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M. Gardiner "Coulsdon eagle" (COULSDON, SURREY United Kingdom)
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France at Bay 1870-1871
France at Bay 1870-1871
by Douglas Fermer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filling a Gap in History, 11 Nov. 2013
Some of us British know a little about the Franco-Prussian War - Napoleon III, Bismarck, the great battles in the autumn of 1870 - and perhaps a smaller number are aware of the Paris Commune. Yet that leaves a large gap between the Battle of Sedan and the eventual peace treaty during which time Europe was reshaped with long-lasting consequences. Douglas Fermer's last book, Sedan 1870: The Eclipse of France concluded with Napoleon III's surrender at Sedan and the rapid overthrow of the Second Empire; this latest work starts to fill in the void. It covers the formation of the Republic's government, the investment of Paris and the French attempts to break-out of or relieve the siege of their capital, the surrender of Metz, the battles that followed as France raised new armies, and the eventual admission of defeat and negotiations with the newly-founded German Empire, before the convulsions of the Commune. The political as well as the military view is relayed with the French government being a loose conglomeration of competing principles and desires fractured by its dislocation from most of France. Several personalities come to the fore, including Gambetta, Bourbaki, Chanzy and their Prussian antagonists of Bismarck, Moltke and Roon. Like its predecessor, this volume is not a dry work, being more in the style of histories favoured by the likes of William Manchester or Robert Massie, and together they make an excellent update to Michael Howard's seminal work on the subject.


War in the West (Axis Triumphant Book 1)
War in the West (Axis Triumphant Book 1)
Price: £0.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Severely Disappointed, 5 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I enjoy alternative military histories, from the efforts of Peter Tsouras to the less plausible works of Robert Conroy and Harry Turtledove. This is the most disappointing effort I have read in this field. If I could have awarded 0 stars...

On the AH side, the choice of "hero" is repulsive. The Axis are almost universally portrayed as brilliant strategists and thinkers, while the British are bumbling idiots whose every move is preordained as a disaster. The operations to defeat Britain are carried out by literally handfuls of men without a hitch; the Cretan exercise alone frankly defies belief.

Even the prospect of seeing the effect of shot, shell and bomb to rescue the preposterous plot is denied us - the Royal Navy is totally destroyed "off screen".

Even the writing style compromises the book. We are told, from the outset, that this is the decision that allowed Nazi Germany to dominate the planet, or the news that was to bring the British Empire crashing down, or guaranteed the Wehrmacht would be in Moscow come the Autumn. Kills suspense.

Minor characters pop up, usually shown being killed first, or told that they will die, before we are told who they were, what they thought, where they went to school, where they bought their socks, etc. As we know they are going to die, that knowledge is useless, especially as usually their deaths are not shown but subject to a mere one line as they also die "off screen." Even worse, most of these characters do not interrelate. In example, their is a lesbian realtionship that crops up 2/3 of the way in; the two characters had not appeared previously, will not appear again, have no interaction with any of the major figures, and simply explain third- or fourth-hand what fate befalls Britain's Jews - so why not have it told from the point of view of one of the witnesses?

The storyline works best when dealing with the German spy Adler, whose character is laid out in advance, allowing you some perspective. Their actions, the escape and subsequent lionisation by Germany show what could have been achieved with the material to hand.

To anyone who prefers "real" alternative histories, I would warn you off this book. If you are a fan of Reinhard Heydrich, however, you will thoroughly enjoy it.


No Title Available

1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Little, 4 Dec. 2011
42 pages - that's what this book consists of. That includes the frontispiece, a two-page content list, two pages of attributations, and four - yes, 4! - blank pages!

The content reads like a series of Wikipedia searches and mostly cosists of lists of belligerents, technical info, characters & references. Occasionally there will be a plot synopsis. In fact, according to the back cover, it has been curated from Wikipedia articles.

The publishers believe this is a "new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge". Really?

Save yourself the money and browse on-line instead. In my honest opinion this booklet is not even worth the postage (which was free).


Dr Who Companion Chronicles the Suffering (Dr Who Big Finish)
Dr Who Companion Chronicles the Suffering (Dr Who Big Finish)
by Jacqueline Rayner
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Suffering Here, 18 April 2010
It is nearly 45 years since Maureen O'Brien and Peter Purves first played these roles, yet they sound no older than when they appeared in black & white! That is the main delight of this story, and they fitted together as though they had never left the show. Having two narrators necessitates splitting the story into two - Vicki's & Steven's - with them being rendered asunder early on and only reuniting towards the end.

Unfortunately the plot, starting very much like an old Quatermass story, does not hold together as stongly as the cast, with the idea of joining an alien entity with the suffragete movement feeling very forced. There are some lovely points, such as Steven and a skeleton on a London omnibus, and Vicki becoming involved in a suffragete riot in London. And both manage to convey the First Doctor's endearing mixture of gruffness and curiousity.

If you enjoy William Hartnell's version of the Doctor, then this is an enjoyable 90-odd minutes, which nicely filled a midweek drive back down the M1. Otherwise, a decent idea that doesn't quite fulfill its potential.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2014 5:42 PM BST


The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
by Andrew Gordon
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Weighty but worthy, 20 Dec. 2009
Not an in-depth review of British command & control procedures, but more the personnel involved in British naval command, a leading to different "schools" (Fisher/Beresford; Jellicoe/Beatty) in the early 20th century, and how this affected the operations of the Grand Fleet. Very similar in style and content to Robert Massie's "Dreadnought" and "Castles of Steel". If you enjoy personal details this is a good book to read; if you prefer your history dry & straight, probably not the one.

One factor that irritated me was that this is essentially a narrative on the Battle of Jutland that breaks off half-way through exploding battlecruisers to expound on the main point of the book: how Jellicoe, Beatty, Evans-Thomas et al came to be where they were, before resuming battle. I can understand the wish to break up the book but it comes in three large lumps. My preference would be for either linear chronology (Massie is perfect) or to intersperse the chapters e.g. the Grand Fleet sails followed by a chapter on Fisher; Beatty meets Hipper followed by Beatty's chapter; the Fifth Battle Squadron joins in followed by an expose on Evan-Thomas.

However, if you can find a low-proce version of this book, and are serious about the subject, this is an essential component of any library.


Jutland: The German Perspective - A New View of the Great Battle, 31 May 1916
Jutland: The German Perspective - A New View of the Great Battle, 31 May 1916
by V.E. Tarrant
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invaluable Aid, 20 Dec. 2009
An excellent companion for those interested in Dreadnought battleships and the Great War. Worth purchasing for the line illustrations alone: numerous battle charts; line drawings of battleship & battlecruiser classes; and silhouettes of smaller vessels. Should be read along with one of the wider English perspectives of the Battle of Jutland.


Riding Through The Storm: My Fight Back to Fitness on the Tour de France
Riding Through The Storm: My Fight Back to Fitness on the Tour de France
by Geoff Thomas
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical football autobiography, 6 Sept. 2009
This is a very different sporting "autobiography". Even as a Crystal Palace supporter, Geoff Thomas, although an excellent player for Palace, summed up what English football was all about in the late 1980s / early 1990s: hard work & perspiration as opposed to inherent skill & inspiration, summed up by "that" miss against France. He admits as much in his writing, and at times when referring to his playing days he does come across as self-centred and not the most likeable character.

But a book on Geoff's days as a player would not be that interesting to any but a hard core of fans, even one who underwent 27 operations during his career. Instead of a linear autobiography, this book has three strands interposed: his playing days; his being diagnosed with leukaemia and the treatment he endured; and - the effort that really makes his story stand out - his decision to lead a small team to ride the entire course of the Tour de France in 2005 in order to raise money for research into the disease which nearly - and still could - kill him.

The Tour is the only section of the book that is presented in chronological order. It is split up with excerpts about his footballing days, and the harrowing tales of his cancer treatment. This is a good idea as the tales of chemotherapy and radiation treatment are harrowing. The cycling sections are also full of angst at times, as the sheer scale of the team's achievement shines through.

Don't buy this book if you want to read about Geoff's playing days, as there is not much of that. But if you want a tale of overcoming great obstacles and the successful accomplishment of a man who frankly should never have even contemplated the training required, let alone tackling the Alps and the Pyrenees, then I thoroughly recommend it.


The Greater Game: Sporting Icons Who Fell in the Great War
The Greater Game: Sporting Icons Who Fell in the Great War
by Clive Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greater Game - a good read for sporting & military interests, 10 Aug. 2008
The Greater Game: Sporting Icons Who Fell in the Great War

The Greater Game examines how a number of sporting icons gave their lives for their countries in the Great War, touches upon the careers of others who were fortunate enough to survive, and the history behind those units known for being based upon a solid cadre of sportsmen. Some of the names will be well known, but diligent research has added far more information about the lives, not just the sporting and military careers, of men like Ronnie Poulton Palmer and Colin Blythe. The authors' knowledge and experience as battlefield guides also adds colour about the war as experienced by their subjects.

There are also some less well-known but equally deserving sportsmen covered, names that have been mainly forgotten by the wider public, perhaps as their sports are not the highly popular team events. Tony Wilding, Wimbledon Champion, is one such person, an all-round athlete, who if he was alive today would have a public profile at least as high as David Beckham's. The real gems are the "foreign" sportsmen - the Aussie Rules Footballer, the one-eyed ice hockey star from Canada, and a Tour de France winner whose sporting battles seem to come straight from a schoolboy's annual. Names that may mean nothing to us Brits, but are honoured in their own countries.

This is a book that appears to carry something fresh on every page, and shines a light on an area of First World War history that many are dimly aware of. The breadth of sports covered results in a greater appeal than if the subject covered had been restricted to a particular sport. It also leaves the reader eager to find out more about those names touched upon, which is perhaps the highest praise it can deserve.


Sedan 1870: The Eclipse of France
Sedan 1870: The Eclipse of France
by Douglas Fermer
Edition: Hardcover

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Overdue Revision of The Battle of Sedan, 12 July 2008
Sedan 1870: The Eclipse of France
At last a deserving successor to Michael Howard's history of the Franco-Prussian War, which is in itself approaching its 50th birthday. Douglas Fermer's latest work concentrates upon the coming of the war and one of the most influential yet (in English anyway) sadly neglected battles in the history of Western Europe, in the Battle of Sedan. Whereas Waterloo confirmed the results of 20-plus years of warfare, Sedan saw the final eclipse of France as Western Europe's leading power and confirmed the arrival of Germany (trading as Prussia) as the successor to that title, which one could say they have held to a greater or lesser degree to this day.

Starting with the slow, inexorable slide into Franco-Prussian hostility, Fermer captures the major characters and charts the road to war which one nation - and not necessarily the one we tend to think of - rushed down with seemingly little forethought. Perhaps greater access to the German archives has allowed a more holistic view of affairs than those where Prussia or Bismarck were seen as the power-hungry aggressors. The mood in Paris and the almost complete acceptance by those in power in France that war was a desirable outcome is set out so easily for the reader that one is almost lulled into forgetting that looming disaster.

In military affairs, the second half of the book concentrates upon the early engagements in Alsace and the retreat of MacMahon's Corps, the formation of the Army of Ch‚lons, and what appears to be the inevitable road to destiny at Sedan. The French military do not come out well of this book, with an underestimation of German (we are not allowed to forget the efforts of the Saxons and the South German states) military prowess, both in terms of speed of movement, weaponry and numbers. Alternative decisions which were available at the time to Napoleon III, Palikao, MacMahon, Wimpffen and the other French generals are considered, and one gains a sense of an entire nation slipping fatalistically to defeat. The descriptions of the fighting in the villages surrounding Sedan are at times unsparing, and the thorny question of the German treatment of civilians is also addressed.

A further volume is hinted at, perhaps covering the Siege of Paris. This would certainly be welcomed by this reviewer, as this conflict requires a more updated political, diplomatic and military history.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2011 4:59 PM GMT


The Sunne in Splendour
The Sunne in Splendour
by Sharon Penman
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sunne in Splendour, 11 Feb. 2003
This review is from: The Sunne in Splendour (Paperback)
A thoroughly engossing novel about one of history's most maligned rulers, Richard of Gloucester. However, the true dynamics of the book are the relationships between the three brothers - Edward, George & Richard - of the house of York, and Richard's life-long love, Anne Neville. Although the author betrays a distinct Riccardian bias, this is a welcome antidote to the Tudor-tinged history that has come down to us through the works of Shakespeare. While some of Penman's conclusions may be perceived as doubtful, the historical accuracy and presentation allows the reader to draw their own conclusions, and a good case is made in Richard's defence. With a huge supporting cast ranging from Kings & Queens to pages and inn-keepers, this novel breathes fresh life into the period.


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