Select your Period Info
BOOK REVIEWS

The German Army At Passchendaele

 By Jack Sheldon

 It is impossible to really understand any battle or campaign if you view it from only one of the combatant army’s point of view. This book compliments the numerous British orientated histories of Passchendaele and takes the reader across no mans land and onto the German fire step. The British onslaught of 1917 was of unprecedented scale and ferocity; the German soldier endured it under increasingly difficult conditions but fought on. Read this excellent book and understand how and why.

 

Published by Pen & Sword Ltd

 

£25.00, pp336, Hardback

 If you wish to buy the book and see the latest price click on the picture>>

Reviewed by Mike Peters

The German Army at Passchendaele
 

 

3 Para, Afghanistan, Summer 2006

 

By Patrick Bishop

 

There are numerous books already on the market relating to the current war in Afghanistan, this one is way out in front. The descriptions of the savage fighting around  the platoon houses of Helmand Province against a tenacious enemy are particularly gripping.  The exploits of 3 Para and the soldiers from the many other cap badges that constituted their Battle Group are recounted in a gritty narrative that brings the ferocity and heat of those opening battles to life.

 

Published by Harper Press Ltd

 

269 pp, £18.99, Hardback

 

 If you wish to buy the book and see the latest price click on the picture>>

  

Reviewed Mike Peters

3 Para

BAND OF BRIGANDS

 

First Men in Tanks

 

By Christy Campbell

 

This excellent book recounts the story of the birth of the Tank and the exploits of the young officers and soldiers that formed the embryonic Tank Corps. The story ranges from the intrigues of Whitehall, to the proving grounds of Suffolk and on to the Somme and Cambrai.  The contemporary descriptions of fighting in the claustrophobic heat amid the overpowering noise of the first tanks are particularly enthralling. One of the best books I have reviewed.

 

Published by Harper Press,

 

422 pp, £20.00

 

If you wish to buy the book and see the latest price click on the picture>>

 

Reviewed by Mike Peters

Band of Brigands: The First Men in Tanks

APACHE DAWN

Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned

By Damien Lewis  

Many British soldiers cite the welcome intervention of Army Air Corps Apache Attack Helicopter (AH) as being the decisive factor in their own ground battles in Helmand Province.  Since its introduction to the British Army’s order of battle and subsequent deployment on operations in Afghanistan the Apache has become the iconic weapon system of the war. This book views those actions from inside the confines of it’s armoured cockpit.   

Although the narrative focuses on the experiences of an individual AH Flight the author has gone to great lengths to highlight the contribution of the ground crew and technicians required to support every AH combat mission. I found the first hand accounts of flying and fighting the Apache in combat gripping, not to mention the hazards of flying over such rugged terrain.  The frustration with the ‘hurry up and wait’ nature of warfare is captured as is the ever-present humour of the British soldier.          

All in all this is a punchy, well written and informed look inside the insular and high-tempo world of an Apache squadron at war.  This book is unique among the current crop of Afghan publications, it has a very different perspective on the war in Helmand Province, well worth the price.

Published by Sphere

286pp, £17.99

Reviewed by Mike Peters. If you wish to buy the book and see the latest price click on the picture>>>

 Apache Dawn: Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned

THE GREATER GAME

 

Sporting Icons Who Fell In the Great War

 

By Clive Harris and Julian Whippy

 

Foreword by Richard Holmes

 

The British Army long ago realised the importance of physical fitness in battle.  As a result of this sport and organized physical training have featured prominently in its soldiers lives since 1860. This book focuses on the early days of sport and physical training in the British Army as well as the many sportsmen who fought in the Great War.  The stories selected by the authors all feature sportsmen who were striving for sporting excellence as Europe raced remorselessly towards war in the summer of 1914.  Most Rugby fans will not have heard of Lieutenant Ronald Poulton Palmer.  Before becoming a soldier he was prominent among the pre war sporting giants of Edwardian England.  Along with the thirteen other gladiators featured in this book he was at the peak of his career when war broke out. In company with thousands of their fans and supporters, the nation’s heroes of track and field were swept along in the race to serve their King and Country.  In many cases they led the march from the sports pitch to the recruiting office.  The authors have set out to tell the some of the stories of the many sporting icons who relinquished their sporting colours, donned khaki and volunteered to take part in the ‘Greater Game’.  A game that would ultimately involve 6,000,000 British and Commonwealth service men and women, close to 1,000,000 of those people would not return.  This huge loss of life is often referred to as the lost or golden generation included among their patriotic ranks were Britain’s sporting greats.  The majority of them would never compete again; they would pay the ultimate price for glory of a different kind.  Every casualty was tragic however the death of an athlete at his physical peak seemed yet more tragic.  The death of so many athletes leaving their ambitions unfulfilled seemed to symbolize the great void left in so many everyday homes and families.  The great unanswered question of what might have been haunted those who mourned their loss.          

Robert Poulton Palmer is one of the great sportsmen selected by the authors to feature in their book.   He was born a member of the wealthy Huntley and Palmer biscuit family.  He was a Rugby Union International who had captained England in the last four internationals before the war.  At the end of the 1914 season he was described by one sports magazine at the time as ‘the most conspicuous figure in the Rugby world’.  It would be fair to describe him as the Johnny Wilkinson of his day, that is were the similarity between the sporting icons of then and now ends.  The 1914 England Rugby Captain and many of his peers were also serving Territorials’.  Palmer had enlisted in the Green Howard’s were his natural leadership qualities made him an effective and popular officer.  The story of this iconic Rugby legend is described in great detail by the authors.  Robert Poulton Palmer was killed in action in 1915.  He fell victim to a snipers bullet while supervising the repair of a front line trench.  The loss of such a sporting superstar sent ripples across the English speaking world far out of proportion to his military status as a platoon commander.  What comes to the fore from the beginning of the opening chapter is the great depth of knowledge shared between the authors.  Their own experience as accomplished Battlefield Guides coupled with their intimate knowledge of the western front adds great depth and colour to Palmer’s story and to each of the other thirteen sportsmen who receive a dedicated chapter.  It is obvious from the content and informed narrative that they have completed extensive research into each of the sportsmen featured in the book and their respective fates.  The book also recounts the stories of the sportsman’s battalions who recruited from sporting clubs and leagues all over Britain.  One of the most famous of which was the 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots, a Kitchener battalion formed in Edinburgh around the footballers of the Heart of Midlothian club.  The story of the early pioneers of the Army Physical Training Corps also warrants its own chapter.  I read this book with the Olympics in full swing; the games provided an ideal back drop.  I enjoyed reading this thought provoking and fascinating book.  It is hard to imagine the likes of Steven Gerrard and Johnny Wilkinson stepping off their fields of play and volunteering to leave their clubs to join the Army.  Many of the sportsmen who enlisted to do just that in the Great War were of similar stature to the two modern professionals mentioned. They spearheaded the thousands of men who stepped off the football pitches, athletics tracks and Wimbledon’s centre court to take their place in the ranks.  Many of the most well known were destined to lead their peers into no mans land and never return.  Their stories are drawn together two authors who have successfully captured the patriotism and appetite for sport that inspired an entire generation of men. Whether you count yourself as a sportsman or woman this book is fascinating and at this price it’s a winner.     

 

 

Published By Pen & Sword Books Ltd

 

RRP £19.99, Hard Back, 200 Pages. To buy the book at latest price click on the picture>>>>>

 

 

MIKE PETERS

The Greater Game: Sporting Icons Who Fell in the Great War