Book Review – Pen & Sword November round up

‘The Battle of Jutland’ by Geoffrey Bennett

Published by Pen & Sword Maritime

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Next year is actually the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. Toward the end of May 1916, a chance encounter with Admiral Hipper’s battlecruisers let Beatty lead the German battle fleet into the reach Jellicoe’s force. The fall of darkness allowed Admiral Scheer to remove his ships from what could have been total destruction.

The Battle of Jutland was inconclusive with victory claimed by both sides. However, the German Fleet suffered sufficient damage that they would never again attempt to challenge the Royal Navy Grand Fleet, and so the British blockade on German remained intact (as indeed it did for some time after the War ended), inflicted a great deal of suffering on Germany’s population.

Geoffrey Bennett had researched his subject well, and the illustrations in the book are very good. The fact that Bennett served in the Royal Navy from 1923 to 1958 gives the book an insider authenticity that really grips the reader. Bennett isn’t a flowery writer rather he has an efficient style that makes every word count. Further, his quote from actual participants add nuance to the book.

I would say that anyone interested in this particular battle should read as much as possible about it, including German accounts, but this book is an essential part of that reading.

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‘The Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids 1918’ by Deborah Lake

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

In the Spring of 1918, the situation in World War One for the Allies was very bleak. Resources were scarce, with Russia out the War, the German Spring Offensive posed a huge threat, and the U-Boat fleets took a heavy toll on Britain’s shipping. The Admiralty believed that the Allies would lose the war unless the U-boat attacks could be curtailed. Hence, the attack on the German bases of Zeebrugge and Ostend.

The fighting was ferocious, with the attacking force taking 600 casualties and eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded between the two raids. It was a major propaganda coup for the Allies, but there was more to it than that, the planning of the attacks was far from flawless, and over time it became hard to separate fact from fiction.

With her superb research, former RAF pilot Deborah Lake, has managed to shed a great deal of light on the planning and execution of the raids. As a good researcher should, she has drawn from German sources in order to get both sides of the story.

A fine book, written in an engaging style, and one that deserves to be far better known, as does its subject matter.

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‘The Battle For Norway 1940-42’ Introduced and Compiled by John Grehan and Martin Mace

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Soon after the declaration of war against Germany in the September of 1939, newly appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, wanted to cut off Germany’s supply of iron ore from Sweden.

The ore was carried across the Baltic in the summer months but the Baltic froze over in winter, so the ore was then shipped through the Norwegian port of Narvik. The Royal Navy could no do much to interfere with Baltic shipping, both Norway and Sweden were neutral countries.

Britain thought that attempting to occupy these countries would be a bad decision, perhaps bringing them into the war on the Axis side, so a plan was created to lay mines in the waters off Norway, in the hope of forcing Germany to respond, giving a justification for armed intervention by French and German forces. Germany, however, did not want to take the risk that Norway would stay neutral and pre-empted British plans by invading Norway.

This book compiles military and naval despatches from the entire Norwegian campaign, making it an invaluable document for historians and researchers. This is the first time this has been done, and hopefully it will stimulate interest into one the lesser known but significant aspects of the Second World War.

www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

‘Locomotive Portraits’ by Jonathan Clay

Published by Pen & Sword Transport

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Railway art has a long and impressive lineage, for instance Turner and Monet, included some aspects of railways in their art. The tradition continues to this day, with the formation in the UK of the Guild of Railway Artists, which has over 200 members, including Jonathan Clay. Jonathan has responded to requests to produce a book of his artwork, and the results are very impressive.

He stumbled upon the method of producing painting of locomotives without backgrounds due to the demands of time, and this method has proved very popular. He truly is a superb artist and the text for each painting is just right.

The large hardcover format and the high quality of the artwork reproductions is a credit to Jonathan and Pen & Sword. No digital format could ever do justice to this work in the same manner.

www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

‘Secret Days: Code-Breaking in Bletchley Park’ by Asa Briggs

Published by Frontline Books

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Asa Briggs was a code-breaker working at Hut Six at Bletchley Park. While he is an author of great renown, until now he has not written about his time at Bletchley Park, indeed he did not tell his wife what he did during the war until the 1970s, and his parents died without ever knowing about the nature of his wartime service.

l information here.

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‘Monte Cassino: A German View’ by Rudolf Bohmler

Foreword by Peter Caddick-Adams

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Monte Casino was one of the greatest sieges in history, and reading this book, a tenacious German defence in the face of massive Allied resources. (I remember reading in another book on Monte Casino that a captured German soldier only realised there no hope when he saw the Americans had such resources that they would abandon vehicles at the side of the road rather than repair them.)

Bohmer is fair writer and incorporates the Allied perspective and wider Italian campaign into his writing. The fact that he was there, of course, gives the book maximum authenticity. I also found his views on the controversial Allied bombing of the monastery to be of great interest.

Overall, an important book in history of World War 2, particularly for anyone with an interest in Monte Casino.

www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

Thus, this is a historically important book, and enthusiasts of Bletchley Park will find much useful information here.

www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

‘Monte Cassino: A German View’ by Rudolf Bohmler

Foreword by Peter Caddick-Adams

Published by Pen & Sword Military

Reviewed by Steve Earles

Monte Casino was one of the greatest sieges in history, and reading this book, a tenacious German defence in the face of massive Allied resources. (I remember reading in another book on Monte Casino that a captured German soldier only realised there no hope when he saw the Americans had such resources that they would abandon vehicles at the side of the road rather than repair them.)

Bohmer is fair writer and incorporates the Allied perspective and wider Italian campaign into his writing. The fact that he was there, of course, gives the book maximum authenticity. I also found his views on the controversial Allied bombing of the monastery to be of great interest.

Overall, an important book in history of World War 2, particularly for anyone with an interest in Monte Casino.

www.pen-and-sword.co.uk