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C. H. Maginniss "hardhatharry" (UK)
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Secret Warriors: Key Scientists, Code Breakers and Propagandists of the Great War
Secret Warriors: Key Scientists, Code Breakers and Propagandists of the Great War
by Taylor Downing
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars As a collection of thirteen racy stories it is excellent but it is not, 13 April 2015
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Secret Warriors is, in true Taylor Downing style, a Right Ripping Yarn.  As a collection of thirteen racy stories it is excellent but it is not, in my opinion a serious historical study (and perhaps is not meant to be).  The book is certainly too broad to create deep effect but this may be the intention, seeking to encompass a wide range of topics that deserve exposure in the round and in this arena the book has much merit. The title is pithy but perhaps not accurate; most of the characters were not warriors and nor for the most part secret in the accepted sense. The sub-title also misses one of the key aspects he pursues, that of the military innovator in the field.

I am disappointed by his negative view of the pre-1914 Army’s leadership and his Butchers & Bunglers assessment of the expansion, transition and operations of the BEF on the Western Front; modern scholarship has revealed a complex picture in which there is great credit to be given at all levels of command.  A professional historian would have at least explored these key interactions because they are germane to the debate; in such circumstances failure constantly loomed and quite frankly it is surprising that there was not more of it. I also take issue with his underplay of German atrocities against civilians on the Western Front in 1914; recent research underpins the view that they were widespread as were Austro-Hungarian ones in Serbia. The medical piece is however strong and I would refer readers to Mark Harrison's outstanding work, The Medical War, which was awarded the Templer Medal in 2010, to understand the complexities of medicine in the Great War.

Another issue is the author’s occasional habit of making a sweeping statement in one sentence only to follow it later with one contradicting it.  There is also too much material devoted to a simplistic explanation of military and naval operations and political activities but too little to the players and their effect upon strategy, operations and tactics.  Ensuring accuracy is always a challenge in the work of this nature but to my knowledge there has never been a Royal Academy at Sandhurst, the Halifax was not the first of the RAF’s Heavy Bombers in World War Two and there has never been an artillery range at Burford…………………….. Taylor Downing has however taken subjects available elsewhere in often more specialist publications and placed them in an accessible book, which may inspire readers to delve further into these fascinating areas. In this respect, he has done good service in highlighting the industry of a number of forgotten characters and skill sets, whose positive contribution to the Great War went on to create much influence in many areas well into the 20th Century and in some cases to the 21st.
 


MI5 In The Great War
MI5 In The Great War
by Nigel West
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... the MI5 Top Secret post war review of its Great War operations this is a racy read, 13 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: MI5 In The Great War (Hardcover)
Based upon the MI5 Top Secret post war review of its Great War operations this is a racy read. Indeed it is more like a collection of spy thrillers than an official document and lucidly supports the saying that fact is stranger than fiction. Contemporary in style it is certainly lively and clearly exposes the efforts the Germans went to in order to spy in the UK and the British industry in preventing them. There are two striking parallels with 2014. First, the similarity with the procedures involved in prevention of terrorism, including the role of many financial institutions and secondly, the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions to support due legal process.

Two observations though. First, there are a surprising number of typos in the text, which may have course been in the original documents but this should have been noted. Secondly, Appendix I contains one glaring error of commission by stating that Carl Hans Lody committed suicide in November 1914 when he was shot in the Tower of London on 6 November, and one omission, by not including Anton Kupferle who committed suicide in Brixton whilst on trial; there may be others that will come to light. In summary though, if you are a spy buff or a Great War student, this book should be on your shelf


Operation Typhoon: Hitler's March on Moscow, October 1941
Operation Typhoon: Hitler's March on Moscow, October 1941
by David Stahel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.69

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whirlwind, 7 Mar. 2013
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Operation TYPHOON is a most absorbing book for those interested in operations on the Eastern Front during 1941. The material is presented in a clear, coherent, fluid and structured manner which makes exceptionally engaging reading. David Stahel writes the overview from the German perspective in the manner that David Glantz offers for the detail from the Soviet one. For the military analyst, David Stahel focuses upon the Operational Level of War but his integration of the experiences of soldiers and officers at different levels of command give this study personal substance, although by the style of its content, the script enables David Stahel to avoid the bloody horror of combat, in a manner similar to the British Official Histories.

David Stahel has told a complex story magnificently, lucidly placing logistics and logisticians at the centre of the war. His work reinforces the role of logistics in modern warfare, exposes the vital interfaces between operational staff and logisticians, highlights the importance of the potentially catastrophic frictions in the supply chain, the criticality of excellent logistic planning, the significance of careful resource management and the fundamental constraints that logistics can impose upon the Warrior. In addition, he has brought to life some of the key German commanders and their supporting Movers & Shakers. This book deserves to be widely read by the military community and is very highly recommended.


Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
by Paul Kennedy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Problems and Solutions?, 1 Mar. 2013
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Engineers of Victory is a most absorbing book. The material is presented in a clear, coherent and structured manner which makes exceptionally engaging reading. Paul Kennedy has most certainly selected a most interesting subject and although his subject areas have been covered in specialised publications he has certainly brought many of the issues to life from an interesting perspective supported by his personal analysis. For the military analyst, his take on the operational level of war is far from doctrinally pure but he does focus upon the Movers & Shakers, both individuals and teams, that delivered the operational level capability.

I have though, three observations. First, the consistent, irritating and inappropriate use of the words horrible, terrible, dreadful, awful, actually, himself and itself, detract from the otherwise lively flow of the manuscript, whilst also injecting a sloppy journalese that is not worthy of his efforts. Secondly, there are several significant errors of fact, which whilst not interrupting the thrust of his arguments make one wonder whether there might be others that do. This point lucidly illustrates that with a work of this size and scope, a competent multi-disciplinary team is essential in ensuring accuracy. Thirdly, whilst there are supporting Notes, the author has relied solely on secondary sources, which of course, devalues the rigour of the study.

These observations aside, Paul Kennedy is to be commended for bringing to life a series of crucial campaigns of the Second World War in a engaging manner. That it scores 3* rather than 5* is a product of its limitations but this should not detract from its style and format.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2013 9:37 AM BST


Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire
Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire
by Calder Walton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Empire Strikes Back, 26 Feb. 2013
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Empire of Secrets is a most absorbing book. The material, mightily researched, is carefully presented in a clear, coherent and structured manner which makes exceptionally engaging reading. Calder Walton has most certainly selected a most interesting subject in an arena that has almost exclusively been overshadowed by the intelligence aspects of the more direct Cold War confrontation between the Superpowers. I am particularly intrigued by his historical comparisons with current events, which offer another view of the past and there are most certainly lessons which keep being relearned.

I have though, three observations. First, the consistent, irritating and inappropriate use of the words back to, actually, himself, itself and outfits, detract from the otherwise eloquent flow of the manuscript. Secondly, there are several errors of fact, which whilst not interrupting the thrust of his arguments make one wonder whether there might be others that do. This point lucidly illustrates that with a study of this size and scope, a competent multi-disciplinary team is essential in ensuring accuracy. Thirdly, the author's personal ethics subtly creep into the narrative, an issue compounded by his propensity to analyse some issues through the legal perspective of the 21st Century rather than the period. In this respect, Calder Walton has not quite made the transition from court lawyer to intelligence historian.

These observations aside, Calder Walton is to be highly commended for bringing to life a forgotten component of our recent history, in a thoroughly focused manner. I am sure that this very significant study will lay the foundations for future research in this fascinating area, especially as more material is released into the public domain. I thoroughly recommend his book to those who are interested in Cold War intelligence operations and the British withdrawal from Empire.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2014 1:05 PM GMT


Unflinching Zeal: The Air Battles Over France and Britain, May-October 1940
Unflinching Zeal: The Air Battles Over France and Britain, May-October 1940
by Robin Higham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much Zeal, 28 Jan. 2013
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Unflinching Zeal is, arguably, rather late to the literary table. Indeed, it is amazing that a book of this nature has taken so long to be written and published. Authored by a well respected aviation academic, it examines a wealth of factors relating to the air battles in the period May-October 1940. It focuses upon the French Army Air Force and in particular, its performance during the Battle of France, before comparing it to the RAF's performance in the Battle of Britain. Of especial significance, is Mr Higham's examination of sustainability; as relevant now as it was then and ignored by many authors.

Robin Higham delves into a host of issues with zeal and vigour and his analysis generates some most interesting conclusions. The script's structure is certainly more coherent than the supporting book Two Roads to War but some of the critical arguments are scattered around the pages like confetti at a wedding, creating confusion instead of clarity. There is a wealth of supporting detail in tables, which presents the information in a lucid manner but sometimes his references and calculations do provide a significant challenge in comprehension!

There are errors of detail that I suspect are typos but are irritating nonetheless which combined with the text indicate that the Editorship needs some crafting. That said, the result is a clear improvement on Two Roads to War. In conclusion, Unflinching Zeal is a fascinating examination of the period with interesting new perspectives, which I found thoroughly engrossing. Recommended.


The Edwardian Army: Manning, Training, and Deploying the British Army, 1902-1914
The Edwardian Army: Manning, Training, and Deploying the British Army, 1902-1914
by Timothy Bowman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £67.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars March On!, 4 Sept. 2012
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The Edwardian Army could, like Slim's 14th Army, be best described as Forgotten. Whilst there have been some excellent books and articles relating to specific aspects of the Edwardian Army, there has not been a coherent academic study since the publication of Colonel John Dunlop's comprehensive The Development of the British Army 1899-1914. The Edwardian Army is an excellent complement to Dunlop's work and breaths new life into a fascinating subject by matching the strategic, political, colonial, social and economic strands with the tactical, logistic, regimental and individual ones.

The reader will certainly find much that is current and relevant and there are several significant themes in the book which have resonant chimes 100 years on. The Edwardian Army was subject to a raft of measures with which we are familiar: review, reassessment, reorganization, restructuring, re-titling and re-equipment but precious little resourcing! Of particular interest is the creative tension between the genesis of Mission Command and the requirement to develop the supporting doctrine and training to deliver it. The role and emerging structures of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces is of especial relevance in the 2020 environment and the challenges in 1912 have a familiar feel in 2012!

The Edwardian Army exposes the inherent structural weakness created by the Cardwell-Childers reforms of 1881 which became of major significance as the Army focused upon an expeditionary capability designed for a continental deployment and the fragile reliance upon individual reservists to support this critical task, is usefully explored. The Deployment aspects within the sub-title relate mainly to imperial activity and there are some splendid vignettes of overseas service. The deployment of the British Expeditionary Force and its associated planning are barely mentioned, an omission explained by the authors but nonetheless the successful execution of the WF Plan was arguably the Edwardian Army's greatest single achievement.

Bowman and Connolly have written a most engaging book which will appeal to anyone interested in the British Army of the period and yet it has much more to offer because of the many current comparators. In summary: thoroughly recommended.


Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk
Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk
by Robin Higham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £31.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Many Roads, 13 Aug. 2012
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Two Roads to War is, arguably, rather late to the literary table. Indeed, it is amazing that a book of this nature has taken so long to be written and published. Authored by a well respected aviation academic, it examines a wealth of factors relating to the development of the British and French air arms between the wars. Imaginative in conception and sweeping in approach, Two Roads to War is a fascinating expose of this subject which analyses the military aspects (strategic, operational and tactical) against the political, cultural, social, technical, economic and industrial factors that influenced the two air arms. Robin Higham also examines how the structural and doctrinal issues affected their development in terms of personnel, logistics, training and capability.

The delivery of the information is though a disappointment. Whilst the chronological structure appears sound, the critical detail both in time and subject is scattered around the pages like confetti at a wedding creating confusion instead of clarity. There are errors of detail that I suspect are typos but are irritating nonetheless which combined with the text indicate that the Editorship needs some serious tightening; indeed, I am surprised that the highly respected Naval Institute Press went to print on the manuscript, parts of which have more in common with an adequate History GCSE exam response than the cogent and coherent work of a top-flight aviation historian. In addition, the end-notes indicate a reliance on secondary rather than primary sources, which is unexpected.

In conclusion, Two Roads to War is a fascinating examination of the period but its delivery is, in my opinion, a great disappointment. Robin Higham has written some excellent books but this is not one of them, although a thorough Red Ink Correction could turn it around.


A Time of Tyrants: Scotland and the Second World War
A Time of Tyrants: Scotland and the Second World War
by Trevor Royle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Timely, 31 July 2012
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Trevor Royle has written a most interesting account of Scotland's contribution to the Allied effort in the Second World War. Unlike Northern Ireland, Scotland has never had an Official History for the period and Mr Royle has done a remarkable job in filling part of this literary gap, although inevitably that has created its own challenges.

Broadly researched, Time of Tyrants paints a sweeping brush of Scotland's military, industrial, economic, political, cultural and social contribution to the war in an engaging and coherent style. There are times however, when this cogency is corrupted and the chronology in particular becomes very confusing. In addition, there are also a surprising number of errors in the text. Some of these are clearly typos but others are fundamental and demonstrate a failure of knowledge, proof-reading or editorship.

The social, cultural and political aspects are especially well covered but the industrial and economic aspects rather less so, which given the importance of Scotland's manufacturing capability to the war effort, especially munitions, is unexpected. In particular, there is little mention of ports, warehousing and imports, nor indeed, any mention of the railways. The book would certainly benefit by reducing the space on overseas army deployments to enable a greater focus on Scottish defence operations and the mobilization and support of Scottish units in Scotland. Whilst the introduction of too much detail relating to manufacturing outputs, imports, munitions production, transportation, defence deployments and bases would interrupt the lucid flow of the structure, a selection of appendices and supporting footnotes would add enormous value to a book of this nature.

Overall, I enjoyed Time of Tyrants and would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in Scotland's history in the 21st century. It would be a delight to assist Mr Royle in honing the next edition because it deserves the extra polish.


Spies In The Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence during World War II
Spies In The Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence during World War II
by Taylor Downing
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear view, 10 May 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well paced and comprehensively researched, I was impressed by the manner in which Taylor Downing has interwoven so many different aspects of the photographic reconnaissance intelligence picture in such an engaging manner; it is a fascinating read. As with many military authors with a media background, Taylor Downing sometimes mis-comprehends nuances of service life or makes errors in technical detail but overall this book is an excellent contribution to the knowledge of this subject. Most importantly though, the author has brought vividly to life a whole series of people, whose courage and exploits, helped to win the war against the brutal Fascist dictators.


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