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Second World War

Death Was Our BedmateDeath Was Our Bedmate  by Agnes McKewan and Campbell Thomson

Review by Maj Mike Peters, AAC

THE ill-fated Malayan campaign and the subsequent fall of Singapore in 1942 are still raw in the memory of the dwindling number of veterans that survive today.

The gunners of the Larnarkshire Yeomanry acquitted themselves well, fighting hard during the dramatic retreat into Singapore.

This book recounts their experience during the withdrawal, the collapse of a supposedly impregnable outpost and the harrowing events after the British surrender.

More disturbing still are the accounts of the treatment of the Scots by their Japanese captors in their prisoner of war camp and when working on the Burma Railway.

Well written and supported with maps and photographs.

Eastern InfernoEastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front 1941 – 1943 edited by Christine Alexander and Mason Kunze

Review by Maj Mike Peters, AAC

OPERATION Barbarossa, the ill-fated German invasion of Stalin’s Soviet Russia, holds a compelling fascination. This journal captures the realities and horror of the titanic struggle between the Red Army and the Nazi invader.

The author was in the thick of a series of battles with a hard pressed Anti-Tank unit of the German Sixth Army. The journal has been edited but critically still retains the fragmented feel of a personal diary written by a soldier on operations. It gives a frank and gritty view of such dramatic events as the retreat from Stalingrad and the massacre of civilians by fanatical SS troops. This is a fascinating read that brings the battles on the Steppes of Russia to life.



Fighting Through From Dunkirk to HamburgFighting Through From Dunkirk to Hamburg: A Green Howard’s Wartime Memoir by Bill Cheall

Review by Maj Mike Peters, AAC

AS the Great War of 1914-18 slips beyond living memory it is the survivors of the last World War that are now coming to the fore in print. Book shops' shelves are packed with the personal histories of those that fought against Nazi Germany or the Japanese Empire; the quality and content of which vary dramatically.

I have to say that if you enjoy this kind of intimate memoir then this book is a proverbial gem. The author served with the Green Howards, in one of Monty’s battle hardened divisions – the 50th Northumberland.

The battalion survived Dunkirk, fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy and right into Germany. Written from a soldier’s perspective, with humour and warmth, this is very much a human story told against the dramatic backdrop of history.



Letters from NormandyLetters from Normandy by John Mercer

Review by Maj Mike Peters, AAC

LETTERS from Normandy takes the reader through John Mercer’s military career, from the trials and tribulations of witnessing his father’s death by allied bombing, through his enlistment, and then the eventual invasion into Normandy. 

The book interweaves original operation orders of the day and Mercer’s letters home together with a gripping narrative. 

He writes eloquently and with empathy about his fellow colleagues and his feelings for the enemy. This is a very human story about a private soldier and his experiences during the Second World War.   





Normandie Front: D-Day to Saint-Lo Through German Eyes by Vince Milano & Bruce Conner

Review by Maj Mike Peters, AAC

A BALANCED understanding of military history is only complete if both sides of the story are known.

This book is an authorative study of the German 352nd Infantry Division's operations during the Normandy campaign. This formation was a classic example of the phoenix-like ability of the German Army to reconstitute shattered units or form new ones from the remnants of those that had become little more than a symbol on a map.

This exhaustive work tells the story of the German soldiers that defended Omaha Beach and came close to throwing the American assault back into the sea.

Gen Sir Miles DempseyThe Military Life and Times of General Sir Miles Dempsey: Monty's Army Commander by Peter Rostron

Review by Maj Mike Peters, AAC

THIS is a long overdue biography of one of Britain’s most accomplished generals. It was Dempsey’s Second Army that spearheaded Montgomery’s advance across the low countries into Northern Germany.

Using many previously unpublished accounts, the author highlights the pivotal role played by Dempsey in Operations such as Epsom, Charnwood, Market Garden and Varsity.

The narrative gives a real insight into the complexities of higher Allied command during the Second World War, not least of all living in the shadow of Monty. I found it quite a revealing and useful read.




Snow: The Double Life of a World War II SpySnow: The Double Life of a World War II Spy by Nigel West and Madoc Roberts

Review by Spr Craig Don (RE)

SNOW reveals the story of double agent Arthur Owens and his role during the Second World War.

The start of the book reads much like a history lesson, with dates and names being thrown at the reader to the point you feel the chapter will end with a revision page. Hidden within is a tale that will appeal to those interested in espionage but to few others.

The story told is not particularly enthralling and the tone of the narrative is more informative than entertaining. There are moments which grab your attention but the title quickly returns to text book mode.





The Devil's Birthday by Geoffrey PowellThe Devil's Birthday: The Bridges to Arnhem 1944 by Geoffrey Powell

Review by WO2 (AQMS) Ian Barraclough, REME

THIS recently revised edition rectifies some of the inaccuracies noted in the original, which was released in 1997. 

The author was a company commander during the Arnhem campaign and as such tells the story of both the "Market" and "Garden" operations.

He concentrates on the arguments between the Allied leaders; all vying for prestigious command appointments, which ranged from petty squabbles to raging rows and would later impact on the missions. 

A very interesting book told from the top down, but not one for those seeking a first-hand account of the conflict from the ground.






Unconditional SurrenderUnconditional Surrender: A Memoir of the Last Days of the Third Reich and the Donitz Administration by Walter Luedde-Neurath

Review by Dr Rodney Atwood, military historian 

PEN & Sword are to be congratulated for publishing this book through their Frontline imprint. 

To the classic account of the Third’s Reich end, Trevor-Roper’s The Last Days of Hitler, inside detail comes from Luedde-Neurath, a fine naval officer and Grand Admiral Doenitz’s adjutant in 1945. 

Hitler chose Donitz rather than Goering, Goebbels or Himmler as his successor. We read of naïve hopes of a miraculous Nazi recovery, pathetic trust in the Fuehrer and leaders’ in-fighting. 

Appendices add useful detail.  Donitz comes out rather well, but he was better at dealing with Hitler than his predecessor Raeder. Fascinating.

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