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First Blitz: The Secret German Plan to Raze London to the Ground in 1918 Hardcover – 19 May 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (19 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385611706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385611701
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 632,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The path that led me to become an author was a pretty rambling one. Along the highways, byways and frequent cul de sacs of a very chequered career, I've been a plasterer's mate, an ice-cream salesman, a holiday camp redcoat, an art gallery director, and simultaneously an art critic and a rugby commentator - now there's a combination you don't see every day. I've also been the editor of the drinker's bible, The Good Beer Guide, and the owner of the highest pub in Britain, and I've travelled round the world twice, edited an assortment of obscure magazines, made a couple of television films, been a radio broadcaster in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and written for newspapers around the world.

However, the world's longest adolescence finally had to come to an end one day and since then I've been pretty much a full-time author with around 50 published books to my name so far. Under my own name I write narrative non-fiction - popular history, though the sales figures suggest it's not quite as popular as I'd like it to be. I'm not a member of what you might call "the David Starkey School" of history, I'm less interested in kings, queens, prime ministers and generals than I am in what happens to ordinary people caught up in great events. I don't like "winner's history" either; I want to know the view from all sides of a conflict or issue and I'm as interested - and sometimes more interested - in the aftermath of great events than I am in the events themselves. Some of the best stuff I've written (in my opinion at least) really catches fire at the point where most other historians leave off, and that's as true, I think, of my book about the Spanish Armada "The Confident Hope of a Miracle", "The Dreadful Judgement" about the Great Fire of London, and The Custom of the Sea, as it is of "The Unknown Soldier", my book about the Unknowns buried in Westminster Abbey and at national shrines in Paris, Washington and all over the world.

My day-job is as a ghostwriter: a writer of other people's books for them. Clients have included a treasure diver, a kidnap negotiator, an explorer, a spy, a long-distance walker, a submariner, an England football coach, a cricketing legend, a controversial historian, an undercover investigator, an IRA informer, several travellers and adventurers, two fast-jet pilots and half a dozen SAS men. At various times I've also written screenplays, thrillers, short stories, a serious novel, a playscript for a musical, travel journalism, and book reviews. The one thing missing from my portfolio is poetry and believe me, there's a very good reason for that...

If you can still cope with yet more of me boasting about myself, my website is: http://www.neilhanson.co.uk

and my facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Neil-Hanson/456508287757319

and if you're still not sated, you can find the talk I gave about my book The Unknown Soldier at the Pritzker Military Library, Chicago at
http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/Home/Neil-Hanson.aspx

Product Description

Review

Neil Hanson is that rare beast - a popular historian who never talks down to his readers. Clearly and engagingly written, his book puts more academic historians to shame by discovering a big subject, investigating it thoroughly and drawing bold but far-reaching conclusions from it -- Sunday Telegraph

The 1940s bombing raids over London have taken such a powerful grip upon our imagination that the existence of an earlier Blitz, in World War I, will come to many readers as a complete surprise. Yet as Neil Hanson...demonstrates in this gripping and well-researched book, it was in may ways more terrifying -- Daily Mail

This is a compelling story compellingly told...Gripping -- Navy News

Using first-hand witnesses plus government war records, Hanson draws a powerful picture of the impact of these first air raids -- Time Out

Book Description

The story of the first London Blitz, never before told. Everything that took place in the Battle of Britain twenty two years later is foreshadowed in this story.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Briggs on 7 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very cleverly prefacing each chapter with a relevant contemporary photograph, this throughly entertaining book totally immerses the reader in one of the seminal acts of aerial strategic warfare: calculated German bomber assaults on London and its environs.

Dates, names, places, sights, sounds, machines, drama, folly, consequences - all aspects of these historically and militarily significant operations are laid out in vivid detail to form a wonderfully flowing tale of a little known but vital struggle in the later stages of WW1.

Highly recommended for anyone at all interested in military history, and probably even a fascinating read for those for whom the subject holds little attraction.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lucy on 11 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
I had read and heard about the zeppelin raids in WWI,I had know idea just how bad they had been until I read this book.The war which must have seemed far away all of a sudden it was there own door steps,with death dropping from the sky.This book recreates the fear and terror of modern warfare which had never been seen before.And of the aircrews fighting a new style war.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Duncurin VINE VOICE on 22 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a masterful book. Its subject matter may seem a little narrow at first glimpse and of little relevance as compared to the horrors that would be unleashed from the air in WW2; but as soon as you open this book you will be treated to an unequalled treatise on the first real attempt to subjugate another country by means of air power. The abject suffering that rained down, upon the innocent, from the skies is told with such consummate skill that you will be gripped from start to finish and its impact will be with you days after you arrive at the end. Though total casualties were relatively few the inevitability and the impersonal nature of death visited upon those who came beneath those beautiful wings is all too apparent. What must also have been seared upon the collective conscience of those who bore witness was the impotence, for the most part, of the British response. Not that we did not learn from our inadequacies however. There are several works that deal with misguided decisions made by Hitler that may have cost him the war but by extrapolating facts contained with "First Blitz" we can wonder what might have befallen us had the Germans developed 4 engine bombers of the quality of the Lancaster at its start. Read this book and you will wonder no more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Matthews on 13 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This engrossing book covers an aspect of WW1 about which I knew precisely nothing. Like most people to whom I have spoken since reading the book, I was completely unaware of the Zeppilin and Gotha raids of 1917/18, and of the reactions to them. Research has clearly been detailed and painstaking, resulting in a book written in a very readable style which is informative as well as being entertaining.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bookelephant on 30 April 2011
Format: Paperback
If you (like me) thought that air raids on London in the First World War were all Zepplins - read and learn! There is a whole other story - of the Gothas and the frankly amazing Giants; and it is a story which also had a huge impact on the war in the air in the Second World War.
Hanson explains how the Germans' attacks on England progressed - from the Zeppelins, which were actually driven back relatively quickly by the backroom boys' invention of incendiary bullets (and tracer bullets invented by a scion of a firework dynasty!) to the rather touchy Gothas (each raid had a huge total of planes turn back owing to mechanical difficulties, and they lost more pilots owing to the difficulty of landing the blighters safely than to our air defences) to the enormous Giants (which had a 42 metre wingspan and were routinely taken for an entire formation of bombers) - and the Germans' desperate attempt to find a really good incendiary for "shock and awe" purposes - a quest which was answered just as it become too late to use it.
He also covers - often in the words of those who were present - the experiences of those who suffered in the raids in London and Kent. Some of his accounts in this manner of the raids are masterpieces of evocative writing - building from the tension of the first air raid warnings (and that is a story which is really unbelieveable - apparently we sent policemen on bikes round with little signs on their backs!!) to the rush to find what might be a safe hiding place - and the devasation wrought by the raids (many of which pierced the hiding places which people thought most secure).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Greenfield on 13 April 2009
Format: Paperback
The previous reviewers highlight the fascinating content of this book, so I won't repeat it here! However, I want to add that this book provides a truly fascinating insight into Germany's air campaign during WW1, which usually focusses on their fighters (Red Baron, etc) or the Zeppelins, completely overlooking their strategic bomber campaign which the German High Command believed would win them the war.

While the book is well written and highly readable, 2 aspects let it down to some degree:

- Firstly, there tends to be a feeling of deja-vu when the author details each and every mission of the England Squadron's attacks on Blighty (although each raid posed different challenges to the crews, with differing success). Such repition is due to the author following a strictly chronological narrative, and a different approach would have helped prevent this.

- Secondly, the book relies on a lot of diverse source material, and although there's a comprehensive bibliography in the back, there's little attempt to cross reference these to specific facts in the text, which will prove frustrating to the interested historian wanting to research further.

That said, the book is fascinating, particularly the closing chapters that detail how close London and Paris came to a potentially devastating fire-bomb raid using a new 'wonder weapon' in the last few weeks of the war...with the raid called off by Ludendorff while the aircraft were literally taxiing to the runway!
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