This is a collection of first hand accounts, mainly posthumously published from three men who were ordinary soldiers in the 51st Highland Division in 1940. None of them were officers (although one was commissioned after his escape and return home). The main part of the book is a personal account originally published in Gaelic and subsequently translated into english as “A Cameron Never Can Yield”. This forms just over half the book and tells the story from the start of the German attack on 10 May 1940 through surrender at St Valery on 12th June 1940, escape on the march into Germany and then life in Marseilles in the winter of 1940-41 followed by a winter crossing of the Pyrenees and time spent in Spanish prison camps before returning to the UK. The other two stories are relatively similar, although neither of the men managed to return back to the UK and they both had different experiences in their prisoner of war camps and work details. All three of them had a horrendously rough time of it, which seems to be the norm for these early POWs (and the later ones too).
Even though I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about the 51st Highland Division and also lots of personal accounts of both combat and POW life this book was different. Each of the accounts started with a potted history of the person and what they had done before the start of the war, and then ended with what they did after demobilisation. That provided a bit of context, but the most refreshing thing about it was that it was about private soldiers and not officers, which is unusual. Most of the books are written by officers (if first-hand accounts) or by those that would have been had they not become history professors. This puts a different slant on life and makes for a whole different side to the story.
Also, unlike other stories of the 51st Highland Divsion in 1940, it didn’t end on 12th June at St Valery, in fact that was where most of the story started.
The title of Saul David‘s “Churchill’s Sacrifice of the Highland Division” is possibly erroneous, the book doesn’t come out for what happened to the 51st Highland Division in June 1940 as being a political gesture of allied solidarity on the part of Churchill.
It is certainly the fullest account of the 1940 campaign of the 51st Highland Division, expanding hugely on Eric Linklater‘s HMSO publication in 1942 (which perforce had to be limited for security reasons). The Highland Division was in the Maginot LineÂ attached to the French ArmyÂ when the German assault started on 10th May 1940 and so wasn’t with the rest of the BEF. By the time the ferocity and direction of the German planÂ was understood by the French & British High Commands most of the German ArmyÂ was between the 51st Highland Division and the BEF; so there was no real decision to sacrifice them on the part of Churchill. Saul David makes this readily understandable in his narrative, although he does highlight some of the points where a clear directive to withdraw them could have made a difference. Â However these would have to have been ordered by French Generals as the Division was part of the French IX Corps and under their command.
What is remarkable is that the Division only surrendered when surrounded and out of ammunition nearly a fortnight after the Dunkirk evacuations were complete.
This is one series of speculations about how the nazis might have invented (and built prototype) flying discs at the end of the second world war. There are parts that come across as well researched, particularly when describing the problems of the nazi era for scientists. However there is absolutely no evidence cited for what is contained in the book and even where it introduces things as speculative it then goes on later to treat them as if they were hard fact.
However it does have a high entertainment value. That and I discovered that someone has rcently built a small flying disc out of off the shelf components using the principles outlined in the book as being likely. That said, I still dno’t believe the nazis did it in 1944 and it was further developped by the British, Canadian and American governments in the last 60 years.
The extraordinary history of the secret Nazi technologies which were adopted by the Allies after the war
Many theories have been mooted to explain the Roswell incident, most of which involve flying saucers and little green men from Mars. What has never been considered, though, is the odd coincidence that the high-speed, high-flying spherical object which crashed on Roswell bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the extraordinarily futuristic aircraft which were blueprinted in top-secret conditions by Nazi scientists during the Second World War. Blue Fires tells an extraordinary story of cover-ups and conspiracies, and it gives a fascinating alternative version of world history since 1945.
I read the hardback version very shortly after it came out. I collect first hand accounts of the WW2 and unit histories of the 51st Highland Division in particular, so this one was a must buy. That said it is one of the best first hand accounts that I have read, and certainly the best from a gunner (it comparies favourably to George Blackburn’s Guns of War series – he was also a Forward Observation Officer).
You can have no doubt about the hardships of war, what the conditions were like for both the gunners on the gun line and the infantry on the front line. The book is very descriptive without becoming flowery and it avoids glossing over some of the less pleasant aspects. Also it tells you about everything, not just the combat and the aftermath, but also of the minor details of daily life.
This is the story of 9 RTR in WW2 written by one of its officers andÂ including material from many of the survivors and contemporary diaries, including the battalion war diary, the brigade history and at one pointÂ the radio logs. It is packed with a wealth of material, much of whichÂ is directly quoted from a primary source. If you want a feel for whatÂ life was like for a heavy tank battalion then this is the book to read.
The stories told by the survivors and in the diaries don’t pull anyÂ punches, and some of what is described is quite horrific, many of theÂ casualties in the battalion are well documented and the nature of theÂ injuries suffered by tank crews tend to be severe.
The battalion re-formed in [late 1940/l941] and was one of the first toÂ be equipped with Churchills. It trained in the UK until mid to lateÂ June 44 when it went to France. It took part in Goodwood & EpsomÂ and the Falaise battles supporting the Canadians and 43rd WessexÂ Division at various stages. After that they were involved in theÂ capture of Le Havre, Walcheren, and the Reichswald.
Each of the stages of the battalion’s existence and each of its battlesÂ forms a chapter. These are opened by the official account of whatÂ happened followed by personal narratives of events during the sameÂ period. Often the same incident is reported from several sources whichÂ gives you a clearer idea of what might have happened, and the level ofÂ confusion. For example one tank driver reported that he had no ideaÂ where he was during one operation as his vision slits were covered inÂ mud and he was relying on the tank commander to guide him. At the endÂ of the book are several appendices with a wealth of statistics andÂ other information useful to gamers. Amongst other things the casualtiesÂ are very well documented, not only in the usual table of numbers, butÂ it also gives service number, rank, name, trade, appointment (e.g.Â troop leader’s driver), date, place, and sometimes a short descriptionÂ of the incident (e.g. mortar fragment in the face). There are alsoÂ extracts from operational orders and most battles have several mapsÂ showing you the ground and the movements of the troops.
Overall I’d rate the book very highly and strongly recommend it to others that have an interest in WW2 and/or tank operations.
This is a history of 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (a battalion sized unitÂ for those not au fait with UK Armoured regiments). It starts with aÂ chapter of their origins in the First World War and then theirÂ subsequent peacetime evolution. 3RTR fought in the 1940 France campaignÂ at Calais, then in Greece in 1941 followed by the western desert. TheyÂ returned to the UK in late 1943 and took part in the NW Europe campaignÂ eventually meeting up with the Russians in the Baltic.
The Author was an artillery officer (with 13 RHA) who supported 3RTR inÂ the NW Europe campaign and this gives him a connection to those that heÂ has written about, much of the text is based on letters andÂ conversations with the surviving officers and men of 3 RTR.
During the desperate days of May 1940 that ended with the fall ofÂ France, the 3rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment was sent to Calais whereÂ it played a vital role in the week-long battle. In helping to stem theÂ inexorable German armoured advance, the battalion was praised byÂ Churchill for giving the British Expeditionary Force vital extra timeÂ to effect the crucial evacuation from Dunkirk‘s beaches.
In the spring of 1941, 3 RTR fought the panzers once again in theÂ ill-fated Greek campaign. They fought a costly withdrawal against theÂ Germans, losing all their tanks, but inflicting heavy casualties.Â Hitler was furious: the six week Greek campaign delayed OperationÂ “Barbarossa” which allowed the Soviets time to re-group before theÂ Germans reached Moscow.
Following their evacuation from Greece they re-formed in Egypt andÂ fought in the Gazala battles, Operation Crusader and then in El AlameinÂ and contributed to the subsequent defeat of the Axis forces in NorthÂ Africa.
Taking part in the D-Day invasion in June 1944, 3 RTR was in theÂ thick of all the desperate Normandy battles. They took part in theÂ “Great Swan” to capture Amiens and Antwerp, then provided right flankÂ protection in Operation ‘Market Garden’ and helped halt the panzers inÂ the Ardennes. Equipped with new Comet tanks 3 RTR swept across theÂ Rhine and four other well-defended rivers to meet the Russians on theÂ Baltic.
This book is very well informed, the author was there personally for some of it and was able to speak to those that were directly involved in other parts as well as having access to war diaries etc. The style is very readable and it is an excellent unit history for a tank regiment that was involved in all of the main campaigns in NW Europe and the Med.
An Account of the Mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797 by G.E.Â Manwaring (Author), Bonamy Dobree (Author). First published in 1935 andÂ re-published by Pen & Sword Military Classics in 2004. 300 pages inÂ paperback.
The naval mutiny of 1797 is the most astonishing recorded in BritishÂ history; astonishing by its management rather than by its results, forÂ other mutinies had been successful. Though it shook the country fromÂ end to end, it was largely ordered with rigid discipline, a respect for
officers and an unswerving loyalty to the King. Moreover, it was soÂ rationally grounded that it not only achieved its immediate end, theÂ betterment of the sailor’s lot, but also began a new and lasting epochÂ in naval administration. Here are familiar names: the aged hero LordÂ Howe, the indecisive Lord Bridport, the giant Admiral Duncan who held aÂ mutineer over the side of his ship until the wretch admitted his error,Â the ever unpopular Captain Bligh, and less familiar figures such asÂ Richard Parker, who led the mutiny at the Nore and paid for hisÂ insurrection at the end of a rope. This fascinating account will appealÂ to all who love Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey and other fictionalÂ heroes of the era. The value of The Floating Republic does not merelyÂ reside in its excellent treatment of its theme – but likewise in theÂ light it sheds upon the history of the eighteenth century generally.
This was a fascinating and thought provoking read. Drawn very heavilyÂ from the primary sources of the period it paints a picture of theÂ events and also how the prevailing attitudes of the time shaped them.Â Those at the top believed (erroneously) that the mutinies were causedÂ by foreign interference (from French Jacobins, or their EnglishÂ supporters). Those on board ship felt that the improvements inÂ standards of living across the entire 18th century had left themÂ behind, in 1797 the pay rates for seamen were the same they had beenÂ under Charles II. This was brought into stark relief by the suddenÂ increase in the size of the navy with the war, bring on board manyÂ educated volunteers.
Life on board ship was harsh in the extreme, many officers brutalÂ bullies who ignored the protections in the discipline regulations.Â Pursers sold short measures (the naval pound had 14 rather than 16Â ounces) and the quality of their food was awful, not fit for humanÂ consumption – even by the laxer standards of the time. The book showsÂ the conditions and explains why the mutinies happened, it contrasts theÂ conduct and management of the two mutinies, both from a mutineer and anÂ official point of view. There are lessons both on how to conduct aÂ mutiny and on how to peacefully end one, the two adjacent mutiniesÂ clearly showing this.
I certainly felt inspired in reading the book and would stronglyÂ recommend it to both naval historians and social historians, anÂ excellent work on a period that otherwise gets overlooked.
Of the many books about the last war, some offer the general’s view ofÂ an entire battlefield, others have been individual experiences orÂ divisional histories. “Charlie Company” is something original, theÂ story of a rifle company of the Cameron Highlanders whose record ofÂ service in the Western Desert, Eritrea, and throughout the ItalianÂ campaign fully deserves this tribute to their courage and endurance.
Peter Cochrane joined the company as a young platoon commander in 1940.Â He won an MC in their first action in Libya, and followed this with aÂ DSO for his part in the grim assault on Keren. Badly wounded there, heÂ missed the disaster at Tobruk, but was back as company commander atÂ Monte Cassino and afterwards for the long haul up Italy. From his ownÂ experience he has told the remarkable story of a small group ofÂ soldiers of whom any country would be proud. The stresses and horrorsÂ of war are there, but so is the humour and the wonderful spirit of menÂ whose morale was somehow sustained to the very end. It is a deeplyÂ moving book.