books monthly october 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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William F Stewart: Canadians On The Somme

Published by Helion 15th August 2017

Ordered lines of heavily laden soldiers with rifles at ‘high port' trudging through mud against uncut barbed wire under heavy machine gun fire is the enduring view of the Somme 1916. What makes Canada's Somme campaign so difficult to characterise was at times this was true, but so were times Canadians advanced at speed over dry ground through smashed German defences. Over the course of 80 days, they encountered all types of weather, ground conditions, defences, and defenders. They achieved stirring victories, and suffered staggering defeats. Thus, Canada's Somme experience was not a simple binary of either victory or defeat, but both and most combinations between. These battles do not lend themselves to grand narratives and sweeping accounts of triumph over great odds. This perspective contributes to the absence of detailed operational studies devoted to Canada's military contribution to the Somme campaign. Resulting in 24,029 casualties, the Somme was the second longest and costliest campaign of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It represents a critical inflection point in the Dominion's conduct of the war as all spheres of its military effort were impacted by its effects. The corps, however, demonstrated sufficient potential that General Sir Douglas Haig assigned the Canadian Corps the crucial role of seizing Vimy Ridge during the next major British offensive. Nevertheless, Canada's campaign remains a neglected aspect of the Somme campaign with no study devoted to its course. This volume addresses this gap in the available literature by examining the Canadian experience at the operational and tactical level. Its primary focus is on how the Canadians fought and why they battled in the manner they did. Focusing on a single corps brings a perspective on aspects of the campaign that are washed out in the general narratives. This allows for a finer grain examination of diverse topics, such as operations, command and control, and tactics. The period the Canadians served also receives less coverage in general campaign accounts, and it witnessed a set of significant changes in operations as both sides adjusted their tactics. Illustrated with numerous maps and images, 'The Canadians on the Somme' is Bill Stewart's second book.

This brilliant book, published around the 100th anniversary of Passchendaele, reminds us that we were not alone in facing the Germans in WW1, but that there were also troops from various of our commonwealth countries. This particular book remembers the contribution and sacrifices of the Canadian troops on the Somme.

Willem Steenkamp: The Black Beret Vol. 2

Published by Helion 15th August 2017

Volume 2 of The Black Beret picks up where the previous volume left off, describing the bowing out of the South African Tank Corps, the formation of 6th South African Armoured Division and its subsequent campaign in Italy. Its exploits in Italy are recounted in detail, from its blooding at Cassino, the pursuit to Rome, the hard fight to breach the Gothic Line through to final victory. The final part of the book recounts the events of 1945-61, including the introduction of the Centurion tank. This is an important and overlooked story, one told by Willem Steenkamp in a rich and unique style, drawing on a significant number of sources, and ably supported by many photographs and maps.

Volume 2 of a fascinating account of South Africa's Armed Forces and how they came to be reorganised.

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.