books monthly june 2017

This month's pick of the new Military History titles...

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William Hay Ed. Andrew Baford: Reminiscences 1808-1815 Under Wellington

 

Published by Helion 15th May 2017

 

William Hay had a varied and exciting military career during the later years of the Napoleonic Wars, which took him to the Peninsula, to Waterloo, and, after 1815, to Canada. Graduating from the Royal Military College at Marlow, of which he begins his memoirs with a rare account, he was first commissioned into the crack 52nd Light Infantry and served with that regiment in the campaigns of 1810 and 1811. Promotion then took him into the 12th Light Dragoons and, after a spell at home due to illness, he joined his new regiment in the field just as Wellington's army began its retreat from Burgos. Thereafter, Hay served with the 12th for the remainder of the Peninsular War and again during the Waterloo campaign. A well-connected young man, he spent some of his time away from the regiment on staff duties, serving as an aide to Lord Dalhousie in the Peninsula and later to the same officer again during his tenure as Governor General of British North America.

Hay's recollections are very much those of a dashing young officer, and, if not quite rivalling Marbot for imagination, there is no denying that he is the hero of his own epic. But these are more than just tales of derring-do, for Hay's stories of the lighter side of military life do much to illuminate the character and attitudes of Britain's Napoleonic officer corps. There is also no question but that Hay was a competent and effective officer who did good service in a number of important campaigns, and an old soldier's tendency to polish his recollections should take nothing from that. However, in order to help the reader better judge when Hay is remembering events with advantage, this edition of his memoirs is introduced and annotated by historian Andrew Bamford and includes additional information to identify places, people, and events and to otherwise add context to the original narrative.

 

It is always better, surely, to read accounts of campaigns etc., that have been written by someone who was actually there? Andrew Bamford's exceptional editing ensures that Hay's "reminiscences" are as accurate as can be, whilst still retaining the allure of a young man in the thick of the action and anxious to record what is going on for posterity. Would that there were more such reminiscences of other battles. Comparable to some of the diaries and essays written by the young men who fought in the first world war. This is an extraordinary piece of work.

 

 

 

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Leo Marriott & Simon Forty: The Normandy Battlefields - Bocage and Breakout, From the Beaches to the Falaise Gap

Published by Casemate 31st March 2017

The Normandy Battlefields: D-Day & the Bridgehead ended as the Allies fought to expand their D-Day foothold. In Bocage and Breakout, Leo Marriott and Simon Forty take the story forward as the success of the invasion continued into the Cotentin, with Cherbourg falling on 29 June, before it bogged down in face of determined German defense and the bocage countryside innumerable small fields surrounded by hedgerows, each one hiding anti-tank weapons, mortars and machine guns. As US First Army fought its way south, on the eastern edges of the bridgehead, British and Canadian forces were fighting a war of attrition around Caen facing the bulk of the German armor as division after division was fed into Normandy. Like a pressure cooker, the fighting intensified until, seven weeks after D-Day, Operation Cobra broke the German line. Quickly Patton s Third Army, operational from 1 August, flooded through the gap exploiting the German confusion, encircling what was left of the German armies in the Falaise Pocket and advancing quickly through into Brittany. Three weeks later, the Battle of Normandy was over, the routed German Army without most of its heavy weapons left in the Falaise Pocket or on the banks of the Seine was retreating helter skelter back towards Germany and the Low Countries pursued by the Allies in a reverse of the 1940 Blitzkrieg campaign.

The three months of war in June July 1944 were brutal, with losses of front-line troops as heavy as in World War I. The German defense was tenacious, particularly in face of Allied air supremacy. The Allies struggled to get into a position to allow their more mobile forces room for maneuver and and the fighting was ferocious. When victory came, it came at a cost: 209,672 casualties among the ground forces, including 36,976 killed and 19,221 missing. The Allied air forces lost 16,714 airmen. The corresponding German losses were even more significant: some 450,000 men, of whom 240,000 were killed or wounded. More important to the Germans were the losses of heavy equipment tanks, assault guns, artillery, personnel carriers. As an example, 12th SS Panzer Division had lost 94% of its armor, nearly all of its artillery and 70% of its vehicles. With c20,000 men and 150 tanks before the campaign, after Falaise it had 300 men and 10 tanks. Mixing text, maps and images, many of them specially commissioned including aerial photography, The Normandy Battlefields: Bocage and Breakout explains and interprets the complexities of the Normandy campaign in an original and cohesive package.

Essential reading for anyone with an interest in the military history of WW2 and specifically the D-Day landings. Amazing photographs and maps, this is a coffee table book you will not be able to put down! Marriott and Forty know their subject and share their expertise and knowledge in a way that's not been available in previous books about such a complex subject matter.

Dave Barr: Four Flags - The Odyssey of a Professional Soldier Part 2

Published by Helion 15th March 20176

Dave Barr (born April 12, 1952) is an American veteran of the Vietnam War and a motorcyclist best known for being the first double amputee to circumnavigate the globe. He lives in Bodfish, California where he is hired to as a motivational speaker traveling in the Us and abroad. He is also the author of three books and was inducted into the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000. Plus the Strugis Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2013. Barr joined the US Marine Corps when he was 17 and served in Vietnam on a helicopter gunship. After his discharge from the Marines in 1972 he lived in various locations around the world and served in the armed forces of several countries, including: two years with the Israeli Parachute Regiment and one year Rhodesian Light Infantry. He was in the middle of two years of service with the South African Defence Force when he was injured in a land-mine explosion in Angola in 1981. In 1981 while riding in a military vehicle in southern Angola, his vehicle drove over a land mine and the resulting explosion cost him both of his legs, above the knee on the right and below the knee on the left. Prosthetic legs allowed him to complete his tour of duty. In 1990 Barr being the first person to ride a Harley-Davidson 83,000 miles around the world. He went on to do a Guinness Book record ride including a 13,000 mile Atlantic to Pacific segment across Northern Europe, Russia, and Siberia in the dead of winter.From Dec 8, 1996 to Apr- 1997. Barr also set a second world record for riding what he called The Southern Cross. In just 45 days form October to Nov 2002, he completed the first motorcycle journey ever between the four extreme geographical corners of the Australian continent"

Barr's story is simply inspirational and awe-inspiring. Not only did he carry on in the Marines with prosthetic limbs, he also made a name for himself after completing his military service by tackling and mastering motorcycling in a way that defies belief. Respect.

Michael Collins & Martin King: Tigers of Bastogne

Published by Casemate June 19th 2017

The gallant stand of the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne has long become part of historical and media legend. But how many students of the war realize there was already a U.S. unit holding the town when they arrived? And this unit-the 10th Armored Division-continued to play a major role in its defense throughout the German onslaught.In The Tigers of Bastogne, authors King and Collins finally detail the travails of this young armored division, which had only arrived in Europe that fall, yet found itself subject to the full brunt of Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army in the Ardennes. At first overwhelmed, and then falling back to protect the vital crossroads, the 10th Armored was reinforced (not "saved") by the Screaming Eagles, and its men and tanks went on to contribute largely to America's victory in its largest battle of the war.The 10th Armored had only arrived in Europe that September, as part of Patton's Third Army, and their divisional motto, "Terrify and Destroy," was somewhat belied by the onslaught of Nazi panzers that burst across no-man's-land on December 16. Instead their nickname, "The Tiger Division," became fully earned, as they went on the defensive at Bastogne, surrounded by an entire German army, yet refused to concede a single inch of ground not earned with blood.General Anthony McAuliffe, of the 101st Airborne (and "Nuts" fame), said, "It seems regrettable to me that Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division didn't get the credit it deserved at the battle of Bastogne. All the newspaper and radio talk was about the paratroopers. Actually the 10th Armored Division was in there a day before we were and had some very hard fighting before we ever got into it."Fortunately, in this book, the historical record is finally corrected. With their trademark style, King and Collins, through their firsthand interviews with veterans, bring us straight into the combats of the 10th Armored, equaling the balance between the brave paratroopers and gallant tankers who, together, held off Germany's last major offensive in the West.

 

Collins and King uncover and reveal some surprising secrets relating to the battle of Bastogne. These accounts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty are the stuff of legend - you would think that there were no such stories left to tell, but you'd be wrong. Amazing.

 

Frank Van Lunteren: The Battle of the Bridges

Published by Casemate 19th June 2017

Operation Market Garden has been recorded as a complete Allied failure in World War II, an overreach that resulted in an entire airborne division being destroyed at its apex. However, within that operation were episodes of heroism that still remain unsung. On September, 17, 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, floated down across the Dutch countryside, in the midst of German forces, and proceeded to fight their way to vital bridges to enable the Allied offensive to go forward. The 101st Airborne was behind them; the British 1st Airbourne was far advanced. In the 82nd's sector the crucial conduits needed to be seized. The Germans knew the importance of the bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen as well as James Gavin and his 82nd troopers did. Thus began a desperate fight for the Americans to seize it, no matter what the cost. The Germans would not give, however, and fought tenaciously in the town and fortified the bridge. On September 20 Gavin turned his paratroopers into sailors and conducted a deadly daylight amphibious assault in small plywood and canvas craft across the Waal River to secure the north end of the highway bridge in Nijmegen. German machine guns and mortars boiled the water on the crossing, but somehow a number of paratroopers made it to the far bank. Their ferocity thence rolled up the German defenses, and by the end of day the bridge had fallen. This book draws on a plethora of previously unpublished sources to shed new light on the exploits of the"Devils in Baggy Pants" by Dutch author and historian Frank van Lunteren. A native of Arnhem―the site of "The Bridge too Far"―the author draws on nearly 130 interviews he personally conducted with veterans of the 504th, plus Dutch civilians and British and German soldiers, who here tell their story for the first time.

 

Another remarkable account of quite amazing heroism - the story of the "Devils in Baggy Pants" sees Dutch military historian Frank Van Lunteren telling the tale of a battle within a battle that made heroes of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during operation Market Garden, itself considered something of a failure. This story will make you think again.

 

Mike Vockins: Chig - Sky Pilot to the Glider Planes of Arnhem

Published by Helion 15th May 2017

New, hitherto unseen, first-hand accounts of the battle of Arnhem, the heroic Allied military operation known as ‘Market Garden', become rarer as time passes. "Chig: Sky Pilot to the Glider Pilots of Arnhem" is the story of a choir boy, who became a country parson, who took part in Operation ‘Market Garden' as Chaplain to the men of the Glider Pilot Regiment. When he left home "Chig" - Rowland Chignell - later the Rev'd Prebendary Chignell, wrote often to his father. Remarkably his father kept those letters written between August 1940 and September 1944 before, post-war, returning them to Chig. Chig died, in 1994, and when his effects were being cleared, among them was a small bundle of papers, containing 84 dog-eared letters Chig had written to his father. With them were eight densely-typed foolscap pages. This extraordinary and unique document, Chig's account of his time in Arnhem with GPR, recounting first-hand conditions which got increasingly hairier before ultimately, under heavy fire, came the withdrawal across the Rhine. The early letters provide almost a social history of war-time rural life in two small parishes in south Shropshire, recounted by a newly-married, newly-appointed country parson. ‘Dig for Victory', the establishment of a pig club, and keeping of hens, are on the agenda. The difficulty of obtaining petrol and tyres is noted, and yet Chig's cricket club has petrol for the mowers which maintain pitch and outfield to allow to be played against the various Service units stationed nearby - good for morale. A Searchlight Battery's arrival led to Chig becoming their unofficial chaplain. His greater awareness of the vital role played by Service Chaplains led, too, to his volunteering himself as a Chaplain to the to the Forces. Attached initially to the Parachute Regiment's Training Unit - when the use of para-troops in war was still very novel - Chig later was asked to transfer to the GPR. The tenor of the letters change, yet always painting a full and varied picture about his own role (in so far as war-time security allowed) but also about bird-life and the scenery, and about music too - a great love shared with his musical father. Padre Chignell's letters tell a story that demands to be told.

 

An altogether alternative view of Operation Market Garden. This is a more personal view, revealed in the documents left by "Chig", the Reverend Chigwell, who was chaplain to the men of the Glider Pilot Regiment during the Operation. Together with a collection of letters that were discovered among the effects he left behind, these documents provide a unique and compelling record of his role during Market Garden and helps to bestow legendary status upon him. A moving tribute to one of WW2's previously unsung heroes.

 

Michael McCarthy: Confederate Waterloo

Published by Savas Beatie 31st March 2017

"It could be classified as a mere skirmish, but no other fight of the entire four years' struggle was followed by such important consequences," explained former Confederate General Thomas Munford years after the Civil War. "It extinguished the campfires of the hitherto invincible army and was the mortal blow which caused the Southern Confederacy to perish forever." The Battle of Five Forks broke the long siege of Petersburg, triggered the evacuation of Richmond, precipitated the Appomattox Campaign, and destroyed the careers and reputations of two generals. Michael J. McCarthy's Confederate Waterloo is the first fully researched and unbiased booklength account of this decisive Union victory and the aftermath fought in the courts and at the bar of public opinion. General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had been locked into the sprawling defenses surrounding the logistical stronghold of Petersburg and the Southern capital at Richmond for more than eight months when General Grant struck beyond his far left flank to break the extended Rebel lines. A series of battles led up to April 1, when General Phil Sheridan's forces struck at Five Forks. The attack surprised and collapsed General George Pickett's Confederate command and turned Lee's right flank. An attack along the entire front the following morning broke the siege and forced the Virginia army out of its defenses and, a week later, into Wilmer McLean's parlor to surrender at Appomattox. Despite this decisive Union success, Five Forks spawned one of the most bitter and divisive controversies in the postwar army when Sheridan relieved Fifth Corps commander Gouverneur K. Warren for perceived failures connected to the battle. The order generated a lifelong effort by Warren and his allies to restore his reputation by demonstrating that Sheridan's action was both unfair and dishonorable. The struggle climaxed with a Court of Inquiry that generated a more extensive record of testimony and exhibits than any other U.S. military judicial case in the 19th Century. In addition to Sheridan and Warren, participants included Gens. U. S. Grant and Winfield S. Hancock, and a startling aggregation of former Confederate officers. McCarthy's Confederate Waterloo is grounded upon extensive research and a foundation of primary sources, including the meticulous records of a man driven to restore his honor in the eyes of his colleagues, his family, and the American public. The result is a fresh dispassionate analysis that may cause students of the Civil War to reassess their views about some of the Union's leading generals.

 

Another fascinating account of a modern day siege during the American Civil War - I think the fact that we can match photographs to people who actually took part in this conflict makes it something extraordinary, and kindles interest to an amazing degree. Fascinating.

 

Stephane Lavit & Philippe Charbonnier: The First (US) Infantry Division

Published by Histoires et Collections 9th March 2017

The 1st Infantry Division was established in 1917 to participate in the fighting in France and faced the major German offensives of 1918. During the Second World War, it effected its first assault landing in North Africa in 1942. Then followed the invasion of Sicily, D-Day in Normandy, the battle of the Bulge and the conquest of the Reich, as far as Czechoslovakia. According to the division lore, at the time, the U.S. Army consisted of the First Infantry Division and eight million replacements! Thanks to hundreds of historical pictures, the reader will follow the Big Red One's glorious path in its most difficult assignments.

 

Superb biopic of the history and Second World War engagements of the First Infantry Division of the US. Encapsulates the entire involvement of the US in the second world war...

 


 

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