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Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom)
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National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963
National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963
Price: 9.51

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Mythical and Biased Account Of National Service., 28 Aug 2014
Between 1945 and 1963 approximately 2.8 million mainly 18-year-olds (some were older because they had been to university) were called up.The majority,73%, were drafted into the army.

National Service had a massive impact on the country, and on those called up. Barrack rooms were a mix of young lads from all sectors of society. In mine there was a boy who had been to Eton, a solicitor's son, a doctor's son, 5 graduates, and 7 from some of the poorest council estates in the North. Within a week one had forgotten ones roots and social background. Teamwork was the order of the day, and it worked. Class differences were totally forgotten.

Many recruits received the best food they had ever experienced. I witnessed scrawny boys put on weight and emerge at the end of training fit, strong and often inches taller. Having their own bed was also a revelation for many.

Of course, some suffered bad experiences from their instructors, who had a very, very demanding job instilling discipline in many who had little. Marching for some was a nightmare because they lacked coordination. However, the majority of instructors were superb. If you showed a willingness to learn and try there was little to fear. As in all walks of life there were some staff who abused their position but these were in the minority.

For many the army represented an escape from the drudgery of manual labour. For these it was their 'gap year'. Many saw one of the following: Kenya, Cyprus, Malaya, Korea, Egypt, Germany and Aden. Some were commisioned.

It is impossible to understand National Service unless you see it in its social and historical context. The economy was in very poor shape, rationing was still in force, the weather in 1946/7 was dreadful, snow and floods causing chaos, imports were curtailed, and the country as a whole suffered badly from the demands of the war years. Austerity was the name of the game. The conditions from which some conscripts came were quite dreadful. They had to be taught how to use an iron, bull their boots, make their beds walk smartly, and above all to respect authority.

This latest book about National Service is written by Richard Vinen, a History Professor at the prestigious King's College, London. As a former double graduate of the College I regret to say the book lacks balance and the scholarly objectivity one has a right to expect from a professor. It is abundantly clear that Vinen dislikes the army. I wonder why as he has never experienced it?

He clearly has been taken in by oral evidence which A. J. P.Taylor said was:'old men drooling over their youth'. Far too much reliance has been placed on accounts that distort the truth. Myths abound, of course, such as whitewashing coal, cutting grass with scissors, weeding the CO's lawn with your eating irons, the list is endless. Some comic incidents did happen but not often. This account is unduly negative. At times you can almost hear the professor snigger at the servicemen in this book. He should remember that being born in 1963 he grew up in an affluent age, an age that regrettably lacked pride in the armed forces. His accounts of poorly fitting uniforms, brutality, and the lack of mirrors in barrack rooms are laughable. Professor, there were no mobile phhones or tv's or x-boxes either!

A major weakness of this book is its reliance on middle-class accounts. These were hardly likely to give a balanced account of service life. The author pays scant attention to the good things that happened, for example, the many who were taught to read and write by the Army Educational Corps. I witnessed a 20-year old in tears when he was able to read a Janet and John reader for the first time.

The professor clearly delights in stories of atrocities said to have been commited by British servicemen, some of which lack substantial evidence of ever having took place. His book throughout lacks statistical evidence in support of his many assertions, most of them, of course, critical of the army.

The following gives an accurate flavour of Vinen's views. He states that boys were :'exposed to a world of of profanity, petty crime and an almost pathological enthusiasm to avoid work'.
Not only is this monstrously wrong it is a superbly accurate description of today's society!

A very biased account, unworthy of an academic. It demeans the reputation of King's College. When the author next takes a sabbatical I suggest he spends it embedded with an army unit rather than write another book like this one.


The Mark of Cain: Guilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators
The Mark of Cain: Guilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators
Price: 11.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Evil Awaits At Every Door, It Is Like A Fungus., 27 Aug 2014
This fascinsting book is about the, at least, 500,000 German men and 5,000 women who took part in the deliberate murder of 6 million Jews, mentally ill people, gypsies, political prisoners and gay people in the period 1936-45.
Although numerous books have been written about these atrocities, the difference with this account is it focuses on how the perpretrators of these appalling crimes have refused to accept either that they had done no wrong or pretended they were innocent.

The author began to examine Christian writings on forgiveness. This led to a case study of the Holocaust and the power of antisemitism, racism and nationalsm. She soon discovered that close family members had spun webs of lies, evasions and deceptions to hide her own uncle's history, an uncle who had risen through the ranks of the SS which he joined in 1931. Her uncle Ebner had in 1942 forced 18,000 Jews in Belarus to move into a ghetto. They were mostly female, the men had been murdered earlier. Ebner directed the mass execution of these 30,000 women and children over three days in October 1942. He was denazified in 1946 and was the best man at the author's farther's wedding, and again at his second marriage in 1959. His second wife was the author's mother.

In 1962 Ebner was arrested and indicted. After numerous trials and brief periods in prison he was declared unfit to stand trial on medical grounds. He died in 1987, a free man. Readers can imagine the effect on the author when she discovered what her uncle had done.

She found it difficult to believe, wanted to eradicate it from her memory. Instead she examined archives and other documents. She finally accepted that what had happened in Belarus was true. She discovered that the Jews of Pinsk had been shot in surrounding forests. In 2011 some 900 mass graves in 2000 locations were discovered across Belarus and Ukraine.

The book exanines what happened to the killers when they reentered society. Did they learn to accept punishment or did they hide their guilt? Did thet erase, and bury their guilt? She found they invented stories, developed evasive and deceptive stories and engaged in detailed schemes to cover their tracks.

The author argues that the desire to declare closure on the horrific past is 'a form of escapism'. She presents the bible story of Cain as a paradigm for the key role of memoryin the process of moral recovery. The story of Cain is evocative of the long term effects of guilt in the lives of murderers. The book points out that the mark of Cain has been misunderstood. It is, she argues, not part of a punitive programme. It is not a stigma. Instead it is a form of protection for Cain as he settles in Nod. He marries, has a son, founds arts and music, and learns to bear the memory of guilt.

His struggle with guilt is public and communal. The mark of Cain is not a curse. It is not synonymous with humiliation. It is instead 'a symbol of the liberating power of memory'. It enables Cain to restore his dignity. It prevents him from burying his guilt.

The author goes on to examine what this means for Nazi murderers and their relatives. She believes the story of Cain articulates the history of Germany's struggle to come to terms with the past. While individuals have continued to deny their past, the state has accepted itself as a perpetrator nation, like few other states.

This is not an easy read but it is an absorbing thesis that Katherine von Kellenbach developes in this superb book.


Attrition: Fighting the First World War
Attrition: Fighting the First World War
Price: 10.04

4.0 out of 5 stars Often It Is The Only Way., 22 Aug 2014
This account of the Great War is very readable. The style is excellent. The author is History Professor at Kings London a university with a reputation for high standards in teaching and research. Having studied there under Professor Sir Michael Howard I can vouch for its eminence.

There is very little wrong with this book and it can be recommended for the general reader. As a military history it is one of the best to have emerged this year, far,far superior to Paxman's, and even better than Hastings which to be fair dealt only with the first year of the war. It is, however, not in the same class as Margaret MacMillan's brilliant book published earlier this year. Hers is not however a military text.

Unfortunately, there is very little that is new in this book. Attrition is as old as fighting; after all siege warfare was essentially attrition. Examples can be found in, for example, the thirty years war, the American Civil War, the Russo--Japanese war, and countless other conflicts. The French word usure means wearing out, it is another word for attrition. Joffre used the word usure in 1916 when trying to persuade Haig to attack in order to wear out the Germans before the main offensive. It was already clear that the lack of flanks, unlike the Eastern front which hardly gets a mention, meant attrition was the only tactic that was feasible.

Delbruck was the first to define attrition. He argued its essence was the exhaustion of the enemy's will to fight. The term has since aquired many different meanings. It has frequently been viewed as a defeatist strategy involving a bloody slogging match. In fact many attempts to achieve a decisive victory have resulted in protracted wars of attrition. Napoleon and Hitler are only two examples of leaders whose tactics resulted in attritional warfare. Wellington, Slim, MacArthur and Ridgway were all proponents of attrition. Attrition is essentially regarded today as the gradual and piecemeal process of destroying an enemy's military capability. Today, air strikes are a favourite of proponents of attrition. Guerilla tactics are in essence attritional. Can wars of attrition be effective? Yes.Israel has coped with 11 wars of attrition since the 1950's.

Attrition is, however, a very dangerous game to play, because it is a gamble. It is essentially a battle of resources, a battle replete with risk. Also the enemy may not wish to play. An attrition battle throughout history has often therefore become a zero-sum game. Von Clausewitz wrote that: 'Like smouldering embers it needs time to be effective'.

At the outset of the war Germany's plan had been based on avoiding a war on two fronts, hence the so-called Schlieffen Plan. Little thought had been given to fighting a protracted war. Thus when the Plan failed for logistical reasons the war drifted into a battle of attrition. Verdun and Belfort were the outcome.

The major theme of this book, namely attrition in the industrialised war of 1914-18, has been the subject of numerous other studies. Hence, there is little or nothing new to reveal. The reasons why attrition dominated tactics from 1916 to early 1918 are well known. Likewise,the fact that economic factors played a crucial role in the defeat of Germany has long been established. The professor relates a good story, sadly it is all too familiar.

Recommended but only for those who are not familiar with the Great War.


The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941
The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941
Price: 13.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Course, It's All A Game, 21 Aug 2014
On 23 August, 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed a Pact which lasted just short of two year, ending with Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. This book by historian Roger Moorhouse is about this very important Pact, a Pact that fell just short of an alliance. The author feels, rightly in my view, that the event has never been given the importance it deserves. His latest work is absorbing and informative as were his earlier books on 'Killing Hitler', and 'Berlin at War'.

While British negotiators were in Moscow hoping to get Stalin to agree to join the allies against Hitler should war come (although Chamberlain had little trust in Stalin), Stalin was secretly doing a deal with Germany. Why did two implacably opposed tyrants want to form a pact? The evidence is not conclusive but it suggests because Hitler wanted to ensure that Stalin would not thwart his plans to invade Poland. In return, Stalin was ceded the Eastern Provinces of Poland. In short, Poland was to be partitioned, again. Stalin was also gained control of the three Baltic States. Stalin was aware that some 3,700,000 million German soldiers were under arms, plus 3,195 tanks and over 4000 warplanes.The Soviets were totally unprepared by comparison. Stalin hated the West, and wished to see the collapse of capitalism. Hence he wished to use the Nazis to speed this fall.

The consequences for central and eastern Europe were disastrous. Over 50 million people were affected. Poles and Jews were persecuted, tortured and murdered. Latvians, Estonians, Ukrainians, and Romanians were treated in a similar fashion by the Soviets. 22,000 Polish army officers were murdered on the orders of Stalin in the Katyn massacres of 1940. Thousands were incarcerated in Gulag camps. These camps had a higher death rate than the Nazi concentration camps. Some of those who survived and their relatives are still in them today!

The Pact, much of which including maps was kept secret, stated that both parties would refrain from any act of force, or aggressive act,or attack against each other. The Pact was to last ten years. It sealed the fate of Poland. Tens of thousands were to be killed or murdered in the coming months. It also led to the outbreak of the Second World War with the invasion of Poland by Hitler on trumped up claims of Polish actions.

Under the auspices of the Pact two dictators found common cause despite their opposing ideologies. The two dictators stood side by side for 22 months. As the author polnts out this was almost one third of the war's entire span. So concerned were the French (still at that time the strongest military power in Europe) at what happened after the Pact was signed that they even considered a preemptive strike on the Soviet Union.

After 1939, 4 more agreements were concluded between Hitler and Stalin. The original Pact consisted of only 280 words yet as the author explains it was of great importance. It was largely responsible for the map of eastern and central Europe that exists today. As Moorhouse states the Pact is of vital importance to our understanding of WW2.

When news of the Pact broke socialist Beatrice Webb, a well-known apologist for Soviet Russia, wrote in despair: 'A day of holy horror'. Later she said she was 'in a state of collapse'. To the Webbs the Pact was shocking. It shook the faith of many fellow travellers, and members of European communist parties. The American Communist Party was rocked to its foundations.

Stalin told Beria, head of the NKVD the day after the Pact was signed: 'Of course, it's all a game to see who can fool whom'. It was Stalin who was fooled, and the people paid a very heavy price as a result.

Moorhouse's book rightly emphasises the importance of the Pact. For too long it has not been given its due even by the best histiorians of the period.

The bibliography is sound although some key German sources are not included. The notes are very useful, and the pictures illuminating. It is good to see the text of the Pact in an appendix. Chapter 6: 'Oiling the Wheels of War' is particularly revealing.

Highly recommended.


Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance in the Last Year of WWII
Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance in the Last Year of WWII
Price: 7.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Brave Few, 19 Aug 2014
As the German army retreated on all fronts in 1943 Hitler announced a policy of 'scorched earth'. He ordered all ports to be poisoned, or wrecked, Paris to be destroyed, all industry, railways, bridges, utilities, museums to be raised to the ground, in fact anything of value, to be destroyed. In brief, from September 1944 he issued a 'death sentence for Germany'. Goebbels and Himmler agreed his policy of destruction, a policy that included Germany. The majority of the senior military also supported Hitler's fanatical orders, orders that resulted in carnage, the total destruction of cities and tens of thousands of deaths.

Surprisingly, a small number of soldiers and civilians chose to disobey. They focused on stopping a manic pointless destruction of their cities. They did so knowing that if caught they would die.

This book explores this resistance, particularly after Stauffenburg and his allies had been arrested and killed. It is an absorbing and excellent account. The research is impressive as are the excellent bibliography and notes.

Chapters that deal with Hitler's attack on Poland, Operation Barbarossa, and the murder of Jews is familiar. It is good, however,to see Hansen emphasise the willingness of the army to take part in these murderous atrocities since there are still people who believe only the SS were responsible for these crimes.

Some four chapters are devoted to the saving of Paris from Hitler's demented orders. In September 1944 he ordered Paris to be destroyed. Hansen, a historian at Toronto University, examines how General Dietrich von Choltitz, a Prussian, defied Hitler and preserved the City of Light from destruction. The General was not an anti-Nazi. He hated Jews and he had a reputation for brutality. Why then did he risk his life by disobeying Hitler? It is a complex story and well told.

Hansen also devotes space to an examination of Albert Speer, the armaments minister. His motives for blocking the scorched earth policy were even more complex. In part it was arrogance, in part a lust for power.

The author shows how even at the end fanatics in the army and the SS were all too ready to murder anyone who tried to surrender in order to save cities from destruction.

One of the features of this book that merits high praise is the author's focus on the brave few who refused to follow Hitler's ravings, instead surrendering cities in order to save lives and precious infrastructure. For too long the public have been given the impression that the only opposition to an evil regime was buried with the failure of the July 1944 bomb plot; an impression hardened by the flawed film 'Valkyrie'. Hansen has surely buried this belief.

Highly recommended.


The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
Price: 16.15

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Best Hope On Earth., 9 Aug 2014
Since the 1920's Americans have elected a very mixed bag of Presidents. British PM's since the 1970's have not been much better. The bag contains the outstanding FDR,Truman, who was initially derided as a small time hick but became one of the finest of Presidents, the lacklustre Harding and Coolidge, the likes of Kennedy, a serial womaniser, whose whole family had so many skeletons (adultery was commonplace, and in the case of Edward cowardice has to be added) the cupboard was overflowing, Iraq Bush who went to the same school of liars as Tony Blair, Clinton whose smarm was a thin veneer that covered an adulterer many times over. His scandalous behaviour almost brought America to its knees. Nixon who committed the serious crime of Watergate, plus other serious break-ins, yet was outstanding in terms of US foreign policy achievements, Carter was out of his depth, and Ronald Reagan, the subject of this absorbing book by Rick Perlstein.

Reagan was the but of jokes about B-movie cowboys. Several gaffes on the election trail didn't help either. Today, he is regarded by the knowing as one of the finest of Presidents. Among his sterling qualities was honesty, charm (genuine), high moral standards, a stable happy family life, a deeply religious man, and the backbone to stand up to the evil communist regime in the Soviet Union. He survived an assassination attempt with remarkable stoicism. Pre an operation after being shot he said to the doctors that 'he hoped they were Republicans'. Unlike Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon he had no known connections to Mafia bosses.

An ex Governor of California he became the Great Communicator. He stood by his convictions, a rare quality. His movie career was over so he entered politics like other movie stars had done before. A star was born. He became the fortieth President. Born in 1911, he was the oldest person to be elected as US President.

This book is the third of a triology that aims to analyse the rise of conservatism in the USA. It focuses on the period 1973-76 when the author claims America was on the 'verge of a nervous breakdown'. Perlstein deals with Watergate in great detail, but above all the book ls about the intriguing Reagan. It is a long book of some 850 pages. The author describes Reagan as 'an athlete of the imagination'. Elsewhere, he says Reagan had the abilty to turn complex issues into simple ones, the better for public understanding-a very rare gift among politicians.

Reagan is qoted as saying government is 'like a baby. It is an alimentary canal with a tremendous appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other'. Reagan believed there were no easy answers, but there were simple answers. He was hence fond of putting complex philosophical issues into glib slogans; the public (and Margaret Thatcher ) loved it . He refused to accept that Watergate had badly damaged America. He refused also to let failure in many fields penetrate an already subdued America. America and the free world need another Reagan. They most certainly do not want another Clinton.

A superby written account of some awful years in American history. A masterful trilogy. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 15, 2014 11:52 AM BST


The Burden of Guilt: How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace, Summer 1914
The Burden of Guilt: How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace, Summer 1914
Price: 6.64

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Kaiser's War., 1 Aug 2014
Ever since Article 231, the so-called War Guilt Clause, was published Germans, particularly some German historians with Nazi connections,have set out to 'prove' that Germany was not responsible for the Great War-Hitler cleverly used the Clause to attack the Weimar Republic and the Jews- the attempt has long been exposed as futile despite soome recent attempts to place the blame on Russia. The Article caused anger in Germany and 'national humiliation' despite the fact,inveriably forgotten, that it did not set out to blame Germany directly for the outbreak of the war. Its purpose was to provide a legal basis for the imposition of reparations. Nevertheless, the Article was deliberately used to claim that Versailles was a 'diktat'. It led to a concerted attempt after 1919 to shift the blame for the war on to others

This new account agrees Germany was to blame but based as it is on very limited and selected primary sources it tells us nothing new at all. Frankly, there is nothing new to tell.

What is missing, and it is crucial to an understanding of Germany's guilt, is an explanation of the nature of the new German Empire's constitutional and political set up. In particular, who wielded the real power?

Unlike Britain and France, Germany was not a parliamentary democracy, it was a federal constitution made up of four monarchies, six duchies, six principalities and three free cities. The fulcrum of power lay with Prussia. The Chancellor was almost aLways the Prussian PM. He was unelected and not answerable to parliament. The prerogative of the Crown was foreign policy, defence policy and the declaration of war and the making of peace. The Kaiser and the armed forces were accountable to nobody. Military influence on policy was immense. It was the military who egged on the Kaiser's demand for 'a place in the sun'. Military influence pervaded every part of goverment, as numerous primary sources show plus the diaries and memoirs written and published by senior German politicians and military after the war.

To avoid a very lengthy review I will mention two sources of impeccable scholarship that firmly place the blame on Germany. These should be read before trying to blame others for the war. Of course, there are dozens of other books and primary sources that are very important. These two books written by outstanding historians, however, are based entirely on primary sources written in several languages; they are outstanding. One other very important book,frequently overlooked by writers,is the Memoirs of Prince Lichnowsky, the German ambassador to London. He was infuriated with the Kaiser's behaviour. He believed the war could have been avoided if this had been the Kaiser's wish.

The first source is Fritz Fischer's famous and courageous book of 1961. This and his second book clearly established Germany's guilt. His meticulous research into new archival evidence proved beyond doubt that the verdict of Versailles was just. Chancellor Hollweg's notorious programme of 9 September 1914 that planned a Europe dominated by Germany, and Moltke's insistence on 8 December 1912 on 'war the sooner the better' make clear Germany's warlike intentions. Many outstanding young German historians have since firmly supported Fischer's views. When Moltke was dismissed as chief of the Great General Staff he complained:'It is dreadful to be condemned to inactivity in this war which I prepared and initiated'. What could be clearer?

The second source is the massive, ground-breaking 3 volume work by Professor John C Rohl on the Kaiser and his key advisers. It is a brilliant analysis, one the finest accounts of recent years. The recently published Volume 3 demonstrates beyond doubt that the unstable and neurotic Kaiser wanted war and actively sought it. It also reveals his chilling plans to give army veterans after the war land in 'the ethnically cleansed territories'. That is Belgium and parts of France. Of whom does this remind you?

Recent books such as'The Sleepwalkers' by Clark that desparately try to proclaim the 'innocence' of the Kaiser and his court, by leaving out evidence that does not fit this thesis, fail miserably to convince.If you can read German their archives provide overwhelming evidence that the Allies at the Peace Conference were right to draft Article 231.

It is interesting that the German public have so far shown little interest in the forthcoming centenary of the war. A film about the Red Baron starring top actors has flopped at the box office. War classics such as 'Storm of Steel' by Junger have attracted little interest.

Since 1945, Germany has struggled to come to grips with the Second World War. Her memory of the Great War has been an important part of that struggle because Fischer found parallels with the Second when examining Germany's aims in 1914. He claimed, with supporting evidence,that'The Nazis were no accident of German History'.

Ever since the 1960's Germans have, therefore, been very wary of honouring heroes of the Great War. There is today a worrying resurgence of revisionism in Germany led by, for example, historian Thomas Weber, and the minority Eurosceptic party the Alternative fur Deutschland. This party has praised Clark's book that argues Europe 'slid' into the catastrophic Great War.It should be noted that Clark is a well-known germanphile. See an earlier book of his on the Kaiser. His book, therefore, was well received in Germany, as he knew it would be.

There is overwhelming evidence that, if she had wanted, Germany could have stopped this war from ever breaking out. But she didn't. The Kaiser and his advisers thought they could win a quick war resulting in the demise of Russia and Germany's control of Europe. She made a crucial error in thinking GB would remain neutral. Thank goodness, knowing what we know now, the Allies prevented a brutal German desire to rule Europe. The German atrocities in Belgium, their massacre of tribes in South West Africa and the draconian Brest-Litovsk treaty imposed on Russia shows all too clearly how lucky we were.
The 'futile' school never examine, or even know about many of these and other events.

At the moment the resurgence of revisionism in Germany is low key, it is nevertheless very worrying and needs to be watched.

This book could have been improved by some severe pruning, for example the pages devoted to the assassination events. These are now somewhat hackneyed. They could have been dispensed with, particularly as they are rather general, adding nothing to our existing knowledge.


The Eye of the Storm: The View from the Centre of a Political Scandal
The Eye of the Storm: The View from the Centre of a Political Scandal
Price: 9.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Damn Scandal After Another., 1 Aug 2014
This book by an MP is about recent scandals and crises that have involved MP's of all parties in recent years. The scandals innclude:: the shocking expenses scandal of 2009 that rocked Parliament to its foundations, phone hacking that revealed very close links between key politicians and media barons, stories about the personal behaviour of MP's, 'Plebgate', the departure of David Laws and Liam Fox, Chris Huhne's fall from grace and subsequent incarceration in one of HMP's, the BSkyB proposed takeover, the Levison Inquiry, the demise of Charles Clarke, and Jacqui Smith who claimed for reimbursement for a pornographic movie bought for her husband, plus improper claims for use of the second home allowance, and Maria Miller, yet another expenses claim case.

The author also analyses the effect on William Hague of the relentless four-year negative pressure he endured as Leader of the Opposition. As the author says, Hague was never the same person thereafter. It clearly adversely affected his role as Foreign Secretary.

In a final chapter, Rob Wilson seeks to identify the key lessons that can be learned from these scandals and crises. He examines: how best to handle a crisis, what are the key decisions that need to be taken, and how some political figures manage to survive while others fall.

Wilson shows how these scandals affect families in addition to the culprits. The stress on families is immense causing great distress. Homes are besieged by the media, day and night. His main aim is to provjde: 'readers with a better sense of the human beings that play out the game of politics'. Does he succeed? In my opinion, yes.

The book is based on numerous interviews with politicians. It does not seek to judge let alone condemn. It does not claim to be a definitive account of the scandals and crises. It does nevertheless reveal a sense of the dynamics of political crises. In many ways, given its contents, it is a very brave book.

Highly recommended.


Bouts of Mania: Ali Foreman Frazier and an America on the Ropes
Bouts of Mania: Ali Foreman Frazier and an America on the Ropes
Price: 7.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Great Champions of the Ring., 26 July 2014
Muhammad Ali in his prime was one of the greatest athletes of all time. He brought grace, intelligence and beauty to a brutal sport. Today, heavyweight boxing in particular is in a sorry state riddled with corruption and encompassing the mediocre. Ali made it all look so easy from the moment he won Gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He demolished opponents as easily as he made mincemeat of Michael Parkinson on television. On this occasion high intelligence was on display, and it was not Parkinson's!

As Hoffer shows in this very entertaining book it was so different in the 1960's and 70's. This was an era when giants of the ring like Ali, Frazier and Foreman demonstrated in fight after fight raw courage mixed with sublime skill, things sadly lacking today.

The heart of the book is about Ali who was world champion from 1964 to 67 before being stripped of it because he refused to be drafted in order to fight against the Viet Cong. His stance polarised public oplnlon. Ali soon became a spokesman for civil rights and racial dignity. Hoffer tells this important part of Ali's life very well.

In March 1971 after 4 years of boxing inactivity Ali fought Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden for the world heavyweight crown. He was not expected to win. He told the world that : I'm gonna shock and amaze yer'. Frazier, fed up with Ali's taunts prayed in his dressing room. He asked God to: 'help me kill this man'. Frazier won a 15-round thriller on points. For many of his fans Ali was still the champion because of the skill and courage he had shown in the bout, particularly after being when floored in round 15.

Hoffer then recounts the almost unbelievable fight in Zaire when Ali met George Foreman. The latter had beaten Frazier for the title in 1973. Foreman was a truly awesome ring figure possessing one of the most powerful punches ever witnessed in the ring. Few gave Ali a chance, several pundits said he was mad to face Foreman. The fight proved to be the most atonishing fight ever witnessed. No matter how many times one watches the video it never fails to cause utter astonishment at Ali's 'rope a dope' tactic. Ali looked like a man on a suicide mission. It has been calculated that he took in one round alone over 100 blows to the body. Eventually, according to plan, Foreman wore himself out by being forced to use his opponent as a punching bag. In round 8 Ali dispatched his opponent and regained the crown. I doubt if we will ever see Ali's tactic replicated. The punishment he took beggars belief but he outsmarted his opponent not only physically but also mentally.

Sadly, that fight took its toll on Ali, and Hoffer ends by recounting what happened to Ali, Foreman and Frazier in the years that followed. Ali was never the same again.

The book is riveting account of three great pugilists, one of them arguably the greatest ever.
Boxing has never been the same since they left the ring. It is very doubtful if we shall ever see their like again.


Waterloo: A New History of the Battle and its Armies
Waterloo: A New History of the Battle and its Armies
Price: 9.59

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Controversial Battle., 24 July 2014
The battle of Waterloo continues to attract more and more books despite the fact there has been nothing new to say for at least 40 years.
Among the many accounts of Waterloo this is, nevertheless, a useful addition for the general reader, particularly for those with little or no prior knowledge of the battle.

It is based almost entirely on secondary sources and is written in mainly narrative form. It reveals, therefore, nothing new about a very controversial battle, one that changed the destiny of Europe. A major weakness, shared by many accounts of battles, is it gives the impression that events were clear cut, x did this then y did that. The truth is that no battle can accurately be described in that form. As any honest general will tell you, warfare is chaos. Plans seldom work out as intended, friction rules the battlefield. The problem, of course, is that this would not sell books, hence the attempts to portray a battle as a slick piece of well-oiled planning. The result is, therefore,false and very misleading. It is not warfare it is Hollywood.

Waterloo has long been sold, regrettably sometimes even in staff colleges, as an example of brilliant soldiering and exemplary courage.It is in many ways a false picture as scarce documents, including invaluable French ones, reveal it was in fact a mixture of irony, accident, folly, bravery and sheer luck. It demonstrated as do most battles, that the winner is invariably the side that makes fewer errors than the loser. Having done numerous 'staff rides' of the battlefield it is clear that Wellington was lucky as he made several errors.

The paintings of the battle, it should be noted, were invariably painted from memory years after the battle and hence are overblown and inaccurate. They serve only to perpetuate myth.

It is often not realised that until very recently our knowiedge of what happened depended heavily on the reports of British officers present. Some of these reports were written 20 years after the battle. They were hardly objective in their descriptions of the battle. Indeed, some accounts have been shown to be false or very exaggerated. We should also remember that Wellingto had both eyes firmly fixed on a political career after retirement from the army. A mundane victory would have been very bad PR for him. He and his friends made sure the PR was very favourable.

One of the many myths about this battle is that it was won by brilliant tactics conducted by Wellington. As the author shows, and as the Sandhurst Professor Chesney amply demonstrated in the 1850's, this is false. Any one of a dozen generals could have done what Wellington did. Also, our contribution to the Allied camp in terms of numbers was very small.

Waterloo is, among other things, a classic case of 'what if'? Wellington's remark( not all historians believe he said it) about the outcome being a close run thing is an understatement. Wellingto did not win this battle, Napoleon lost it by disastrous tactics, tactics that were alien to the greatest general of the age, and of many others. Circumstances forced him to change.

Despite the number of books on this battle, there are still numerous things about it that are shrouded in mystery and controversy. This account does not address the major ones. Much more is needed about the vital contribution of 73 year-old Blucher. His use of cavalry after the French retreated was masterly. Many more myths should have been exposed by the author.

This is an easy general read. Later in the year two more solidly researched accounts are due out. One will prove to be very revealing. As the years roll by we are gradually getting near to the truth. This will upset the nationalistic diehards wwho always prefer myth to the truth.

Meanwhile, the book by Barbero is far superior.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2014 9:27 PM BST


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