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  may 2018 - the pen and sword page

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Image above copyright Paul Norman "Caterpillar Cocoon" taken 23rd April 2018


Ian Castle: Zeppelin Onslaught

Published by Pen & Sword 31st January 2018

At the outbreak of the First World War, the United Kingdom had no aerial defence capability worthy of the name. When the war began Britain had just thirty guns to defend the entire country, with all but five of these considered of dubious value . So when raiding German aircraft finally appeared over Britain the response was negligible and totally ineffective. Of Britain s fledgling air forces, the Royal Flying Corps had accompanied the British Expeditionary Force into Europe leaving the Royal Naval Air Service to defend the country as best it could. That task was not an easy one. Airships only appeared at night and for British pilots night-flying was in its infancy. From the first raid in December 1914, aerial attacks gradually increased through 1915, culminating in highly damaging assaults on London in September and October. London, however, was not the only recipient of German bombs, with counties from Northumberland to Kent also experiencing the indiscriminate death and destruction found in this new theatre of war the Home Front. The British population was initially left exposed and largely undefended when the previously unimagined horror of bombs falling from the sky began, killing children in their beds and destroying homes. The face of war had changed forever. Those raids on London in the autumn of 1915 finally forced the government to pursue a more effective defence against air attack. The German air campaign against the United Kingdom was the first sustained strategic aerial bombing campaign in history. Yet it has become the forgotten Blitz. Those first bombing raids in 1915 claimed over 700 casualties. Relying heavily on first-hand accounts, Ian Castle tells their story, along with that of the raiders, and those who fought desperately to stop them in the opening year of Britain s forgotten Blitz.

I am aware of a blue plaque on a building somewhere in the town where I live proclaiming that this was the site of the first Zeppelin bomb drop during the first world war. I don't know if the claim is genuine, but Ian's book is a well-researched and readable account mainly of the first blitz, and the daage inflicted by zeppelin raids throughout Britain in 1914-1915. Superb historical treatise.






Matthew Wharmby: The London LS

Published by Pen and Sword 26th MArch 2018

Dissatisfied with the reliability of its AEC Merlin and Swift single-deck buses, London Transport in 1973 purchased six Leyland Nationals for evaluation. Liking what it saw of this ultimate standard product, where even the paint swatch was of Leyland's choice, LT took up an option to buy fifty more from a cancelled export order and then bought further batches of 110, 30 and 140 to bring the LS class to 437 members by the middle of 1980. A year later the last MBAs and SMSs were replaced on Red Arrow services by sixty-nine new Leyland National 2s. Straightforward but reliable, the LS satisfied London Transport's single-deck needs for a decade and a half, often standing in for double-deckers when needed, and then going on to help hold the fort during the tough years of early tendering, during which some innovative LS operations introduced several new liveries and identities. The type served the ten years expected out of it with few worries, only starting to disappear when minibuses came on strength at the end of the 1980s. Although the LS was formally retired by 1992, refurbishment programmes gave survivors an extended lease of life, bringing us the National Greenway, the ultimate development of the Leyland National. Most of the Red Arrow National 2s thus became GLSs, and lasted until 2002. Matthew Wharmby is an author, photographer and editor specialising in London bus history. His published books include London Transport s Last Buses: Leyland Olympians L 1-263, Routemaster Requiem and Routemaster Retrospective (with Geoff Rixon), London Transport 1970-1984 (with R. C. Riley), The London Titan and The London Metrobus. He has also written many articles for Buses, Bus & Coach Preservation, Classic Bus and London Bus Magazine.

This magnificent examination in extraordunary detail of the employment of Leyland LS buses in London's transport is rich and fascinating, beautifully illustrated and a truly beautiful book.


John Heywood: Beside The Seaside

Published by Pen and Sword 26th March 2018

Almost all of us have happy memories of excursions and holidays spent beside the sea. For many, these will have included the Yorkshire coast which runs unbroken for more than one hundred miles between the two great rivers, the Tees and the Humber. Within those boundaries are the popular seaside resorts of Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington as well as numerous smaller and quieter but equally well-loved destinations. How did the love affair with the area start and how did it develop? Over the years, all the ingredients for the perfect holiday are there - the spas, the sea and sun bathing, board and lodgings, entertainment and just as importantly, the journeys there and back. Beside the Seaside takes a detailed but entertaining look back at the history of these resorts over the last four hundred years and asks, what does the future hold? Packed with information, this book is fully illustrated with photographs, old and new, together with paintings and etchings. Coupled with the thoughts and memories of tourists and travellers from the 17th century through to the present time, it gives a fascinating insight into how our ancestors would have spent their time at the coast. Evocative and intriguing, absorbing and surprising, John Heywood s book will appeal both to those familiar with the area and to others who just enjoy being Beside the Seaside .


The story of British holidaymakers' love affaire with the Yorkshire seaside resorts can be equally applied to other seaside resorts around Britain's coast that developed and matured during the Victorian era, but author John Heywood has chosen to concentrate on Yorkshire, of course. My own love affaire with the seaside began in the early 1950s and continues to this day, first with annual two-week holidays to Ramsgate from the age of around two onwards, through a six-month stay in Southen on Sea while we waited to settle in Stevenage and then with my new wife in the 1960s, visiting Sheringham, Southwold, Lowestoft etc., etc., before eventually coming to live on the North Norfolk coast permanently. My day involves two walks along the cliffs with our dog, shopping in our little seaside town etc., and it is a permanent holiday. John's fabulous book examines people's fascination with and love of seaside resorts in Yorkshire, and the evocative photographs and excellent text make this one of the finest advertisements for such resorts to have ever been published. Brilliant!

Anthony Burton: Railway Empire - How The British Gave Railways To The World

Published by Pen and Sword 30th January 2018

The British were at the forefront of railway development for the first fifty years of the nineteenth century. Railway Empire tells the story of how the British gave railways to the world, not only in the empire, but also in other countries outside areas of direct influence. It is often forgotten today that the British were responsible for the construction and management of a large proportion of the railways constructed in Africa, South America and Australasia not to mention many thousands of miles of mileage in Asia, India, Malaya, Burma, China and Japan. This book looks at the political, economic and technical aspects of this development, which made Britain a country at the forefront of this form of transport.


With Michael Portillo now travelling around India on their incredible railway system, this book could not be more timely for people interested in the history of world railways. Anthony Burton's examination of how Britain paved the way fr the rest of the world to share in this unique and opportune transport system is fascinating- a reminder of what a great nation we once were.


Alan J Goodwin: Southern Steam January - July 1967

Published by Pen and Sword 30th January 2018

At the beginning of 1967 the writing was clearly on the wall for Southern Steam, with the intention of eliminating it altogether on the 18th June of that year. From the 2nd January, with the Brush type 4s working many main line trains including the Bournemouth Belle , steam was reduced to thirteen departures from Waterloo, three of which were in the early hours. From the 3rd April this was further reduced to just five day and three night time departures. However, by this time it was realised that due to late delivery of the new electric stock, the deadline for the demise of steam was put back to the 9th July and an interim timetable introduced from 12th June. Using information gathered from many sources, Countdown to Extinction chronicles the events of 1967, with the final five weeks in detail, including events that formed the background to the time.


Sad story of the demise of the steam railways in the south of Britain. Alan's account of how steam engines were withdrawn from service reads like a series of very sad obituaries. Very moving.


Maurice Crow: Wembley - Images of the Past

Published by Pen and Sword 5th February 2018

The It was the field of dreams, the birthplace of legends, the hallowed home of our sporting gods. Historic Wembley Stadium, with its iconic Twin Towers, was truly the most revered of venues. Until the Millennium, when the world-renowned colossus was demolished to make way for its futuristic replacement, the famous old Stadium witnessed some of the most heroic events of the Twentieth Century. But its history, although always exciting, was also often uncertain and not a little bizarre. So, despite most eyes being on future fixtures as the sporting hub heads towards it centenary, it is the ancient edifice s often forgotten past that is the subject of this book. And the uncomfortable truth is that Wembley s original debut was anything but auspicious. In fact, it was once viewed as a debt-ridden disaster. So doomed was it deemed to be that the North London complex was about to be knocked down and was rescued only at the last moment, in the most extraordinary circumstances. Happily, it recovered to become a success story, the memories of which are recorded here, hopefully to open the floodgates of nostalgia for followers of sport. Wembley, it must be remembered, came to the rescue of the first post-War Olympics when no other nation on earth would accept the challenge. It gripped greyhound racing aficionados and it thrilled to the roar of speedway stars. The giants of American football also muscled in to display their skills there. Great Britons like Frank Bruno and Henry Cooper stepped into the ring (and Cassius Clay was felled to the canvas) before stunned boxing fans. And, of course, Wembley crowds gasped in awe at the footwork of Stanley Matthews and wept in ecstasy at the triumph of Bobby Moore. But the North London location is more than just the Holy Grail of sport. It has seen defining moments in pop music history, such as Live Aid. It has given platforms to the Pope and evangelist Billy Graham. It has staged breathtaking spectaculars no other venue could hope to accommodate, growing in stature over the course of an astonishing century. This then, for both sports buffs and social historians, is historic Wembley s story an unfolding saga played out beneath those symbolically soaring Twin Towers.


I am not a fan of the new Wembley stadium, I think it might have been better to retain the old one as a place of interest, and to build the new stadium elsewhere in Wembley - but I'm probably in a minority there. This marvellous book captures and relives some of the most brilliant events held at the old Wembley - how brilliant it would have been had Jeff Lynne and his ELO played at the old stadium! A brilliant slice of nostalgia.


John Wintrip: Tracing Your Georgian Amcestors 1714-1837

Published by Pen and Sword 5th March 2018

The Georgian period - 1714 to 1837 - was a key stage in our modern history so some understanding of it is essential for family historians who want to push their research back into the eighteenth century and beyond, and John Wintrip's handbook is an invaluable introduction to it. In a sequence of concise, insightful chapters he focuses on those aspects of the period that are particularly relevant to genealogical research and he presents a detailed guide to the variety of sources that readers can consult as they pursue their research. While fewer sources are available than for more recent history, obstacles in the way of further research can often be overcome through knowledge of a wide range of sources and a greater understanding the historical context, together with the use of sound research techniques. So the author provides not only a historical overview of relevant topics but he also describes the records of the period in detail. This expert guide to researching the Georgians will open up the field for experienced researchers and for newcomers alike.


Pen and Sword's magnificent library of self-help books for genealogists continues with one of the most fascinating periods in our history - over a century of Georgian reign. John Wintrip suggests a whole host of records that might be available to people researching this period, places you might not have even thought ot. This series goes from strength to strength.


Mick Davis & David Lassman: The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts

Published by Pen and Sword 7th March 2018

Before Road there was Frome ...before Whicher there was Smith ...before the heartless slaughter of four year old Saville Kent there was the brutal rape and murder of fourteen year old Sarah Watts. Taking place nine years earlier than the Road Hill case, made famous by the best-selling book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, and subsequent television adaptation, The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts: A Story of Confessions, Acquittals and Jailbreaks recounts the shocking details of this 1851 murder, on an isolated farm near Frome, and the incredible events that transpired from it. On Wednesday 24th September 1851, with her parents at market, Sarah Watts was alone at Battle Farm. Sometime during the afternoon, an intruder battered, raped and brutally murdered her. As the case gripped the nation, a London Detective was sent to investigate. The result was three local men all notorious felons with previous convictions were arrested and charged; but with a huge reward on offer, were they really guilty or just hapless victims of others' greed? When they did stand trial, it set in motion a series of riveting events that culminated a decade later in a sensational confession; but was this confessor's sanity to be questioned and were they even in the country at the time of the murder? For the very first time, this sensational story is told in full-length book form, with the authors having meticulously researched newspaper accounts, court transcripts, prison records and eyewitness accounts.


I had never heard of this case until Pen and Sword decided to take it up - Mick Davis and David Lassman turn in a fascinating account of the murder and the subsequent arrest of three men who might not have had anything to do with the crimes against the little girl; this is a cold case that deserves this attention, and the authors have done the little girl proud!


Paul Le Goupil: From Normandy to Auschwitz

Published by Pen and Sword 12th March 2017

The odds on Paul le Goupil living to see the end of the Second World War let alone the 21st Century were negligible in 1944. Yet he did. As his extraordinary memoir describes, as a young man he found himself caught up in the maelstrom of the Second World War. Active resistance to, and defiance of, the German occupation came naturally to Paul but led to his capture, beating and interrogation by the Gestapo and solitary incarceration in first French prisons. Worse still was to come and after an appalling journey and various labour camps he ended up in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He experienced starvation, slave labour, unbelievable hardship - death for many was a relief. Paul survived but his suffering was not over as he and others had to endure a nightmare march before being liberated by the advancing Russians. All this and far more make this memoir an unforgettable, moving and inspiring account.


An amazing autobiography that doesn't pull any punches - if there are still members of the parliamentary labour party tempted to deny the holocaust, then this book should be force fed to them, for they are doing their party and their country an enormous disservice. Paul Le Groupil's story is utterly amazing - there were few enough survivors of the holocaust and the horror that was Auschwitz - to live to tell his tale displays enormous courage and fortitude, plus the ability to tell the story in the first place. Breathtaking detail.


Andrew Rawdon: Somme Offensive March 1918

Published by 7th March 2018

This is an account of the British Expeditionary Force's defensive battle on the Somme in March and April of 1918. It starts with the huge German offensive along a 60 mile front on 21 March. Third and Fifth Armies then had to make a series of fighting withdrawals in which some battalions had to fight their way out while others were overrun. Over the days that followed, men were called upon to fight all day against overwhelming numbers and then march all night to escape. After three years in the trenches, men had to battle in the open without tanks and often without artillery support. As communications failed, battalion and company commanders found themselves having to command in what was essentially a desperate infantry struggle. Each stage of the two week battle is given the same treatment, covering details about the most talked about side of the campaign, the British side. It explains how the British soldier time and again stood and fought. Over fifty new maps chart the day by day progress of each corps on each day. Together the narrative and the maps explain the British Army's experience during a fraught battle for survival. The men who made a difference are mentioned; those who led the advances, those who stopped the counter-attacks and those who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Discover the Somme 1918 campaign and learn how the British Army's brave soldiers fought and died trying to stop the onslaught.


My grandfather died in August 1916 at the Battle of the Somme - it is unthinkable that this area wasstill being fought over two years later, but Andrew Rawson's book confirms it in spectacular style, with fine detail and a very readable account of the bravery and sacrifice made by the BEF in the dying months of the war. I don't have to hand the details of which battle/campaign was worst in terms of casualties, but I do know that not only for me, the Somme remains the iconic tragedy of the conflict, and Andrew's book is a worthy commemoration of the men who fought and lost their lives.


Don N Hagist: Wives, Slaves and Servant Girls

Published by Pen and Sword 7th March 2018

A Surprising Source of Information About a Largely Forgotten Segment of the Colonial Population.

In an age when individuals could be owned by others, people were lost and found just like other property. Indentured servants and slaves absconded from the custody of their masters, and their value prompted the masters to seek their return. Wives ran from abusive husbands or into the arms of another. Newspapers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries carried large numbers of advertisements offering rewards for the return of runaways or announcing the detention of fugitives. Each ad provided a description of the individual and often included some circumstances of their elopement. The overall effectiveness of these advertisements cannot be measured, but the sheer number of ads suggests they were perceived as useful tools by those who placed them. What could not have been known at the time was the substantial contribution to history that these ads make. The descriptive advertisements provide textual snapshots of thousands of individuals who would otherwise be lost to history, people whose names might not otherwise be recorded. In Wives, Slaves, and Servant Girls: Advertisements for Female Runaways in American Newspapers, 1770-1783, historian Don N. Hagist focuses on the American Revolutionary period to provide a striking portrait of a substantial but largely forgotten segment of the population. Comprised of four hundred advertisements presented chronologically, the volume provides invaluable descriptions of women's clothes, footwear, jewelry, physical appearances, education, nationalities, occupations, and other details.


Don Hagist's remarkable book is testament to one of the darkest periods in the history of the human race - when people were enslaved  just as they had been during the darkest days of the Roman Empire; the disturbing thing for me is the realisation that whilst you read this book, you cannot help but think about the countless millions of people still subject to such abuse and slavery elsewhere in the world today, the world in which we live. A fascinating collection of advertisements that will almost certainly give you an uncomfortable feeling of wretchedness that one group of people could do this to another group.


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.