Pen & Sword roundup

Rise of the Tank: Armoured Vehicles and Their Use in the First World War’

By Michael Foley

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

As usual, Pen & Sword have produced a most timely book. Watching the superb BBC 3 TV series, Our World War, the third episode ‘War Machine’ (covering the Battle of Amiens ) did justice visually to the use of tanks in the Great War, something criminally neglected until now, and something we should see more of in future. For those interested in learning more about the tank, Michael Foley’s book is excellent. Make no mistake, the Great War gave birth to modern warfare, and the armoured vehicle is a big part of that and still is today, a century later.

Michael Foley research well, using the Imperial War Museum and the Tank Museum, and has brought a lot of good personal knowledge to the book.

It’s worth noting that the idea of the tank goes as far back as Leonardo da Vinci, and HG Welles was to come up with an astonishingly prescient tank concept in 1903

I’d like to have seen more on the use of tanks during the Allied Intervention in Russian Civil War, in fact, I’ll make a suggestion to Michael Foley and Pen & Sword here, why not write an entire book on the use of tanks in the Russian Civil War. There is a great deal of story to tell. For instance I recently purchased a fine book entitled ‘A Somewhat Unusual Journey’ which tells the story of Major H.S. Sayer’s experiences with the Allied tanks in the Russian Civil War, it can be purchased from his son, C.G. Sayer, who can be contacted at 2 Oak Villas, Stonehill, Ottershaw, Chertsey, Surrey, KT6 OER, UK, and is a fine read.

So, to conclude, Michael Foley has done a fine job here, and I feel he has more good books on tanks to come.

Building a History: The Lego Group’ By Sarah Herman

Published by Remember When

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Lego has never been more popular, so this is a timely book with a large potential audience.

Witty and well research, quite simply, this will appeal to anyone who loves Lego.

Irishmen in the Great War: Report from the Front 1914’ By Tom Burnell

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Recently there has been a timely upsurge and acknowledgement of the part the Irish played in the Great War, so this superb and interesting book is most timely. The extensive research is drawn from a variety of Irish papers of the war period.

If anything sums up the part the Irish played in the Great War, it would to my mind be the stand of the Munsters at Etreux in 1914. Massively outnumbered, the Royal Munster Fusiliers held back vastly superior enemy numbers for long enough to give time for the British Expeditionary Force to retreat in good order, saving them to fight another day, and changing the course of the Great War in the process.

So, why are these and the part the Irish played for example in Gallipoli and the Somme, not better known? Post the 1916 Rising, and the subsequent War of Independence and Irish Civil War, the survivors of the Great War kept their part in it quite, everything had changed. It is only in recently years that this part of Ireland’s history has again emerged into the light of day, and this well-researched book will play its part in that.

I have to say, Tom Burnell is a most diligent researcher, and he has spent a lot of time digging for gold in old newspapers to great effect.

The Vikings and Their Enemies: Warfare in Northern Europe, 750-1100’ by Philip Line

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Understandably, a great deal has been written about the Vikings, such is the public’s fascination with them. From Magnus Magnusson’s classic ‘Vikings!’ to Neil Oliver’s recent ‘Vikings’, (without an exclamation mark, Neil didn’t want to thread on Magnus’s territory!) it’s a perennially popular subject.

But the Vikings’ talent for warfare doesn’t often form the basis for a book, and this book helps to rectify that.

The biggest difference between the way the Vikings conducted warfare and that of their enemies was their use of their long ships. It gave them a similar mobility to that of helicopters today. In a world where roads were rare, rivers and seas were like highways. For instance, if you look at Limerick in Munster, Ireland, on the River Shannon, it was perfect place for the Vikings to establish a settlement.

The book also discusses the Vikings’ logical desire to go for more easy and lucrative targets like monasteries.

I’d like this book to have been longer, because the author clearly has more to impart.

The research and references are very well done, for anyone interested in Vikings, this is a decent read.

Foraging’ by Paul Chambers

Published by Remember When

Reviewed by Steve Earles

In the 21st century, humans are more disconnected from nature than ever before. This is very unhealthy and dangerous because the average person has an infantile dependence on other people. This neediness is the root of a great many of the average person’s problems. For instance, most people think food only comes from shops, but as this extremely useful book shows, we are surrounded by all manner of edible berries, mushrooms, herbs and plants. In a world where the only thing that isn’t taxed (yet!) is the air we breath, the contents of this book will have a very positive psychological effect on it’s readers. It’s all about taking back your self-dependency.

Paul Chambers really knows his stuff (and worked on the excellent Walking With Dinosaurs TV series). The book lists over a hundred of the most common edible pants. Some are not so much for eating but for medicinal qualities, so this is useful too.

Identification is most important, eat the wrong mushroom and it could all be over, so this is comprehensively dealt with too. The recipes look very good too.

Beautifully written and well laid-out, I look forward to putting it to good practical use, no higher recommendation can I give it!

The Great War Handbook’ by Geoff Bridger

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

This is an ideal book for anyone interested in exploring the Great War. It answers many of the basic questions: the training of the soldiers, the part they played, how they were recruited, their training. It’s a very accessible and comprehensive book, one that I can see its readers getting many years of use of.

The Great War Illustrated 1914’ by William Langford

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Now, this is a grand idea on the part of Pen & Sword. It is the first in a series of five titles which will cover each year of the Great War. The images originally appeared in the newspapers, journals and magazines of the time. While some of these images are familiar from books and documentaries, many are not. As such, for this alone, the book is a superb resource.

Indeed, this book is a great credit to Pen & Sword, the reproduction of the images is first class and the format just right. Captions give the context for the images, but really, a picture can speak volumes. It shows all the sides involved in the conflict, and in a non-judgemental fashion, leaving the readers to form their own opinions.

On the strength of this, I am really looking forward to future volumes.