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Wings and a Prayer: The Life of Branse Burbridge
Wings and a Prayer: The Life of Branse Burbridge
Price: £1.99

1.0 out of 5 stars The author does a good job chronicling the family tree from the early 19th ..., 2 April 2016
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Extremely disappointing. The author has met the man, so it seems, and she has gleaned an awful lot of information about Burbridge's family history and his, and the family's, commitment to their faith. The author does a good job chronicling the family tree from the early 19th century, and sets the stall very effectively. Unfortunately it is all down hill from there. The book contains numerous inaccuracies. It doesn't seem to understand the context of the air war either. Very little information is given on Burbridge's approach to combat, his tactics, counter-tactics of the enemy, or his training at the start of his career - in sharp contrast to other biographers of Bob Braham or Brendan Finucane. The dates are not accurate and a lot of information mentioned in tertiary books is not present here. There is no mention of his views on the different aircraft he flew, and only disjoined snippets of his combat career and aerial encounters are given. The identify of his victories, which are available, are never discussed. Another thing is dates. Some of this book is not in date order and one struggles to find roughly when he joined a unit, or specifically when he joined the OTU or a squadron. In some cases it just gives the year. For people who have an eye for detail and read these kinds of books it is a major irritation. This book seems rushed as is not written by an individual who is experienced or well-versed in the air war over Europe. It is a great shame that some like Tony Spooner, who wrote Bob Braham's biography did not do this one.

Bombing Civilians (New Press)
Bombing Civilians (New Press)
by Yuki Tanaka Marilyn B. Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disingenuous, 17 Mar. 2013
The authors cannot understand the context of air bombardment and are not experts in the field of air power. They do not seem to understand the practical issues facing airmen in the conflict. Technological issues, weather, enemy defences meant that there was no precision bombing - something not achieved until the 1990s. Area bombardment, practiced by all air forces still achieved a huge deal and its impact on the Axis economies is well recorded. There needs to be no apology concerning military effectiveness.

The title is disingenuous. Civilians were not `targeted'. Morale and de-housing strategies were products of area attacks directed at industrial targets. The authors of this book would have you believe that civilians were targeted directly. In reality it was the industrial cities in which they were crammed in that were the targets.

The Nazi state was such that bombing could only help wear down Germany until its land forces were crushed and its land occupied. Bring that war to the homeland no doubt denied the Axis in Europe any possibility of winning the war, or prolonging it beyond 1945.

As for the Japanese, the suggestion it was a Soviet invasion rather than the atomic bombs that prompted surrender is unsubstantiated speculation. The implied Soviet preparations could not become a reality for some time. Other scholarship has convincing rejected this eventuality.

Overall this is yet another book that seeks to denigrate air power without understanding the fundamentals of its organisation and use and the circumstances under which its policy makers and technicians were forced to operate.

Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE, MC, DFC, DCL
Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE, MC, DFC, DCL
by Vincent Orange
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by grandiose statements of 'hero and saviour', 19 Feb. 2013
This is a book of two parts; one about Park, and second about the context of the era in which he served. The first element is excellent. The analysis of Park is superb; his capabilities as an operator, tactician and strategist with fighter forces are well covered and given a much needed voice.

The second is poor and contemptible. Park did not 'save' Britain. Neither Dowding nor Fighter Command 'saved' Britain. Britain did not 'save the free world'. This sort of implication by Orange is about far removed from the truth as is possible. Park and Dowding undoutably helped Fighter Command win the battle of Britain. They didn't save the country. Interestingly Orange claimed in his book about Dowding that it was he that won the battle - a rather conspicuous contradiction.

But the main problem is the treatment of the Battle of Britain as decisive. The German Navy did not have the capability to sustain a landing and supply their forces in Britain. The Luftwaffe would not have been able to interfere critically against a mass of Destroyers and motor torpedo boats sent against a landing much less have the equipment and training to sink capital ships - as was shown in Norway and over Crete, and Malta - in which the U-Boats demonstrated their threat. In 1974 a German-British exercise revealed that Sea Lion would have been a disaster whether the Germans had defeated Keith Park and Dowding in the air or not.

It gets better thereafter. His time on Malta onwards is good, and more importantly is kept within context. The Battle of Britain period is not. As a budding professional historian myself who has rubbed shoulders with some of Vincent's students, I can't overlook the failures and mark this as harshly as my professors do me!
Comment Comments (23) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2015 10:17 PM BST

Memoirs of the Second World War
Memoirs of the Second World War
by Winston Churchill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the memoir, 25 Jan. 2013
As with all memoirs, they have a tendency to be self-serving. Churchill's is no different. Though, as ever, the story of this man is well told. His accounts of his own political feelings and struggles, within his own government as well as with Allies, are very interesting aspect covered in this work. Churchill's contributions and his handling of Stalin and Roosevelt were masterful, and his far-sighted mind was able to see the dire threat posed by both the Nazi-Fascist alliance and the COM intern, long before anyone else seemed to. His relationship with the United States, carefully cultivated, encouraged the Americans to see Britain as a cause worth helping. The Lend-lease and Convoy support were essential before their entry into the war.

However, he is disingenuous over his military commands and decision making abilities. Churchill was the ultimate ameuter strategist. The Royal Navy and British Army paid for his naivety in Norway in 1940, when, ironically, his disastrous campaign and the blame for it was deflected onto Chamberlain - the man Churchill would replace less than a month later.

A masterful manipulator - and opportunist (as Hitler was) Churchill manoeuvred himself into the Premiership 'hot seat'. From there his interference in military affairs was most unwelcome. His campaigns in Crete and Greece in 1941, over which he had considerable influence, were a disaster also. While he understood the political context of military strategy, he was debilitating unable to understand how to execute it.

His reputation had slumped by 1942 to such an extent his position was under threat. But the new generation of British commanders were resistant to his meddling, and the victories in Burma in late 1942, in North Africa, followed by the Atlantic in May 1943 removed the threat. As Hitler began to interfere more and more, Churchill withdrew, and with it British battlefield performance increased. Nevertheless, he continued to interfere in military strategy, leading to the failed Dodecanese Campaign, one of the last German success of the war.

Not much of his failings make into his memoirs.

His Mediterranean strategy, though ineffective without Normandy - which he was utterly opposed but forced into by the Americans - facilitated the victory on the Western Front(s), and kept Italy firmly rooted in the camp of NATO at the end of the war. I was one of his stand-out achievements.

Churchill's real contribution to the war effort came at the home front as well as his ability to deal with the Allied heads. Improving morale and hardening resolve prepared the nation for the long struggle ahead. That was his legacy; a titanic and mesmerising orator who could galvanise a nation.

Third Reich Victorious: Alternate Decisions of World War II
Third Reich Victorious: Alternate Decisions of World War II
by Peter Tsouras
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor and polemic., 26 Mar. 2010
So much has been written and yet so little is understood about military decisions in the Second World War. What if Hitler had been in the Navy? What if Rommel had served in the East? The Classic and misunderstood reasons for the German loss in Normandy; Hitler's faults and Rommel's restrictions? All of it silly and poorly understood. One might as well ask, What if England had a land boarder with France in 1940? Surely the Germans would have won then?

All of the chapters miss one crucial point; realism. Peter Touras wrote a book called Disaster at D-Day, in which he changed very little, save for a few key decisions on the Allied, rather than German, side. And this is the point. Authors focus far too much on what the Germans did or don't do rather on their capabilities. Could the Germans have carried out Sealion even if the Luftwaffe won the Battle of Britain. No. As the complicated tests as Sandhurst showed in 1974 (which used the eaxct plan and former German CAS').

Would Rommel have won the war in the East? No. Once agin the public's perception of Rommel, as with most German Generals, is a German genious undermined by his Fuhrer. Yet, for all Rommel's tactical ability, he was vey bad at operational art (logisitics and intelligence) and evn worse at formulating military strategy. This is perhaps why the German GS referred to him as "the best battalion commnader the German Army ever had".

Could he have defeated the Allies at Normandy? No. He might have contained them had he been given the appropriate forces, by Allied air, material and naval superiority would have seen the Germans defeated, as shown during very complicated re-runs of the senario in various military academies around the world. The Panzers would have been obliterated by Naval artillery (as at Anzio) if they had attempted to 'crush' the beachheads.

Could the Germans have won the battle of the Atlantic? Yes. But would this have saved the Third Reich in the East? No.

The German failures, both industrial, in terms of military strategy, and politically, was the core product of the defeats in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. Failure sof production until 1944, failures in prioritising theatre of operations, failure in weapon procurement (producing specialised heavy tanks like the Tiger and Panther, instead of focusing on cheap Mk IV Panzers), failure to produce heavy bombers or have a U-Boat fleet fit for purpose by 1939), were all key.

In reality, the decisions were made in 1933-39. The Germans had lost the war before in had begun. This author, as with most others, seems to believe wars are fought and won purely on the Battlefield. It depends on whether the Germans turned south instead of east at Kiev, or south instead of east at Rostov. Tis is not the case. Alternate realities deserve more than this. Much more.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 2, 2015 10:56 PM GMT

The Donkeys
The Donkeys
by Alan Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

61 of 80 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling - Full of myths and nonsense debunked for 20 years, 30 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Donkeys (Paperback)
Professor Michael Howard summed this book up as "a worthless history", Dr John Bourne; the University of Birmingham justly cites it as "preserving historical writing about the Great War in its ridiculously protracted adolescence". This is generous. Clark is an agenda driven politician with an appalling grasp of the First World War.
Firstly, Clark lied about the title. The German General he claimed attached this phrase to the British Army had not said that at all. Clark admitted this before his death.
The British Army was a Colonial police force in 1914, with a core of highly trained men. By 1918 it was the most sophisticated Army in the World. British Generals began a learning curve in 1914 which reached its peak in 1918. Most of them had never commanded above Division level before. They were learning on the job. The Battles of Loos, Neuve Chappelle, the Somme and Ypres were a part of this learning process. The British Armies had not operated in such masses since Napoleon. They did not have the experience of the French or Germans. But within four years had matched and surpassed them in terms of tactics and technical quality.

The inconvenient truth for Clark is - the Allies won and the British played a vital part. He dismisses this as a result of numbers, and blockade. In fact it was three massive attrition damage done to the German Army on the Western Front that forced Germany to seek an armistice. It was the losses at the Somme, which force the German economy to move to total war in order to stave off defeat that was the driving force for the collapse.

There is much more: But Clark's 'work' is not scholarly or academic it just plays on casualties and the "six inches of ground won". Claiming Chateaux Generals threw away thousands of lives "doing the same thing" - utter nonsense.

For those who want to become academics - try reading Gary Sheffield's Forgotten victory.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2015 1:57 PM BST

Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle
Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle
by Major Gordon Corrigan
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good all inclusive all round account of the British Army in 1915, 17 Nov. 2009
I would urge people to ignore the first puerile review. This book deals with the problems facing the British Army in general on the western front. It uses Loos as the typical example of the difficulties the British Army, and all armies had, of exploiting breakthroughs in enemy defences in the first war that was, in every sense, different to those that had gone before. It also focuses on the political and military view: how the British saw the western front, its place in British strategy and the lessons learned. It was never intended to be a detailed blow by blow account of the battle itself. Family historians should look elsewhere - as they would miss the point of this book entirely. When married to subsequent books on the the battles of 1916,17 and 18, one begins to see Loos, and to a greater extent the Somme, as important battles that had positive political and military results. It was the start of the British Army's learning curve, which by 1918, contributed to it becomming the most sophisticated army in the world.

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