Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Gage, Mar 12, 2006.
Last read this in 2005. Think it might be worth re-reading...
I would wait for the revised and expanded reprint
Started reading a book by George Busby called "The spies at Gilnahirk". Gilnahirk is an area on the outskirts of East Belfast, and in WW2 there was a Radio Security Section unit based here as part of the defence of Britain.
I have personal interest in this book as I lived near the Gilnahirk area for about 30 years and knew nothing at all about this place. It was extremely hush-hush.
Anyway, George Busby makes this a very easy read, although the book would probably be of more interest to Northern Irish people than of general interest. Having said that, it would certainly be of interest to folks wishing to learn more about the clandestine elements of Britain's fight against the enemy, in particular the radio intercepts and so on.
I've just finished 'The Pathfinders' by Will Iredale and enjoyed it a great deal. I was particularly interested in the story of John McGown, the 8 Group medical officer. He had been an airman in the First World War, been shot down and escaped twice. Whilst serving as Group Medical Officer, and despite being forbidden to fly, McGown flew fifty operational sorties as pilot or navigator and won his Pathfinder wings. A remarkable man. What did surprise me, however, was Iredale's account of Harris' attitude to the PFF. I knew Harris wasn't overly enthusiastic, but Iredale has him actively encouraging groups to deny sending their best crews to PFF and encouraging groups to develop their own target marking, sidelining 8 Group.
Reading 'With British Snipers to the Reich', by Captain Clifford Shore, a book I've had on my shelves for a long time. It's a very enjoyable read, Captain Shore was clearly an enthusiast about rifle shooting and sniping in particular. Lots of anecdotes about sniping and sniper training, (Captain Shore was an instructor and ran a one-man sniping school just after the war on the island of Sylt. He is surprisingly disparaging about other nations' sniping, including the Germans, saying there were very few actual snipers, and doesn't consider a soldier with a telescope sighted rifle is necessarily a sniper. He is also very uncomplimentary about the state of the weapons used by the resistance movements, and says they would be more dangerous to the user than the intended target!
Something that did surprise me was his enthusiasm for the M1 carbine. I don't know too much about this weapon, and have never fired one, but from previous reading it is not generally highly thought of, with an underpowered round. Captain Shore wrote that he found it an excellent, accurate weapon, which would have made an ideal weapon for the second man in a sniper team.
Writing his book very shortly after the Second World War, Captain Shore was expecting there would be resistance in Germany against the allies and argued the best way to combat this would be trained sniper teams. An interesting scenario, which fortunately did not transpire.
A really good book. Recommended.
That is an excellent book in every way. Shore's comments about both weapons and tactics are pithy and sometimes opinionated, but they come from a man who obviously knew his stuff. As to the M1 carbine, Shore was dead right and the critics wrong. The carbine was fine as long as you understood that it wasn't a full powered rifle and could not be used like one.
At the moment and really enjoying reading the Marching to the Drums by Ian Knight.
I’ve dabbled in a bit of fiction with the Phillip Kerr - Berlin Noir detective trilogy. Easy reading but quite gripping and certainly makes you think. He’s also not afraid to kill off main characters on a whim so it keeps you on your toes.
Back to my RAF stuff though, having just finished A Raid Over Berlin - John Martin (wireless operator and POW). Very vivid recollections of trying to bale out and the fear once captured as he’d left his ID tags behind.
Just starting on Bloody Terrified, featuring good old Colin Bell the Mosquito pilot who is still doing the signing and talks circuit.
I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge lately. I finished Tom Pocock’s ‘Alan Moorehead’ which I would recommend if you are interested in Moorehead’s life during the war years, particularly his relationships with fellow journalists Christopher Buckley and Alex Clifford. The book is quite enlightening and has plenty of small details about Moorehead, such as his relationship with Lord Beaverbrook who was his boss, however, this didn’t stop Moorehead from criticing him in print for the poor standard of tanks the British army was supplied with to fight Rommel. I found Pocock very easy to read and balanced in his views of Moorehead, acknowledging his talents but also aware of his flaws.
I have raided my collection of privately published AIF memoirs and read a short 100 page memoir titled “Splinter’s Story… and we were young” by J.P Walshe. This consists of five shortish stories written by Walshe who was a mortar man in the 2/30th Battalion AIF. It was first published in 1989 and follows his enlistment and training (at Bathurst) and the battles he fought in leading up to the Fall of Singapore. The latter stories in the book cover his time as a POW in Changi and later in Japan. It is nicely written and I enjoyed his perspective on events. A fair few books I have read about Singapore often have participants taking shots at either the British troops, indian troops or Australian troops running away or not acting soldierly. Walshe makes the point that there was a lot of panic from all forces during those final weeks leading to surrender and realised that the Japanese were better trained and equipped. Saying that his early descriptions of the battles in Malaya demonstrate that they weren’t always one sided.
Finally I am around half way through Eric Lomax’s “The Railway Man” and am enjoying it much more than the film. Lomax wrote well and I particularly enjoyed the early parts of the book which describe his upbringing and life long love and fascination with railways and machinery. He was raised during a time when “men tinkered” as he puts it and the book links up his relationship throughout his life with railways a lot better than the movie. I guess this book is considered as a modern classic?
Taking a break from military history though this Rebus novel does have some WW2 material in it.
Ian Rankin is one of those authors who consistently delivers and whose new releases I eagerly await.
Nearly finished this;
A Great read! Not a traditional biography, it concentrates on the period 1928-48 during which Whittle, against much opposition, foot-dragging and inertia developed his engine. But for the mismanagement of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the incompetence of BTH and Rover (initially assigned to produce the engines), the RAF may well have had an operational jet fighter by 1942. Whittle himself comes across as a fiercely driven individual - a genius who could be awkward and temperamental to work with.
Don't expect to learn much of the technical side of the jet-turbine or the actual aircraft that used it but a cracking read.
(I used to live a couple of streets away from where Whittle was born and grew up - a modest two-up, two-down. Often walked past it on the way to the Chinese takeaway. Wonder he ever used it ?)
My reading has been very slow lately. I'm still reading "Strick" but I also got a copy of this. It's a history about the veterans but also how the war has been thought about in Canada since 1945.
Anthony Beaver's "Arnhem", I have read a number of accounts about Operation Market Garden and so for this is better than most
Stephen Dyson's Tank Twins and the 107 RAC diary. Makes a good combination.
Article from Journal for Army Historical Research Autumn 2004 Volume 82 no 331:
"The Evacuation of the Heraklion Garrison from Crete 28-29 May 1941" by I. A. Davidson
Since I appreciate a holistic approach thanks to "Janni" Smuts, I read as a logical sequel to the aforementioned Operation Thursday - Birth of the Air Commandos
Joint operations with US forces?
I am currently reading
Special Air Warfare and the Secret War in Laos
Air Commandos 1964-1975
Such "silent" or even "forgotten" wars had always aroused my interest. (SE Asia is also a rather exotic setting).
As a beginner's read on the activities in Laos at the time, this is a really excellently structured book. Especially the detailed background information and the numerous eyewitness accounts make it very interesting (At least for me)
Pictured from when I bought it earlier this year:
This is an absolutely marvelous book and to think I might have passed up on it at a price of $5 (£3) because I'm "not an airplane guy"! It combines two books from the 1970s and 80s and while it doesn't have modern glossy paper it has many photographs and many different perspectives on the Spit as it looks at the plane through the perspective of many men with different jobs, from fighter pilots to reconnaissance to accident investigators. Sort of like looking at a different facets of a gem.
I recently finished two more WW2 books.
Lida Mayo’s ‘Bloody Buna’ is a very good introduction to the battles of Buna and Gona-Sanananda. Written in 1974, although an older book, Lida Mayo was well placed to write about the subject being a senior US Army historian. In preparation for the book she had spent time researching at the Australian War Memorial and visited New Guinea to get an eye for the battlefields. The book follows the ‘green’ US 32nd Division from their difficult advance along the Kapa Kapa Track through to their experiences fighting the well prepared Japanese alongside recently battle hardened AIF men. I’m not sure many people realise that the casualties suffered by the Americans in the Campaign were considerably greater than Guadalcanal, which received the greater coverage.
Terence Robertson’s ‘Walker RN’, written in 1956, is one of those older books that is a cracking good read. I hadn’t come across the exploits of ‘Johnnie Walker’ before but wish I had. Written in a plain and matter of fact style this book charts his early life and struggles in the navy and follows through with his development of anti-submarine tactics in the Battle of the Atlantic. Very much a hands on captain, constantly at the bridge barking out orders, the author is very much of the opinion that Walker worked himself to an early death through such involvement. There are some B/W images of Walker in the book working away at the bridge, controlling his and the other ships under his charge during U-boat hunts.
One aspect that surprised me was how grisly a job destroying U-boats could be. There are various mentions of the sailors hearing the explosions hundreds of feet below in the water and the appearance on the surface after an attack of oil, flotsam and assorted pieces of the human body. There is a mention that U-boat crews would occasionally send up parts of an animal carcass to fool the sailors into believing that they had sunk a U-boat.
While not going heavily into technical aspects of the ships and tactics the book does give a very atmospheric account of events. Could ‘Johnnie Walker’ be a forgotten hero?
Clive, you should try & obtain the book by Ellis, John on Cassino. The Hollow victory.
You should be able to obtain it for a little bit more than a nugget.... In the winter months ahead it will be a fabulous read. Just be prepared for around (580 pages of reading)! I've said this before on the forum...
This chap should have been awarded a bloody medal for this book.. The detail he shows & the War diaries he has read of all the Countries that served at Cassino are mind boggling. Less of the twit.
My Grandfather was killed on the Dido off Crete on 29th May 1941, I have a copy of this too.
Separate names with a comma.