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Giles Hamilton (Tonbridge, Kent, United Kingdom)

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The Ancient Greeks For Dummies
The Ancient Greeks For Dummies
by Stephen Batchelor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.79

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worthwhile and informative, 10 Aug 2008
I was not looking for a heavy read, but I was looking for a book which would give me an insight in to the day to day life of the Ancient Greeks. So far, and with some way yet to go, I have an understanding of family life, culture and warfare and battles.

If you have 5 minutes or a whole evening, settle down for an engrossing read. This book is easy to pick up, but less easy to put down.

This book is suitable for all ages and for those looking for an introduction to this facinating era of history as well as those hoping to re-visit Ancient Greece last visited at primary or secondary school.

Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914 (Pan Grand Strategy Series)
Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914 (Pan Grand Strategy Series)
by Malcolm Brown
Edition: Paperback

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A chance to forget the horrors of war, 15 Dec 2002
This is the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce when allied and axis forces forgot for a few days about killing, and instead exchanged gifts with each other in No Mans Land.
The Christmas Truce was not an isolated event, enemy soldiers met up with each other all along the Western Front. The author has once again made excellent use of diaries, letters and newspaper articles(both allied and axis) to illustrate the true feelings of the soldiers who were mostly fed up with the bloodshed and slaughter and wanted to return home to their families.
What is really extraordinary is the fact that on quieter areas of the Western Front the truce went on until February and March of 1915. Also, there were Christmas truces in 1915 and 1916, but not on the same scale as in 1914.
Of course the truces has to end. Pressure from the general staff and politicians ensured this. Germany was not going to back down, and so men who has been friends for a short while returned to their duty of killing and defending their trenches.
Although truces have taken place subsequently, none have been anything like the 1914 truce. This is a facinating book, and well deserves a place on your bookshelf.

The Imperial War Museum Book of the Western Front (Pan Grand Strategy Series)
The Imperial War Museum Book of the Western Front (Pan Grand Strategy Series)
by Malcolm Brown
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1914-1918 in 350 pages, 24 Nov 2002
This book is sure to capture and keep the attention of the reader from cover to cover. Once again, and in keeping with his style of writing, Malcolm Brown relies on personal records including letters and diaries to compliment the narrative.
This book comments on the major battles of the First World War, including Mons in August 1914, The Somme in 1916, The Battle of Arras and the Battles making up the Third Ypres in 1917 and the Kaiser's Battle in 1918.
In addition, and perhaps more interesting, are the subject matters not widely covered by First World War novelists. These include executions for cowardice and desertion, entertainment for troops away from the front lines, religion and death, shell shock and the contribution made by our allies(including the Indian and Chinese forces).
Covering four years in 350 pages is quite ambitious. You do not get great depth from this book, but what you do get is a snapshot of many different subjects which can be pieced together to form a picture of trench warfare on the Western Front.
Once again, another excellent read from Malcolm Brown.

Hirschfeld:The Secret Diary Of A U-Boat (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
Hirschfeld:The Secret Diary Of A U-Boat (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
by Wolfgang Hirschfeld
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An uphill struggle for survival, 10 Oct 2002
Wolfgang Hirschfeld risked his own life by writing a secret diary. He worked as a radio operator, serving shortly on a torpedo boat, and after on two u-boats(U-109 and U-234). Hirschfeld explains that contrary to popular belief, there were not a huge number of eager volunteers to the u-boat arm of the Naval service, in fact quite the opposite. Hirschfeld himself was 'press ganged' into becoming a u-boat man.
Although this is a good read, it does not have the addictive quality present in both 'Iron Coffins' or 'Das Boot'. There is not the same degree of tension in the sea battles, and it not so easy to bond with the crew members. It is very hard to fault the two aforementioned books, 'Das Boot' being my personal preference.
This book was good, 'Das Boot' and 'Iron Coffins' are better. However, if you have the time, I can recommend reading all three.

Nightmare of the Dark
Nightmare of the Dark
by Edwin Silberstang
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life and death in Dachau, 5 Oct 2002
This review is from: Nightmare of the Dark (Hardcover)
This is the story of concentration camp life through the eyes of Robert Lindner, a Jewish boy, from Vienna. This is by no means an easy read, and for the most part it is quite unpleasant. If the author's intent is to shock the reader, then he succeeds, and he does this by adopting a no holds barred attitude to his writing.
The SS guards are sadists. They play with, torment, and torture their prisoners before murdering them. Edwin Silberstang does an excellent job in making the reader despise the guards and all that they stand for. This is a real life horror story.
As the title suggests, Robert Lindner(narrator) is living a nightmare. Edwin Silberstang allows the reader to enter the nightmare, to experience life and death and the purest form of evil. Escape from the nightmare is easy for the reader, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the hundreds of thousands who could not.
A very useful educational resource, but hardly an entertaining read. Well written and if a narrative style appeals, worth looking out for.

Schindler's Ark
Schindler's Ark
by Thomas Keneally
Edition: Paperback

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true story of a life saver, 24 Sep 2002
This review is from: Schindler's Ark (Paperback)
This is Oskar Schindler' story. A story of determination, strength and courage in the face of adversity. Schindler was a German businessman and Nazi party member. Wealthy and successful, he decided to set up a factory in Poland producing supplies for the German army in Russia. He would employ Jews.
Initially, you do not picture Schindler as a philanthropist. He is an entrepreneur, his passion is money and the full enjoyment of life in luxury. As the story progresses, and he witnesses atrocities and acts of inhumanity towards the Jews, he uses his own money to bribe the SS and Police and to buy Jews to work for him, thus saving them from a very uncertain future in the hands of the SS.
As the rest of the world stood by and did little, we learn of one man's quest to do as much as he could for those in his care.
It is not fair to say that others did not help, but Schindler clearly went further than most. This is a moving and heartbreaking story. In the end, Schindler made an enormous personal sacrifice, and put himself in danger to save those his countrymen were murdering. He saved one thousand lives. The death of Oscar Schindler was mourned by Jewish communities worldwide.
This story was the inspiration for the acclaimed film Schindler's List' starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes. The film is as good as the book.

by Lothar Gunther Buchheim
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of survival, 23 Sep 2002
Set in the late part of 1941, the U Boats no longer enjoys mastery of the Atlantic. The author, as an official Naval correspondant, joins the crew of UA a Type VII-C boat(the stable horse of the U Boat fleet) to write of life at sea.
It would be wrong to give away too much detail, as this book certainly deserves the reputation it has as one of the best war stories ever written. Those who have an interest in Naval battles or those who are interested in World War 2 will find this a truly amazing story. The author does well to describe the key characters; 'The Old Man', The Chief and the 1st and 2nd Watch Officers. Also we meet Johann, the Chief Mechanic, and a number of other crew members, all who have a key role to play onboard the submarine.
You can hear the diesel motors hammering, experience the claustrophobia, lack of personal space, frustration and boredom, sense the combined fear, excitement and exhileration during an attack, and picture the helpless situation of the crew during a depth charge run.
It is quite a long story at just over 550 pages, but has an addictive quality which makes it very hard to put down. The men do not seem to think that they are in any way brave, they just know they have to obey orders and carry out their duty. From start to finish this is compulsive reading.
The film starring Jurgen Prochnow as 'The Old Man' should also be watched, as this is a rare occasion where the film is as good as the book. If you enjoy Das Boot, consider also reading 'Iron Coffins' by Herbert Werner(one of the few surviving U Boat Captains) and also Hirschfeld's 'The secret diary of a U Boat' written by a serving radio operator.

All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The anti war story, 22 Sep 2002
No doubt influenced by the author's own experiences(he was sent to Northern France in 1917 and injured at Passchendaele), we see certain events during World War 1 through the eyes of Paul Baumer, a young German. Together with a group of school graduates, he enlist in the infantry, having been encouraged to do so by their fiercly patriotic school master, and their own sense of loyalty and pride.
The author describes the regimented training program they endure before being sent to the front. Though limited in practicality, the training obviously mentally and physically strengthend the group, and developed their existing friendships.
At the front, the horror of war is revealed. We meet Kat(the old hand), who Fathers the naive boys, and teaches them survival. As though you were there, you can hear the injured screaming horses and men, the artillery and machine guns, and the bell warning of an impending gas attack. You can picture the horrendous injuries, the mud and devestation. The narrator does well to involve the reader throughout.
One by one, the friends who have become more like brothers fall, the narrator himself dying one month before the end of the war.
Many scenes stick in the reader's mind; the narrator telling the Mother of a friend that he is dead, the killing of the French soldier in the shell hole, the ignorance of those at home to what is going on at the front, and the death of Kat, who died in the Summer of 1918, and had lived through much of the war untouched.
This is an emotionally stirring story. The small group witnessed what soldiers of all nationalities witnessed. I would agree with those who describe this as one of the greatest anti war novels ever written, and I would recommend this to anyone after a personal account of the horrors of trench warfare.

Iron Coffins: A U-boat Commander's War, 1939-45
Iron Coffins: A U-boat Commander's War, 1939-45
by Herbert Werner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A survivor's story, 20 Sep 2002
In the early years of World War 2, the U Boats were hunter killers, domineering the sea, and sending thousands of tons of allied shipping to the bottom of the ocean. They were so successful, they almost achieved their aim of starving Britain into surrender.
As the war progressed, the U Boats no longer enjoyed command of the sea. Use of sound detection gear(sonar), the employment of long range anti submarine seaplanes and heavily protected convoys made life for the crews very perilous.
Herbert Werner was one of the very few U Boat men to survive, ending the war as a Captain. He tells of his life onboard a number of boats, the cramped conditions, the extreme cold and unbearable heat, the camaraderie and fear. The patrols Werner and his crew were involved in are covered in detail. The sinking of allied shipping, depth charge attacks, surface attacks from fighters, he makes you feel as though you were onboard.
Werner tells of the loss of his friends, and the uphill battle they were fighting, not only against the enemy, but also the Naval command. As the war enters its final stages, he struggles to get replacement parts for his boat, and realises that his superiors are under pressure to ensure that as many boats are at sea, even if they are not completely seaworthy. In the end it is clear that no more can be done, there are not enough U Boats left to carry on the fight.
As there were so few survivors, it is a rare treat to be able to read a first hand account of life onboard an 'Iron Coffin'. The U Boat service was recognised as being very dangerous, and life expectancy was much lower than in any other arm of the German military. Even though they were the enemy, you cannot help but admire their determination and courage. A highly recommended and engrossing read.

The First Day on the Somme (Penguin Classic Military History)
The First Day on the Somme (Penguin Classic Military History)
by Martin Middlebrook
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A day not to forget, 20 Sep 2002
As the title suggests, this book focuses almost entirely on the first day of battle(1st July 1916). Middlebrook offers a short introduction on events leading up to this fateful day, and the need for the British to relieve some of the pressure on the French army following Verdun. In order to relieve some of this pressure, the British would conduct their own offensive against the German army. This offensive would be fought in the Somme dept of Northern France, and would last from July to November 1916.
The book starts with the formation of the 'Pals Batallions'(groups of volunteers from the same town/city). These 'Pals' would go to France and fight alongside each other. It was thought the cameraderie and community would help the men during their time in a foreign land. We learn about the planning and preparation for battle, and the crucial time leading up to 'zero hour'.
An obvious comparison can be made with Malcolm Brown's book 'The Book of The Somme'. Like Brown, Middlebrook uses personal records, eyewitness accounts, diary entries and photographs to push the idea that these were not seasoned veterans going to war, but inexperienced and niave 'normal everyday people'. Henry Webber's story is one that is sure to stick in your mind.
The book offers a morning, noon, afternoon and evening review of the 1st July. The artillery bomabrdments by the British was not successful. All along the front, barb wire was intact and machine gun posts unharmed. Wave after wave of British soldiers went over the top to be mown down. Poor communication did not stop later attacks, and we learn of the power struggle between the Generals involved.
This book should be in the collection of anyone who has an interest in World War 1. Material has been well researched, and the use of primary sources ensures that this work provides a close and personal resume. The accounts tell of slaughter on a huge scale, piles of dead bodies, men injured in no man's land with no chance of rescue, but also sincere patriotism and love for King and country. To show our respect, we owe it to those who died and those who survived to read their story.

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