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M. Baker (London, UK)

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Blood, Sweat and Arrogance: The Myths of Churchill's War
Blood, Sweat and Arrogance: The Myths of Churchill's War
by Gordon Corrigan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist historian shows his limitations, 1 Jan. 2009
I was very disappointed with this book. It starts well enough but from around Chapter 8 it descends increasingly into a rant. From this point in the book Corrigan's analysis all but dries up and instead all he delivers is a series of unsupported assertions and criticisms.

Particularly frustrating is the inadequacy of the referencing. An example of this is when Corrigan tells us about how Montgomery had simply taken Auchinleck's and Dorman-Smith's "plans" and presented them as his own. In actual fact these "plans" were no more than their written appreciations of the situation and are contained as appendices in the outstanding 'Pendulum of War' by Niall Barr - however, they are not referenced. This dearth of references is the same throughout the book.

Another example of these unsupported assertions is Corrigan's comment that the battle for Normandy, and Operation Goodwood in particular, "exposed (Montgomery) for the fake that he was" that he should have been sacked and that there were "many others who could take over". Quite how Montgomery was a "fake" is never explained, nor is why he should have been sacked, given that the Germans were defeated shortly afterwards by Montgomery's strategy and were forced to retreat all the way back to the German frontier. No names of the "many others" who could have taken over from Montgomery are mentioned - quite who the "many others" were remains a mystery.

In summary, I do not recommend this book. Its scope is too broad, is lacking in supporting evidence and logical argument, does not address many of the key issues and feels increasingly rushed towards the end. As alternatives covering the same subject matter I would recommend: 'Raising Churchill's Army' by David French, 'War Diaries' of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, 'Colossal Cracks' by Stephen Hart and 'Pendulum of War' by Niall Barr.

This flawed and disappointing book clearly demonstrates why Gordon Corrigan never rose above the rank of Major. I will not be purchasing any other work by Gordon Corrigan.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2010 8:49 PM BST

Not Mentioned in Despatches: The History and Mythology of the Battle of Goose Green
Not Mentioned in Despatches: The History and Mythology of the Battle of Goose Green
by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.25

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What really happened at the Battle of Goose Green..., 9 Aug. 2008
I first read this book in 1995 while studying for my first degree and felt that it offered an excellent and ground breaking analysis of the Battle of Goose Green. Thirteen years later and my opinion has not changed. It remains one of the very best military history books I have read. I feel the need to write a review of it now because the other reviews here have either failed to do it justice or have missed the point.

Not Mentioned in Despatches is the fullest and most complete account of the Battle of Goose Green yet written. It is based on the author's Ph.D. thesis `Tactics, Command and Military Culture: A Study of 2 PARA at Darwin-Goose Green'. It is therefore an academic work and an absolute must have for the serious military historian. Indeed, it should be required reading for all Army Officers, particularly those in Light Role Infantry or Air Assault Battlegroups.

In his analysis of the battle the author argues for the superiority of Mission Command and the Manoeuvrist Approach (both now enshrined in British Army Doctrine) over the restrictive control style of command and positionalist approach employed by Lt Col Jones VC, commanding 2 PARA during the initial stages of the Battle of Goose Green. More specifically, it contrasts the restrictive, controlling approach employed by Jones to the strong Mission Command culture already apparent in 2 PARA, particularly amongst his very capable Company Commanders and his Battalion Second-in-Command (who had just completed a two year staff appointment with the Bundeswehr).

The author argues that, with his highly detailed, complicated six phase attack plan, combined with his restrictive style of command, Jones prevented 2 PARA from attaining its full potential of fighting power. This is most ably demonstrated in the author's highly detailed examination of the battle for Darwin Hill, in which concentration of force is prevented (because it did not fit with Jones's plan) and in which subordinates are stopped from exercising their initiative or from being able to exploit the opportunities for decisive action presented by the enemy. Only with Jones's death, the author argues, and with a Mission Command style and Manoeuvrist Approach adopted by the new Battlegroup commander, the Battalion Second-in-Command, are 2 PARA able to realise their full fighting power, defeat the opposing Argentine forces and achieve their mission to capture Darwin and Goose Green.

The reader of this review should also note that the author extensively interviewed key individuals from the battle for his Ph.D. thesis on which this book is based (names are given in the author's note and acknowledgements at the start of the book). This Ph.D thesis is embargoed until 2018 and it was on this basis that the interviewees offered their frank and candid views, in the belief that reputations would be spared until that date. At least three of these individuals are still serving officers in the British Army. I have been privileged enough to discuss this book and its arguments with one of them, arguments which that individual continues to wholly support.

In summary, if you are looking for a book of anecdotes or `boy's own' stories of about paratrooper super men charging machine gun posts then this is not the book for you. If you are a dedicated military professional who wants to cut through the myths surrounding the Falklands War and understand command at Company and Battalion level, the importance of concentrating force at the decisive point (Main Effort), the psychological effects of manoeuvre, the psychological effects of massed and concentrated firepower, the vital importance of Close Air Support and the full fighting potential of British soldiers when properly led, then this is a must have book.

Finally, if you want to take your reading a step further, and understand the wider context in which the Battle for Goose Green took place, then you should read the updated 2007 edition of Julian Thompson's `3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands, No Picnic' (unfortunately without Thompson's superb article `Brigade Command in the Falklands' written for the Autumn 2007 edition of the British Army Review). Also, a detailed examination of 2 PARA's subsequent battle at Wireless Ridge, the only fully combined arms battle of the Falklands War, is long overdue.

The Myth Of The Great War: A New Military History of World War I
The Myth Of The Great War: A New Military History of World War I
by John Mosier
Edition: Paperback

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely dreadful!, 23 July 2007
This is without doubt the worst book on the Great War I have come across. Seriously factually inaccurate, it peddles a populist view of the Great War that has thankfully been debunked by serious academic study of the conflict. It sits alongside John Laffin's 'Butchers and Bunglers of World War One' as an example of military history at its very worst. There are many excellent books out there about the Great War (by the likes of Gary Sheffield, Paddy Griffiths, Trevor Wilson, Robin Prior, Tim Travers - all serious academic military historians) - avoid 'The Myth of the Great War'!

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