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Birmingham Pals
Birmingham Pals
Price: £3.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 3 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Birmingham Pals (Kindle Edition)
Beautifully researched and excellently illustrated. Written to include the layperson and enthusiast, which is no small achievement


Coming Home
Coming Home
Price: £1.23

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid, 3 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Coming Home (Kindle Edition)
I was drawn to this book as an enthusiast in this period- and usually factual works. I thought this might be a fun light read.

I really should have read the reviews first. It is wincingly filled with cliches and only surpassed in cringes by the historical gaffs by a writer who just does not research his subject. Instead of giving the reader a sense of first person experience of these times, he simply peddles every falsehood and more. I think his historical research came from watching a couple of episodes of Blackadder.

Even when he chooses to punctuate his works with even the most minor details, these are almost always wrong. The german rifle does not have a detatchable magazine. The british water bottle does not have a screw-on cap. etc.Colouring in the picture with these touches was a faulure.

In the bigger picture of the situations the character gets into, employment as a "sniper" seems to mean he's is in some special forces outfit who raid the enemy trenches and fight hand-to-hand almost every night and in every battle, guard tunnelling companies down mines, airfields and all manner of activities. They appear to live in the trenches constantly (massively untrue) and occasionally when not, seem to come and go from lodgings of officer quality unsupervised at a whim. It seems this book goes over the top more than his character!

Worse is the writers perception of military law and the court-martial system, which neglects the whole due process and sinks into the all the false myths. He also seems unaware that Australian troops were exempt from capital punishment.
Apparently junior officers are also free to choose not to attend work whenever they think it's risky. There are hundreds of other falsehoods and failings too numerous to mention.

The characters themselves seem two dimentional, their opinions of their life and circumstances are not reflective of the situations and sentiments of individuals of the time. "Lions led by Donkeys" seems a catchfrase the author connected with - though this phrase was not coined till after the war, when over the years subsequently slanted writers altered the perceptions of this period of history from hindsight.

I could make a shortlist of books the author aught read to begin with, but it's rather too late, as it is too late to save him. Apparently he's churned out several other novels set in the Great War - I can only imagine he's blundered those too.

I have since tried another, and found him immesurably better. Avoid this author - this is no Sebastian Foulks' "Birdsong". Far more deserving of your time and money are the novels by A J Warren.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2014 9:18 AM BST


Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS)
Blindfold and Alone: British Military Executions in the Great War (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS)
by John Hughes-Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent study and certainly thought provoking, 25 July 2012
It is interesting that this topic is still one of heated opinion today, some years after the book was written and the Pardons Campaign ran it's course. It is true that the authors have a bias. In that respect there is an obvious flaw in their objectivity- but then someone had to set the case for the defence, so to speak.

It has been argued by some reviewers that their choice of cases to identify and discuss in depth may have been weighted to those that were deservedly guilty, but there are many cases discussed in the book that are not so. They havn't 'cherry picked' their cases to present. The reader has to make his progress avoiding the biased angle, but I got the impression the author's efforts and research led them to their belief; not that they set out with this viewpoint and put in untold hours meerly to substanciate it.

It is very true that it is false to view a previous age with the liberal morals of our society. The authors take a lot of trouble to try to place us into that sort of society and its mindset and functioning, as best as can be, before getting down to cases. The past is indeed a foreign country in this respect. From our safe 21st century armchairs we cannot understand a world where total war reigned and the Empire had to stand or fall on the shoulders of those men in Khaki- whether volunteers or conscripts. Nevertheless it is clear that the large majority of those guilty of a capital offence had their second chance, and a lot of those shot were repeat or severe offenders.

Ultimatly I found the book well written, and excellently researched, given a lot of records no longer exist. It certainly succeeds in giving "the other view", and for that it is very readable. Moreover, as can be seen from the barrage of reviews here, it is a book that is unquestionably thought provoking!


Horsemen in No Man's Land: British Cavalry and Trench Warfare 1914-1918
Horsemen in No Man's Land: British Cavalry and Trench Warfare 1914-1918
by David Kenyon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirling work on a often casually dismissed topic, 31 May 2012
Even for those who claim to understand the Great War, dismissing cavalry as outdated in the 20th century is par of the course. It is all too easy for history buffs to use the eventual mechanization of horsemen into tank crews to imply that the cavalry was redundant on the battlefield. However, it is often overlooked that the tank, even with conciderable development and large numbers had it's limitations, even by 1918. The change from horse to tank was still a long way off. Moreover this was not mere hidebound traditionalism.

It is clear that from his deep interest the author is pro-cavalry. Nevertheless he does not let this get in the way of a balanced argument. Kenyon brings us steadily into the realm of the cavalry of the BEF. Their value in the retreat from Mons is never doubted, even by dismissive historians, who place their argument of the impotence of cavalry once trench warfare is established. As a consequence, the author makes it his business to centre his fight on this very ground of his enemy's choosing. In addition, the author does not point to other theatres where the cavalry's value was undoubtedly immesurable.

The body of the book shows how the structure of the BEF as well as the ongoing struggle conspired to hobble the cavalry as well as hoard them; how they were constrained from making their potential impact, despite sustaining equal losses to the infantry- often through dismounted trench duty alongside them.

In addition to exploring the "politics" of the cavalry's career in the BEF, Kenyon picks out all the mounted actions to explore each deftly with vivid colourful narrative, and examine the successes and strife, their frustrations and the "what ifs". Often the narrative is seamlessly populated with actual memoir that makes the events feel personal.

Best of all, and for the first time, we see the real complexities, constraints, achievements and limitations in a thoroughly accurate context. Kenyon helps us easily appreciate them; much to his credit, as other historians before him have simply given up trying and written the cavalry down.

In saying "for the first time", I suspect this will be the last ink spent on the subject. Not because it doesn't merit further debate, but simply because the author is so balanced and thorough I cannot imagine any more will be said in favour or against.

Quite simply the definitive book on the subject, and one that every self-proclaimed enthusiast of the Great War needs to read if he wishes to claim any depth to their understanding or view on the BEF on the Western Front.

Without question, it is a "must".


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