it held up the Confederate advance, and allowed the Union infantry to take up the defensive positions that were held on the second and third days of the battle. Includes a wide range of detailed maps and good material on the Confederate side of the battle and the activities of Buford later in the battle [read full review]
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The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England, Hilda Ellis Davidson. One of the first serious studies of the Anglo-Saxon sword, comparing the literary and archaeological records, examining the physical nature of the swords and their accessories in some detail, and including an early example of experimental archaeology, a successful attempt to recreate the pattern welded swords of the period, a lost technique until then. Does a really good job of linking the surviving swords to their literary cousins, suggesting that the language used to describe swords was accurate [read full review]
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No Victory in Valhalla: The untold story of Third Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment from Bastogne to Berchtesgaden, Ian Gardner. The third part of a history of the Third Battalion, 506 PIR, covering the period from the battle of the Bulge to the end of the Second World War and the immediate post-war period. A good example of the genre, with a careful balance between eyewitness accounts and an overall narrative. Also includes interesting sections on the occupation of Berchtesgaden and the fate of the battalion's POWs. [read full review]
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16 July 2017

Givenchy in the Great War -  A Village on the Front Line 1914-1918, Phil Tomaselli. Traces the fighting that took part on the Givenchy sector of the Western Front during the First World War, following the village through the major battles of 1914-15 and 1918 and the quieter spells of 1916-17. Covers the fighting above ground and the massive mining campaign that went on under the front. An interesting idea that gives us a snapshot of the fighting on the Western Front as it affected a single heavily fought over location [read full review]
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Storming Monte La Difensa: The First Special Service Force at the Winter line, Italy 1943, Bret Werner. Covers two unusual topics - an attack on an Italian mountain other than Monte Cassino, and a joint US-Canadian Special Forces unit. This was the only time the First Special Service Force was used in a truly Special Forces role, and it performed brilliantly, successfully climbing a cliff behind the German position and attacking them from above, in an attack that resembles many later war movies! [read full review]
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Cherbourg 1944: The first Allied victory in Normandy, Steven J. Zaloga. Looks at the entire Cotentin campaign, from the first battles to expand the D-Day beach head, through the advance west across the Peninsula, the attack on Cherbourg itself and the final mopping operations west of the port. A good account of this campaign, supported by a series of high quality campaign maps and well illustrated, and telling the story from both sides. [read full review]
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8 July 2017

Fighters over the Fleet – Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War, Norman Friedman. A history of naval air defence from the First World War to the present day, looking at the systems used to control air defence, and the aircraft and weapons involved. Gets a bit bogged down in post-war aircraft design, but otherwise a detailed but readable account of a remarkably complex topic that has dominated fleet design since the Second World War, covering an impressive wide range of topics over a century of naval aviation. [read full review]
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In Pursuit of the Essex - Heroism and Hubris on the High Seas in the War of 1812, Ben Hughes. Follows two main participants in one of the more unusual naval duals of the War of 1812, the clash between the Essex and the Phoebe at Valparaiso on the coast of Chile. Follows both of the main participants on their long voyages from home ports into the Pacific, their attempts to find each other, the standoff after they met at Valparaiso and the eventual battle, triggered by an unsuccessful attempt by Porter to escape out to sea [read full review]
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Nachtjagd Defenders of the Reich, Martin W. Bowman. A series of eyewitness accounts of the battle between German night fighters and British bombers between the start of the bombing campaign in 1940 and the battle of Berlin at the end of 1943. A bit repetitive in places, due to the vast number of accounts included, but as a result a useful source of information on the attitudes and achievements of the German night fighter forces [read full review]
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1 July 2017

Holding the Home Front - The Women's Land Army in the First World War, Caroline Scott. Looks at the effort that went into getting women accepted on farms during the First World War, starting with a variety of voluntary bodies, leading up to the formation of the Women's Land Army early in 1917. Tells a similar tale to that of the more famous Land Army of the Second World War, but with more emphasis on volunteering and voluntary organisations for most of the war, and as a result a wider variety of experiences [read full review]
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Hitler's Russian & Cossack Allies 1941-1945, Nigel Thomas. Provides an overview of the organisation of six of the nine categories of Russian and Cossack troops who fought for the Germans during the Second World War, a total of around half a million men, who helped make up for some of the huge losses suffered by the Germans and their allies on the Eastern Front. Focuses on the origins, structure and organisation of these units rather than their combat record, which wouldn't fit in a book of this size. [read full review]
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Early Iron Age Greek Warrior 1100-700 BC, Raffaele d'Amato and Andrea Salimbeti. Looks at the period between the heroic warriors of Homer and the rise of the Hoplite, a fairly obscure period where the bulk of the evidence comes from contemporary artworks or archaeological remains (and which only contains one certain major war, the First Messenian War). As a result the book focuses largely on reconstructing the changes in military equipment over this 400 year period, which ended with the first evidence of the hoplites [read full review]
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25 June 2017

Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany, David S. Bachrach. A look at warfare under Henry I and Otto I, two of the most successful of the medieval Kings of Germany, and argues convincingly that warfare during their reign was both more professional and carried out on a larger scale than many historians are willing to admit. Makes an excellent use of a wide range of sources to paint a picture of a sophisticated kingdom, capable of maintaining large armies, and carrying out operations across much of central and southern Europe, including a series of expeditions across the Alps. [read full review]
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Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany, David S. Bachrach. A look at warfare under Henry I and Otto I, two of the most successful of the medieval Kings of Germany, and argues convincingly that warfare during their reign was both more professional and carried out on a larger scale than many historians are willing to admit. Makes an excellent use of a wide range of sources to paint a picture of a sophisticated kingdom, capable of maintaining large armies, and carrying out operations across much of central and southern Europe, including a series of expeditions across the Alps. [read full review]
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Canaris - the Life and Death of Hitler's Spymaster, Michael Mueller. A biography of one of the most intriguing and mysterious figures in the German hierarchy during the Second World War,  at the same time head of Hitler's military intelligence service and an early plotter against the Fuhrer, a man of uncertain loyalties and motives who had a distinguished naval career during the First World War, before getting drawn into the murky world of the far right in post-war Germany. Gives us a good idea of what Canaris actually did, but as the author admits, the why will probably remain a mystery [read full review]
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18 June 2017

The Seleukid Empire of Antiochus III 223-187 BC, John D. Grainger. Looks at the life and achievements of Antiochus III, one of the most successful of the Seleukid Emperors, but now best remembered for his defeats at the hands of the Romans. During a long reign he regained control of most areas that had been claimed by his predecessors, defeated the Ptolomies, secured most of Asia Minor, but overstretched himself with an invasion of Thrace and his activities in mainland Greece, which helped trigger the clash with Rome. [read full review]
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Menus, Munitions & Keeping the Peace – The Home Front Diaries of Gabrielle West, 1914-1917, ed. Avalon Weston. The wartime diaries of Gabrielle West, following her as she worked in (and set up) various canteens scattered around military hospitals the vast wartime armaments industry, before a chance of career saw her become a paid wartime Woman Police Office, serving in munitions factories. Provides a fascinating view of the munitions industry, and a very different view of the Home Front to any other I've read [read full review]
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In the Name of Lykourgos – The Rise and Fall of the Spartan Revolutionary Movement 243-146BC, Miltiadis Michalopoulos. Looks at the last desperate attempts to restore the power of Sparta, nearly a century and a half after her defeat at Leuctra was followed by a collapse of Spartan power. Three Spartan rulers, Agis IV, Cleomenes III and Nabis, made revolutionary attempts to increase the power of the Spartan army and to return Spartan society to a perceived golden age, but these efforts ended in military defeat, occupation and eventually permanent conquest by the Romans. [read full review]
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11 June 2017

Hornblower's Historical Shipmates: The Young Gentlemen of Pellew's Indefatigable, Heather Noel-Smith and Lorna M. Campbell. Looks at the varied careers of the midshipmen who took part in Captain Sir Edward Pellow's victory over the French ship of the line Les Droits de L'Homme in 1797, providing us with an interesting cross section of naval biographies covering a group few of whom became famous during the Napoleonic Wars. Demonstrates the wide range of experiences available to Royal Naval officers in this period, as well as providing an interesting view of the character of Pellow [read full review]
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The First British Army, 1624-1628: The Army of the Duke of Buckingham, Laurence Spring. Looks at the first army raised after the Union of the Crowns, a rather chaotic effort that produced armies that suffered defeats against the French and Spanish, and begin to illustrate the financial and political problems that would plague the reign of Charles I. This first British army emerges as underpaid, badly led and suffering from confused orders, and everything it attempted ended in failure [read full review]
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Russia's Last Gasp: The Eastern Front 1916-17, Prit Buttar. Looks at the most successful Russian offensive of the First World War, the Brusilov offensive of 1916, its eventual failure, and the collapse of the Tsarist regime that followed in 1917. Combines an excellent military history of the various campaigns with a detailed look at the political background in Russia, the failings of the Tsarist regime and its army, and the collapse of support for the Tsar that led to the first Russian Revolution [read full review]
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4 June 2017

The Vikings and their Enemies: Warfare in Northern Europe 750-1100, Philip Line. Looks at who the Vikings were, how and why their fought and how they compared to their neighbours and victims. Does a good job of dealing with the limited sources, which were either written by the Viking's victims, or produced in Scandinavia centuries after the events they portray. Makes good use of contemporary accounts of warfare elsewhere in Europe, and the limited reliable sources for the Vikings, to produce a detailed picture of their military world [read full review]
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1 Group Bomber Command - An Operational Record, Chris Ward with Greg Harrison and Grzegorz Korcz. Split into two halves – a narrative account of the Group's activities within Bomber Command and a reference section covering each squadron and its aircraft. The narrative takes us day-by-day through the Group's main raids, including losses and a look at the success or failure of the raids. A useful reference work, and also a sobering reminder of the scale of losses suffered by Bomber Command throughout the war. [read full review]
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'Allies are a Tiresome Lot' - The British Army in Italy in the First World War, John Dillon. Looks at the experience of the British Italian Expeditionary Force, sent to support the Italian war effort in the aftermath of their defeat at Caporetto. Organised by theme, covering topics such as morale, discipline, relations with the Italians and how these all impacted on the two main British battles in Italy, one defensive battle and their participation in the battle of Vittorio Veneto. An interesting study of a less familiar part of the British war effort [read full review]
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28 May 2017

America's Modern Wars - Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, Christopher A. Lawrence. A largely statistical analysis of post-war counterinsurgency warfare, looking to see if there are any patterns that might help explain the outcome of insurgencies. Provides some thought provoking data, suggesting that high force ratios are key, as long as the insurgency doesn't get too big, and also goes some way to disproving other ideas. Not great on the human element of these conflicts, but still a very valuable study of the sort of conflicts that look to dominate in the future [read full review]
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Battlespace 1865 - Archaeology of the Landscapes, Strategies and Tactics of the North Platte Campaign, Nebraska, Douglas Scott, Peter Bleed and Amanda Renner. An archaeological study of two minor skirmishes in the North Platte valley of Nebraska, fought between the US cavalry and a largely Cheyenne force reacting to an earlier massacre. Looks at the concept of 'battlespace' to see how it relates to the battlefields, and uses a series of modern archaeological techniques to locate the two battlefields and see how the surviving remains match with the primary sources [read full review]
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The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes - The Ancient World Economy & the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China, Raoul McLaughlin. Looks at the silk trade in China, its impact on the Roman economy, the states and civilisations along the various Silk Routes. A fascinating book that links together the two great superpowers of the Ancient world. At its best when examining the silk trade itself or the cultures along the land and sea routes, although sometimes gets a bit distracted and wanders away from the main topic. Also examines the possibility of direct contact between the two ancient superpowers, but comes to the conclusion that although this probably came close to happening, it never quite did [read full review]
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21 May 2017

Luftwaffe Fighter Force - The View from the Cockpit, ed. David C. Isby. The results of a series of interrogations of senior Luftwaffe officers, carried out immediately after the end of the war, focusing on the German use of fighters and ground attack aircraft during the Second World War. Written without access to documents, but also before their views were distorted in the post-war period [read full review]
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M48 Patton vs Centurion - Indo-Pakistani War 1965, David R. Higgins. Looks at the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, a rare example of a post-war conflict in which British and American tanks served on opposite sides. Includes a useful account of the development of the two tanks, the versions in service during the war and an account of the fighting itself. Not so strong on the direct comparison between the effectiveness of the two types when operating against each other [read full review]
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Marlborough's Other Army - The British Army and the Campaigns of the First Peninsula War, 1702-1712, Nicholas Dorrell. A history of the British intervention in Spain and Portugal during the War of the Spanish Succession, sometimes known as the First Peninsular War. Focuses mainly on recreating the armies involved in the campaigns, a tricky job in a period that saw units change their name whenever they changed commander. A useful study of this difficult and somewhat neglected campaign, which ended with the failure of the Allied attempt to put a Hapsburg on the Spanish throne [read full review]
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14 May 2017

The First VCs - The Stories behind the First Victoria Crosses of the Crimean War and the Definition of Courage, John Grehan. Combines a history of the earliest winners of the Victoria Cross with a history of the foundation of the medal itself, all taking place against the background of the Crimean War. Looks at the sort of deeds that were felt to be worthy of reward when the first Victoria Crosses were awarded after the end of the war, as well as the debate that led to the creation of the award in the first place [read full review]
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Images of War: Great War Fighter Aces 1914-1916, Norman Franks. Covers the air war from the outbreak of conflict to the end of 1916, the period in which fighter aircraft were first developed, and the first 'aces' appeared. The majority of the photos are of those aces, a mix of formal portraits and pictures around their aircraft, with a smattering of other related pictures. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction to the air war in that period, along with potted biographies of the main people shown in the photos [read full review]
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German Commerce Raiders 1914-18, Ryan K. Noppen. Looks at the surface vessels that operated against Allied shipping during the First World War, a mix of warships, converted liners and converted freighters, including one fully masted sailing ship. Although nowhere near as successful as the later U-boat campaign, these surface ships did embarrass the Royal Navy, especially early in the war, and forced the diversion of sizeable RN and Allied naval forces, so they are well worth studying [read full review]
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7 May 2017

Austro-Hungarian Cruisers and Destroyers 1914-18, Ryan K. Noppen. Looks at the largest Austro-Hungarian warships to see regular action during the First World War, four light cruisers and eighteen destroyers and the less valuable armoured cruisers, an obsolete type by 1914. Begins with a look at the ships themselves, before moving on to an examination of their generally successful use in the Adriatic during the First World War, one of the more successful theatres for the Austro-Hungarian armed forces. [read full review]
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The 1915 Campaign, Andrew Rawson. Covers the fighting on the British front of the Western Front between the start of 1915 and the first half of 1916, up to the start of the battle of the Somme. Reveals at period in which the British army introduced new weapons and new techniques, but was still unable to win any significant victories, even when the initial part of an attack achieved success [read full review]
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Republican Roman Warships 509-27 BC, Raffaele D'Amato. Looks at the development of Roman naval power from its very earliest mentions, through the first flowering of Roman sea power during the First Punic War to the battle of Actium, the last naval battle before Augustus founded the principate, a period of almost 500 years. Covers the ships themselves, the weapons they carried, how they operated, and the wars in which they were used. Has a great deal of info packed into its 48 pages [read full review]
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30 April 2017

Casca 40: Blitzkreig, Tony Roberts. Follows Casca through the initial campaigns of the Second World War, serving as a tank commander in a panzer division in Poland, Belgium and France. A fairly convincing fictional account of tank warfare, with Casca fighting in northern Poland and Belgium, although bookended with Casca the Nazi apologist, an unwelcome appearance [read full review]
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John and Sebastian Cabot - The Discovery of North America, Charles Raymond Beazley. Originally published in 1898, this is a classic, and still useful, examination of the careers of John and Sebastian Cabot, two key figures in the early history of English exploration. Beazley focused very heavily on an examination of the contemporary records of their voyages, and attempted to untangle the rather confused web of the activities of the father and son explorers, concentrating mainly on their time in English service. Includes most of the key documents, allowing the book to retain much of its value [read full review]
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Bright Eyes of Danger - An Account of the Anglo-Sikh Wars 1845-1849, Bill Whitburn. Traces the development of the Sikh Empire under Ranjit Singh, his careful relationship with the British, the chaos that followed his death and the two wars that followed. Treats the two sides as equally valid, so we get a picture of the wars as they may have appeared at the time. Makes it clear that the first war in particular was a very close thing, with the British close to defeat on several occasions, only to be saved by the failure of Ranjit Singh's successors [read full review]
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23 April 2017

Byzantium Triumphant - The Military History of the Byzantines 959-1025, Julian Romane. Looks at the military (and to a lesser extent political) history of Byzantium during the lifetime of Basil II Porphrogenitus (the Bulgar Slayer). Tells an interesting story that really brings Byzantine society alive, although perhaps at the cost of skating over some of the complexities of some of the sources Byzantine history. This was a period that saw Medieval Byzantium at its most powerful, despite the rather convoluted series of civil wars that dominate the first part of the book! [read full review]
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Despatches from the Front: Capital Ships at War 1939-1945, compiled John Grehan & Martin Mace. Reproduces a series of Royal Navy reports covering some of the key battleship actions of the Second World War, including the battle of the River Plate, loss of the Hood, Prince of Wales and Repulse, the sinking of the Bismarck, X-boat attacks on the Tirpitz and the operations of the British Pacific Fleet in 1945. Helps trace the decline of the battleship during the Second World War, a conflict in which direct clashes between battleships were very rare, but air power came to dominate [read full review]
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The Atlantic Wall (3) - The Südwall, Steven J. Zaloga. Looks at the Mediterranean section of the German coastal defence lines, covering the south of France and part of the north Italian coast. These fortifications consumed a significant amount of resources, but when the invasion finally came proved to be largely ineffective, although some did play a part in some of the battles as Allies troops cleared the French coast. This volume looks at the design of the fortifications, their distribution and construction, and the role they played in the fighting in 1944 [read full review]
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15 April 2017

Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-70: Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay & Argentina, Gabriele Esposito. Looks at one of the most costly wars in South American history, between Paraguay's military dictator and an alliance of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Begins with a history of the war itself, triggered by the ambitions of Paraguay's dictator, before moving on to examine the four armies involved in the conflict. A useful English language account of the largest war in the history of South America [read full review]
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The Vikings, R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison & I Heath. A nicely organised overview of the Vikings, looking at Viking society, the Hersirs (medium ranked men who played a key part in early raids), the Vikings in battle and finally Viking ships. More than an introduction to the topic, there are some excellent sections, in particular on the various types of ships used by the Vikings and on their voyages to North America [read full review]
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J2M Raiden and N1K1/2 Shiden/ Shiden-Kai Aces, Yasuho Izawa with Tony Holmes. Looks at the limited careers of three late Japanese Navy interceptors of the Second World War, tracing their development and performance in combat. Includes an interesting account of the combat record of the 343rd Kokutai under Genda Minoru, a late war Japanese leader who didn't believe that the kawikaze ramming attack was the best way to attack American bombers. [read full review]
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2 April 2017

Sir John Moore - The Making of a Controversial Hero, Janet MacDonald. A full length biography of Sir John Moore, best known for the battle of Corunna and for training the rifle corps at Shorncliffe. As this book proves, he had an active and varied career, serving on Corsica, in the West Indies, Ireland, Holland, Egypt, Sicily and Sweden as well as in Spain and Portugal, so as well as providing a biography of Moore, this book also gives us a cross-section of the British army's activities during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. [read full review]
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Hitler's Last Witness, the Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard, Rochus Misch. The autobiography of a member of Hitler's bodyguard, who ended up operating the telephone exchange in the Berlin Bunker. More interesting as an account of daily life on the fringes of Hitler's private circle than for its insight into the conduct of the war, partly because Misch chose not to be very curious, a trait that ran the risk of seeing you dispatched to the front. Provides more details of the final days of the war, and is thus a valuable witness to the last moments in the bunker [read full review]
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Appomattox 1865 - Lee's Last Campaign, Ron Field. Looks at the final campaign of the American Civil War in Virginia, Lee's failed attempt to escape south to join up with other Confederate troops after the Union army finally broke through at Petersburg. Nice to have a book that focuses on this campaign in some detail, looking at the significant fighting that kept pushing Lee west instead of south, instead of skipping over it on the way between the siege of Petersburg and the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse [read full review]
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26 March 2017

The Mongol Conquests - The Military Operations of Genghis Khan and Sübe'etei, Carl Fredrik Sverdrup. A detailed examination of the campaigns of the two greatest Mongol military leaders, using a wide range of sources, including previously un-translated Chinese materials. Gives a clear picture of the true nature of the Mongol conquests, from Genghis's own establishment of power in Mongolia to the invasions of Western Europe and northern China. Not always the easiest of reads (mainly because of the complexity of the story), but a very valuable contribution to our understanding of the rise of the Mongols. [read full review]
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Merchant Seafaring Through World War 1 - 1914-1918, Peter Lyon. Looks at the fate of British merchant seaman during the periods of German surface raiding and the U-boat war. Rather firmly takes sides, with a hostile view of the U-boat commanders and their tactics, although one that is supportable by the evidence provided. Contains a series of impressive tales of survival against the odds, as well as tracing the development of U-boat tactics and the British countermeasures.  [read full review]
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Europe: Chained by History, Larry J. Hilton. A generally well meaning book looking at the history of Europe, and suggesting that a truly united Europe is the continent's best chance for a safe and prosperous future, somewhat marred by a series of minor historical errors that rather niggle (including Vienna's attempt to claim Mozart as a native son). Includes a very strong examination of hyper inflation and the rise of anti-Semitism in Vienna, a dark shadow that marred an otherwise impressive city [read full review]
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19 March 2017

T-64 Battle Tank - The Cold War's Most Secret Tank, Steven J. Zaloga. A brief history of a tank that was too advanced for its own good, combining advanced features that meant it couldn't be exported with an unreliable engine that made it unsuited for service with the Red Army for many years after it first appeared. The limited service life of the T-64 allows the author to focus on the complex and troubled development process, giving us an interesting picture of the way tank development worked in the Soviet Union [read full review]
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Special Operations South-East Asia 1942-1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks/ Creek, David Miller. Focuses on three Special Forces operations in South East Asia – a failed attempt to gather intelligence on Sumatra, a series of similar but successful operations on the Andaman Islands and a 'cutting out' operation conducted in the Portuguese enclave of Goa. These were three very different operations, and perhaps the only thing they have in common is that they are now hardly remembered, so this is a useful study of the three. [read full review]
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Palestine - the Ottoman Campaigns of 1914-1918, Edward J. Erickson. An interesting study of the Ottoman side of the Palestinian campaigns of 1915-1918, looking at the failed Ottoman attacks on the Suez canal, the first two unsuccessful British attacks on Gaza and Allenby's successful campaign that eventually forced the Ottomans to sue for peace. A useful book somewhat marred by the author's approach to the Armenian Genocide, which is briefly discussed as if it was a valid response to a major security threat instead of a deliberate genocide ordered from above. [read full review]
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2 March 2017

Picket's Charge at Gettysburg, James A. Hessler and Wayne E. Motts. An excellent guide to the most famous Confederate attack on the third day at Gettysburg, combining four battlefield trails with a detailed examination of the attack itself, covering the impact of the terrain on both sides, the performance of individual units and commanders, and many of the controversies that have dogged the subject ever since the fighting stopped. The trails appear to make sense, but for me the main value of the book is its account of the Confederate attack, supported by a detailed knowledge of the landscape over which it took place [read full review]
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Railway Guns of World War II, Steven J. Zaloga. Although the heyday of the railway gun came during the First World War, the most famous example of the type, the massive German 80cm K(E) guns 'Dora' and 'Gustav', came from the Second World War. In reality these were useless vanity projects, but as this book makes clear every major combatant used a least a handful of railway guns during the Second World War. This book combines  brief technical descriptions of each country's railway guns with a look at their combat service [read full review]
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Valentine Infantry Tank 1938-45, Bruce Oliver Newsome. Looks at the most numerous British tank of the Second World War, but one that only saw limited combat service, mainly in North Africa. Notable for the amount of information packed into a series of tables, including specifications and identifying features of the many versions of the Valentine, as well as the interesting material on the interior of the tank, how it was driven, and on the many special variants such as the Archer self -propelled gun, which carried its main gun pointing backwards. [read full review]
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5 March 2017

The Hindenburg Line, Patrick Osborn & Marc Romanych. A good study of the full network of defences generally known in English as the Hindenburg Line, and which spread from the Channel coast to the St. Mihiel salient east of Verdun. Looks at the original purpose behind their construction, the actual shape they took on the ground, and how they performed under attack. Very useful to have a book that focuses on the entire length of this key German fortification [read full review]
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Hitler's Nordic Ally? Finland and the Total War 1939-1945, Claes Johansen. A wide ranging examination of Finland's two wars with the Soviet Union, the period leading up to the Winter War, the uneasy peace, and the aftermath of the wars, looking at the political debate within Finland, the fighting, and the wider impact of the war in the other Nordic countries. Especially interesting for the light it shines on the rather murky period between the two wars, where parts of the Finnish government entered into a de-facto alliance with Germany without the authority to do so, and on the varying Soviet aims. [read full review]
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Normandy June 1944: The Night of Liberation, Gilles Vallée and Christophe Esquerré. A heavily illustrated book that follows one stick of paratroops from the 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment as they dropped behind Utah Beach on D-Day. A splendid educational publication that doesn't pull its punches, following a stick that saw its leader killed before reaching the ground, suffered heavy losses and fell into German hands almost immediately. Also follows the aircraft that flew them to Normandy and its aircrew. [read full review]
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26 February 2017

German Half-Tracks and Wheeled Vehicles 1939-1945, Alexander Lüdeke. Looks at the armoured cars and half-tracks used by the German Army before and during the Second World War, focusing on the development and technical descriptions of each type and its major variants. Each type gets one or two pages, supported by photos of the vehicle. A useful short reference book on these essential vehicles, covering both the many types developed in Germany and the smaller number of captured vehicles pressed into service. [read full review]
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The Gempei War 1180-85 - The Great Samurai Civil War, Stephen Turnbull. Looks at the civil war between the Taira and Minamoto clans that saw the samurai replace the Imperial Court as the main source of power in Japan, and ended with the establishment of the Shogunate, the system of military rule that lasted for nearly seven hundred years. A fascinating account of this crucial conflict that helps make sense of a war that sometimes appears as a collection of unconnected battles involving a series of different commanders. [read full review]
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BT Fast Tank - The Red Army's Cavalry Tank 1931-1945, Steven J. Zaloga. Looks at the fast BT series tanks, based on the American Christie tank. Produced in vast numbers in the Soviet Union in several main variants, the BT tanks were used in Spain, against Japan on the Mongolian border and during the Winter War, before being destroyed in equally vast numbers during the first year of the Great Patriotic War. Traces the development of the Soviet version of the tank, the many versions produced, and its mainly unimpressive combat career. [read full review]
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19 February 2017

British and German Battlecruisers - Their Development and Operations, Michele Cosentino & Ruggero Stanglini. A useful volume that covers the development, design and construction of British and German battlecruisers, their wartime deployments and both side's plans for the next generation of battlecruisers, of which only HMS Hood was ever completed. Having all of this material in a single volume gives a much better overview of the two Navy's battlecruisers, their advantages and flaws, and their performance in and out of battle. Concludes with a look at other nation's battlecruisers and battlecruiser designs [read full review]
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Stout Hearts: The British and Canadians in Normandy 1944, Ben Kite. Looks in detail at the role of each element in the British and Canadian military machine during the Normandy Campaign, including each aspect of the ground forces from the infantry to the armour, intelligence, reconnaissance and medical services, as well as the air support and the fire power provided by the massive Allied fleets off the Normandy coast. A very useful companion to narrative accounts of the campaign, helping to explain how the British and Canadians managed to overcome the determined German resistance on their front [read full review]
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Brutus - Caesar's Assassin, Kirsty Corrigan. A well balanced biography of Brutus, one of the more consistent defenders of the Roman Republic, and famously one of Caesar's assassins on the Ides of March. Paints a picture of a man of generally high moral standards (with some flaws in financial matters), but also an over-optimistic plotter, who failed to make any realistic plans for the aftermath of the assassination. Does a good job of tracing Brutus's fairly obscure early years, as well as distinguishing between later legends and historically likely events [read full review]
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12 February 2017

Alesia - The Final Struggle for Gaul, Nic Fields. A useful history of the siege and associated battles that secured Caesar's conquest of Gaul and ended Vercingetorix's revolt, the first (and only) time that the Gallic tribes united against Caesar. Starts with a history of Vercingetorix's revolt and the earlier failed siege of Gergova, before moving onto the climatic siege of Alesia, the massive Gallic relief effort and its defeat by Caesar. A good account of this siege, supported by excellent maps showing the besieged town and its surroundings. [read full review]
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Sailors on the Rocks - Famous Royal Navy Shipwrecks, Peter C. Smith. Looks at a long series of Royal Naval shipwrecks, from the loss of HMS Coronation in 1691 to the grounding of HMS Nottingham in 2002. Covers the background histories of the ships involved, their actions in the period before their loss, the lead-up to the loss, the rescue attempts and the aftermath of the loss. An interesting book that covers a great deal of ground [read full review]
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US Navy Carrier Aircraft vs IJN Yamato Class Battleships, Pacific Theatre 1944-45, Mark Stille. Looks at the two battles that resulted in the sinking of Yamato and Musashi, the two most powerful battleships ever completed, and the US aircraft, weapons and tactics that sank them. Interesting to bring together all of the relevant technical histories – the ships themselves, Japanese anti-aircraft guns, the US aircraft and their main weapons – in a single volume, followed by detailed accounts of the air attacks that sank the two battleships [read full review]
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5 February 2017

By the Knife, Steve Partridge . A historical novel set largely at sea in the middle of the eighteenth century, following two intertwined lives from their formative years in England, to their repeated encounters across the oceans. Written across a very broad canvas, from the Caribbean to the west coast of Africa, Britain to the Mediterranean, and with a good feel for the naval warfare and general lawlessness of the period. [read full review]
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The Great Siege of Malta - The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John, Bruce Ware Allen. Looks at one of the pivotal conflicts of the Sixteenth Century, when a massive Ottoman army attempted to capture Malta, then the main base for the Knights of St. John. This excellent history traces events from the earlier siege of Rhodes, where the Knights were defeated, through the intervening years of intermittent conflict, and on to the Great Siege itself, covering both the fighting on Malta and the attempts to raise the siege [read full review]
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Critical Convoy Battles of WWII - Crisis in the North Atlantic, March 1943, Jurgen Rohwer. Focuses on the successful U-boat attacks on convoys HX.229 and SC.122, looking at how earlier convoys were able to avoid attack, why those particular convoys were hit so hard, the methods being used by both sides, and their impact on the longer term result of the Battle of the Atlantic. A useful study, despite its age (first published in 1977), in particular because of its focus on the successful German attacks of March 1943, which thus get the attention they deserve rather than being seen as a precursor to the Allied victories later in the summer. [read full review]
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31 January 2017

Bayonets for Hire - Mercenaries at War, 1550-1789, William Urban. A history of warfare that covers the period of the European Wars of Religion, the wars of Louis XIV and the near constant conflicts of the Eighteenth Century, with a general focus on the role of the mercenary, although with a fairly broad definition that includes the multinational officer corps of the period. A useful book that includes the less familiar conflicts in Eastern Europe as well as the more familiar conflicts in Western Europe [read full review]
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Long Range Desert Group - Behind Enemy Lines on North Africa, W.B. Kennedy Shaw. A thrilling history of the Long Range Desert Group, one of the most famous of the many Special Forces that popped up in the British Army in the Middle East during the Second World War, although it is often seen in the background of other stories. Written in 1943 by the Group's Intelligence Officer, this book brings the exploits of the LRDG to life, and brings it into a justified foreground position. [read full review]
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Wellington against Soult - The Second Invasion of Portugal, 1809, David Buttery. Looks at the second French invasion of Portugal, which saw Marshal Soult occupy parts of northern Portugal, invading from the north and capturing Oporto, before being expelled from the country by Wellesley, at the start of his second spell of command in Iberia. This is a readable account of one of Wellesley's most aggressive campaigns, including a surprisingly risky river crossing that helped force Soult to begin his retreat. [read full review]
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24 January 2017

The Barbary Pirates 15th-17th Centuries, Angus Konstam. Looks at the high point for the Barbary Pirates, a mix of corsairs, privateers and slavers based along the Barbary Coast of North Africa, and whose raids at their most daring reached as far as Iceland! Covers the Barbary Coast and its main ports, the types of ships they used, their crews and commanders and their methods of operations. Gives a good idea of the motivation and reasons for success of the infamous Barbary Corsairs. [read full review]
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Tobruk Commando - The Raid to Destroy Rommel's Base, Gordon Landsborough. An early history of Operation Agreement (first published in 1956), one of the more disastrous British Special Operations of the Second War, which evolved from a simple raid on Tobruk into a full scale combined operations attempt to temporarily capture and destroy the port. Mainly follows the mission from the point of view of the special forces groups operating on land and the commanders of the warships [read full review]
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Rome Seizes the Trident - The Defeat of Carthaginian Seapower & the Forging of the Roman Empire, Marc G. Desantis. Looks at the way in which Rome seized control of the western Mediterranean from the long established naval power of Carthage, and then maintained that power for the rest of the Punic Wars, as well as tracing the impact of Roman naval power on the wider course of the conflict. Also asks why Carthage was unable to respond to the Roman naval challenge, rarely winning a naval battle during the First Punic War and not mounting a serious challenge at all during the Second [read full review]
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19 January 2017

Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864, Monte Akers. Follows on from Year of Glory, and looks at the year in which Stuart's personal reputation was marred by his performance in the Gettysburg campaign, and Union cavalry gained in competence and confidence, eventually equalling and even surpassing their Confederate opponents. Stuart's own career ended in a clash with Union cavalry at Yellow Tavern on 11 May 1864, where he was mortally wounded. Together these books provide a satisfying military biography of Stuart [read full review]
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This Bloody Place - With the Incomparable 29th, Major A.H. Mure. A Gallipoli memoir published in 1919, but written during the war, centred on Mure's 43 days on shore at Gallipoli. An honest, largely unvarnished account of the fighting, which despite Mure's pride in the Allied achievement on Gallipoli doesn't skip over the horrors of the fighting, from the constant presence of death to Mure's own nervous breakdown that saw him invalided home. Gives a good impression of how frantic the fighting was in the narrow Gallipoli beachhead [read full review]
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US Army Rangers 1989-2015, Leigh Neville. Looks at the current incarnation of the US Rangers, looking at its involvement in Panama, Iraq (twice), Somalia and Afghanistan. Tracing the development of the Rangers from a unit expected to conduct short sharp operations against high value targets into one capable of operating at a high tempo for long periods of time, repeated conducting several raids on the same day. An interesting book that doesn't skip over the regiment's failures in its current form, as well as looking at its impressive successes [read full review]
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5 January 2017

SS-Leibstandarte: The History of the First SS Division, 1933-45, Rupert Butler. Looks at the history of the Leibstandarte, Hitler's bodyguard and later the first SS Division. The Leibstandarte gained an impressive military reputation (after a ropey start), but also committed war crimes on almost every front it served, including mass murder in the east, the murder of British and French POWs in 1940 and US POWs in 1944, and of villagers in Italy [read full review]
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Operation Oyster: World War II's Forgotten Raid, Kees Rijken, Paul Schepers, Arthur Thorning. Looks at a complex low level raid on the Philips Radio Works at Eindhoven, carried out in daylight by a mixed force of Mosquitos, Venturas and Bostons. Covers the full range of the mission, from the original reasons for the attack, the planning, the mission itself, losses on both sides, the damage done to the factory and the civilian casualties in Eindhoven [read full review]
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The Coward? The Rise and Fall of the Silver King, Steve R. Dunn. A look at the life and mistakes of Admiral Ernest Troubridge, a British admiral best known for his failure to intercept the Goeben in the Mediterranean at the start of the First World War. The aim is to try and work out why Troubridge acted as he did in 1914, examining the late Victorian and Edwardian navy, his own career and decisions he made elsewhere in his life to try and work out what made him tick [read full review]
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