Gaynor Haliday: Victorian Policing

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th November 2017

905psaWhat was life like for the Victorian bobby? Gaynor Haliday became fascinated with the history of the early police forces when researching the life of her great, great grandfather; a well-regarded, long-suffering Victorian police constable in Bradford. Although a citation claimed his style of policing was merely to cuff the offender round the ear and send him home, press reports of the time painted a much grimmer picture of life on the beat in the Victorian streets. Handwritten Watch Committee minutes, historical newspapers and police records combine to reveal an account of how and why the various police forces were set up; the recruitment, training and expectations of the men, the issues and crimes they had to deal with, and the hostility they encountered from the people whose peace they were trying to keep.

I always wanted to be a policeman when I was an early teen, but sadly it never happened due to circumstances beyond my control. This will surely become required reading for new recruits? Gaynor’s superb history of the evolution of the police force during the reign of Queen Victoria is powerful, thrilling and entertaining stuff! A beautiful book all round!


Michael O’Kelly: The Second World War Explained

 Published by Pen and Sword August 2018

905psbOver seventy years on the terrible events and outcome of the Second World War remains hugely relevant and important. Far from diminishing interest in this truly global conflict is increasing. The internet has enabled detailed research into ancestors’ war records to an extent unimaginable a decade or so ago.

There have been countless thousands of books on all aspects of the War, both general in scope, of particular subjects, biographies and personal memoirs.

The author of The Second World War Explained has identified the need for a concise summary covering the main events and personalities. The result is a compelling, highly readable and informing book which allows an understanding of this most dramatic yet tragic period of history. Will appeal to all age groups.

This is something I would have found enthralling back in the 1950s when I was starting my grammar school education, but the history books had yet to be written about WWII back then. Michael’s book puts everything into perspective in a scholarly and engaging way. So much I didn’t know… if you don’t know where to start in your thirst for knowledge about WWII, Michael’s your man!


Helen Azar & Nicholas B A Nicholson: Tatiana Romanov – Daughter of the Last Tsar Diaries and Letters 1913-1918

 Published by Pen and Sword 15th December 2015

905psdTranslated for the First Time in English with Annotations by a Leading Expert, the Romanov Family’s Final Years, through the writings of the second oldest daughter. Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia was the second of the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Long recognized by historians as the undisputed beauty of the family, Tatiana was acknowledged for her poise, her elegance, and her innate dignity within her own family. Helen Azar, translator of the diaries of Olga Romanov, and Nicholas B. A. Nicholson, Russian Imperial historian, have joined together to present a truly comprehensive picture of this extraordinarily gifted, complex, and intelligent woman in her own words. Tatiana Romanov, Daughter of the Last Tsar: Diaries and Letters, 1913-1918, presents translations of material never before published in Russian or in English, as well as materials never published in their entirety in the West.The brisk, modern prose of Tatiana’s diary entries reveals the character of a young woman who was far more than the sheltered imperial beauty as she previously has been portrayed. While many historians and writers describe her as a cold, haughty, and distant aristocrat, this book shows instead a remarkably down-to-earth and humorous young woman, full of life and compassion. A detail-oriented and observant participant in some of the most important historical events of the early twentieth century, she left firsthand descriptions of the tercentenary celebrations of the House of Romanov, the early years of Russia’s involvement in World War I, and the road to her family s final days in Siberian exile. Her writings reveal extraordinary details previously unknown or unacknowledged. Lavishly annotated for the benefit of the nonspecialist reader, this book is not only a reevaluation of Tatiana’s role as more than just one of four sisters, but also a valuable reference on Russia, the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the people closest to the Grand Duchess and her family.”

Helen and Nicholas’s book goes a long way to filling in a huge nuber of gaps in our knowledge of the last days of the Romanov Empire before it was utterly destroyed by the Russian revolution of 1917. An intimate and fascinating insight into the lives of the Russian royal family as seen through the eyes of Tatiana Romanov. Superb.


James Hobson: The English Civil War Fact and Fiction

 Published by Pen and Sword 8th April 2019

905pseHave you ever found yourself watching a show or reading a novel and wondering what life was really like in the Civil War? Did the war really split families? Was Charles I just too stupid to be King? Did Cromwell really hate the monarchy and did Parliament actually ban Christmas? In The English Civil War: In Fact and Fiction, you ll find fast and fun answers to all your secret questions about this remarkable period of British history. Find out about people s lives and how the Civil War affected them. Learn about the role of women and if they merely stayed at home and suffered, and if Cromwell really was always miserable. James Hobson brings to life the tumultuous and unprecedented period of history that is known as the Civil War. An unfussy yet accurate history, each chapter presents a controversy in itself and sets about dispelling commonly held myths about the Civil War.

James’s book would have come in very handy when I was studying this for my OU degree in the 1980s… Once again, so much here that I didn’t know – my knowledge of the English Civil Wars prior to my OU studies was based on picture strip stories in comics that presented the Royalists as the only righteous people – now I have my own views on that, and, thanks to James’s book, my knowledge has been further enhanced. Essential reading.


Donald C Pfanz: Clara Barton’s Civil War

 Published by Pen and Sword 1st April 2019

905psf“I always tried to succor the wounded until medical aid and supplies could come up–I could run the risk; it made no difference to anyone if I were shot or taken prisoner.” So recorded Clara Barton, the most famous woman to emerge from the American Civil War. In an age when few women worked in hospitals, much less at the front, Barton served in at least four Union armies, providing food and assistance to wounded soldiers on battlefields stretching from Maryland to South Carolina. Thousands of soldiers benefit-ed from her actions, and she is unquestionably an American heroine. But how much do we really know about her actual wartime service? Most information about Barton’s activities comes from Barton herself. After the war, she toured the country recounting her wartime experiences to overflowing audiences. In vivid language, she described crossing the Rappahannock River under fire to succor wounded Union soldiers at Fredericksburg, transporting critical supplies to field hospitals at Antietam, and enduring searing heat and brackish water on the sun-scorched beach-es of South Carolina. She willingly braved hardship and danger in order to help the young men under her care, receiving in return their love and respect. Most of Barton’s biographers have accepted her statements at face value, but in doing so, they stand on shaky ground, for Barton was a relentless self-promoter and often embellished her stories in an effort to enhance her accomplishments.
In Clara Barton’s Civil War: Between Bullet and Hospital, distinguished historian Donald Pfanz revisits Barton’s claims, comparing the information in her speeches with contemporary documents, including Barton’s own wartime diary and letters. In doing so, he provides the first balanced and accurate account of her wartime service–a service that in the end needed no exaggeration.

In It is always good to read a civil war account of one particular family, in this case, Clara Barton’s Civil War presents the American Civil War in a new light, with a very personal account of that most explosive time in US history. More moving and revealing than official, drier accounts of the conflict.


Robin Binckes: Zulu Terror

 Published by Pen and Sword 25th March 2019

905psgWhen the wagons of the Voortrekkers – the Boers, those hardy descendants of the Dutch – moved into the southern African interior in 1836, on the Great Trek, their epic journey to escape British control at the Cape, the wheels of their wagons crunched over carpets of skeletons of those slain in the Mfecane. The years 1815 to 1840 were probably the most devastating and violent period of South Africa’s turbulent history. The Mfecane (Zulu) or Difaqane (Sotho) was a result of many factors including internecine conflict among the Zulu tribes themselves. Faced with the wrath of the great King Shaka, Mzilikazi (The Road) fled with his followers, who became the Matabele, cutting a swathe of destruction, pillage and genocide across southern Africa from the land of the Zulu (KwaZulu-Natal today) to the Highveld in the north. New alliances and allegiances were forged as refugees fled from the path of the rampaging Mzilikazi, leading to the creation of new nations and alliances between the arriving Voortrekkers and the enemies of the Matabele. Finally defeated in 1836 by the Voortrekkers in a nine-day battle, Mzilikazi crossed the Limpopo River and founded the kingdom of the Matabele in what is now Zimbabwe.

The film Zulu has given us most of what we know about the Zulus, now it’s up to people like Robin to give us a full account of this group of tribes as they carved a name for themselves in the early years of Victoria’s reign.


Malcolm Wanklyn: Parliament’s Generals

 Published by Pen and Sword 15th March 2019

905pshWaller, Essex, Fairfax, Manchester and Cromwell are among the most famous military men who fought for Parliament during the English Civil War. While their performance as generals has been explored in numerous books on the campaigns, comparatively little has been written by military historians about the political aspects of high command, namely the ever-changing and often fractious relationship with the English Parliament and its executive committees. That is why Malcolm Wanklyn’s study of these men is of such value, for he sheds new light on the qualities they employed in their attempts to achieve their military and political aspirations. In a series of insightful chapters he follows their careers through the course of the conflict, focusing on their successes and failures in battle and the consequences for their reputations and influence. Dissatisfaction with the leadership of Essex, Manchester and Waller in the inconclusive early campaigns is examined, as are the contrasting strengths of Fairfax and Cromwell. This reassessment sheds new light on how these commanders managed promotions, out-manoeuvred their fellow generals and controlled their subordinates.

Another superb book about the towering personalities who emerged to take control of the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil Wars.


Emma Amoscato: Living With Allergies

 Published by Pen and Sword 13th March 2019

905psiAn allergy diagnosis can be overwhelming and life changing but this book brings together all the in-depth information and practical tips you need.

It includes interviews with the country’s leading allergy experts, advice from people living with allergies and has been endorsed by Allergy UK.

Living With Allergies provides insight into each allergic condition, how to cope at different life stages and information on diagnosis, treatment and everyday management. It also includes tips the doctors don’t tell you: How do you manage allergy anxiety? How do you keep your child safe at school? How can you travel abroad with allergies? This book will help you learn how to live with allergies in a proactive and positive way

Until relatively recently, the only allergy that ever got a mention was hay fever and the various pollen allergies; then there came various nut allergies, and now, it sees, our modern lifestyles have led to people being allergic to just about anything and everything. Emma’s book is essential reading for most people in the 21st century world, with practical advice and information all gathered in one handy reference book.


John Moss: Great British Family Names

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th March 2019

905psjFor better or worse, what we are is often determined by our family; the events that occurred many years before we were born, and the choices that were made by our forebears are our inheritance – we are the inexorable product of family history. So it is with nations. The history of Great Britain has been largely defined by powerful and influential families, many of whose names have come down to us from Celtic, Danish, Saxon or Norman ancestors. Their family names fill the pages of our history books; they are indelibly written into the events which we learned about at school. Iconic family names like Wellington, Nelson, Shakespeare, Cromwell, Constable, De Montfort and Montgomery… there are innumerable others. They reflect the long chequered history of Britain, and demonstrate the assimilation of the many cultures and languages which have migrated to these islands over the centuries, and which have resulted in the emergence of our language. This book is a snapshot of several hundred such family names and delves into their beginnings and derivations, making extensive use of old sources, including translations of The Domesday Book and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, as well as tracing many through the centuries to the present day.

The most striking thing about this fascinating book is that John Moss has identified only a handful of “great family names”, which for me, is indicative of the sad fact that just a handful of people own most of the wealth in this class-divided nation in which we live. Very sad and soething of an eye opener.


Alan Raven: British Cruiser Warfare

 Published by Pen and Sword 13th April 2019

905pskCruisers were the Navy’s maids-of-all-work, employed in a greater variety of roles than any other warship type. Smaller, faster and far more numerous than battleships, they could be risked in situations where capital ships were too vulnerable, while still providing heavy gunfire support for smaller ships or anti-aircraft cover for the fleet. As such, they were in the frontline of the naval war from the outset – and from its first days, the fighting provided unexpected challenges and some very unpleasant surprises, not least the efficacy of air power.Cruisers learned to deal with these new realities in the Norway campaign and later in the Mediterranean, partly through the introduction of new technology – notably radar – but also by codifying the hard-won experience of those involved. This highly original book analyses the first years of the war when the sharpest lessons were learned, initially describing every action and its results, and then summarising in individual chapters the conclusions that could be drawn for the many aspects of a cruiser’s duties. These include the main roles like surface gunnery, shore bombardment, anti-aircraft tactics and fighter direction, but also encompass technology like radar, asdic and shipborne aircraft, and even tackle more human issues such as shipboard organisation, damage control, the impact of weather and the morale factor. It also attempts to evaluate the importance of electronic warfare, intelligence and code-breaking, and concludes with a comparison between the performance of British cruisers and their Italian and German opponents.Thought-provoking and sometimes controversial, this is a book that should be read by everyone interested in the Second World War at sea.

Brilliantly written and illustrated, this is a rich and vital record of the early years of WWII from the point of view of British Cruiser warfare.


Phil Carradice: Britain’s Last Invasion

 Published by Pen and Sword 25th April 2019

905pslThe history of Britain has been shaped by those who have invaded this small isle: the Romans, Vikings and Norman Conquest all moulded our society and culture. Surprisingly, the last time mainland Britain was ever invaded was not Duke William’s victory at Hastings in 1066 or even the Bloodless Revolution of 1688. It was, in fact, in February 1797 when 1,400 drunken and out-of-control French soldiers from the Legion Noire landed on the north coast of Pembrokeshire near Fishguard. With Britain’s Last Invasion dive in to the Battle of Fishguard, a military invasion of Great Britain by Revolutionary France. The little-known invasion consisted mainly of drunken Frenchmen rampaging around the area, burning churches and terrorising the locals. The role and courage of the women of Fishguard is revealed: when the men fled, the women stayed fast. Learn how the town cobbler Jemima Nicholas – armed with only a pitchfork – captured twelve enemy soldiers. The attempted invasion lasted just three days, but had ramifications that we are still dealing with today. Following the attempt, the government recognised the need to strengthen the British fleet, a policy that lasted for over a hundred years and almost certainly helped prevent Napoleon’s later planned invasion.

Phil Carradice’s book doesn’t describe an invasion so much as an “incident” – having said that, the material he has gathered is informative and entertaining.


Amdrew Beattie: Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower

 Published by Pen and Sword 25th April 2019

905psmThe story of the Princes in the Tower is well known: the grim but dramatic events of 1483, when the twelve-year-old Edward Plantagenet was taken into custody by his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, and imprisoned in the Tower of London along with his younger brother, have been told and re-told hundreds of times. The true events of that year remain shrouded in mystery, and the end of the young princes’ lives are an infamous part of the War of the Roses and Richard III’s reign. Yet little about their lives is commonly known. Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower tells the story in a way that is wholly new: through the places where the events actually unfolded. It reveals the lives of the princes through the places they lived and visited. From Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London itself, and from the remote English castle of Ludlow to the quiet Midlands town of Stony Stratford, the trail through some of England’s most historic places throws a whole new light on this most compelling of historical dramas.

Despite various TV programmes investigating, and books being published, no one has yet given us a definitive answer as to what happened to the princes in the tower. Andrew’s book uncovers new and compelling evidence, but still doesn’t come up with an answer that we can all agree on. However, it is a brilliant piece of detective work, and well worth reading.


Alex Ombler: Tracing Your Docker Ancestors

 Published by Pen and Sword 25th April 2019

905psnAlex Ombler’s handbook is the first practical guide for family historians who wish to find out about family members who worked in British docks. In a series of concise, informative chapters he takes readers through the history of British ports and identifies research methods and materials – both local and national – through which they can discover the lives and experiences of the people who worked in them. Many of us have ancestors who were dock labourers – in 1921 there were around 125,000 dockers across a large number of British ports – and the organizational history of the dock labour force is extremely complex. As a result, the social and family lives of dockers and their communities can be difficult to research, and that is why this book is so useful. The history of the docks is covered as is the daily life of the dockers, and sections trace the development of trade unions, the experience of dock workers during the world wars and the decline of the docks in recent times. Dockland artefacts and communities are described, and there is a comprehensive directory of regional and national records.

The latest in Pen and Sword’s brilliant genealogical series looks at resources for people researching their ancestry who may have family members who were employed in the various docks, many of which have now disappeared or fallen into disuse.


Helen Matthews: The Legitimacy of Bastards

 Published by Pen and Sword 25th April 2019

905psoFor the nobility and gentry in later medieval England, land was a source of wealth and status. Their marriages were arranged with this in mind, and it is not surprising that so many of them had mistresses and illegitimate children. John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, married at the age of twenty to a ten-year-old granddaughter of Edward I, had at least eight bastards and a complicated love life. In theory, bastards were at a considerable disadvantage. Regarded as filius nullius’ or the son of no one, they were unable to inherit real property and barred from the priesthood. In practice, illegitimacy could be less of a stigma in late medieval England than it became between the sixteenth and late twentieth centuries. There were ways of making provision for illegitimate offspring and some bastards did extremely well: in the church; through marriage; as soldiers; a few even succeeding to the family estates. _The Legitimacy of Bastards_ is the first book to consider the individuals who had illegitimate children, the ways in which they provided for them and attitudes towards both the parents and the bastard children. It also highlights important differences between the views of illegitimacy taken by the Church and by the English law.

From the Dark Ages right up to Victorian times, royal bastards and illegitimate children of high ranking Peers of the Realm have shaped many parts of the country’s history. Helen’s book takes a close and fascinating look at these people in a way that will make you think of them in a new light. Superbly entertaining.


Jaci Byrne: The Music Maker

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2019

905pspOn 8 May 1945, 46-year-old Drum Major Jackson staggered towards his American liberators. Emaciated, dressed in rags, his decayed boots held together with string, he’d been force-marched for twenty days over the Austrian Alps after five heinous years as a POW in Nazi labour camps. He collapsed into his liberators’ arms, clinging to his only meaningful possession his war diary. Having already experienced the horrific nature of battle in the First World War, Jackson continued as a drum major in the Territorial Army, as well as leading a dance band throughout the 1920s. Following Britain’s declaration of war against Germany in 1939, he went off to war once again and was captured during the Allied retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. When the Germans learned of his musical abilities, he was put in charge of forming a band. They called him the ‘Kapellmeister’, literally, ‘the man in charge of making music’, and over the next five years, Jackson and his fellow bandmates would entertain the Germans with concerts and shows in various labour camps throughout occupied Poland. In this captivating testament to human endurance, Jackson’s granddaughter has used his personal diary and photographs to tell the unforgettable and gripping true story about the life and times of a humble man who, through his passion for music, overcame extreme adversity.

A superb biopic about one man whose passion for music gained the respect of his captors as he took over the entertainent of fellow prisoners of war, and after the war made a career for himself in the music industry. A larger than life man, an extraordinary story.


Stephen Wynn:  Disaster Before D-Day

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2019

905psqThis is a book of two stories. The first is the sad tale of how at least 749 American servicemen lost their lives on a pre-D-Day landing exercise, code-named ‘Operation Tiger,’ on the evening of 23/24 April 1943. The second, was the unanswerable question of whether the attacking E-Boats of the German Kriegsmarine had fully grasped the importance of what they had stumbled across.

I watched a programme on BBC1 or BBC2 a few weeks ago about this and found it quite remarkable that I had never before heard of the incident. It seems that the “Slapton Sands” practice incident for the D-Day landing exercise was common knowledge, and it was simply the fact that I had not heard of it, like so many others during WWII. Stephen’s excellent books fills in all the gaps and answers all of the reaining questions for me – brilliant!



Kirk Martin: Ferries Across The Humber

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2014

905psrStarting with an introduction about discovering the coal-burning paddle steamers of the Humber in the early 1970s the book continues with a brief history of the ferries of the Humber Estuary, the coming of the first paddle steamer, the Caledonia, in 1814 and the rapid expansion of steamers operating on the estuary It includes personal memories of those who worked on, used and loved the Humber ferries. It especially looks at the paddle steamers, Tattershall Castle, Wingfield Castle and Lincoln Castle, which became the last coal-burning paddle steamers operating a regular service in the United Kingdom. An appendix lists over 80 paddle steamers from the Caledonia of 1814 to the last of the line the Lincoln Castle identified as working on the Humber Estuary from published and archive sources. It includes the diesel powered paddle vessel Farringford which saw out the service in 1981 and also other vessels associated with the Hull to New Holland ferry.

This most excellent, brilliantly illustrated book is as uch about the men (and woen) who ran the Humber ferries, as it is about the craft they used. Some real characters here!


Dee Gordon: Struggle and Suffrage in Southend on Sea

 Published by Pen and Sword 17th April 2019

905pssWhile Southend-on-Sea, like many seaside towns, may not have been at the forefront of the struggle for suffrage and equal rights in the lives of women between 1850 and 1950, there are surprisingly famous names linked to the town and its women. Novelist Rebecca West, living in nearby Leigh-on-Sea during the First World War (and her lover, H.G. Wells) played a key role in the suffrage and feminist movements and in women’s entry into the scientific and literary professions. Princess Louise, a visitor to the town, was known to be a feminist, regardless of her position, and Mrs Margaret Kineton-Parkes (founder member of the Women’s Tax Resistance League and involved in the Women’s Freedom League) gave a number of talks to the town’s female population. The most high profile of local residents was Mrs Rosa Sky, the one-time Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union and an active member of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, but others were quietly active behind the scenes. This book is not about the distinguished and illustrious, it is about women from all classes, from all kinds of backgrounds, who entered the world of business, who rebelled against the traditional roles of mother, home-maker or domestic servant. It is about women struggling to come to terms with changes at home, in marriage, in education, in health care and in politics. It is the first to look at these issues as they impacted on a town whose population and visitors were growing in line with the expectations of its female population.

I lived for a time in Southen on Sea in the 1960s and got to know it quite well, although not its history, of course. Dee Gordon’s book provides a superb backdrop to the history of the suffrage movement in the Southend on Sea district  a powerful and most enjoyable slice of social history!


Philip Pardoe: From Calais to Colditz

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th ay 2016

905pstFrom Calais to Colditz has never been published before but readers will surely agree that the wait has been worthwhile. The author was a young platoon commander when his battalion were ordered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to defend Calais to the last man and so distract German attention from the evacuation of the BEF at Dunkirk. After an intense four day battle, the survivors were subjected to a gruelling twelve day march towards Germany. There followed incarceration in a succession of POW camps during which the author succeeded in escaping twice, both over the wire and by tunnelling, remaining at large on one occasion for twelve days. These exploits qualified him for a place in the notorious Colditz Castle, the supposed escape-proof camp. The descriptions of his colourful fellow prisoners, their captors and their extraordinary experiences are as good as any of the previous accounts and in many respects more revealing. How fortunate it is that From Calais to Colditz can now be read by a wide audience.

I worked for a time with Geoffrey Pardoe at Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, and wonder now if he was related to this most colourful prisoner of war escapee from WWII who eventually ended up in the so-called escape-proof Colditz Castle. Not his father, but maybe a relative from another branch of the faily? I doubt I shall ever know, but Philip is as extraordinary a figure as Geoffrey, and his story is absolutely enthralling, Boys’ Own Paper stuff. A true tale of courage and resourcefulness.


Janet MacDonald: Supplying the British Army in the Second World War

 Published by Pen and Sword 16th April 2019

905psuWhile Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach, but it also marches in its boots and its uniforms, carrying or driving its weapons and other equipment, and all this material has to be ordered from headquarters, produced and delivered. Janet Macdonald’s detailed and scholarly new study explains how this enormously complex task of organization and labour was carried out by the British army during the First World War. She describes the personnel who performed these tasks, from the government and military command in London to those who handled the items in the field. They were responsible for clothing, accommodation, medicine, transport, hand weapons, armament and communications – a vast logistical network that had evolved to keep millions of men in the field. This meticulously researched account of this important subject – one which has hitherto been neglected by military historians – will be essential reading and reference for anyone who is interested in the modern British army, in particular in its organization and performance in the First World War.

Most people are well aware that every effort was made to keep the troops and the other armed forces supplied during the long and bloody WWII – Janet MacDonald’s account of the supply chain and the problems involved is a brilliant piece of historical fact that makes for a compelling read.


Gerry Van Tonder: Nottingham’s Military Legacy

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th July 2017

905psvTwo years after landing on English soil in 1066, William of Normandy erected a strategic castle at Nottingham, thereby creating an enduring military nexus through to the modern era.

On 22 August 1642, in his endeavours to quash Parliamentarian insurrection in the Midlands, King Charles raised his standard over Nottingham Castle, a rallying call to all Royalists to support their monarch. Loyalty to the Crown was, however, divided, and before long Parliamentarian forces garrisoned the castle. Late in the eighteenth century, a town troop of Yeomanry was raised in Nottingham, the foundation of the future South Notts Yeomanry. The yeomanry assisted regular troops by helping restore peace during the so-called Bread Riots of 1795, at a time when many of the town’s men had been committed to military duty during the French Revolutionary Wars. Five troops of the town’s yeomanry were again called up for service during the civil unrest of the Luddite Riots of 1811–18. This pattern of service continued over several decades. Evolving into a regiment, the yeomanry were repeatedly deployed against civil dissenters – the Nottingham Riot, and the Reform Bill and Chartist Riots.

After seeing combat during the Peninsula Wars in 1815, in the latter half of the 1800s, the 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Regiment of Foot formed part of a British invasion force into Afghanistan from India, to curb Russian interventionism in this remote and desolate region.
The outbreak of war in distant South Africa in 1899 placed enormous strain on Britain’s military capability. From Nottingham and other county towns, regiments of yeomanry, Hussars and Sherwood Rangers were dispatched to the hostile environment of the African veld. Nottingham’s sons then answered a call to arms in their thousands, only to also perish in their thousands on the Godforsaken soils of France and Flanders during the holocaust that was the Great War. Through the Second World War to the present, Nottingham’s military units underwent successive phases of metamorphosis – from infantry to antiaircraft and searchlight formations, followed by the relatively recent absorption into a regional entity: the Mercian Regiment. Today, Nottingham’s castle and surrounds bear the symbols of a rich and diverse military legacy – symbols of remembrance, of tribute, and of a tableau of military pride from ancient times.

A superb record of Nottinghamshire’s military history by Gerry Van Tonder. I knew nothing about Nottinghamshire other than its hospital and university campus (my son works there) and one of the districts, where he and his family live. This excellent book concentrates only on the military aspects of the county, but it is nevertheless an important and educational book, and I found it most interesting.


Christine Jordan: Gloucester’s Military Legacy

 Published by Pen and Sword 20th July 2017

905pswFrom the establishment of Gloucester as a Roman colonia, a colony of retired military veterans, the city has held a strategic position, being close to the easiest crossing over the River Severn and into Wales. The Romans began building the city’s defences, including the city walls and bastions, which were further enhanced by the great warrior Aethelflaed and which would become invaluable in the Siege of Gloucester during the Civil War in 1643. These walls would be destroyed by Charles II as a punishment for the city’s role in the conflict. In the twelfth century, Gloucester’s first motte and bailey castle was built and used by a number of kings as a garrison to prepare attacks against the Welsh and the Irish. The formation of what would become known as ‘The Glorious Glosters’, in 1782, led to a number of notable military campaigns, including the battles of Alexandria, Quatre Bras, the Second Boer War, including the Siege of Ladysmith, both World Wars and the Korean War. Christine’s book will take you on an historic journey, uncovering on the way the city’s military legacy.

I don’t believe I ever went inside Gloucester Barracks, but I certainly went past it to the Bear Gardens, the medical outpost opposite the stinky tannery where certain paediatric procedures were carried out (I disremember what was done to me!); and my father and uncles had many friends in the Gloucester regiment who visited at Christmas to catch up with us. Christine’s history of the Gloucester military covers a couple of thousand years, and not just the late 1950s onwards, of course, and as such enhances my knowledge of the town near which I was born no end. Superb.


Paul Blake: Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors

 Published by Pen and Sword 23rd April 2019

905psxDebtors’ prisons are infamous but very little has been written about the records of those confined within them in London or elsewhere in the country. Even less has been written about the trials of those who were often incarcerated following misfortune or mismanagement rather than criminal intent. That is why Paul Blake’s handbook will be so useful for researchers who want to find out about forebears who may have been caught up in the insolvency system. In a series of information-filled chapters he covers the historical background to the handling of debt and debtors, and bankruptcy and bankrupts. In addition he describes the courts and procedures faced by both creditors and debtors, and the prisons where so many debtors were confined. Throughout the book details are given of the records that researchers can turn to in order to explore the subject for themselves. Many are held at The National Archives, but others are to be found at local record offices around the country. Paul Blake’s book will be appreciated by local, social and family historians, as well as those with an interest in debtor crime and punishment, and bankrupts in general.

I am fascinated by the subkect of genealogy, and found this new book from Pen and Sword miost entertaining and informative. We found ancestors in our search who went from being quite wealthy to having nothing, and would have made much use of Paul Blake’s excellent book had it been available to us at the time we were doing our own research.


Michael Chandler: Norwich’s Military Legacy

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th September 2017

905psyOriginally a town that was built of wood by the Anglo-Saxons, it was later burned down and then rebuilt as England’s second city, after London, by William the Conqueror. Riots between the church and the citizens saw Norwich at war with the Pope in 1272 when a gate was constructed as a penance. The Norfolk Regiment has seen its men in combat from the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Boer War and both World Wars. The more recent conflicts in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan have also witnessed the bravery of the Norfolks. A comprehensive list of military personnel who gave their lives is examined, including Norwich-born Second Lieutenant Wilfred Edwards VC, as well as an account of 9694 Private John Henry Abigail of the Norfolk Regiment who, on 12 September 1917, aged 21, was executed for being AWOL. It would not be until November 2006 that Private Abigail was pardoned by the British government.

The third “Military Legacy” this month looks at the city of Norwich, which is just 25 miles south of where I now live. Some fascinating and very readable accounts of Norwich’s military past from Michael Chandler make this eseential reading for anyone interested in social history and in particular, the most important city in the East of England.


Daniel Weinbren: Tracing Your Freemason, Friendly Society and Trade Union Ancestors

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2019

905pszFraternal and friendly societies and trade unions – associations that provide mutual aid and benefits – have a long, fascinating history and the most famous of them – the Freemasons – have a reputation for secrecy, ritual and intrigue that excites strong interest and has been the subject of widespread misunderstanding. Daniel Weinbren, in this concise and accessible handbook, dispels the myths that surround them and gives readers an insight into their real purposes, their membership and their development over the centuries. He has also compiled a detailed compendium of books, archives, libraries, and internet sites that readers and researchers can consult to find out more about these organizations and to trace the involvement and experience of family members who were connected with them. The origins of these societies are explored as are their economic, social and civic functions and the impact they had on the lives of individuals who joined them. The range of such societies covered includes the popular and international ones such as the Oddfellows, Foresters and Rechabites, as well as the smaller local fraternal organizations. The type of assistance they offer, their structure and hierarchy, meetings and ceremonies, regalia and processions, and feasts and annual gatherings are all described and explained. So much information about these organizations and their membership is easily available if you know where to look, and Daniel Weinbren’s work is the ideal introduction to them. Anyone who has a forebear who was at some time linked with one of these organizations will find his book to be an essential guide to their research.

I don’t have a lot of time for secret societies, but I acknowledge that there is much valuable and vital information to be gained from studying such records when it comes to researching your ancestors. Daniel’s book is most informative and insightful, and again would have been most welcome when we were tracing our family trees.


Marilyn Yurdan: The Dark Side of Oxford

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2019

905psaaMarilyn Yurdan was born in Oxford, the idea for the book came from her research where she quickly learned that the idyllic City of Dreaming Spires is very far from an accurate view of life in Oxford over the ages. The Dark Side of Oxford ranges from the 13th century to late-Victorian times and paints a fascinating and sometimes shocking picture of how our ancestors lived and died.

I have never been to Oxford, only to the district of Headington, and my knowledge of it as a city comes chiefly from the Inspector Morse and Endeavour series on ITV. It looks beautiful, one of the most attractive cities, architecture-wise, that I can recall seeing in Britain. However, Marilyn sees to have uncovered a dark history of the city, particularly when it comes to Victorian Oxford – this is a superb account of a city you might not suspect existed. Well worth a read!


Wolfgang Venohr: Stauffenberg Symbol of Resistance – The Man Who Almost killed Hitler

 Published by Pen and Sword 16th April 2019

905psabOn 20th July 1944, senior officers gathered at the Wolfschanze the Wolf s Lair Hitler s headquarters in East Prussia. Amongst those men was Colonel Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg, chief of staff of the Reserve Army, and with him he carried a briefcase packed with explosives. A little after midday the building was rocked by a massive explosion. Five men were killed, others wounded and the interior of the Wolfschanze was wrecked. Believing that he had killed the German Führer, von Stauffenberg set off for Berlin to initiate Operation Valkyrie the coup d etat to overthrow the Nazi regime. Hitler, of course, did not die that day and Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were rounded up and executed. But what motivated Stauffenberg to attempt such a mission? Was Stauffenberg a traitor or a patriot? After decades of analysing the sources and eyewitness reports, the renowned historian Wolfgang Venohr revealed the true nature of the man behind the most audacious assassination attempt of the Second World War. Like many others, Stauffenberg smarted from Germany s humiliating defeat in 1918 and the punishing terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Indeed, until the late 1930s Stauffenberg agreed with much of the National Socialist ideology, which sought to re-establish Germany as the most nation powerful in Europe. But, increasingly, he sees his country sliding to defeat yet again at the hands of a leader who has lost his grip on reality. Stauffenberg believed he had no choice but to act.

I have never seen the film Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise, but I lapped this up as a true and fantastic account of Stauffenberg and his convoluted plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. Another Boys’ Own Paper story, this time involving the very highest eschelons of the Third Reich. Brilliant.


Ian D Rotherham: York’s Military Legacy

Published by Pen and Sword 17th November 2017

905psacOne of the oldest settlements in Western Europe, York grew up on dry land with protective rivers and associated wetlands giving security and mobility. Early, prehistoric settlement was on nearby drier, raised areas along the floodplain. Here the Romans built a great, northern, fortified city and military settlement from which they could foray overland into northern England or by ship and the coastal route to Scotland and the Picts. York s significance was emphasized when Constantine was made Emperor whilst residing there. Lean times followed after Roman abandonment and Saxon neglect before the Vikings swept into northern England, with Jorvic, re-born as their capital, York, much to their liking. Once subsumed into Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, York continued its huge strategic and military significance through late Saxon times, during the Norman Conquest, and into medieval England. Indeed, two of the most far-reaching battles in English history were fought at nearby Fulford and Stamford Bridge. York s military significance grew again during the Wars of the Roses, with the Battle of Towton in 1461 described as the most barbaric ever fought on British soil. Following oscillating and vicious disputes over religion during the reigns of the later Tudors, divisive and punitive civil war played out again under the Stuart kings and Parliamentary Commonwealth. Through all this, York was a major strategic location in northern England; an important base for those commanding it, a significant prize for those who did not. This military importance declined into modern times but the city retains garrison and regimental ties. The last direct conflict occurred when York was targeted for retaliatory Baedeker raids by German bombers during April 1942\. York s remarkable history and longevity, and its significance in English and sometimes international politics and economics, have left a unique, unparalleled military history.

Once again, my knowledge of the city of York has been gathered from TV documentaries and fro the historical novels of Bernard Cornwell, in which the city plays a prominent role. Once agaian, it is Ian Rotherham’s superb book that provides me with everything I could ever want to know about York and its military history. This series is absolutely superb.