Book Review Peter Caddick-Adams: 'Sand and Steel', a partial review.

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Old Git, May 4, 2021.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Good point

    Many of us including myself are not academic or examine the minutia of books.
    So we can not add much to the table and either go on the advertising blurb ,
    recommendations or a nice shiny book cover.

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  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Is this speculation or do you know for a fact that he uses amanuenses trained monkeys to do the legwork?
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  3. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Hi Sheldrake,

    The last chapter I read was actually the Weatherman chapter and I learned a lot from it. I probably should have said that earlier. But the Tracklink article and stuff I'd spotted for myself gave me cause for concern about how good he was and what I can and cannot trust. Generally speaking I read these narratives looking for stuff that may be useful to my own areas of endeavour, we can't read absolutely everything and these popular narratives are good for collating lots of different accounts. However, I like to check and re-check sources I find in books before I make use of them. I am by no means a D-Day or Normandy expert but I like to think I have a fairly good overview of the basics an spotting basic errors in the first 1/3 of a book makes me wonder.

    Right now I'm trying to track down the source of Robin Neilland's quote for Maj James Cuthbertson of 90 Coy RASC, pg 216, of 'D-Day 1944, Voices from Normandy'. It's an interesting quote but no source mentioned for it makes it difficult to follow-up. Doesn't appear to be on the IWM oral interviews either. Don't suppose anyone knows what happened to Robin's research after he passed in 2006? RLC Digital archives have some entries that look promising though.
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
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  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    I assume he uses researchers because of the sheer volume of publications under his name, speaking engagements and media appearances might require an army of assistants. Maybe it is because he is not spending time on internet forums. ;)
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  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Robin Neillands work is also a popular work and does not source his quotes. I don't know where he got his material either. Brightly Shone the Dawn? An interview in The War Illustrated? God spoke in a dream?

    Sometimes the most useful quotes can be hard to source or check. I have a cutting from the The Independent's 50th Anniversary of D Day issue with a Hertfordshire Yeoman who said that one of their first casualties was a gunner King from the CP who was a black man. I have a copy of the cutting. A useful quote when conducting racially diverse groups of young soldiers or students around the D Day beaches. However, I can find no gunner of that name in the CWGC so if he was a casualty he did not die. Nor could I see any obviously black faces in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry history. Not sure if I have the time or interest to check each source.
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
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  6. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    His Battle of Normandy 1944 book is pretty good and is well sourced, although a couple of nice quotes are cited as 'Letters to the Author', which I'd dearly love to see hence my wondering where his filing cabinets ended up. Neilland's book was the first proper account of the Normandy Campaign that I'd read, many years ago now, so I'd managed to avoid all the Hastings/Beevor accounts that everyone complains about. I found his attempts at myth-busting to be more entertaining than the straightforward narratives and synthesised accounts that are available. Not that there's anything wrong with those accounts they can provide a valuable compendium of information.

    Looks like Cuthbertson's papers/memoir was donated to RLC after his death and there seems to be a few photos as well. Will be sending an email to them later today to check that out.
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  7. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    As it took me a decade or so to research and then write my book (Theirs the Strife), I can only assume that prolific authors such as Hastings/Beevor/C-A/Holland et al employ armies (perhaps 10!) of researchers to do the legwork. It is therefore not surprising that errors of fact etc creep in as there is no imperative to check veracity. Perhaps, if one is being totally cynical, it is not in their interests to spend time checking facts as this would impede the progress of the military history sausage machine. As a wise boss once said to me, ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’
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  8. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    I think Holland's output is a wee bit of an Industry now, what with his plethora of Griffon Productions, Merlin productions, Chalk Valley Show every year and a whole raft of other pies he has fingers in. Wouldn't surprise me if he has a few friendly researchers tucked away in the mix. I guess the whole thing is his main source of income so fair play to him if he's making money at it, would that we could all live comfortably doing what we love!
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  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    I did not know about your book. Must pay attention

    A boss a long time ago said
    “Thank you all attending the brain storming conference over the last 2 days and for all your thoughts and ideas,I take on board all of your input however this is the way we will be moving forward”
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
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  10. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    For Holland's books I always get the feeling that they just piggy back on books that are already available, especially memoirs. After he finished writing Sicily '43 early last year, he announced an idea to write his next one about the Sherwood Rangers (Brothers in Arms - due to be published September 2021). Now bearing in mind that the archives have been closed for most of the last 15 months and places when offered are very limited what sort of book will this be?
    And hasn't his Normandy '44 been criticised (I admit I haven't read it) because he uses German first hand accounts from 'D-Day Through German Eyes by Holger Eckhertz' which is believed to be pure fiction?
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  11. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    He edited the diary of Stanley Christopherson so if you add that to the memoirs of David Render and Stuart Hills then I think what will come out will be pretty much akin to his previous work.
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  12. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    While most if not all factual books use sources (properly referenced), the endless repackaging of books and editing by 21st Century hands can get a little tiresome. While I have not read Stanley Christopherson's book edited by James Holland or David Render's book edited by Stuart Tootal, I note the following extracts from Amazon reviews:

    1. An Englishman at War. The Wartime Diaries of Stanley Christopherson. "This a good collection of diary incidents but in the period post D-Day it overlaps other books like Stuart Hills book and many of the stories are word for word identical. Did Stuart copy Stanley or the other way round?"

    2. Tank Action: An Armoured Troop Commander's War 1944-45 by David Render. "And as I read through this I noted that much of it was almost verbatim from other books written by historians such as Antony Beevor. There are a few paragraphs where 'Render' muses that his troop feel they should not be fighting because they have already been through many battles and they feel they have done enough. The passages where this is written could have been lifted directly from Beevor's masterwork, which I'm pretty sure Render would not have read in 1944... And as you go on you notice more and more of these sorts of things. In the end what I decided was that Render had a story to tell - and it's a good one - but Tootal has only used it as a framework to paste upon it his historical understanding which, in some cases is perhaps over dramatized for effect. Certainly much of what Render is thinking during his time as a tank commander seems to be remarkable in that it matches up with a considerable cross-section of historical books written on the subject after the war."

    With James Holland's 'new' book on the Sherwood Rangers, notwithstanding the time available for research, we are therefore in danger of reading a book that is a compilation of three books which are themselves compilations.
    Last edited: May 7, 2021
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  13. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Sorry CL1, I meant to give you the link to this short book review:
    Book Review - Micro Book Reviews


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  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Military history publishing is a business. What gets published is a function of what the publisher thinks will sell and the author can complete to a deadline.
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  15. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    It is modern "infotainment":
    The depth and detail of research in a military history publication is inversely proportional to the potential number of buyers. The historical and military background knowledge often required is also rather daunting.
    (Especially in times when some even believe that Hitler had the Berlin Wall built).
    If one then also wants to satisfy "scientific criteria", the resulting publication is definitely doomed for a niche within a niche.
    A collection of "accounts of those who were there" promises a much better reception from potentially interested buyers.
    And because, as Sheldrake so aptly remarked, a publishing house is basically run according to commercial considerations.....
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  16. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Quite so, and it would be naive to think otherwise. Hence the use of research teams and the casual attitude to accuracy.
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  17. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I haven't read the Mark Urban book on 5 R Tks - and it may well be better than average - but I was impressed by Press On Regardless which offers unfiltered memories, loosely contextualised against a summary of the war diaries. Give me the pieces and I'm happy to complete the puzzle, but it's no good for a general reader who wants a packaged narrative.
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  18. Wobbler

    Wobbler Well-Known Member

    Amanuensis - by Jove, I just learned sumfink again. :lol:
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  19. MongoUK

    MongoUK Junior Member

    Also, bear in mind that although these archives have been closed to the public, not everywhere has been closed to everyone, lots of mentions on James Holland's We Have Ways podcasts of getting access to various archives ( Bovvy, Sherwood Rangers archives etc) during these lockdowns.

    Fame and probably cash tends to open doors locked to others.
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  20. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    The last week or so has been fairly hectic and I've barely had time to myself. However, normality is once again beginning to reassert itself and so this morning, for the first time in ages, I've had time to read as I ate breakfast. I dived back into Caddick-Adams just where I left off, at the finish of the chapter on weathermen. I'm a couple of pages in and I happened upon this howler....

    "Flying Officer James Hudson, DFC, flew his last and thirtieth combat mission on D-Day itself; he was a Lancaster navigator who had earlier been interned by the Vichy French overflying Tunisia; later repatriated, he joined No. 100 Squadron at Waltham, Lincolnshire." (Pg 356)

    Now I am being an old fuss-pot with this one, but honestly, who writes a sentence like this? TWO semi-colons in one sentence? Who exactly was it that was overflying Tunisia, FO James Hudson or the Vichy French? Every school kid in the land has been pulled up for this faux pas, and long before they get into the GCSE stream. It simply should not appear in anyone's writing post GCSE, least of all someone who aspires to be a serious author. We can maybe bemoan the lack of good Copy Editors in the world today, but this sentence should never have been written in the first place. It is confused, unclear and just bad! I am really not warming to this guy as a historian or as a writer!

    For the record, anyone who aspires to be half-decent writer needs to have, readily to hand, a copy of 'Fowler's Modern English Usage' which, among other things, neatly explains the proper use of the semi-colon. Mr C-A might also consider investing in a copy of Sir Ernest Gowers 'Complete Plain Words'. 'The Oxford Style Manual' wouldn't go amiss either.

    I will do my best to finish this thing but I rather suspect, that as I wade through it, I may well be updating this 'review' on an almost daily basis! Not so sure there will be another C-A title in my future though.
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