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David Rowland

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Nancy Wake [DVD] [1987]
Nancy Wake [DVD] [1987]
Dvd ~ Noni Hazlehurst
Offered by wmdservices
Price: £13.75

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nancy Wake, 14 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Nancy Wake [DVD] [1987] (DVD)
Nancy Wake tells the story of an Australian journalist married to a French businessman during the German occupation of France in the second world. She is involved in smuggling downed British airmen to safety across the Pyrenees into neutral Spain and later after joining the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in England she is parachuted into France to resume her resistance activities. Her husband, Henri is captured by the Germans, tortured and shot and this serves to harden Wake's attitude towards the German occupiers.

I know from other accounts that the relationship between SOE agents and the French resistance was not always very cordial as the French sometimes regarded the British as interfering in their affairs and telling them what do do. The task of SOE agents like Wake to co-ordinate the activities of the various resistance groups was very difficult as they operated very differently from each other and there was a great deal of friction between the groups due to their differing political loyalties.

The resistance groups often made life very difficult for the French population when they engaged in activities that were militarily ineffective and which lead to violent retaliation by the Germans.

Wake and other agents noticed how poor the security measures were in the resistance which made the task of the Germans to crush them that much easier. Wake greatly increased her popularity with the group when she took a long and arduous bicycle ride to obtain a radio from another resistance group and following that the role of British agents in her group became more appreciated.

After the allied landings on D-Day on 6 June 1944, her group along with others fought the Germans to liberate the country and Wake played a major part in this happening in her area.

Noni Hazelhurst is superb in her role as Nancy Wake and the staging of the fight by the French resistance is very well done. I very much recommend people to see the film to appreciate how brave the SOE agents were in the face of great odds and how they operated in conditions of great peril and privation.


And The Band Played On [DVD][1993]
And The Band Played On [DVD][1993]
Dvd ~ Matthew Modine

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And the band played on, 8 Oct. 2014
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I am old enough to remember a world before AIDS. I can remember in the 1960s first hearing about a disease that was then called gay cancer or the gay plague that was dismissed as something that only homosexuals "got." It was regarded by some people as the wrath of God visited upon a group of people as punishment for their perverted sexual habits. At that time it was confined to a few hundred people, then a few thousand people and over the years spread across the world like wildfire to produce what we see today when millions of people who contracted the disease have died. We had no idea in the 1960s what AIDS would become and how it would affect so many people and dominate so much of our thinking about human disease and our fragility.

"And the band played on" superbly shows how a disease that affected relatively few people came to the attention of the world, how it was regarded in the early days, how right wing thinking in America at that time refused to accept the nature and dimension of the problem and failed to provide funding to combat the disease and how late it was before anything much was done by way of dealing with what became a massive public health problem. The film brilliantly shows how a few people fought to demonstrate to the public how serious the disease was and how they tried to publicise what the consequences of inaction would be.

Matthew Modine is excellent in the leading role and the atmosphere at the time is conveyed very well. The film is deeply moving in places and shows very well the degree of human suffering wrought by a disease that from such small beginnings became the most dominant public health issue of our time.


To The Ends of the Earth - BBC [DVD]
To The Ends of the Earth - BBC [DVD]
Dvd ~ Benedict Cumberbatch
Offered by Assai-uk
Price: £11.50

83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To the ends of the Earth, 7 Oct. 2014
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Benedict Cumberbatch plays a young English aristocrat who embarks on a perilous voyage to Australia in the early 19th century and the ship he sails is long past its sell by date and leaks like a sieve which make the dangerous voyage even more problematic. The officers, crew and passengers are a motley bunch so his relationship with them presents other problems that he has to cope with.

The ship has to deal with numerous storms, ice and periods when it is becalmed and doesn't move at all and there is conflict among the crew and between the passengers. The reconstruction of the voyage is superbly staged, it looks realistic and believable, the story is totally gripping and exciting and Cumberbatch is terrific in the lead role. You really get involved in the story and I recommend it as a film that gets your attention from beginning to end and never lets go.


The Voyage Of Charles Darwin: The Complete Series [DVD]
The Voyage Of Charles Darwin: The Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Malcolm Stoddard
Price: £27.52

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voyage of Charles Darwin: The complete series, 4 Oct. 2014
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Charles Darwin must rank as one of the most influential people in the history of mankind and this fine film tells the story of the round the world voyage of the HMS Beagle which set the young Darwin on his course to write "The origin of species" which was published in 1859. If he had not gone on this voyage Darwin would never have developed his theory of evolution by natural selection that seeks to explain how life changed and developed over a long period of time to become what we see today.

Darwin knew full well that his ideas about evolution would challenge the prevailing ideas about biology and because of this he hesitated for many years before he published "The origin of species." It was only when he received the draft of a book by Alfred Russell Wallace which put forward similar ideas that caused Darwin to take the plunge and publish his own book. He was attacked fiercely by many people at the time and his theory was called heresy and much worse and many of these attacks were deeply personal and caused him and his family and supporters great suffering.

We still see this today where progressive ideas are often challenged by people who insist on explaining the natural world around them in religious terms rather than in terms of science. The religious establishment often opposes ideas and practices that question established wisdom and this has delayed or prevented advances that would benefit humanity.

Malcolm Stoddard is excellent as Darwin and he portrays a man who rather than upset the establishment kept his ideas to himself and the frustration and stress resulting from this must have been a contributory factor in his poor health in later life and his difficult relationship with his very religious wife.

The film takes us around the world where Darwin acutely observes the geology, botany and biology of the countries he visits, particularly in South American and the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific and when he returns he develops his ideas about the natural world and the mechanism that leads to change. The story is enthralling and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in biology or just wants to see a rattling good tale of human achievement in the face of ignorance, prejudice and reaction.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2015 2:57 PM GMT


THE Rising Sun
THE Rising Sun
by JOHN Y TOLAND
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The rising sun: The decline and fall of the Japanese empire 1936-1945, 4 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: THE Rising Sun (Hardcover)
This is one of the most impressive and most readable books I have come across about the second world war. It combines a huge amount of detailed and painstaking research spread over 929 pages but it is told in a way that make enthralling and exciting reading and for a history book this is very unusual.

To research this book which was published in 1970, John Toland and his Japanese wife spent firteen months travelling through the far east interviewing almost five hundred people to build up an account of mainly the Japanese perspective of the war in the Pacific covering their invasion of Manchuria and China in February 1936 to their surrender in August 1945. In Toland's own words it is a "factual saga of people caught up in a flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened - muddled, enobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of contradiction and paradox."

The book tries to answer the question of why and how Japan sought to expand its influence in Asia and the Pacific and took upon itself to initiate a war with the mighty United States which in the long run could only but lead to the defeat of the Japanese empire or as Toland puts it "why did a country the size of California launch the suicidal attack on Pearl Harbour which involved it in a death strugle with an enemy ten times stronger?

I recommend that everyone who has an interest in the war in the Pacific should read this magnificent work and immerse themselves in the titanic strugle that took place across the vast Pacific Ocean and a large part of China and south east Asia between 1936 and 1945.


MacArthur's Undercover War: Spies, Saboteurs, Guerrillas and Secret Missions
MacArthur's Undercover War: Spies, Saboteurs, Guerrillas and Secret Missions
by William B. Breuer
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars MacArthur's Undercover War:, 27 Sept. 2014
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After their surprise attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, the Japanese occupied several countries in south east Asia including Burma, Malaya and Singapore and established themselves on many islands in the Pacific between the Asian mainland and Australia. General Douglas MacArthur escaped from the Philippines and went to Australia thinking that he was sent there to plan his early return to the Philippines and the other areas of Japanese occupation. It did not take him long to discover that the American government and military has already written off the Philippines and that any resistance for the time being would have to come from the people already living in occupied countries.

The Allied Intelligence Bureau sent men and supplies to assist the resistance fighters and enable them to establish a system of spies, saboteuers and guerillas comprising American soldiers who stayed behind after the occupation, local coast watchers, miners, traders, planters and native people's to make life as difficult as possible for the Japanese. Against overwhelming odds and operating in primitive conditions they waged a covert war that proved to be very sucessful. These people carried out this very dangerous work in the jungles and mountains of the Pacific and they knew that to get caught would mean certain torture and execution, usually beheading.

William Breuer in this fascinating and exciting book described the numerous operations that were carried out in the Pacific behind enemy lines from Singapore to the Philippines and from New Guinea to the Asian mainland which included rescuing downed airmen, blowing up ships, harbors and bridges, undermining currency, arranging prison escapes, distributing allied propoganda and sending back information about the movement of Japanese ships, aircraft and troops so that they could be attacked by allied naval and air forces.

I recommend this excellent book to anyone who wants to know more about the resistance movements in the Pacific and how these courageous men and women fought to keep resistance alive until the occupied territories could be liberated by the Americans.


Walter Cronkite - World War 2 - The War In The Pacific [DVD]
Walter Cronkite - World War 2 - The War In The Pacific [DVD]
Dvd ~ Walter Cronkite
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £14.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In this excellent series of documentary films, 20 Sept. 2014
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In this excellent series of documentary films, Walter Cronkite narrates the momentous events of the second world war in the Pacific from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 to their surrender in 1945. Following its occupation of Manchuria and large areas of China the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941, rapidly followed by its occupation of large parts of south east Asia, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and many islands in the Pacific. During 1941 and 1942 there was very little opposition from the American, British Commonwealth and Dutch forces until the Battle of Midway when the Japanese fleet was decimated and this brought to a halt the offensive actions of the Japanese. From then onwards the allies took the initiative and pushed the Japanese westwards across the Pacific towards its own shores and after the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Russian invasion of Munchuria the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

The film contains some memorable scenes of fighting on the islands of the Pacific and Cronkite provides the commentary in his characteristic way. I strongly recommend this fine DVD to anyone who is interested in the Pacific war and how the Japanese advances in south east Asia and the islands in the Pacific took place and then were halted and how the American forces steadily drove the Japanese forces from the islands of the Pacific and with its industrial might crushed the enemy and gained victory in the Pacific.


Australian Commandos: Their Secret War Against the Japanese in WWII (Stackpole Military History) (Stackpole Military History Series)
Australian Commandos: Their Secret War Against the Japanese in WWII (Stackpole Military History) (Stackpole Military History Series)
by A. B. Feuer
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The commandos were often assisted by the native peoples of the islands who hated the Japanese because of their brutality towards, 18 Sept. 2014
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On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian Islands and soon afterwards they attacked the Philippine Islands and south east Asia, including Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Burma. The Japanese army made rapid gains in these countries and they also attacked and occupied some of the islands in the south west Pacific.

In the jungles of the south west Pacific Australian commandos conducted daring rescues and carried out dangerous sabotage and intelligence missions behind Japanese lines. The commandos of Z Unit were usually put ashore by American submarines or were dropped by parachute and they caused the Japanese endless problems. The commandos were often assisted by the native peoples of the islands who hated the Japanese because of their brutality towards the people they subjugated. Small groups of men set up observation posts to watch the Japanese and they reported back the movements of enemy troops, aircraft and ships thus enabling them to be attacked by allied aircraft and warships.

A.B. Feurer tells the story in this fascinating book of these courageous men who risked their lives every day for they knew full well that their capture would almost certainly lead to their torture and execution, usually by beheading. These commandos operated in the brutal terrain of disease infested jungles, towering mountains and largely unexplored country and they were constantly hunted by the Japanese. Their 18 operations were usually successful but sometimes the result was failure with tragic consequences.

The book is exciting and makes for enjoyable readable and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in finding out about the lives of these brave men who made such an important contribution to eventual victory in the Pacific in August 1945.


Coast Watching in the Solomon Islands: The Bougainville Reports, December 1941-July 1943
Coast Watching in the Solomon Islands: The Bougainville Reports, December 1941-July 1943
by A. B. Feuer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £78.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Coast Watching in World War 2, 6 Sept. 2014
On 7 December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian Islands and soon afterwards the Japanese army invaded and occupied parts of south east Asia and many islands in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the Solomon Island chain north of Australia.

This fascinating and enthralling book tells the story of the Australian Coast Watching Service of the Solomon Islands, most of whom were Australians and loyal native peoples of the islands. In conditions of great danger they observed the movement of Japanese troops, aeroplanes and shipping and forwarded the information by radio to the coast watching headquarters in Townsville in Queensland, Australia and later in Port Moresby in New Guinea. This intelligence was immensely useful to the American forces in the Pacific and Admiral Halsey paid them a great tribute by saying that the information they provided saved Guadalcanal from enemy occupation. The Solomon Islands acted like a fence guarding Australia which was only 800 miles away and if the Japanese gained a foothold there they could block the convoy routes from the United States to Australia and New Zealand.

The coast watchers were supplied mainly by air drops, they operated behind Japanese lines in terrible conditions and went through great physical and psychological hardship in the jungles and mountains of the islands. The Japanese constantly hunted them, sometimes successfully, in an effort to stop their operations. The coast watchers knew if they were caught it would mean certain torture and death. Some of the native islanders provided superb support to them putting themselves, their families and communities in great danger whereas others, often through threats, intimidation or bribery helped the Japanese to track down the coastwatchers.

Like the Special Operations Executive, the coast watching service was top secret during the war, very few people knew they existed and the people concerned did not receive credit for what they did until many years after the war was over. There were only about 100 coastwatchers in the south Pacific and about 24 were located in the Solomon Islands. Two men stationed in Bougainville were only 200 miles from the big Japanese air and naval base at Rabaul.

The book is a compilation of edited accounts of the coast watching service, known as Operation Ferdinand, and it was directed by Commander Eric Feldt who has also written a superb book about the coast watching service. His book is a more comprehensive account of the coast watching service covering all the Pacific islands. I thoroughly recommend Coast Watching in World War 2 as it provides an exciting and gripping insight into an organisation that was so vital to the war effort in the Pacific but was so little known.


Pacific War: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima 1941-45 (Campaigns of World War II)
Pacific War: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima 1941-45 (Campaigns of World War II)
by Andrew Wiest
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Pacific War: From Pearl Harbour to Hiroshima 1941-45, 16 Aug. 2014
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This outstanding book is a fascinating overview of the Pacific war from the Japanese attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 to the surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945. It covers the war in 10 chapters: the approach to war, day of infamy, Japanese juggernaut, the turning point, the allies strick back, Japan on the defensive, twilight of the rising sun, the long road back, bloody conquests and reaping the whirlwind.

It is lavishly illustrated by over 200 magnificent photographs and helpful maps and is a superb introduction to a war that covered a huge areas of the globe from the frontiers of India to the the Hawaiian islands. It is one of the the best book I have read on the Pacific war as a whole and I unreservedly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the military history of the second world war.


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