2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2011
This is the most complete and well reasearched account of Operation Frankton I have come across. Though the emphasis is naturally on Major "Blondie" Hassler and his incredibly brave men, there is extensive coverage of the roles played in this story by people in the French Resistance and ordinary citizens. Very well researched and very clearly set out. An informative, poignant and fascinating read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2012
An undoubtedly thorough book, however this is at the expense of readability and cohesion. Having described one particular detail of the operation, I did not find it necessary for the author to then justify multiple times why he stated this. I also found the occasional moral judgments upon the German miltary unnecessary when the facts of their behaviour speak for themselves.
on 31 December 2011
I too share some of the Military Historian's concerns mainly because some of Mr Rees' extremely extensive researches seem by lack of word to the contrary to be inferred as his own whereas the serious spadework was actually done by others. Granted he has certainly acknowledged in the Bibliography Southby-Tailyour's biography of Hasler 'Blondie' and also Boisnier's 'Le Commando de l'Impossible' (in French) but the researches in these two works feature a good deal more in this book than he has actually acknowledged. This to my mind seems a pity. What is lost by giving credit where credit is due? Having known Hasler and his Sapper brother and their mother during and after the War and having, until recently, been a member of 'Frankton Souvenir' in France where I often met Francois Boisnier and some of the French featured in the books and having walked the original Hasler/Sparks Escape Route (not the newly created Frankton Trail) from Blaye to Ruffec I do know a little of the story and have given an occasional lecture about it to raise funds for Sevice charities. Without doubt Hasler and 'Frankton' have become the 'Nelson' and 'Trafalgar' of the RM's SBS and the SBS (et al) will find this book compelling reading because after all this must now be 'The Final Witness'. I certainly think it is worth 4 stars.
on 11 February 2014
The reason I have chased after info on this raid and this book, is that I own a boat with a junk rig that Hasler designed. I reckon hasler would have been well impressed with the level and detail of research in this book, not easy reading, as in a novel, but if you want the insight into this raid, then its all here. Im sure that all that who survived or perrished/murdered would appreciate the telling of this mission as it actually happed......
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2011
The review of this work by 'Themilitaryhistorian' poses an interesting question; how can a book range from 5 stars to a self confessed 0 stars (if it were allowed)? Such polarization merely reflects someone loving the book against someone totally hating it; but who has the stronger motive? The latter mentioned here accuses 'King Arthur' of being the author writing his own review,(a curious assumption that will perhaps flatter an innocent reader somewhere)and that he gives poor reviews to other books on the subject. Strange then that Mr Rees is credited in one of them, Ken Fords' 'Cockleshell Raid' (Osprey 2010). But does this not tell us more of 'Themilitaryhistorian'? If the pen name is in fact a military historian then he or she lacks the primary quality of the profession; that being balance.
A neutral examination of this book would concur that is long, in proportion to the operation, and that it is detailed; two characteristics that I have not heard are unusual for a history book. It is also thorough and well sourced, so much so that the accusation of plagiarism of a 54 word passage from Barry Wynnes 'No Drums, No Trumpets' is more likely to be an ommission of quote marks; easily done in a book of this detail. The Wynne book is credited in the Bibliography.
There will be a reason why 'Themilitaryhistorian' does not like this book, but it can not fairly be attributed to the quality of the work or research.
22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2011
I was drawn to this book through the extraordinary previous review of it made by `King Arthur'. I have to admit it was rather too sycophantic for me- `unbelievably brilliant' he says, `indeed an epic work' he comments; `the book is compelling stuff', `don't waste your money buying anything else'. In almost thirty years as a military historian, I have never seen a review quite like it!
However, what makes this review so interesting, and rather worrying, is that `King Arthur' has also written reviews on the only other three books on the market on the subject of the Cockleshell operation. Sadly he slates them all. Five stars for this book, only one star for each of the others! Most curious, especially when the other books are such good reads and one in particular has been regarded as a classic for over thirty years! Could it be that `King Arthur' is intimately associated with Cockleshell Heroes: The Final Witness? Is the pseudonym `King Arthur' that of the author himself, or someone close to him? Whoever he is, his actions in the scurrilous attacks on the other books have left the author's integrity as being rather suspect. It seems to me that he has not done anyone any favours by his actions.
Now for my review of the book; an `epic' it is not. The author's previous work was on the subject of military canoes. That was well received in the narrow field of those who are fascinated by canoes. This book does give the feeling that an enthusiast has written it, someone very close to the subject no doubt, but one who has had a little difficulty with the narrative and the shape of the book. It is a long book, over long for what was a very short operation. It is a shame that the editor didn't remind the author that a sign of a good writer is often what you can leave out, rather than what you can pack in. It is full of details and minutiae and has the honourable intention of correcting errors made in other books. It allegedly gets the facts right, but is that what the reader really wants, a pedantic relaying of fine details, or does he want a cracking good read? Well if it's the later, then I advise him to stick with C Lucas Phillips original Cockleshell Heroes. The original is often the best.
Since I posted this review above, I wish to add the following postscript:
It also appears that the author has indulging in some copying, known in the trade as plagiarism. As readers will know, examples of this in other books have led to the withdrawal of the book from the market and its pulping. I have found one example, but this may be the tip of the iceberg. On p 251 Rees states `The Gestapo gouged out one of his eyes, he was practically skinned alive and was literally crucified in order to try to make him talk. He was tortured beyond the limits of human endurance, but he never revealed a single name. Despite saving countless airmen, he has never been recognised by the British government.' Compare this with the passage in p. 161 of Barry Wynne's biography of Mary Lindell which says: `He was tortured beyond the limits of endurance. The Gestapo guard gouged out one of his eyes, he was practically skinned alive and was literally crucified to make him talk. He never revealed a single name. This wonderful man, who helped save countless airmen, was never, even posthumously, recognized by the British government.'
As far as I can see there is no acknowledgement in Rees' book to Wynne for copying this passage.
Because of this, I am afraid that there are reasons not to trust the honesty of some of Rees' research and for this I can only give it one star. Unfortunately, Amazon do not allow me to award `nil point' which is what I would have done had I been able. The book, sadly, given the fact that Rees has laboured long and hard on his subject, is entirely undone in my view by the canker of plagiarism that may run through its veins, and the crudely exaggerated claims to its credentials as being the last word on the subject. It most certainly is not."
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2011
I have read all the books relating to the "Cockleshell Heroes" and saw the film when I was 10 (some 58 years ago!). Little did I know I would become friends with the "Last of the Cockleshell Heroes", Bill Sparks DSM. We became friends in the last 7 years of his life.
Needless to say, when reviewing Mr REES book I measure the substance and content by comparing my collective knowledge with what he wrote, and for that I award 5 stars - because of the unquestionable detail Mr REES has accumulated and shared with his readers in this fine and notable historic volume. Let me just say there are 'things' in Mr REES book that Bill did not, or could not remember, or was not aware of (no long visits to the PRO) that I have updated my knowledge of the "Cockleshell Heroes". If you care about historical FACTS and not fiction you will enjoy this book beyond your expectations.