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Premier Housewares Flip Alarm Clock - Blue
Premier Housewares Flip Alarm Clock - Blue
Offered by Ukdapper
Price: £7.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Simple but effective?, 3 April 2015
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This clock is cheap but does the job. It has the simple button operated day and date changers, a clock and an alarm. The user instructions are printed on the box. The back of the clock shows the battery compartment and removable cover, an ON/OFF switch for the alarm, the alarm time change knob and the time set knob. The alarm works - a series of beeps.

The only downside was the difficulty in inserting the battery (Duracell AA) into the compartment. The metal tab in the compartment at the negative terminal end stuck out a bit too far so the battery could not be inserted properly and the compartment cover could not be re-affixed. However the battery is functioning and the clock is working.

I purchased this clock so my dad could use it to help remember what day it was by changing the day and date every morning when he got up. Hopefully its simplicity will help in this regard.

by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Frighteningly plausible - a counterfactual novel one can believe in!, 3 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
CJ Sansom is well-known for his Shardlake novels set in Tudor times but this is an 'erratic' to use a geographical term, so how well does he do away from familiar territory? Very well, I suggest after reading a book that I could barely put down for two days until I finished it late last night.

Counterfactuals are a hot debating topic in historical studies at the moment with Richard J Evans and Niall Ferguson in opposing camps but I would hope that both of these eminent historians would agree with me that Sansom (a history PhD from Birmingham University) has crafted a fine and believable piece of alternative historical writing here.

As a student of the Second World War I found little to disagree with on the political path Sansom supposes Britain will follow after just one key change in 1940 - the premiership of Edward Wood, Lord Halifax, not Winston Churchill replacing that of the architect of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain.

The author gives us the story of two Britons David and Sarah, whose lives already beset by tragedy, live in an increasingly shabby and authoritarian Britain in 1952. He weaves the personal tale of these middle-class lives into a story which increases in tension as it proceeds, revealing nuggets of historical information that shows how the world has subtly changed since Britain reached an accommodation with Hitler after defeat in France.

We often may wonder how Britons would have behaved if we had failed to "Stand Alone" in 1940. This novel tells us of the good and the bad; the resisters, the ideological fellow travellers with Nazism, the chancers and those just trying to survive in a country even less friendly to democratic protest and workers' rights than the 1930's.

At times one can see Samson's writing as a polemic warning us of the dangers of the present day, when his characters talk of the dangers of concepts such as race and nationalism when taken to a perverted degree of scientific humbug and stupidity by evil and with murderous effect. However such warnings do not mar this tale and there is much variety in characterisation throughout to reflect divergent viewpoints; from Ben Hall's class warrior to the retired ex-Indian colonel who thinks the current treatment of Britain's Jews is a step too far.

As David and Sarah are swept up in events relating to an old friendship, the sinister, yet well-drawn figure of Gunther Hoth, the Gestapo policeman, sets out on his investigation which brings their paths together. This is an intelligent and empathetic man, yet ideologically irrevocably committed to the Nazi cause, whom it is hoped can learn the secret which may just decide which of the factions vying for the succession within the Nazi hierarchy will achieve victory.

A horribly believable tale which thankfully never happened but which plausibly could have done - a worthy addition to the historical "what-ifs" in anyone's library.

The Radical General: Sir Ronald Adam and Britain's New Model Army 1941-1946
The Radical General: Sir Ronald Adam and Britain's New Model Army 1941-1946
by Roger Broad
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional biography that promises more than it delivers, 9 Feb. 2015
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The Radical General: Sir Ronald Adam and Britain's New Model Army 1941-46 is a biography of one of Britain's lesser known generals of the Second World War. Adam was the British Army's Adjutant General 1941-46 and was responsible for "A tasks" (administrative matters) explaining why his name is not as widely known as contemporaries such as Alan Brooke. However Adam was considered to be a 'political' general and a controversial figure by some, particularly in the field of army education where its political ramifications have continued to be debated as some commentators have argued that armed forces votes were the cause of Labour's electoral victory in 1945.

Adam was responsible for making organisational changes considered to have improved the efficiency, morale and welfare of an institution which expanded greatly in size between 1939 and 1945. In doing so he met opposition from those who objected to innovation in recruitment, officer selection and education of the other ranks and defended established practices because of a perceived neglect of tradition, the dangers of indiscipline or fear of socialism within this most conservative of organisations.

Chapters 8 to 13 (pp. 89-173) concerning Adam's work as Adjutant General are the core of this book and Broad outlines his achievements, failures and the long-term legacy of the reforms he helped to bring about. In his final chapter he assesses how radical Adam was but sometimes overstates his case - no one has ever been considered radical because of incisive comments on the linoleum industry! In the context of the British Army, Adam could be described as a radical but mainly due to his desire for improved effectiveness through taking practical, if sometimes unpopular, steps to achieve this aim rather than in pursuing any ideological agenda.

Broad does not really succeed in making us aware of who Adam is and what makes him tick. This is not necessarily his fault; good administrators are usually invisible and his skills in this sphere were due to tact and diplomacy, an incisive mind and an ability to listen - he was no Montgomery. Adam is rarely seen to give personal opinions which would enable us to draw more than tentative conclusions about his motivation and character. Also the author has few sources to exploit; incomplete diaries from his early years show us the social milieu in which Adam lived but little as to his inner concerns and political beliefs. Only much later in life did he write his unpublished memoirs. This book looks to uncover the real Adam but provides only glimpses of the man.

There is a degree of padding in the text (e.g. Broad's discussion of Oliver Cromwell cannot intend any serious comparison with Adam). Also, those who have read Crang or Ahrendfeldt may not feel they are discovering much that is new. The author never quite succeeds in telling us what developments were made due to Adam's own initiative and the ideas he advanced which were those of others. Though, in an organisation as resistant to change as the British Army, these may amount to the same thing.

A book for a specialised audience interested in changes in the British Army in the Second World War and the connected political debates about the nature of the post-war society. Those readers of military history looking for a conventional biography of one of Britain's lesser-known generals of the Second World War will not find it here.

by Derek Coleman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.74

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A new entrant in the military historical fiction genre., 24 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Hessians (Paperback)
'Hessians' is military historical fiction set during what the Americans call the Revolutionary War of 1776-83 where the 13 colonies won their freedom from Britain and the United States was born. To those of you interested in wargaming with miniature figures, Derek Coleman needs no introduction; having written many articles on this period for magazines edited by Iain Dickie and Duncan McFarlane.

Writing fiction is a different matter from writing history: with the latter the plot has already been given to you and it is the historian's job to untangle the different accounts, their contradictions and untruths and assemble some plausible version of what happened. The writer of fiction has to create his own story which will fit into the historical narrative; its plot must be believable, its characters realistic, the military aspects must be accurate and it must be entertaining. So how well does Mr. Coleman succeed in meeting these criteria in 'Hessians'?

The plot synopsis is intriguing and draws one in. It is the winter of 1776 and the Continental Army of George Washington is on its uppers. It desperately needs to rebuild but is short of the materiel of war. A young but blooded lieutenant and his hard-bitten men are required to assist a pompous but wealthy colonel and the callow militia unit he has raised on a mission to go into enemy-held country and retrieve some much needed weapons and stores. It promises the clash of experience versus status but there is also a traitor in their midst so what will befall this task force on its dangerous journey? I felt that there were not enough twists and turns in the plot for me but the story itself was a sound one and racked up the tension in places so you wanted to keep reading.

The main character is Lieutenant James Holte, a Sharpe-like rifleman and leader of men, through whom much of the tale is told in the third person. So we get to know much of what he is thinking, his fears of the Hessians pursuing them, his hopes of fulfilling the mission and the dilemmas he faces in deciding the best course of action for those who follow him. Holte is an engaging, likeable, believable character and I hope that we see more of him from Coleman in future. Other characters are not drawn so fully as Holte and this is an area for improvement now that he has established his lead.

I must confess I am not a student of the military tactics and weaponry of the period but the author's depiction of the skirmishes and battles that take place throughout this novel seem convincing in their realism. By the end of the book the reader will know full well what a musket ball can do to bone and a canister of grape to a body of men. Purists may pick fault here and there but Coleman creates as realistic a military world as anyone can looking back from the present. I'm not sure that he gets fully inside the heads of 18th century civil society though and the social mores of the period could benefit from greater research in future titles in this series.

This book is easy to read and you will enjoy it if you are interested in military fiction particularly if you like the Revolutionary War period. There is a lot of combat and those who like battle and pursuit and desperate last stands should like it. Do Cornwell and Mallinson have a rival for those looking for a well-crafted tale? Not yet, though this author has made a good debut in the field with 'Hessians' and with a little more sophistication it could well be that James Holte becomes as well-known as Richard Sharpe in the not too distant future.

Forging the Thunderbolt: History of the US Army's Armored Forces, 1917-45 (Stackpole Military History)
Forging the Thunderbolt: History of the US Army's Armored Forces, 1917-45 (Stackpole Military History)
by M. H. Gillie
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating work about a largely unknown military prophet, 11 Jan. 2015
'Forging The Thunderbolt is a strange title for a book subtitled 'History of the U.S. Army's Armored Forces, 1917-45' and its author Mildred Hanson Gillie now deceased, is not a professional military historian; her brief Stackpole biography informs us that she studied at Cornell before working as a teacher and copywriter. Originally published in 1947, it traces the development of the US Army's armoured forces and evolution of its military thought regarding their employment.

The main proponent of such forces in the inter-war period was according to this book one Major-General Adna Chaffee, who lived long enough to see his dreams become a reality in a USA that was preparing for entry into a world war. I am no expert in this field and have no knowledge of other works on this subject but much of what is contained here rings true in comparison with the attempts in other countries such as Britain and France to advance military thinking and practice.

The author has clearly had access to the general's papers and given the frequent references to his wife this would seem to be an authorised biography as it traces Chaffee's struggle with military conservatism, bureaucracy, political reality and the fiscal policies of the US government to achieve his far-reaching vision.

Whilst at time side-tracked by anecdote, presumably to add the colour the author refers to in her preface, the main thrust of this book is Chaffee's persistence in the face of many obstacles both personal and institutional to realise his vision of a permanent independent tank force in the US Army. The fruits of his endeavours are borne out in the final three chapters of this thirteen chapter book, where the author gives a brief history of the achievements and failures of the US armoured divisions and independent tank battalions in service in North Africa and Europe between 1942 and 1945. Don't buy the book for these alone but they are a useful conclusion to a work which tells us how they came to be in existence.

Gillie delineates the uneven progress made by Chaffee and his allies in the military showing key milestones and set-backs for the nascent and experimental force. The debate about its role and place within the US military hierarchy and which branch or branches should control its development will be familiar to those who have studied the inter-war military in other major European countries. The compromise in the US pleased no-one fully but Chaffee was nothing if not a realist and pragmatist and did what he could as Camp Knox became Fort Knox and the home of the meagre units that the force was permitted to assemble from the different branches of the army.

The exercises and manoeuvres that this force undertook with minimal funding and encouragement enabled Chaffee and his cohorts to develop their ideas and may have had some influence on German development after 1933 following a visit from officers of the German military after Hitler came to power. Gillie traces the conflicting evidence of tank efficacy from the Italo-Ethiopian war of 1936 and the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 where tanks were deployed and tactics for their successful employment much discussed. Following the mixed results in battle, it is clear that there was no clear consensus as to how these vehicles were to be organised and deployed in co-operation with the infantry, artillery and in the case of the US with other horsed cavalry!

As the USA moved towards war with Germany the pace at which the US Army and its government moved to develop its armoured forces moved exponentially and money and resources became available on a scale unimagined in peacetime. The apparatus of creation, control, organisation and deployment of such a new force became the final cause of the overworked Chaffee and probably contributed to his early death - the esteem in which the general must have been held is indicated in the naming of the M-24 light tank after him. This put him in the illustrious company of Sherman, Stuart and Lee after whom the main US tanks of the Second World War were named.

The final three chapters are useful in their discussion of the optimum deployment of the US Armored Divisions in battle. The tactical and strategic roles are both discussed intelligently and certainly provide food for thought and the basis for further examination. So although the author ends on a high she indicates that this successful deployment of these forces did not come easily and that the pre-war theory had to adapt to the experience gained on the battlefield working with the other arms; infantry, artillery and air.

A thought-provoking work that those looking at inter-war development of tank forces in the major powers would find useful. The only addition that Stackpole should consider is an appendix giving service histories with dates for some of the leading characters in this book. As one of the reviewers has already commented, the names of the military personnel from different branches referred to in the text are not always easy to follow.

The Tank War: The British Band of Brothers - One Tank Regiment's World War II
The Tank War: The British Band of Brothers - One Tank Regiment's World War II
by Mark Urban
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Urban's book succeeds in weaving personal stories into his narrative without losing sight of the bigger picture of war, 10 Jan. 2015
My paperback copy of 'The Tank War' has the subtitle "The British 'band of brothers' - one tank regiment's World War II" so those reviewers who thought they were buying a general history of tank units in the war should have read the blurb more thoroughly.

I must admit perhaps due to academic snobbery that I thought a journalist's book about 5th RTR would be full of derring-do and 'Boys Own' style stories of individual bravery and would not give me a great deal of insight - I am glad to be proved wrong and it is my loss that I did not read this book earlier.

Urban has chosen his subject wisely - a battalion that served throughout the war in all theatres (except the Far East) and he follows a small number of key personnel throughout the war blending the strategic, tactical and personal stories very well. In tracking these men through France 1940, the Desert War, Italy, Normandy and Germany he provides a case study of the British Army, its battles, its internal politics and struggle to get to grips with the bloody and unforgiving nature of modern warfare.

I found the discussion of the Normandy battles particularly illuminating. Whilst Urban is no apologist for Montgomery, he understands the restrictions that 5 years of war have placed on British manpower resources particularly in front-line infantry and the need to spearhead offensives with armoured units and immense air and artillery bombardment as in Operation Goodwood illustrates the dilemma perfectly.

The infamous Villers-Bocage incident which befell the sister unit of 5th RTR, the 4th CLY, is frequently used to demonstrate the ineptitude of British armour tactics compared to the brilliance of the German army. However as Urban shows, the immediate aftermath of that disaster showed the ability of British tankmen to rally and give their opponents a bloody nose. Those reviewers who say that the failings of 7th Armoured Division (of which 5th RTR was a part) in Normandy have been glossed over have clearly not read those passages where this subject is addressed head-on and where the divisional commander is dismissed from his post.

There is an immensely powerful human interest story in these pages and whether you identify with Wardrop, Hall, Bull and Crickmay et al or not you cannot help but become immersed in their personal war and their hopes and fears which Urban teases out through their diaries, interviews and official papers as the war progresses to its end.

I can safely say that anyone with an interest in the British army in the Second World War would benefit on a number of levels from reading this book and Urban should be congratulated for this intelligent and no-nonsense history of 5th RTR.

Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History
Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History
Price: £8.96

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Counterfactuals - Helpful to Historians or a Hindrance? - A Useful Discussion, 25 May 2014
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This book is about counterfactuals or "What If's" where events of history are altered either subtly or more radically to provide alternative fictional "histories" of varying degrees of plausibility. This may help us understand more clearly why the actual events happened as they did, our view often clouded by hindsight and challenge our perceptions of the inevitability of the historical record. Evans is a respected Professor of History and in this book, based largely on a series of lectures he gave to an academic audience in Israel in 2013, he shows his knowledge of counterfactual writing and discusses its value for the study of history making this book of interest to students of historical theory and historiography.

Evans traces the development of counterfactuals both as entertainment and more recently as a serious tool for professional historians. In particular he engages with the writings of Niall Ferguson whose 'Virtual History' (1997) makes him one of the leading exponents of this type of analysis. Readers of 'In Defence of History' (1997) Evans's earlier work of historiography will be familiar with him stating the positions of others, breaking down their arguments and challenging them.

I must admit that sometimes I found the finer points of discussion beyond me but I understood the broad gist of his criticism. Evans does not like counterfactuals in the main and whilst entertained by some he finds the best of them are those which most narrowly circumscribe the changes made to reality. A telling point he makes is that the counterfactualists generally make no provision for future digressions from known events assuming that the one change they have posited will not trigger future mutations in the historical record making the present unrecognisable.

Evans is clearly to the left of the political spectrum and at times makes political comments e.g. regarding the EU that may not be shared by all. This is important as he considers that many counterfactuals are the result of rightward leaning historians wishing the present was different and constructing their alternative versions of events as a form of solace. This is an argument he develops with regards to British non-intervention in the First World War and the possibility of peace with Hitler in 1940. The decline of British power and the rise of German economic and political strength are as much 21st century issues which he considers are factors influencing these authors in their discussion of alternatives to these historical events.

Like EH Carr in 'What Is History' (1961) Evans considers whether counterfactuals overemphasize the influence of great men over the slower and less obvious trends in society and economic relations that may have limited the freedom of these largely political and military figures to have acted as they wished. He questions the championing by counterfactualists of freewill over determinism and shows that Ferguson's own examples reveal evidence of the latter.

This is a though-provoking book (I read the hardback not the e-book as stated by Amazon) and certainly worth reading. I would however suggest that you first read Niall Ferguson's Introduction to 'Virtual History' and the individual essays in that book as it will aid your understanding and appreciation of 'Altered Pasts'.

Year Zero: A History of 1945
Year Zero: A History of 1945
by Ian Buruma
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Year Zero: 1945, an end or a beginning?, 12 Feb. 2014
I first encountered Ian Buruma's writing in 'Wages of Guilt' which I found intelligent and original so I looked forward to this book.

The author shows in 'Year Zero: A History of 1945' the many shades of grey that governed human behaviour when the victors came to dwell with the liberated and the vanquished. The realities of living in damaged or broken societies did not always lead to best behaviour as the new masters, both individuals and as nations, exploited the power wrought by military success. For a book whose subject matter often makes grim reading, its author incorporates historical information into his narratives without overburdening them and writes with humanity but without sentimentality. He succeeds in relating his stories of individual men and women caught up in the maelstrom of war whilst providing context and analysis of the bigger picture.

Buruma attempts to explore thematically, rather than chronologically, the various emotions of the liberated; those enslaved at Belsen, French women enjoying the post-war night life, a rare German anti-Nazi aware of the self-pity of her fellow Berliners. There is joy, there is sex, there is fear, sometimes there is revenge - often encouraged by the liberators - more rarely, mercy. People, especially those in the newly occupied Germany and Japan, survived as best they could, many moral certainties being overturned in the face of starvation. Prostitution, both male and female, flourished in occupied Japan despite the highly controlled and hierarchical society which had gone before.

There were positives. Ostensibly the war been fought for freedom from tyranny and self-determination and a more equal society. The summer of 1945 saw British electors usher in a Labour government in the hope of new beginnings in welfare and housing. The earliest signs of post-war French-German economic co-operation may be found here. Less preacefully, in North Africa and the Far East, the downfall of the old elites led to great expectations of political change. Attempts by former rulers to return as though nothing had happened were resisted. The subject peoples wanted the wartime promises to apply to themselves as well as sovereign nations. Buruma brings us news from the Philippines and Indonesia of the confused nature of political situation.

In Germany, central and eastern Europe and Japan the new masters attempted to create societies based on liberal democracy or the communist system. The relations between the formerly Allied governments deteriorated due to the lack of a common enemy and the new superpowers,the US and the Soviet Union, began to flex their muscles as the Cold War came nearer to reality. The practicalities of administering the defeated was a mixture of long-term planning and reaction to circumstance; combining high ideals and necessary compromise. For example, whilst minor Nazi officials needed to run their localities did not usually face punishment; leading Nazis were imprisoned pending trial before being accused of new crimes against the international community.

Buruma offers much food for thought and he attempts to be balanced in his discussion of right and left in Europe and the rest of the world. This is a book that will please general reader and academic alike and shows how delight at freedom and liberation could go in hand with fear and new inequalities and injustices. Not everything is new but there is enough to make you want to read on and learn more about Year Zero - 1945

The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century
The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century
by David Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional book about the First World War and its legacy both in history and through cultural memory., 3 Feb. 2014
David Reynolds is a widely published and respected academic historian who has written a book about the Great, or First World, War which is not another history of the war or some part of it. Instead he has chosen to look at the war's significance - political, social, economic, moral and cultural - for the rest of the 20th century and how attitudes, especially British ones, to its Western Front in particular, changed over time.

As Reynolds recognises, the 21 years following 1918 were post-war and not yet "inter-war" a necessary perspective when discussing events before the outbreak of another world war. I cannot fault the six chapters that form Legacies, the first part of this work but as a student of 20th century European history I didn't feel as though I had learned much that was new. It was only when the author discussed the American experience that I felt I was reading something fresh.

Refractions, the second part of this book, I found much more interesting as it provides analysis of the impact of the First World War, as the Great War had become, on the second half of the century and beyond. As Reynolds mentions in his Introduction, the war is viewed not only as history but through a cultural prism in which poetry, particularly that written by a handful of anti-war poets, has loomed large in shaping both individual memory and collective remembrance. The author shows how it was that in the 1960's the war came to be seen as an almost totally negative and wasteful experience and its British participants as either incompetent generals or duped victims. These perceptions have largely conditioned popular understanding of events such as the first day of the Somme. As Reynolds admits, academic revisionists, such as Sheffield, advocates of a more positive assessment of the war in its historical context, have, outside of academe, struggled to turn the tide in challenging these firmly held views.

This is a well-written book and an excellent purchase for the general reader, though someone with a wider knowledge of history may find the second part more engaging and challenging than the first. A novel approach to the historical understanding of this war which should be applauded in attempting to appeal to a wider audience whilst also being of value to a more specialist reader.

The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945
The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945
by Richard Overy
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive survey, 26 Jan. 2014
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Richard Overy is a respected academic historian in the field of air history. This large book is best described as a comprehensive overview and consolidation of many monographs and journal articles, diaries, contemporary views and official records concerning bombing in Europe in the Second World War.

Overy has not produced either an encyclopedia or a dictionary and this well-written work introduces the reader to strategic bombing theory, practice, its consequences and aftermath at political, moral, technological and socio-economic levels. The British and US bombing of Germany looms large as one would expect but the German bombing of the Soviet Union, the Allied bombing of Italy and other Axis nations and friendly countries such as France are also discussed.

Overy ranges across the subject and succeeds in making this a story of people as well as a study of the theoretical and organisational development of the respective air forces. At times I thought I was reading a work by Juliet Gardiner (a historian of the home front). This is not a criticism though the extent to which Overy goes into the measures taken by the civilian authorities and their citizens was not what I expected.

I didn't feel I had read new arguments to explain the reasons for strategic bombing in the Second World War in Europe though I learned much. However, this a consolidation of current learning by an expert in his subject. This book, though long, is a good introduction, combining a chronological and thematic approach which makes it easier to identify areas of particular interest. Those who wish to pursue individual topics in greater depth will find an excellent bibliography with which to continue their reading.

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