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S Hadaway (London)

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Wellington Against Junot: The First Invasion of Portugal 1807-1808
Wellington Against Junot: The First Invasion of Portugal 1807-1808
by David Buttery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and well-written, 29 Jun. 2011
Firstly, I have to say that I know David Buttery, and was pleased to be asked to lend him some source material for his latest book.

For those of you who have had the pleasure of reading Buttery's previous books, particularly Wellington Against Massena, you'll be glad to know that this book provides more of the same. The work provides a comprehensive and compact biography of the eponymous generals and a solid introduction to the politics and events behind the Peninsula War, and Britain's involvement in it, before moving on to the campaign in question. All too often books on this war by British historians (with the notable exception of Charles Esdaile) overlook many aspects not directly related to the British experience of the war. As with his previous work, Buttery takes the refreshing approach of looking at the war in the round - even those battles or events which did not involve British troops are covered to give a full, internationally inclusive view of the conflict. The Spanish, Portuguese, and most especially the French points-of-view are all given equal weight as Buttery steers us through the French coup in Spain, their invasion of Portugal, and the British response. As usual he presents a clear and readable account of events, liberally sprinkled by well-chosen eye-witness testimony, often from little known or obscure sources.

Plenty of well-designed (if perhaps too small) maps are provided, to supplement Buttery's very clear grasp of the battlefields covered; you can tell that he has visited and is familiar with the ground he is describing. This is also reflected in the illustrations, with plenty of battlefield photographs as well the usual etchings.

Over all, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Peninsula War, as a good introduction to how the war started and escalated, and why Britain became involved, as well as a well-written account of the often overlooked first campaign.


Operation Barras: The SAS Rescue Mission Sierra Leone 2000 (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
Operation Barras: The SAS Rescue Mission Sierra Leone 2000 (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
by William Fowler
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, intelligent study of the Sierra Leone civil war, 5 Jan. 2009
This is a brilliant book - I read it in a matter of hours. The title is misleading, as Operation Barras only forms the framework of the book. Most of the text deals with the politics and history of Sierra Leone, the civil wars and the international reaction to them.

The sections dealing actually with Barras are balanced, sensible and matter of fact, without any of the hype that often surrounds Special Forces operations (shame about the sub-title...). Over all the book deals with the operation in the best possible way, with the facts of the case, well supported by the testimony of those who were there, but set within it's historical and political context. The author, in a very readable style, sets out not only what happened, but why, and how it is important.

Thoroughly recommended.


Breaking the Chains: The Royal Navy's War on White Slavery
Breaking the Chains: The Royal Navy's War on White Slavery
by Tom Pocock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £27.50

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as advertsied, but fascinating nonetheless, 3 Oct. 2008
I am a big Tom Pocock fan - he has a way of taking obscure but interesting areas, and exposing them in clear, well-researched and readable ways - and this book is no exception. Well written, with lots of eyewitness accounts, the tale rattles along very nicely.

My only complaint would be that this work is poorly titled. I was looking for a book on RN operations against the white slave trade in the Med; for the first third or so this true, with brilliant accounts of operations along the Barbary Coast. The bulk of the book, though, is related to RN involvment in the Greek War for Independence. Although in the broadest terms this did include freeing the Greek people from Ottoman rule, I can't help feeling that their plight does not quite equate to slavery. Besides, given the emphasis given to this war in the book, some mention of it in the title would have been appropriate.

Even so, well up to Pocock's usual standard, and a great read.


The Grand Slave Emporium: Cape Coast Castle and the British Slave Trade
The Grand Slave Emporium: Cape Coast Castle and the British Slave Trade
by William St Clair
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study, 6 Aug. 2008
This is the book I have been looking for for years. Most books on slavery seem to deal with the actual transportation of slaves (particularly the infamous Middle Passage) or their treatment at the end of the voyage. Most have political agendas which lead you to doubt some of the facts and figures, or are written more for emotive reasons than informative.

Mr St. Clair uses the history of one building, the Cape Coast Castle, and the men and women who lived there to expose the whole history of slaving on the African Gold Coast. He charts the history and development of the trade with surprising lucidity, focusing on two main areas. 1) How the trade actually worked on a day-to-day basis; how the slaves were gathered and treated, how the small pockets of European traders existed on African soil, and how the ghastly trading was conducted. 2) The experiences of the men and women involved (by necessity, mostly the Europeans); how they lived and worked, and how they justified their actions. Through these two areas Mr. St. Clair charts the rise, developments and fall of the slave trade, and their effects on this area of Africa.

Throughout, Mr. St. Clair gives reasoned arguments and a good narrative. Most important of all, he appears unbiased, imparting information without either apology or condemnation. He lets the stark facts and stories talk for themselves. I can thoroughly recommend it.


Messenger of Death: Captain Nolan and the Charge of the Light Brigade
Messenger of Death: Captain Nolan and the Charge of the Light Brigade
by David Buttery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking new ground for Light Brigade, 6 Aug. 2008
Mr Buttery's new book on the life of Louis Nolan is a must for all Crimean War or 19th Century British Army enthusiasts.

Nolan is a complex and (thanks to his role in the Charge of the Light Brigade, plus later portrayals in film and fiction) semi-mythical figured, obscured by the controversy that surrounds his last moments. One biography, published by Moyle Bartlett back in the 1970's, in part remedied this, but there is still a veil drawn over the life of this man, even to the extent that few will agree what nationality he was.

Mr Buttery throws open the curtains on Nolan's life. He looks at his early years, and his time in the Austrian Army, where he cut his military teeth, as well as his books about military equestrianism. His role in the Crimea was not simply restricted to carrying the order that launched the Light Brigade on its ill-fated Charge, either. Mr Buttery examines Nolan's astonishing travels through Syria buying horses for the Army, and later his service as a galloper for the Quarter-Master General.

Of course the Charge itself receives a lot of attention. Mr Buttery talks us through the events leading up to the Charge, through the event, and then delves in to the controversies, scape-goating and politicking that followed. His close and well argued text takes us through the different arguments and theories in a balanced and logical way before coming to his own conclusion.

As a biography of a fascinating man, this book is a great read. As an expose of the life and actions of a controversial and pivotal man, this book is an absolute must for anyone interested in the Charge, the Crimea, or the British Army. I am more of the latter than either of the former, and picked the book up only because Nolan is a person who everyone seems to know of, but no-one really knows anything about. I found it fascinating, well-written, very well researched (Mr Buttery uses a surprising number of new sources), and a book I would recommend unreservedly.


On a Wing and a Prayer: The Untold Story of the Pioneering Aviation Heroes of WW1, in Their Own Words
On a Wing and a Prayer: The Untold Story of the Pioneering Aviation Heroes of WW1, in Their Own Words
by Joshua Levine
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, a must for anyone interested on any level., 30 May 2008
If you are newcomer to Britain's flying services during the First World War, this book is a must. If you know your way around the subject already, then it will still surprise, inform and entertain you nonetheless.

Mr Levine does to the flying services in the Great War what Patrick Bishop did to Fighter and Bomber Commands in the Second World War. Superbly structured, very well written, and obviously intricately researched, the book guides you around the subject of air fighting over the Western Front and the Home Front with ease. The history of the flying services is intertwined with the history of the men who flew and serviced the aircraft. I have never seen training covered in anywhere near such detail before (an entire chapter), and the same treatment is given to the often overlooked work of reconnaissance.

Wherever possible Mr Levine lets those who were there tell the story in their own words. This is a major asset of the book, as these (sometimes lengthy) quotes let you into the minds and the world of these men. Most are from obscure or little used sources, and provide fresh and unusual insights into the war. You will find no great revelations, no 'now it can be told' hype or claims to change how we think about Great War air fighting, but you will find countless nudges away from preconceptions, opening new ways of looking at things or angles that are usually ignored. Between these quotes, Mr Levine's easy style draws you along some thought-provoking avenues.

Only two criticisms come to mind. Firstly, there is little information on the role of observation balloons, a large and very important part of the aviation work carried out on the Western Front. Secondly, the quotes are not referenced, making it hard to track down the source if you want to know more.

Overall, though, my advice is: buy this book.


Wellington Against Massena: The Third Invasion of Portugal 1810-1811
Wellington Against Massena: The Third Invasion of Portugal 1810-1811
by David Buttery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly good read!, 16 April 2007
A thoroughly good read, and a must for any Peninsula or Napoleonic enthusiast. Mr. Buttery tells the story of what is a largely forgotten campaign, for although many of the parts - Busacco, Fuentes D'Onoro, lines of Torres Vedras, etc - are well known, the background usually isn't. He takes what I found to be the interesting and unusual angle of seeing the campaign mostly from the French view, with a fascinating insight into the mind of Marshal Massena - an interesting chap to say the least. I can recommend it entirely.


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