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on 10 November 2014
I thought that the book gave a very good flavour of the period; I have no political axe to grind, and thought that the bravery of the volunteers shines through in the narrative; not many professional units could be broken and yet reform as many times as the British Battalion. I book that I will read more than once, I think.
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on 14 May 2015
What an enjoyable book! Full of veteran's recollections of the battle but somehow the author manages to read like a novel!
If you have an interest in the Spanish Civil War then this book is a 'must' read.
The events of the battle are clearly described, allowing to reader to fully understand the course of events, aided by some very good maps.
If only there were more SCW books like this.
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on 23 August 2013
One of the best things I have read about a subject in which I am deeply interested - The Spanish Civil War. Most books I have read give details of battles, politics etc. whereas this is full of the personal experiences of the men who actually took part in this horrific affair. Scary but highly informative.
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on 17 October 2015
excellent, thanks
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on 9 March 2012
Hughes provides a flowing narrative and a fun read, however he starts using fictional techniques early on. The first chapter begins with 'Colonel Gal was in a foul mood' (p36) and on p37 we learn that 'Wintringham smiled to himself: so far everything was going to plan'. He states things as fact which are matters of disagreement in the eye witness material. Hughes tells us that Legionnaires, singing the Internationale captured the Machine Gun Company and they then handed them over to a Moorish unit. Whilst this is one possible explanation for what happened to Fry's company, it ignores alternative accounts put forward by people who were there on the day. For a synopsis of that dispute I recommend Richard Baxell's book, which devotes two pages to it.

Hughes claims British volunteer Peter Kemp was executed for desertion,(p200)'two men [Patrick Glacken and Peter Kemp] were caught on their way to enemy lines'. He says this is a quote from p82 of 'British Volunteers for Liberty' by Bill Alexander. But that source actually reads 'two men were caught on their way to enemy lines' - so Hughes embellished the quote. We have to look elsewhere for the identity of the executed man; the Roll of Honour in 'British Volunteers for Liberty' mentions P Glacken and A Kemp. In Richard Baxell's 'British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War' p145: 'Bob Cooney.... states that one of the deserters, Allan Kemp, a baker from Glasgow, was executed'. Incidentally there was a Peter Kemp in Spain, he fought for the Nationalists and wrote his own accounts of his experiences; Hughes mixes up the two Kemps.

Hughes also confidently identifies the specific mark of tanks the Nationalists used in their assault on British positions, however in doing so he goes some way beyond the actual evidence.

There is an enormous wealth of source material for British involvement at the Jarama much of which is not in the public domain. The interesting thing about the many eyewitness accounts is that they often disagree with each other. Hughes had access to all of this material and yet strings together a convenient, factually inaccurate story which makes stuff up and ignores the significantly conflicting voices of those who lived through the battle. So anyone expecting a comprehensive forensic treatment of the British at Jarama, will not find it in this book.

I felt that Hughes squandered his privileged access to source material. However for someone coming fresh to the topic, this deeply flawed account might stimulate curiosity and enthusiasm for the subject. Jason Gurney's Crusade in Spain and Tom Wintringham's English Captain provide first hand overviews of the battle which are indispensable for anyone seeking further, or alternative, reading.
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on 27 August 2011
Just finished this book and I couldn't put it down. I know little about the Spanish Civil War but I like the way the author has concentrated the action around the involvement of the British volunteers and the 3 days of the Battle of Jarama. He has also focussed on some of the main protaganists resulting in an emotional involvement with these men and all that they fought for and endured. Ben Hughes is a very good storyteller and I found myself caught up in the bravery, courage and sheer dogged determination of the British volunteers to fight, mostly with out-of-date and inadequate weapons, to the bitter end. Their losses were huge but still they battled on. It was also satisfying to discover in the epilogue the fate of those who survived. A book well worth reading.
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on 13 April 2015
This is one of the best books on the Civil War I have read. Using veteran's accounts it takes you right into the heat of the action and enables you to fully grasp who did what, to whom and where.
My only criticism is that the maps did not work too well with the Kindle format, a very minor point however.
If only there were more books written in this style!
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on 27 December 2011
I boight this book having believed the blurb when it described a detailed low-level minute by minute description of the sharp end of a crucial battle of the Spanish Civil War, i.e. the sort of military history that I like about a war, a battle and a unit in which I have a more or less professional interest. Sadly, what I got was a reheat of semi-digested accounts and research, padded at either end with unneccessary chapters about events before and after the Jarama that would not have significantly informed even a newcomer to this subject. The writer makes a series of assertions which are not supported by evidence and, on being asked about apparent contradictions in the work seeks to blame others for his own failures. I am afraid that some of these actually do a serious disservice to the memories of those involved, compounding a number of essentially erroneous conclusions. I have personally not been as offended by a book about Spain and the Civil War since I read C.J.Sampson excerable "Winter in Madrid" and that, at least, had the excuse of being fiction. If you are a newcomer to the subject of the Spanish War, and if you want to read about the British Battalion in it, then Richard Baxell's excellent if rather academic book is an order of magnitude better (This could be read in conjunction, for more first hand accounts and perhaps some more colour, with one of the several recent publications based on transcripts of interviews with SCW veterans.) . If you want to read an account of the Jarama, those in the general works on the civil war by Beevor or Thomas are better written and more accurate than this. Avoid.
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on 9 October 2011
Ben Hughes has managed to tell the story of this encounter in a very easy to read style. Much of what went on during the Spanish Civil War seems to have been conveniently missed or forgotten about outside of "technical books" and of course Spain. He has managed to weave empirical and anecdotal information into an account that lets the reader really get to "feel" the pain and confusion of warfare.
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