Top positive review
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An interesting look into the past
on 29 May 2009
I bought this book further to an interest in Messer's Fairbairn & Sykes and though it would be interesting to see how those "on the receiving end of their skills" as it were, saw things.
This book provides an annotated version of the photographs and text from a German document produced in (or for) the Norwegian occupying forces, in which it describes the methods developed for German troops which it was thought would offer some defence against Allied Commandos and various other agents.
In my view the placing of an English translation on the opposite page of the German images and descriptions works very well indeed and the salient use of infrequent foot notes helps clarify key points, without becoming a distractive commentary.
The opening chapter by Mr Mathews nicely sets the wartime scene whilst at the same time pointing out the questionable veracity of the document's origin.
I would regard this as an "easy read" in that the descriptions are straight to the point with no wasteful references to anything other than the techniques at hand (forgive the unintentional pun).
The soldiers in each image (to my eye at least) are clearly not competent pugilists, given the "wooden" stances and application of techniques, even after taking into consideration the need to "stage" many of the poses given that many soldiers of the early to mid 1940's may have had little (if indeed any) exposure to what we would consider to be "martial arts" today.
It is interesting to note (and although it is not referred to in this book it is not a criticism in any way) that the New York Police Department had complained of U.S gangsters having access to this material.
If U.S. gangsters were to apply these rudimentary techniques (by modern standards at least) in the same manner as depicted in this book, I doubt the N.Y.P.D. would have had too much to worry about.
The image shown on page 45 truly deserves the label of "the three stooges defence" which is somewhat ironic given that each of the three stooges were Jewish - I'm certain this footnote was not in the original document for obvious reasons.
This book would be (in my view) a welcome addition to a collector's library and I have found myself referring to the contents on more than one occasion but, I hasten to add, more for an indication of the counters likely to be used against Allied Commando's and other agents, rather than the value of its guidance on self defence.
All in all and excellent publication and one I would have no hesitation in recommending, provided the reader's expectations are not too high - after all, this was originally produced over 67 years ago and should be read with this in mind!