books monthly september 2017 military history

Remembering the Somme...

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Martin King & Ken Johnson: Warriors of the 106th


Published by Casemate 19th July 2017


The 106th were fresh, green and right in the pathway of the 5th German Army when the Battle of the Bulge began at 0530 hours on December 16, 1944. This book covers the history along with the individual stories of the incredible heroism, sacrifice and tenacity of these young Americans in the face of overwhelming odds. From this division 6,800 men were taken prisoner but their story didn't end there. For the ones who miraculously escaped, there was a battle to fight, and fight it they would with every ounce of strength and courage they could muster. They would fight debilitating weather conditions more reminiscent of Stalingrad than the Belgian Ardennes. They would fight a determined enemy and superior numbers and despite all adversity they would eventually prevail. One 106th GI waged his own personal war using guerilla tactics that caused serious consternation amongst the German troops. For another GI his main concern was recovering his clean underwear. These stories are heartwarming, heartbreaking, nerve-wracking and compelling. They aim to put the reader right there in the front lines, and in the stalags, during the final months of WWII.


King and Johnson's stirring account of the 106th is the stuff that legends are made of...




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Lawrence Brown: The Somme - Four Years of Fighting

Published by Orep Editions 30th April 2017

Throughout the course of centuries, the Somme has been the scene of numerous battles and the passageway for armies. However, the Great War of 1914-1918 was, by far, the most murderous conflict to fall upon the region, leaving in its wake an indelible mark. Today, the Somme has hundreds of military cemeteries. In the woods, trench lines still wind their way between the shell holes. In the fields, munitions still emerge when the tractor's plough cuts through the earth.
This guide takes a look at the major events that took place in the specific sector and, thanks to a map, covers a circuit of remembrance that follows the armies of both sides.

There is so much we still don't know about the various battles of the Somme, even down to the most detailed level i.e. what happened to the fighting men. My grandfather was killed on18th August 1916, and is listed as "presumed dead", which suggests to me that nothing of him was ever found. I may be wrong but that in turn suggests having been killed by artillery and blown to smithereens. Yet everything I've read about his regiment, the 13th Middlesex, tells me that they were fighting in woodland, not out in the open, and that it was hand to hand fighting or being picked off by rifle fire. Lawrence Brown's book isn't huge, and doesn't give me the answers I'm searching for, but it's a worthy addition to the literature of the Somme, and may well assist others in their search for answers as to what happened to their ancestors.

Roger Leivers: Stirling to Essen

Published by Fighting High Publishing 1st July 2017

On 11 April 1942, a stricken Short Stirling Royal Air Force bomber crashes into fields to the east of Godmanchester in Cambridgeshire, England. Hours earlier the commitment and skill of the crew had been tested to the limit confronting the formidable searchlight and flak defences of the German city of Essen. This event, hidden for so long, had drifted into the fog of history, but a chance email led to this amazing story revealing itself. An epic tale of a wealthy young man, whose mother died during his birth, who lived for excitement, and who went on to join the RAF in 1938. Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson went on to become a Ferry pilot, a Flying Instructor and finally a Test pilot. In October 1941, he joined RAF Bomber Command's No. XV Squadron becoming a Squadron Leader, and taking part in numerous raids on Brest and the Ruhr. Stirling to Essen is also the story of the men who served alongside their pilot, and the unbreakable bond of friendship they found as they soared over the deadly skies of the Third Reich and occupied Europe. What became of these men, did fate smile upon them or was luck to desert them? Time and again new and unexpected stories came to light, embroidering the already rich tapestry.
Author Roger Leivers' meticulous and comprehensive research has brought to life the remarkable story of the Godmanchester Stirling. A story of friendship, bravery, and sacrifice, acted out against the nightly threat of never returning to this sceptred isle again.

This is the kind of story one would expect to have been showcased in one of the 1960s/1970s/1980s war comics such as Warlord etc., it's an inspirational and deeply fascinating story of a man and his aircraft, together with the crew who shared his adventures with him. Larger than life but all true. Amazing!

Thomas Scotland & Steven Heys: Understanding the Ypres Salient

Published by Helion 15th June 2017

This work aims to provide the reader with a clear understanding of what happened in Ypres Salient between 1914 and 1918. It sets out to transport the visitor around sites of importance for the First, Second and Third Battle of Ypres, and in so doing to bring the battlefield to life. It will augment existing guidebooks by providing a unique new dimension without listing memorials and cemeteries. It doesn`t matter whether you are in your armchair, on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car, this book will effortlessly transport you to Ypres Salient, where you will be able to visualise what happened. It will take you to Kruiseke Crossroads and Gheluvelt in late October 1914, where tired remnants of the British Expeditionary Force fought desperately to prevent the Germans from breaking through to Ypres. It will lead you to the St Julien-Poelcappelle road on 22 April 1915 where Canadian soldiers near the front line formed a defensive flank after a chlorine gas attack had engulfed adjacent French colonial troops, killing many, while the survivors fled to the rear. You will visit Gravenstafel Ridge, where the Canadians were involved in bitter fighting two days later. You will go to locations throughout the Salient, which will help you to understand the four stages of the Second Battle of Ypres and the eight major phases of the Third Battle of Ypres where British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian divisions all fought at different times. Eighteen concise chapters will focus on aspects of particular battles, explaining troop movements and strategy. Each chapter is accompanied by many maps based on those in the Official History, which have been painstakingly designed to provide clarity, while colour photographs taken by the authors in the course of many visits to Ypres Salient will help the visitor to understand important points made in the text. After reading this book you should be able to stand at any location within Ypres salient and be able to work out what happened there throughout four years of war. You will also be able to conjure up a picture in your mind of events which took place more than 100 years ago as though they were happening in front of you


This amazingly detailed book covering four years of fighting in Ypres Salient is both an aide memoir and a battlefield guide, its latter purpose being both comprehensive and novel in its approach. The authors have painstakingly researched and recreated many of the battles, and the literature of Ypres is the richer for their stirling efforts.



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.