Bob Carruthers: Shooting The Somme

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th September 2016

901tIn 1916, the British High Command allowed two camera-men to film the ‘big push’, the long awaited British attack on the German trenches. The men chosen to film the battle were Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell. Together they shot the material for a feature length documentary. The result was The Battle of the Somme; the first ever war film. It was rushed through production and was released into British cinemas in 1916, at a time while the battle was still continuing. The Battle of the Somme was a surprisingly candid and gritty film, which showed the full horror of life in the trenches. The film caused a sensation and crowds flocked to cinemas to witness the grim reality of the war. However, controversy soon followed, and rumours began to circulate that some scenes had been faked. Now over 100 years later, Bob Carruthers retraces the footsteps of Malins and McDowell in order to discover how much of the film was indeed real and how much of the film was faked for the cameras. In the process this powerful new book uncovers the century old secrets of the original filmmakers and finally reveals the truth behind how much of the film was actually simulated. The conclusions are startling and unexpected. The second part of this book features Geoffrey Malins’ recollections as published in his controversial book How I Filmed the War.

This amazing account of how certain scenes in the iconic contemporary film of the Battle of the Somme were simulated is almost as awesome and moving as the actual battle itsef.

Gary Dobbs: Cardiff and the Valleys at War 1939-45

 Published by Pen and Sword 30th November 2018

901sWhen Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, Cardiff and its surroundings, like every other city, town, hamlet and village in the country, sent forth large numbers of young men to fight against the oppression of Hitler and the Nazis. This is a story not only of the war itself, but of the way war affected those far away from the battlefields, and of how a nation stood together in the face of a seemingly unstoppable force. The book pays particular attention to the way Welsh society changed during the war years, far reaching changes that are still felt in the country today. The book details the enormity of the human sacrifice paid by the people of Cardiff and its surrounding areas, but also contains many examples of the way ordinary people stood proud, defiant in their determination to bring about the downfall of the Nazis. Lavishly illustrated with over fifty original and modern-day photographs, this book is essential reading for anyone interest in military and social history.

The latest volume in Pen and Sword’s iconic series on Britain’s individual towns and cities and how they were affected by the Second World War continues with Cardiff and the Valleys. This amazing book will be of interest not only to residents but to anyone with an interest in the effects of the war on individuals and places.

Phil Carradice: Night Of The Long Knives

 Published by Pen and Sword 7th November 2018

901uIn the summer of 1934 Adolf Hitler planned and conducted the most ruthless purge of his thirteen-year period as leader of Germany. The victims were not political opponents but friends, colleagues and fellow fascists who had helped the Nazi Party in its rise to power. The Night of the Long Knives broke the back and the will of the Sturmabteilung, the SA, the brawling street thugs who had bludgeoned political opposition into submission. The SA’s ruthless bullyboy tactics played no small part in Hitler’s establishment of a dictatorship that was to influence affairs in Germany – and the world – throughout the 1930s and beyond. In some respects the purge was inevitable. Hitler had to eliminate all potential rivals if he was to consolidate his position of power. And that meant that friends like Ernst Roehm, former German Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, and even former party comrades like Gregor Strasser were summarily shot without trial. Above all it was the SA that the army, the industrialists and, more than anyone else, Adolf Hitler feared. Roehm enjoyed a popularity that almost rivalled Hitler’s and so he had to go. It was also an opportunity to settle personal scores. The Night of the Long Knives was a cull that eliminated somewhere between 300 and a thousand victims, the exact number has never been clear, many of them innocent of any intention to rival Hitler. It remains one of the most significant killings of modern times.

I had always thought that the night of the long knives as pertaining to Hitler was an attempt to remove him from office towards the end of the Second World War… maybe there was such an attempt, but this book describes Hitler’s ruthless way of removing his former bully-boy thugs and colleagues who might have posed a threat to his authority before he came to power in the early 1930s. Grim stuff.

Giles Romilly & Michael Alexander: The Colditz Hostages

 Published by Pen and Sword 5th November 2018

901vGiles Romilly and Michael Alexander were amongst a select group of prisoners of war who were segregated from the other prisoners and were labelled the Prominente. The authors recount their varied experiences in captivity. Romilly, a journalist covering the Norway Campaign, was captured at Narvik in April 1940\. Alexander was taken in August 1942 when engaged in a raid behind the German lines in North Africa. In due course, because of their family connections to people of influence, both of them ended up in an isolation area of Colditz Castle, where they were joined by several more, including Earl Haig, the son of the C-in-C of the BEF, the commander of the Polish Army in the Warsaw Uprising and, the last to arrive, the son of the US Ambassador to London. In April 1945, in the face of the advancing American armies and on Himmler’s instructions, the Prominente were removed from the Castle. In due course they became split up. Romilly managed to escape soon after the removal from Colditz with the assistance of a Dutch officer. The remainder survived to be liberated, despite Hitler’s order for them to be executed. The book is beautifully written. Romilly, in particular, shows himself to be an excellent observer: of the character of his fellow prisoners both before and during his time as a Prominente; and of the last, chaotic days of the Third Reich. His description of the scenes he witnessed in the newly liberated Dachau Camp, soon after his arrival in the allied lines, remain extraordinarily powerful. The book received a warm reception from the critics at the time of its first publication in 1954 and was singled out for high praise by, amongst others, Airey Neave MP, assassinated by the INLA in 1979, himself a prisoner and the first successful British escaper from Colditz.

This reads like the screenplay for a blockbuster cinema epic, along the lines of The Great Escape. Larger than life characters, a fascinating story, brilliantly told by two of the iconic “prominente”.

Dennis Oliver: Sherman Tanks US Army North-Western Europe 1944-45

 Published by Pen and Sword 19th November 2018

901wFollowing his first book in the TankCraft series on the British army’s Shermans during the battle for Normandy, Dennis Oliver has compiled a companion volume on those used by the US Army throughout the campaign in Western Europe. These were the tanks that made up the bulk of the American armoured forces that swept across occupied France and advanced into Hitler’s Germany. Wartime photographs and carefully researched, exquisitely presented colour illustrations show in detail the types of Sherman – including the main variants – that played a vital role in Allied operations. As with all the books in the TankCraft series, a section of this work displays available model kits and aftermarket products, complemented by a gallery of beautifully constructed and painted models in various scales. Technical details as well as modifications introduced during production and in the field are also explained. This book will give the modeller all the information and knowledge required to recreate an authentic miniature representation of the most famous American armoured vehicle of the Second World War.

A comprehensive and scholarly look at the Sherman tank and its deployment in Western Europe during WW2. As someone who used to put together models of WW2 aircraft and army vehicles, this is a fascinating look back at the past and a brilliant reminder of the part these amazing vehicles played in the conflict.

Erinio Bagnasco: Submarines of World War Two

 Published by Pen and Sword 29th October 2018

901xFor the first time in naval warfare submarines played a major role in the war at sea in the years 1939-45, and this major reference book describes all the classes of vessel that were deployed by the eighteen combatant nations during those years. They were responsible for the sinking of 33 million tons of merchant shipping with the German and US navies achieving the greatest advantage with this devastating strategic weapon. Most of the countless books about submarines in WWII confine themselves to the boats of one particular navy or another: in this book every class of boat, from midgets to the large U-cruisers, of all the nations is covered in detail – more than 2,500 boats – and projected and experimental designs are also included. This furnishes the reader with an overall picture that allows for comparison between the technical and operational aspects of all the submarines that took part in the War. This is further helped by the inclusion of more than 400 illustrations. The author also outlines the evolution of the submarine and submarine warfare – including the interplay of wartime experience, design improvement and tactical innovation – thereby placing the subject in its true historical perspective. This new edition of a classic work has been completely redesigned and overhauled to make the most of the author’s superb collection of photographs, and will appeal to a wide new audience for whom this important work has been unavailable for many years.

This I don’t believe I ever made a model of a submarine, but I have always been fascinated by them, and some of my favourite WW2 filmshave involved them. Bagnasco’s book is fascinating, well written and well illustrated, the perfect introduction to the deployment of these amazing vessels.

Bruce Taylor: The World of the Battleship

 Published by Pen and Sword 28th February 2016

901yThis new volume is intended to present a genuinely global vision of the development of worlds battleships. In a collection of chapters by international experts, the design, building and career of a significant battleship from each of the worlds navies is explored in such a way as to illuminate not just the ships but also the communities of officers and men that served in them and, more broadly, the societies and nations that built them. While ships from the Royal Navy, the US Navy, the Kriegsmarine, the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Marine Nationale and the Regia Navale are given significant coverage, so are those from the smaller navies, for example, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Turkey and the Scandinavian Each chapter explains the origins of a particular ship, her importance as a national symbol and her place in the fleet. The genesis of her design along with particulars of her protection, armament and propulsion are covered and the construction process and launching described. The ship’s complement and organisation are detailed, and daily routine and watch-keeping explained, and how this varied between peace and war. Life onboard, eating and sleeping for officers and ratings, discipline, pay, morale, pets and mascots are covered as well as a full account of the ship’s career, so that the distinctive character of each vessel and navy emerges. This is a highly original and significant book on the great capital ships of the world.

The superb illustration on the front cover gives you some idea of what to expect in this majestic and fantastic volume. Author Bruce Taylor has written a brilliant book, and the absence of line drawings in no way detracts from its brilliance.

Mark Khan: The Battle of Iwo Jima

 Published by Pen and Sword 21st November 2018

901zJust eight square miles in size, the Japanese island of Iwo Jima lies some 750 miles due south of Tokyo. Following a preparatory air and naval bombardment which lasted for many weeks, it was there, on the morning of Monday, 19 February 1945, that US Marines launched Operation Detachment, their aim being the capture of the entire island and the three airfields that had been constructed on it. The Japanese defenders, however, were prepared. The enemy garrison had heavily fortified Iwo Jima with a network of bunkers, caves and dugouts, hidden artillery positions and more than ten miles of underground tunnels that proved difficult to locate and destroy. The following thirty-six days saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific Campaign, resulting in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the assault, only 216 were taken prisoner during the battle. The capture of Iwo Jima, revealed here through a remarkable collection of archive images, was declared complete on the morning of 26 March 1945. The battle also resulted in one of the most iconic images to emerge from the Second World War the raising of the American flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi.

This iconic battle resulted in the deaths of almost 21,000 Japanese troops, and 7,000 US Marines in some of the bloodiest fighting in WW2 over a period of five weeks. Mark Khan’s book puts into context in the perspective of the war in the East through painstaking research and battle imagery that cannot fail to move and inspire the reader.