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Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son
Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son
Price: £7.47

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Sanitized Harry., 21 Sep 2014
The author is an undistinguished journalist, perhaps this why she says she loathes the press.
Junor has in the past loved having a go at the Royal family, Diana was a prime target. Given her strident left-wing views this is to be expected. She clearly thrives on gossip, and, as this weak account demonstrates, unsupported stories about the Royals. She loves to give the impression that she, armed with a recorder, spends most of her time under a royal table lapping up the gossip. The truth is it is all guesswork, and it shows, as does her column in the paper she works for.

In this lightweight book about a very ordinary minor royal she has decided to go into drule overdrive. Why? Is she hoping to see her name in the next honours list? That would be too awful to contemplate even given some of those already given honours.

Junor positively gushes about Harry, indeed now all of the royals living. Everyone is lovely, brilliant (at what she doesn't say) , and undeserving of malignant journalists-pot and kettle come to mind here. The book reminds one of the gush gush of the recent awful Hillary Clinton tome.

The truth about Harry can be stated very simply. He is 30 but still immature as witness recent behaviour that would have been pilloried had anyone else done it. He is not very bright. His educational qualifications, like his brothers, were not good enough to get into Sandhurst yet both got in. While a cadet he, illegally, got help to write essays. Punished? Of course not! William committed the deadliest sin of losing his rifle. For anyone else the cadet would have been returned to unit, end of cadetship. Did this happen? Of course not! Junor's comments about Sandhurst shows she is ignorant as to what goes on there.

In recent years Harry has behaved dreadfully. He and his brother were repeatedly filmed leaving a well known club in the early hours having consumed champagne costing over £100 per bottle, and this at the height of the recession. An appalling example to youth in particular. Harry was disliked intensely at Eton. In academic terms he was hopeless. He has openly admitted to having smoked cannabis, putting on Nazi gear, William was present and apparently found it funny (what does this tell you about their intelligence and historical knowledge?), and being involved with the usual crowd of gilded women, all, of course, of the right pedigree.

Then we come to the nonsense about Harry and William being in the army. Unlike Junor, I know from unimpeachable sources that neither Harry in Afghanistan nor William in his rescue plane were EVER put in a situation that could have been dangerous. Reason, apart from the obvious one, because as the senior military know only too well if anything untoward had occurred the CO would have had his tour of duty and further promotion ended. Junor is ignorant about these matters as are most people.

Junor seems to be very keen to emphasise how Harry is looking more and more like Charles. Why is this raised again? More salacious gossip?

The Invictus Games, a wonderful event for those maimed as a result of lies by Bush and Tony Blair, was in fact organised by a very large committee that included senior army personnel. You would never know this from this book or press reports. The reason being that since Harry's naked antics the Palace PR machine has gone into overdrive in order to present him in a favourable light. Junor seems to be part of this campaign as does India Knight in the Sunday Times.

On his 30th birthday, Harry inherited £10 million, plus interest, from a trust set up by his mother. He is paid £62,000 a year as an army officer. His job despite being only a Captain, is looking after 'ceremonial events'in and around London. My sources tell me he has seldom been seen at his desk in the MOD since he was posted there months ago. Perhaps this is because there is already an army of military and civil servants looking after ceremonial events. A mere Captain, even a Royal Captain, is very unlikely to be given responsibility for these matters. It never happened in the past. The real reason for the London posting is no doubt to allow Harry to continue his night life with his buddies, including girl friends and celebrities.

I am a staunch Royalist. I have an enormous respect for our Queen and Princess Anne. For the rest I confess I have little time for them because they live in a priviledge world without financial worries, now or ever. Yet they seem incapable of doing a real job, a job that requires real effort on a daily basis. Instead we are subjected to tosh like Junor's, and the pretence that wearing army uniform means being exoposed to the same problems and dangers that post other officers face daily. They simply play at being in the army and the gullble public fall for it.

There is no mystery why many people, women in particular, like Harry. In a survey of 350 people last year it emerged that many like him 'because unlike the other royals he is like us'. It also became clear that his drunken antics and other wayward behaviour was regarded by many as 'quite acceptable'. Unwittingly, this reveals a great deal about the moral values of many people today.

Of course, one is genuinely sympathetic towards a man who lost his mother in tragic and controversial circumstances. But that, given his priviledge environment, does not excuse kindergarten behaviour. If he wants respect he has to earn it not by taking part in well publicised events in which his actual participation is grossly and delberately exaggerated by the media, but by doing a worthwhile job which is not specially tailored for him in order to trick the public into believing that he is doing what thousands of others do every day. In brief, drop the pretence and either admit openly he will never have to shoulder responsibilities like the rest of us or get him to undertake a genuine job.

You will learn nothing of value from this book, particularly as there is little about Harry in it. This book belongs on the nursery slopes of writing.

Buy it and send it to your worst eneny as a Xmas present.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2014 2:42 AM BST

A Short History of the First World War (Short Histories)
A Short History of the First World War (Short Histories)
Price: £5.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The War Was No Accident., 16 Sep 2014
This short account is a reissue plus a new introduction. The author was previouly a Professor of Modern History at King's College, London, and then Professor of War Studies at Birmingham University. He is now Chair of War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. He lives in Oxfordshire.

As Gary Sheffield, the author of many excellent books on the Great War, including a recent on on Haig, reminds us that the war was a series of events that destroyed four Empires, led to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and was a major factor in the rise of fascism. It set free many nationalities that then formed new states such as Yugoslavia. No less than eleven republics featured on the post 1918 map. The redistribution of former German colonies affected the map of Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific. The boundaries of the Middle East and in Palestine were redrawn, giving rise to many of todays problems in that region. The war also saw a dramatic reduction in Europe's world stature.

The war also led to the rise of the USA as a world power, and, among other things, Women's emancipation in many countries was given a boost. It killed many millions and left thousands crippled for life. The war was fought in almost every part of the globe, not as sometimes is implied only on the Western Front.

Sheffield admits that the debate over whether or not the war was futile continues unabated. Whether we should have got involved remains controversial. Haig and Petain remain highly controversial figures. He reminds us that opponents often argue their case with venom and demonstrate an intense dislike of having their preconceptions challenged even when these are based on 'emotion, limited knowledge and flawed understanding'. Comments and writings during this centenary year amply support this assertion. Far too many people are still influenced by carefully selected war poetry, 'Black Adder', and 'Oh What A Lovely War'. Myths therefore prevail in abundance.

The book considers three themes: the origins of the war; the conduct of the war, and finally the war as a total conflct. The author then considers the consequences of the war on the post-war years, a topic that has produced a spate of books recently. As far as possible in so short an account, Sheffield has tried to incorporate a little of the recent research on the war.

He makes the crucial polnt that all historical writings have to be judged in the context of the time in which they were produced. Hence, comments on the war made in the 1920's differ greatly from those in 1945, and 2014. We need to remember that people in 1914 did not view the war as we do today. A simple point but one frequently forgotten. Sheffield makes it clear, as he has in his other books, that he has little time for those historians who judge the war through today's lenses.

Sheffield says : 'The evidence is compelling that Germany and Austria-Hungary bear the primary responsibility for the war'. The Powers, he argues, did not stumble into the war, it was not an accident. And it was not due, as Clark argues in his 'Sleepwalkers', to errors of 'omission'. Instead it began as a result of deliberate commission. The problem, of course, is that if you wish to sell a new book on the war you have to produce a thesis that is provocative even if defies the evidence.

The end notes are useful.A short bibliography of secondary sorces is provided together with a timeline. The maps are adequate.

The Great War redefined what people would accept, endure or justify. It stands as a milepost in the human experience. It desensitized much of humanity to the inhumanity of modern warfare.

This brief account is as good an intrduction to the war as any.


Gaza: A History
Gaza: A History
by Jean-Pierre Filiu
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unending Cycle Of Violence., 14 Sep 2014
This review is from: Gaza: A History (Hardcover)
The word masterpiece is often overused in book reviews. It merits use in respect of this magnificent account of the history of Gaza. It puts other accounts in the shade. Along with his previous books on the Middle East this cements his position as one of the foremost specialists on the turbulent region.

The author is a French professor of Middle East studies at the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris. He was previously a diplomat and a government advisor. His latest book is that very rare thing a balanced account of a tiny piece of land called Gaza. A land whose history embraces the Egyptians as well as Babylonians, Romans and Jews.

Around 1842/3 Jewish settlements were established by Jews fleeing the Holocaust. In 1947 the UN voted to partition Gaza. This led to some 205,000 refugees finding refuge in Gaza. The author analyses the many incidences of violence that have scarred this land ever since. It has been as he says: ' an unending cycle'. Every outbreak of violence has seen a ratcheting up of casualties. The roots of the conflct are over 2,000 years old. The author shows how the peace process is a political minefield.

It is a common misconception that Israel was created in resonse to the Holocaust. It was the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 that guaranteed the modern State of Israel.

The conflict between the PLO and Islamists like Hamas is clearly explained wiithout bias. The author believes that beliefs are so strong that in religious terms a settlement with Israel is not possible. Where he thinks Israel has erred, for example in enforcing an economic blockade, he says so. He believes also it is her emphasis on military action that has led to the use of suicide bombers against her people, and to the surge of Islamism in the region.

Approximately just under 2 million people live in Gaza. This account shows how neither Islamists nor Israelis have much if any regard for them. Hence the massive expenditure on tunnels instead of housing and the use of human shields to protect rocket batteries.

Many outside the region will be amazed at what these 'tunnels' comprise. They are concrete bunkers that extend for miles. Theyy have multiple exit points on the Israeli side so as to confuse the Israelis. Several exit near a kibbutz. Most are built into mosques, schools, and hospitals thereby ensuring civilian casualties should Israel attack them from the air. Some tunnels are a hundred metres deep. In some small trains can take kidnapped Israelis to Gaza. They have telephones, electricity and offshoot tunnels.

Vast sums of foreign aid are therefore being swallowed up in attacking Israel. Politically the Palestinians are divided by clan differences so a united diplomatic approach to Israel is impossible.

Over one million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel and even hold Knesset seats. The 2 million in Gaza occupy a piece of land not much bigger than Wales (16,000 square kms).

The message of this riveting book is depressing. Jean-Paul Filiu believes the chances of ever witnessing a democratic, united Palestine are extremely low. After reading his book one can only agree. Essentially, this is a territorial contest:two nations, one land. The Gordian knot is very tight. Every outbreak of violence tightens it further. What is clear is that the violence and deaths will continue until Israel's neighbours acknowledge her right to exist.

This book should be required reading by all concerned about the complicated Arab-Israeli conflct that is causing thousands of deaths and injuries. It ranks high among the finest accounts of this terrible conflict. Its emphasise, unlike so many other books, is on the facts instead of prejudice, propaganda and myth. This makes it almost unique.

One awaits his new book: 'Best of Enemies:1954-84' with eager anticipation.

Very highly recommended.

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles
Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles
Price: £8.54

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novelist Enters The Fray., 12 Sep 2014
The epic and brutal battle of Waterloo was a pivotal moment in history. In the final 24 hours some 195,000 soldiers plus 60,000 horses and 537 artillery pieces were crammed into an area approximately 5 km wide by 4km deep. The mud was knee deep as a result of over 12 hours continuous rain. The terrain made manoeuvre by Wellington's army out of the question. The cavalry were unable to perform off the roads, roads that were very poor anyway.The soldiers who had marched for hours over long distances were tired, soaked and very hungry. The majority slept on the open sodden ground. Plunder of local homes for food and wood was commonnplace. Lt Eyre with the 2nd Battalion, 95th Rifles said: 'we were like so many half drowned and half starved rats'. Their sodden boots were standard issue, namely there was no such thing as a left or right boot. Blistered feet and foot rot were prevalent.

By the end of the battle, one in four would be dead or maimed. They fell at the rate of over 5,000 men per hour, over one per second. The two sides were never more than 1,100 yards apart, often only 250 yards.

Waterloo was the last mass battle of the pre-industrial age to be fought in Europe. There are numerous earthy stories about the battle from the ranks (see Waterloo Letters by Siborne). After two days of disaster for the Allies, Napoleon was close to another victory. His personal carriage was made ready to take him to Brussels for a victory celebration.

The forthcoming bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo is attracting authors like moths to a flame. By Xmas a bombardment of some 8 new books will have been published in this country alone. More are due out next year. It is doubtful if any will add to our existing knowledge. Any unused primary sources, many of them German, are very hard to obtain. When access is gained they in the main repeat what is already known. For example, a few years ago over 550 letters were discovered in this country, letters written by those few ordinary soldiers who were literate plus many by sergeants (being able to write was necessary to gain this rank). None of them revealed anything new, poignant yes, informative yes, but changing established knowledge no.

The battle was a 'turning point' but then so have been many other battles, the Marne for one, Midway and Stalingrad are other examples. Victor Hugo called the battle the:'hinge of the nineteenth century'. The avalanche of writings since 1815, however, has not always been welcomed. On a grand strategic level the battle signified the end of an era. More tan 100 years of conflict with France came to an end. Only 40 years later the two states fought side by side against the Russians.
In many ways the battle heralded warfare in late 1914. As flanking movements were impossible, Waterloo became a great slogging, bare-knuckle fight just like the battles of the Great War between 1915 and 1917.

Given all the books about the battle, it is worth recalling that as early as 1817 Wellington was complaining about the 'creatures' who after visiting the battle site 'feel compelled to write about it'. A few years later Sgt Major Cotton who fought in the battle, and later became a guide to visitors to Waterloo, also railed in a book against the growing number of accounts, many of which he said were 'deeply flawed'.
At the latest count there were over 27,000 books plus hundreds of scholarly articles.

Wellington is still revered by many today as one of our greatest generals. Witness, for example, the outcry when some while ago it was proposed to remove his statue in London, and Tony Blair's refusal to agree a French request to rename the Eurostar terminus Waterloo.

The battle over four days, the campaign was much longer, resulted in some 48,000 French casualties. The Prussians suffered 20,000 dead, and Wellington's army suffered some 14,000 casualties (all figures being estimates). In addition, we need to add the tragic loss of 40,000 horses-the key role played by horses in this battle, and even more so in the Great War, will be at last recognised in a major work due out next year. Musket, bayonet and cannon caused most of the casualties. A new Baker rifle, a little lighter than Brown Bess, was used by the British but its effectiveness has been much exaggerated as has the Congreve rocket. The former often jammed in poor weather while the latter had a nasty habit of going off course.

The continuing hold of the battle on the public is probably due to some or all of the following factors: it was the only time Napoleon and Wellington clashed on the battlefield; it ended Napoleon's reign as the military genius of the time; the outcome was in the balance until the final day; it is, as staff college students have been informed for over 100 years, a classic example of the importance of the weather ( the storm played havoc with movement, particularly artillery), communication, errors and judgement. And we British love a victory. All the'frictions' of warfare played a part.

It is also a superb example of the problems of handling a multinational force comprising Dutch, Belgium and Prussians. It should be remembered in this respect that Wellington's 68,000 men comprised less than 25% British troops. It is forgotten by many authors that this mixed force caused Wellington and his senior staff many serious problems over the four days. It caused major communication problems particularly given this, the size of the army,the relatively wide battlefront, and the 'gap' between Wellington and Blucher. A British officer likened the army to a 'French pack of hounds.....running in sad confusion'. Also, Waterloo, of course, altered the map of Europe and ushered in a new and reactionary era.

By choosing to write about Waterloo, Bernard Cornwall has entered the lion's den. I say this because, regrettably, I am aware that some fellow historians take exception to novelists treading on what they regard as their hallowed ground. This I find regrettable because novelists like Cornwall bring to historical events a different perspective. They do not spend years examinging primary documents in order to discover the 'truth' about what happened. Instead their aim is to provide a story, a narrative. Analysis and evaluation of evidence is not their major concern. The writings of,for example, Longford, Weir, Morpurgo (see his superb latest book 'Listen to the Moon' about the Lusitania disaster), and many others prove the value of the writings of novelists on historical events.

Also, unlike some professional historians, they tend to write lucidly and fluently. In this book, Cornwall again displays his usual love of anecdotes and humour. He uses a mix of present and past tense which can be irritating but it is, nevertheless, very effective. The author, it should be noted does not examine the political factors that affected the battle-this aspect is included in another book due out soon.

The author is a prolific writer. He has written some 51 novels, including the well-known Sharpe and Warrior series. One of his novels,'The Last Kingdom', is to be dramatised on tv later this year. Born in this country, aged 70, he now lives in America. For a time he was the BBC's head of current affairs in Northern Ireland. As such he was the boss of Gavin Esler and Paxman. He is also an accomplished amateur actor. He has appeared in drama and musical productions.

He has long been fascinated by military events, hence the Sharpe books. One of his main aims in writing this book is to resurrect Wellington's reputation, a reputation that has been savaged by a small number of historians in recent years. He has been called a 'bastard', and accused of contemplating deserting the field of battle. Needless to say, the evidence provided is rather flimsy. Cornwall also challenges the view that the common soldier was badly treated and regarded by his officers as scum. In this regard, he is on far less solid ground. The majority of soldiers came from very deprived backgrounds, were unemployed agricultural or textile workers, alcoholics, petty criminals, of low educational attainment, and were very badly paid. Discpline had to be harsh; the lash was frequently used for even minor offences. Some were only 15/16 years of age. The behaviour of some after the battle was deplorable; many of the dead and dying were robbed.The background of their officers was starkly different. The majority of senior officers were aristocrats or upper middle class, and most, including Wellington, had purchased their commissions. Their technical skills were often very poor.

Wellington had been an ensign when aged 18, a Lt Colonel when 24. In six years, he had received 5 promotions (today it would take a minimum of 20 years, if it happened at all), all due to influential friends and in return for payment. In this time he had served in 7 different regiments. Yet he had not experienced a single day in battle!

Very few officers possessed military skills of a high order. What mattered on the battlefield was raw courage not technical kmowledge. After all, tactics had hardly altered over 100 years. Attrition rather than manoeuvre was still the order of the day despite Napoleon demonstrating the advantages of the latter in Italy and at Jena.

Wellington was born in Dublin in 1769 (there is dispute about the exact month of his birth). At Eton he was a very lazy and poor scholar. As an adult he was a rather unpleasant person. He was arrogant, aloof, and anti military innovation (and political change also in later years when prime minister, twice). He was an accomplished and notorious womaniser. He hated journalists. The dislike was reciprocated.

Once he became a senior officer he shone as a very good tactician, organiser, planner and administrator; as a very junior officer he had learned some of these skills in rudimentary form while in a French military academy. He planned meticulously, knew the crucial importance of up-to-date intelligence plus the need for sound communication at a time when this depended almost entirely on sending messages by horseback, with all the problems that entailed. In this battle, communications breakdown were manifest and very important.

Many have argued it was this that largely determined the outcome. Unlike our age, communication was very slow. It was often lost, or misinterpreted. In many cases, by the time messages had been received events had dramatically altered the situation-it was little better 100 years later. One French general at Waterloo remarked that:'the plans decided upon in the tent were often useless by the time we had assembled to fight. Once battle commenced we were on our own, plans became of no importance. Most of the time we had no idea what our other forces were doing. Chaos was the norm'. A rare and very honest account of what warfare was really like, and in many cases still is once battle has commenced. There is a romantic view of warfare, fostered by Hollywood. In reality, wars are not only hell they are
prime examples of bedlam.

This is why all detailed descriptions of battles are deeply flawed and, therefore, highly suspect. Even those written by historians who served with a particular regiment during a campaign are subjected to rigorous censorship and pruned to ensure reputation comes before facts. Hence, desertions (there was one notorious case at Waterloo), cowardice and errors resulting from bad decisions are out. One needs to be aware that many of the claims by senior commanders after a battle that decisions X and Y that proved decisive were deliberate are all too often the result of sheer blind luck, chance being a major'friction'.This is true of Waterloo, and, for example, the US Civil War, the Great War and the Second World War. A number of Montgomery's claims,for example his claim that the disaster of Arnhem was a near victory, have been shown to be somewhat exaggerated, if not plain false.

Wellington did not possess anything like Napoleon's intuitive genius, he lost battles in his early career but he learned from his mistakes. Fortunately, his very many influential connections prevented him being severely censured on more than one occasion, for example over the Cintra scandal in India.

The battle of Waterloo-named after the place where he spent the previous night-proved to be his crowning glory. His victory, helped by the other forces under his command, changed the political map of Europe. In so doing, he unwittingly allowed the forces of reaction in Europe, including this country, to creep back in. As prime minister in the 1820's his reactionary policies proved very unpopular with those wanting reforms, particularly electoral reform. Several historians have pointed out that he was not cut out to be PM. His military prowess got him the job as it did Eisenhower after the Second World War. The latter, however,turned out to be a very fine President.

Some military historians have attempted to compare Wellington with Napoleon. A fruitless task as they had very little in common. The best comparison, in my opinion, by far is with Hannibal. Both were excellent tacticians, tenacious individuals, masters of logistics, and both planned their campaigns meticulously. Both were effective leaders of men.They had a great deal in common.

The evidence available strongly suggests that even if Wellington had been defeated Napoleon would eventually have been overcome by far superior Austrian and Prussian forces. In every battlefield simulation in which I have been involved that has been the outcome. However, this counterfactual is of only passing interest as Wellington's forces did win the day, but only just. Wellington said to his brother on 19 June 1815 I'm:'never was so near being beat'. We should keep in mind that Napoleon at Waterloo was not the general of the Italian campaigns. He had to deal with a two front war, a weak position at home, and worries over finance. Stories about his many supposed illnesses stem mainly from rumours and are without foundation. His doctor was largely responsible for these stories in order to provide Napoleon with an excuse for losing the battle.

Cornwall has written an entertaining, simple and easy to read account about 'Nosey's', an Anglo-Irish General, most famous victory, a victory that led to Beethoven writing a superb piece of music in his honour, that deserves to be read. The book examines the period preceding the battle, the battle details in outline, and briefly the aftermath. He makes no claim to have carried out meticulous primary research. Given his lack of a miltary background, his coverage of tactical detail is excellent. While there are still strong disputes among historians about who won this battle, was it Wellington or was it Blucher, or did the French lose the battle because they made several crucial errors, Cornwall wisely does not get involved in the controversy.

The bibliography comprises secondary sources, mainly letters and diaries. These, while useful, are, unfortunately, very unreliable as evidence. This, therefore, weakens this book in terms of historical accuracy.

For example, I have read numerous diaries written by the few literate soldiers of various ranks who fought at Waterloo whose descriptions of the battle give the impression that they had been on different battlefields. Also,if the author had, for example, read some of the letters and diaries written by French soldiers of all ranks he would have seen how their version of events differ markedly from their British equivalents, and not simply because they lost. It was after all Wellington in 1920 who wrote to Lord Hatherton on the subject of the accuracy of his despatches. He wrote: 'I have never told a falsehood, but I have never told the whole truth'. Incidentally, this is why regimental histories are used with very great caution by historians.

The paintings, one wrongly identified, and illustrations are the familiar ones, very attractive but long ago dismissed as unreliable evidence as to what took place. The maps are only adequate, and the index is sound.

Bernard Cornwall has written a book replete with his usual pace and verve. It is another rollicking and lucid good story about a soldier-politician and his involvement in a very important event in our, and France's, history. In so doing, he has weakened the arguments of those historians who are sniffy about novelists who venture into our domain.

A number of errors should have been corrected at the proof reading stage. However, these do not reduce the attraction of the book.

Highly recommended. Buy it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2014 9:00 PM BST

Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe’s Destiny
Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe’s Destiny
Price: £10.44

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bloody Solution Of A Crisis.,, 9 Sep 2014
The Cent Jours electrified Europe. Within three weeks of landing at Antibes on 1 March, Napoleon had forced Louis XV111 to flee, defeated the Prussians at Ligny and fought the battle of Waterloo. Yet Talleyrand described Napoleon's,death some years later on St Helena as : 'only a news item'.

There are numerous books on the Battle of Waterloo. At least 5 more are due out before Xmas.1815 is, of course,the bicentenary of the battle.This account is solid without adding anything new, how could it? Tim Clayton has written several books on military matters such as Trafalgar, and a book on Diana.

In some 77 chapters he covers all the major phases of the battle. The Epilogue is very good. The bibliography is sound although several key French sources are missing. I have tested the index, it seems accurate. The author's inclusion of a brief account of the historical, military and cultural background to the battle is most welcome. It will be very useful for those readers who lack this knowledge. Such information is crucial for an understanding of this and any military campaign.

No single battle has received more attention, or evoked greater public interest and recognition, than Waterloo. Only Zama (202 B.C.) has proved of equal importance, only Gettysburg has been written about as often. Why is this?

It is probably the result of several factors: it was 'decisive', it involved military giants, it marks the end of an era of European history, it led to the eclipse of France as a military power, and it led to an attempt through the Congress System for a way to avoid war as a means of settling international squabbles. Astonishingly, these outcomes were the fall-out of only 4 days-15 to 18 June, 1815. The greatest soldier of modern history was eclipsed in the space of one single Sunday afternoon. The outcome was in doubt until the end. After all, Wellington's career showed he was far from invincible. On more than one occasion his connections had saved him from severe censure after a poor performance on the battlefield.

Few historical subjects have been the focus of so much controversy and different interpretations, although a number have run it close. Fact and fiction, reality and myth, persist. The British, French, Belgium, Dutch and Hanoverian accounts and viewpolnts differ greatly, adding to the controversy. Many books continue to exaggerate the British role ommitting the fact that Belgiums, Dutch and Hanoverians accounted for almost two-thirds of the Allied forces. As Wellington said to John Croker in August 1815: 'a battle is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost; but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moments at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference to their value and importance'.

Wellington was he said 'ashamed of all I have seen of the would lead the world to believe that the British Army had never fought a battle before'. Unfortunately, this has not deterred the authors of numerous accounts since these words were uttered in 1816 to Sir John Sinclair. It is also important to remember that Wellington's army of around 68,000 men was less than 25% British.

Wellington remarked that:'it was the most desparate business I ever was in. I never took so much trouble about any battle, and never was so near being beat'.

Despite the victory over Napoleon, the forces of inertia and economy soon took over. Most plans for army reform were blighted until after Wellington's death for he was no innovator in military matters. In 1816 the army's strength was reduced to 225,000; by 1821 it was 100,000, half of whom were in India and in other parts of the Empire.

There is little doubt that so long as history is read, this battle will be much discussed. As this book indicates controversy will continue over: the fight for Hougoumont, d'Erlon's attack, cavalry charges, the use of the Imperial Guard, the Prussian intervention, the non-appearance of Grouchy, Wellington's tactical errors, and Napoleon's health. Unfortunately, the only ones that can provide the true answers to these and other questions are dead.

A lucid account that is well worth purchasing for anyone coming to this battle for the first time. It is as good as any other general account.

Footnote: Despite this being a very important and interesting battle it surely is time for publishers to pull up the drawbridge once the bicentenary has passed.
Three books already out this year, and at least 5 more to come this year. This is overkill. All claim to be or imply a 'new account'. This is simply not true, a new way of putting together the evidence maybe but no new analysis based on new primary sources. The avalanche of Great War books is bad enough but that war lasted 4 years and involved most of the world. This was one battle over 4 days!

In the army I took part in many staff rides over the Waterloo battlefield. It is not very complex, neither were the tactics used. Only if new sources come to light, sources of major significance, and this is most unlikely, can new light be shone on this battle. General Thomas said many years ago that this battle would have received little attention if the opponents had 'not been celebrities'.

Even in 1849, Sgt Major Cotton, who had fought in the battle, doubted whether any more accounts were necessary.

Recommended for the general reader.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2014 1:34 AM BST

Invasion 1914: The Schlieffen Plan to the Battle of the Marne (General Military)
Invasion 1914: The Schlieffen Plan to the Battle of the Marne (General Military)
Price: £1.09

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Was There A Plan?, 7 Sep 2014
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From around 1871 the German General Staff knew that France was intent on avenging her defeat by Prussia. Once she concluded an alliance with Russia and began giving Russia massive loans to improve her railway network it was clear that any war with France meant also war with Russia. Hence, the military nightmare of a two -Front war loomed. Israel has faced the same but worse problem since 1947.

Until 1999 little was known about German war plans prior to 1914. It was however believed that in 1914 the Germans followed the 'Schlieffen Plan written by The German CGS, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, and dated 1905. The plan envisaged the destruction of the French Army in one rapid battle by deploying seven-eighths of the army between Metz and Aachen, on the right wing, the remainder guarding the German left flank in Lorraine against a French attack. In order to create enough space for the one and three quarter million troops involved, the plan involved a sweep through Belgium and Northern France. If necessary, the right wing would swing to the West of Paris thereby continually turning the French left flank. The plan was not so much a giant scythe as a swinging gate, with the 'post' anchored in Antwerp. The German right would act as a hammer, the left would be the anvil. It was believed the campaign would be won in a mere 6 weeks. Then Germany could turn and defeat Russia. Unfortunately, the plan took little account in general of logistics and politics, and too little account specifically of 'friction'.

As the recent avalanche of books on the war have demonstrated the Great War still remains for some a great mystery shrouded in myth and mourning. Almost all ignore the fact that there is now serious doubt that a PLAN as such ever existed despite the fact that the late John Keegan said it was 'the most important document of the last hundred years'.

Schlieffen retired in 1905 aged 72. He was succeeded by Molke the nephew of the Elder Moltke. The evidence, unfortunately some vital documents were destroyed by allied bombing in 1945, while others were taken by the soviets in the final days of the war, available indicates that the plan used in 1914 was only a little like the one quoted above, and in almost all books.

In this book by Ian Senior, which is the same as his earlier one published in 1912 under a different name ('Home Before the Leaves Fall)-an astounding affrontery by Osprey Publishing-he examines the claim that Moltke was to blame for the plan failing because he watered it down and bungled its execution. Senior reaches the conclusion that these criticisms of Moltke are unfounded. He argues that the German right wing in 1914 was 'fated never to catch up with the retreating enemy'. In Senior's view Schlieffen's strategy 'contained the seeds of its own destruction'.

This is a useful account of what happened on the Western front from August 1914 to the battle of the Marne.
However, those readers who wish to know something of the research that has taken place since Gerhard Ritter's 1956 thesis, a thesis that became the basis of a criticism of German history, should read works by Terence Zuber-he believes there never was a plan as such. He claims the so-called plan bore no relation to Schlieffen's war planning at all. He argues that Schlieffen was intent on fighting a defensive war.

You will need to be able to read German in order to access more recent documents on this subject. A new book on this still controversial subject is due out shortly.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2014 8:11 PM BST

Price: £6.64

6 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Modernism, Postmodernism Run Riot., 6 Sep 2014
This review is from: Shark (Kindle Edition)
I seldom read novels. Having read this latest book by Self I can more easily understand why that is. This book is a tedious ramble over 406 self-indulgent pages. So-called modernism run riot.

Self clearly hates those who can write conventional English, and observe its rules, hence he sees no need for paragraphs, chapters or inverted commas. The surreal and primitivism are the order of the day. Some years ago Self clearly decided to be different. He wanted to be seen as a rebel, anti-establishment, and decidedly weird. The result is wearisome and frankly boring. His political views seep through on every page. The result is a dressed up mess which will sell badly. As Churchill once said of a politician, he may now wear ermine but he is still a fool.

The book, I use the word loosely, is full of hippies, mad souls, drugs, peace protesters and foul-mouthed misfits. The result is deliberately grotesque. It is supposed to be a view of postwar Britain, a subject on which the BBC has frequently allowed Self to declaim at length. What it is is Self's distorted view of Britain seen through a foggy ultra left-wing lens.

The book is hardly readable, at £20 it is sheer robbery. I suspect it will soon be on sale for under £1. Self's use of long words is pretentious and a pose, a very obvious pose. He should start to concentrate on plot, structure, and punctuation, and then his ramblings might become readable. His semantics, lexis, pragmatics, and discourse structure is lamentable. As a writer he clearly has lost his way. His prose is ugly, and sinuous. It meanders like a dried up river.

If I thought this was typical of modern fiction I would never read another novel.
If ever this book was inflicted on students, save to demonstrate how not to write a novel, it would send out a very bad signal, namely don't bother with grammatical conventions just write down what you wish. I can assure them that if they follow Self they will get a very low grade.

A gruelling experience, irritating and a waste of time. To understand this you need to be a detective to identify the characters. Aa dozen sniffer dogs would help also.

Don't waste your money on this self-indulgent excuse for a novel, buy a guide to good grammar instead and send it by first class post to Self.

Is there any wonder why the standard of English in our schools is so awful.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2014 8:14 PM BST

World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History
World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History
Price: £9.51

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Child Of The American Century., 5 Sep 2014
You either like and admire Henry Kissinger or you hate him as the late Christopher Hitchens did. By whatever measure, Kissinger is a very remarkable man. His four volume memoirs (some 3,500 pages) are full of detail and far, far less self-serving compared to many others. For some he is a hero and a saviour while for others he is a villain or a war criminal. He has been attacked by liberal circles, for example by Seymour Hersh, and Gary Bass. He has been accused by conservatives for being deaf to human-rights concerns.

In his new book Kissinger gives a sweeping guide to the rise of the modern state system, and warns that a stable balance of power is today as crucial as in the era of Westphalia.

Born on 27th May 1923 to a teacher and the daughter of a rich merchant he grew up in Furth, Bavaria. A town of some 70,000 of whom 2,500 were Jews. The town up to 1932 was a model of democratic politics. 80% was the normal turnout at elections.

The author has written many books on, for example, nuclear weapons, diplomacy, China, Metternich and crises. They all repay close reading. Kissinger is a realist in international relations parlance. His overiding concern has always been the establishment and maintenance of world order, hence the title of his latest book.That is why he likes to quote the Westphalian system of 1648 that produced a balance of power in Europe after 23 years of bloodshed. It was a path breaker of a new idea of world order.
The participants numbered over 200. Remarkably, no single treaty exists to embody its terms. Throughout his adult life Kissinger has tried to apply the theoretical principles of classical realism to achieve a global balance of power. Hence, with Nixon, he promoted detente, and ended the Yom Kippur war of 1973.

In this book the author examines the French Revolution, the Congress of Vienna, Bismarck, the postwar European order, Islamism and the Middle East, the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia, the USA and Iran, Nuclear Proliferation, Asia, China and world order, the Cold War, Presidents Nixon and Reagan, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Cyber Warfare. In brief, just about every conceivable topic that posed or poses problems for our world. We are taken on a superb journey by a master craftsman who served two presidents. The book is in effect a summary of his values and life experiences on the international stage. Experiences and achievements that led to being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Le Duc Tho in 1973.

Henry became the 56th Secretary of State. Many considered him the foremost statesman of his era. His globetrotting diplomacy won him many admirers. The 1973 opening to China, the first nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union, and the ending of the Vietnam war were among his many successes.

Critics however focused on his liking for secrecy. They called him a schemer and a stuntman. They believed he and Nixon could have ended the Vietnam war some four years earlier thereby saving some 20,000 American lives and countless Vietnamese casualties. His role in the overthrow of Allende, his links to the CIA, and his wiretapping of his staff inflamed his opponents.

Kissinger is a Jewish-German immigrant who narrowly escaped the Holocaust. He became national security adviser to Nixon and Ford. He was prior to this a notable Harvard scholar, a Professor of government. He remains a household name around the globe. His achievements began to be criticised at the time of the Watergate scandal (there were in fact many scandals not just Watergate). The abuse of power by Nixon led to intense scrutiny of Kissinger's methods. Secret negotiations became out of place in an America suffering from self-inflicted political destruction. More importantly, it led to an adversarial relationship between the US executive and legislative branches of government in the mid 1970's. Foreign policy issues and policies were forensically examined by Congress. In particular, Kissinger's preoccupation with the Soviet Union was heavily criticised.

What is undeniable is that Kissinger's life offers a window into the complex international vectors of the period. He was an idealist as well as a realist. The taxing question remains. Not so much what he did and achieved but WHY? His life is a very good example of the need to avoid reading history as a simple moral tale.

Kissinger viewed the response of democracies to fascism and Hitler with dismay. They were he said too slow to act, and too divided. They were incapable in the 1930's of using force when it was needed. Hence, appeasement.

Whatever his flaws, Kissinger bestrode the world stage at a time when two superpowers had the means to incinerate each other plus many millions of others. No other country had a politician possessed of the same intellect, vision, tenacity or diplomatic skill. There is still no one to this day who has come close to matching his influence and fame. The tenets that he has studied and pursued amply merit the term classical, as they are timeless.

Written with his familiar lucidity and incisiveness, the book offers a grand tour of the rise of the West. His central theme is how to build a new world order at a time of mounting ideological extremism, new technology and armed conflict.

A goldmine of information and wisdom about the international scene past and present. It is to be hoped that anyone involved in foreign policy decision-making will study this book.

He ends the book by saying in his youth he was 'brash enough' to think he could pronounce on the meaning of history. 'I know now that history's meaning', he writes, 'is a matter to be discovered, not declared'. It is to be hoped his counsel will be heeded.
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Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change
Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change
Price: £12.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Giant Innovator, 29 Aug 2014
The author is a Noble Laureate. His book chaiienges many of our cherished assumptions about how economles succeed.

As he points out it is not engineering skills or education or scientific discovery or entrepreneural enterprise that leads to economic change, it is the willingness of all society to plunge into the 'frenzy of development'. In brief, to embrace novelty. The whole of society has to change habits, attitudes and ideas, and depart the safe harbour.

He disputes, as have others, the theories of Schumpeter and Spiethoff. He exposes, with ease, the errors of Marx and his historical determinism. He points out that the industrial revolution in this country was not made by scientists, but by humble men with ideas. For example, Arkwright was a wigmaker who invented the water-powered spinning frame.

Phelps points out that culture is the key to economic growth. He cites Israel as a prime example. Business plans abound in the state. Innovation thrives. During the 1990's Israel absorbed one million Russians. Some 57,000 of them were engineers, twice the number of engineers in Israel before they arrived. Israel's population is around 7m, yet the number of start-ups is huge.

The author also examines America's innovative history and suggests why it has declined in recent years.

The most fascinating part of this book is that devoted to China. She has to innovate. In the past 30 years China has dramatically increased R and D spending and dual-use technologies. Once a formidable totalitarian state, she is emerging into an innovative Asian giant. By 2020, China will have a national system that can track everyones credit history, meaning marginal costs of getting bank deposits will fall to zero. By 2018, she will have provided free public wi-fi in every city, and in many rural areas. The centre of Shenzen is said to resemble Silicon City on steroids. By 2026, 600,000,000 will have been moved from the countryside to cities. A revolution is taking place that has never been witnessed before. The impulse to innovate is immense. We ignore it at our peril. Of the world population of around 7 billion, one third is either Chinese or Indian. Soon India will overtake the former as the world's most populous state. It is amazing how many seem to think this is of no concern to the West.

In the past 10 years China has turned out over three times as many graduates and postgraduates in science and engineering as America, and this does not include those Chinese graduating in other countries. Their universities are now beginning to rival the best elsewhere.

This is a very important book that ought to be required reading for all concerned about the shifting economic (and miltary power) in the world from West to East.
There are those who believe China will implode. This reviewer does not agree. Others focus on the pollution that has increased in her cities as a result of her massive industrial growth, conveniently overlooking the social horrors of our own industrial revolution in the 19th century. China is now the world's second largest economy. As such she is having an unprecedented impact on the global system. China is the only deveoping country that has participated in the Human Genome Project, and the first such state to complete a manned space programme.

Today China is investing enormous sums (at low rates of interest) in many African states and in Latin America. She is building aircraft carriers. A new superpower is on the horizon. She is the worlds largest exporter, and the second largest consumer of energy. Anyone who has witnessed the Chinese worker at first-hand can only admire his/her energy and work ethic.

That China will be an adversary is not a foregone conclusion neither is its friendship. She faces major political and economic challenges as well as opportunities. How she deals with these will affect the world, particularly the West. The balance of power is shifting in favour of Asia, we would do well to observe this closely.

An important book that will repay study. Buy it.
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National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963
National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963
Price: £9.51

29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Very Biased Account Of National Service., 28 Aug 2014
Between 1945 and 1963 approximately 2.8 million mainly 18-year-olds (some, like me, were older because they had been to university) were called up.The majority,73%, were drafted into the army. Originally, service was for 18 months but because of the Korean War it was later extended to 2 years.

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. There was no segregation at all. The author, of course, quotes a case where there was. I taught a boy from Liverpool how to iron, he taught me how to climb a rope.

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. It is obvious the author has little knowledge of the social conditions from which many recruits came from. For many, they were terrible.

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 low paid 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, for example, 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. Many had to be taught how to use an iron, bull their boots, make their beds, walk smartly, even wash properly and above all to accept discipline and respect authority. Given the mix of recruits it was impossible to train them to a basic standard in a few weeks unless discipline and obedience to orders was insisted on.

This latest book about National Service is written by Richard Vinen, a History Professor at the prestigious King's College, London. The book focuses on those who served in the army. 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 has a very strong dislike of the army. There are numerous examples of sarcasm and even more that indicate the author knows little of the army then or now. I wonder why he dislikes the army so much as he has never experienced it?

He clearly has been taken in by some of the oral evidence which the historian A. J. P.Taylor said was akin to:'old men drooling over their youth'. Far too much reliance has been placed on specific accounts that distort the general truth.

Anyone who has taken oral evidence, particularly years after an event, knows that stories are often exaggerated and embelished. Outright lies are not uncommon.
Myths also 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 and apparently pointless incidents did happen but not often. Many books have recorded that a small number of recruits who had a poor time, often because of their own failings, took delight after leaving the armed services in gross exaggerations of what they had experienced. The author seems unaware of this. There is also a failure in this account to emphasise that many of the 'horror' stories refer to the time undergoing training, normally less than 4 months, not the time spent after training.

This account throughout 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 exagggerated (many lockers had built in mirrors) and laughable. Professor, there were no mobile phones or tv's or X-boxes either! Much of the so-called brutality involved being shouted at, often with good reason, or made to do extra guard duty because of a dirty rifle or a sloppy locker.

A major weakness of this book is its over-reliance on some very biased accounts. These by definition are hardly likely to give a balanced account of service life.The author also pays scant attention to the good things that happened, for example, the many recruits who were taught to read and write and do simple maths by the Army Educational Corps. I witnessed an 18-year old in tears when he was able to read a Janet and John reader for the first time in his life. Helping to write a letter home was always appreciated.

The professor clearly delights in stories of 'atrocities' said to have been commited by British servicemen overseas, most of which lack substantial evidence of ever having took place. His book throughout lacks credible and 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'. He produces no evidence to support this wild assertion.
I can honestly say that ih 14 weeks training not one corporal or sergeant trainer ever used foul language when upbrading a recruit. The worse adjective we ever heard was 'horrible' as in 'you horrible little man', even when one of our group was 6 feet 4 inches.

The professor's description above is monstrously wrong. However, it is, unfortunately, a superbly accurate description of all too many in today's society.

There are several other books that give an accurate and balanced account of National Service. These should be read by those who wish to acquire a reasoned and unbiased account of national service.

National Service can still generate heated debate. It can also as witness this account generate much that is false or grossly exaggerated. Anyone who thinks it was all pointless should speak to those who fought the communists in Malaya. National Service was not an amusing interlude in a young man's life, 280 of them were killed in the Korean war.

Despite demands that we should reintroduce National Service, particularly to curb anti social behaviour, a demand that reveals the ignorance about the purpose of national service,there is very little likelihood that National Service along the lines of the previous scheme will ever be introduced again for one major reason, the training costs would be far too great.

A very disappointing and insipid book particularly coming after his excellent book: 'History in Fragments'.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2014 1:56 PM BST

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