Book Review Send More Shrouds: V1 Attack on Guards' Chapel 1944; Jan Gore

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by dbf, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Pen & Sword offered this book for review.

    Send More Shrouds - hardback
    Send More Shrouds - ebook


    1. An Intensive Blue Flash
    2. Doodlebug Summer
    3. The Aftermath
    4. The Rescue Process
    5. A Microcosm of Society: Biographies of the Civilian Victims
    6. Recently, on Active Service: Biographies of the Military Victims
    7. The Guards' Chapel and the Survivors
    8. Rebuilding the Chapel
    Appendix: Those Who Died
    Index of Dead and Injured
    General Index
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    On the 18th June 1944, as a result of a V1 attack on the Guards' Chapel at Wellington Barracks, 124 people were killed and over 100 injured. Reporting restrictions meant that no full story was carried in any newspaper until the 9th July.

    I can't better summarise this book's contents than the author's own opening words from the 'Preface':

    "This book tells the story of what has become known as 'the Guards' Chapel incident', the single worst V1 incident of the Second World War; it places it in its context and talks in detail about the incident and the rescue effort. It provides biographies of all those who died, and attempts to trace some of the injured. It also looks at the postwar rebuilding of the Chapel and the commemorative service that was held in 2014. Although this is a detailed story about a specific event, it also stands as an analysis of a typical incident during the summer of 1944."

    Jan Gore's interest in the subject began when her mother said: "One Sunday my friends went to the Guards' Chapel. They never came back." This personal connection is apparent in her approach as well as in the years spent on researching the biographies, and in particular trying to trace those who survived.

    The book opens with a timeline of events leading up to and including the Guards' Chapel attack itself, while the following chapter, 'Doodlebug Summer', directs the reader to the matters of background. 'Aftermath' deals with another timeline, that of the rescue, so there is some duplication of material. While this is noticeable, it does not detract from the narrative.

    The lion's share of the book is taken up with biographies of the victims. These are split into two categories: civilians and military personnel.

    I would have preferred it if the book had opened with the general background (solid research on the development of V1 and V2, defences against them including RAF's raids on launch sites, the effect on the population, the initial attitude of the authorities etc) and then focussed in on the incident itself, with both 'timelines' being consecutive. It's a small criticism given the scope: I simply felt that once my interest in the main event had been piqued, it was difficult to push it to one side and then pick up the thread again.

    Excerpts from a Guards officer's diary allow the reader a unique opportunity to see the events through the eyes of a soldier on the ground. His knowledge grants the reader immediate access to the people he knew who were involved - victims as well as rescuers.

    Having a little knowledge about the incident already, I found the chapter 'The Rescue Process' especially interesting as this was something I'd never really thought about before. Each of the services involved is listed and their role outlined in a sequential manner i.e. from Report Centres, Heavy Rescue, WVS through to the mortuary and funeral arrangements in general.

    A good read for anyone interested in those smaller tragic events within the bigger picture and a great example of how to commemorate a 'Microcosm of Society' whose one common experience was the circumstance of their death. All the way through, the narrative is detailed without getting bogged down and, it should be noted, the Appendix, Bibliography & Indices are excellent.
    4jonboy, CL1 and Owen like this.
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Thanks for the review D.
    Are there photos to go with the biographies ?
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    There are 16 pages in the middle of the book of glossy-print images. I'd say there are more than a dozen but less than 20 portraits of victims.

    Including this chap, apparently a friend of Eisenhower:
    Colonel Gustav Bismark Günther

    Send More Shrouds

    Send More Shrouds
    4jonboy and Owen like this.
  5. jmg

    jmg New Member

    Sorry, was limited to 30 photos in all, otherwise would have done more. Gustav Guenther was of German origins and worked for SOE.
  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Jan,
    I enjoyed reading your book, congratulations on getting it published. All from your annually updated list - "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow".
    Hope you're keeping well.
    jmg likes this.
  7. jmg

    jmg New Member

    Good to hear from you! Yes, the list was used in the 70th anniversary commemorative service in 2014. About 70 relatives attended, and it was very moving; they based it on the 1944 service. After that it was suggested I should do a book, and when I still hesitated they found me a publisher!


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