The book I read to research this post was Close Quarter Battle by Mike Curtis which is an excellent book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Mike was a coal miner in a Welsh mining village prior to joining the Parachute Regiment & the SAS. He fought in the Falklands War, The First Gulf War & the Yugoslavian Civil War. As a miner he had to hack in a seam that was maybe 18 inches with a pick axe. A cutting machine would go through the seam and for a little while he wouldn’t be able to move for thick coal dust. They couldn’t drop too far behind either because part of the seam would collapse and they would also have to put in supports to prevent this. In the Falklands he fought at Goose Green without adequate air support and the Argentines bombed them with what they later found out was napalm. Luckily they could pick off the pucara’s as they were quite slow. He also fought at Mount Longdon as they marched to Port Stanley. In the First Gulf War he was in the SAS by then and had to help find where they were launching SCUD missiles. In the Yugoslavian Civil War they did covert missions and he does the Hoss the kind elite army that the Yugoslavs sent into villages to rape and pillage was considered too barbaric by the SS in World War 2 which will give you an idea how bad they were. Many of his fellow soldiers were reduced to tears by the carnage in former Yugoslavia.  I really enjoyed this book and I do in particular like these kind of war memoirs.

 

 

The book I read to research this post was The Nemesis File by Paul Bruce which is the best military memoir I have ever read and I bought it from kindle. This is the perfect history book for me to be blogging about. As many of you may know I like controversial history books especially military operations. This book is about someone who joined the SAS after doing time in the Engineers or REME and the book looks at the SAS selection procedure in a lot of detail. Especially the interrogation tests where they aren’t it is a part of the selection process and are accused of having been mouthing off about being in the SAS. The author at first thought he was being interrogated for real and it was only when they accused his partner of having numerous affairs which he knew was rubbish that it was part of the test. Later when he got badged into the SAS he was in an execution squad with the codename nemesis and told if they were picked up by the army they were to quote the name and tell them to get in touch with their regiment. They were told to execute IRA members and dispose of the bodies where they couldn’t be found. Often they were weighed down under undergrowth and dumped in lakes where gas would escape from the bodies and the fish would gradually nibble them and what was left would sink to the bottom of the lake never to be found. I think as with almost all wars it was a very dirty one with atrocities on both sides. Apparently this book has caused quite a stir especially in Northern Ireland where many people want closure on what happened to these people and often know they are probably not going to get justice but just want to get them a decent burial. There were many catholic people from Northern Ireland who joined the British Army and faced retribution either to themselves or their families. I think this book looks at the problems in Northern Ireland quite realistically and from both sides. I did thoroughly enjoy this book and think especially if you are interested in the army this book is essential reading.

The book I read to research this post was Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson which is a very witty look at the development of languages with English being predominant. It is an excellent book and I bought it at a car boot sale. This book is only around 250 pages so is reasonably short but is well researched and very readable. English apparently comes from the Indo-European  languages and has a common source language which these languages have descended from. Interestingly many of the Indian languages are descended from these as well. India has more languages within it’s country than any other country with an estimate of around 1,600 languages. There are around 2,700 languages in the world. In many countries that have multiple languages and no predominant language, English is often used as a linking language. In China Volkswagon opened a factory and there was a shortage of Germans who spoke Chinese and Chinese who spoke German so they use English to communicate. English is being learnt by more Chinese than the entire population of the United States. Many words in English can mean multiple things and there is a diverse amount of phrases often sounding very similar but meaning completely different things. A lot of the problem is English is spoken in lots of countries who have all made adaptions. It is a very hard language to become fluent in. In many countries even ones where English isn’t the official language you will often see signs and advertisements in English. In the United States, Spanish is very much becoming a second official language to what some see as the extent that many Spanish speakers and immigrants see little point in learning English. This is particularly a hot potato in many of the Southern States. Many schools have to employ interpreters for Parent’s Nights when they have to give a report on children to their parents. I really enjoyed this book which is bristling with lots of facts. I think I would recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was An Account Of 150 Years Of Policing Birmingham by John Reilly which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. Actually this book was published in 1989 so 150 years is a bit misleading. It was written by a Chief Inspector in the police force. The police force in Birmingham along the lines we know it started in 1819 and was part of the Warwickshire Constabulary. Prior to that there was a constable and his assistant to keep law and order and they used a people’s militia as and when needed. The constable was also responsible for fighting fires along with the fire brigade and any time the law was broken they could be called out even if off duty to uphold the law. In the 19th Century Birmingham faced huge expansion only becoming a city in 1900 and had a population of 187,000 in 1841 and nowadays has over a million inhabitants. Patrol cars with 2 way radios didn’t happen until 1942 and during World War 2 several police stations were hit by bombs and several police men were killed. In World War 1 Germany bombed Britain with airships which because there was no air defences at that time could roam freely. The airships were useless when air defences were built as they were huge, slow and filled by hydrogen which was apt to explode. I did really enjoy this book although it a little short at around 220 pages. It’s interesting nonetheless.

The book I read to research this post was Rejoice, Rejoice, Britain In The 80’s by Alwayn W Turner which is an excellent book that I bought from kindle. This book is quite a substantial length and even though I lived through the 80’s there was a lot here I didn’t know about. In Britain of course one of the main things about the 80’s was Margaret Thatcher was prime minister throughout the decade. Many of use and I was only 9 when she came to power couldn’t really remember there being another leader and she remained in power for 11 1/2 years. There was also the Falklands War and the title of the book comes from a quote from Thatcher when the British forces regained South Georgia. South Georgia had little strategic value in the war with Argentina and it was mostly a public relations exercise. It was regained without any fatalities. Goose Green a small village in the south of the Falklands similarly had little strategic significance. They could have bypassed it and continued on their way to the capital Port Stanley. Despite it being a very bloody battle with the British Parachute Regiment being outnumbered 4 to 1. Battles like Tumbledown & Mount Longdon were more important to the campaign. Most people hadn’t a clue where the Falkland’s Islands were until the war. It was also quite a greedy period with affluent young people called Yuppies at one end of the spectrum and much unemployment which we hadn’t seen anything like since the Great Depression in the 30’s. Margaret was determined to get British borrowing under control and slashed public spending. This wasn’t all together a bad thing and under the previous Labour government Britain had been close to bankruptcy with them nationalizing  key industries which consequently weren’t run efficiently. A lot of the changes that did happen probably weren’t intentional by the Conservative Party & Margaret Thatcher but happened anyway. It was important as a time when members of the public could invest in things like shares and many of the public utilities that had formerly been nationalized were sold in the form of shares mostly at bargain prices. I enjoyed this book and think it particularly appeals to people who lived in Britain in the 80’s but is very educational in its own right.

The book I read to research this post was The Ely And St Ives Railway by Peter Paye which is an excellent book that I bought from Amazon. Peter lives in the Eastern Britain area and had a high ranking job with British Rail so is quite an expert on these old railway lines and has written quite a lot of books about it. I have reviewed some of his books which with out exception are always really good. This particular which at first went from Ely in the Fens of Britain to Sutton & Hunstanton and was later extended to St Ives. There is a more famous St Ives in Cornwall which is a holiday resort. Anyway this railway like a lot of the branchlines in Eastern Britain was primarily a goods service for farmers produce. Passenger traffic was a sideline and with pressure from road transport was discontinued quite early on. Many of the photos of trains on this route are goods trains for this reason. Perishable produce was often put in open wooden wagons with a tarpaulin on top to protect it from the rain. When there was a passenger most people went to St Ives on a monday when there was a market and the early morning service was a bit too early for people going to the market. The evening service was too late for market traders to take advantage as the market finished at 3pm. There was only a limited service. It did eventually get incorporated into the GER or Great Eastern Railway. Many people travelling on this route often complained the endless farms and what tended to be flat land was monotonous. This area used to be marsh with islands which in some cases rise to over 100 feet. Ely Cathedral is built on one of these former islands. There was a direct goods train from St Ives to Cambridge once a day. There is lots of photos in the book and it is a decent length for a book of this type being around 160 pages. I found it really interesting and an enjoyable read. Finally you might be interested to know I have done a post on Norfolk And Suffolk at http://oldscratbag.com .It is a post about tourism though.

 

I am reviewing the book A Street Cat Named Bob that is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book was hugely successful in Britain a while back and is an autobiographical work about the author a recovering drug addict that adopted a street cat and how it helped turn his life around. He had to take because he used to have a heroin addiction. When he found Bob he appeared badly injured and abused and at first he thought someone must own him. When he saw him at the same spot the next day the person who he assumed was the owner didn’t in fact own him so he adopted him. He was only poor and scraped a living from illegal busking in London and had to get help from the RSPCA to get the cat well and neutered. The cat wasn’t even house trained and he assumed someone had dumped the cat a long way from home to try and get rid of him. The cat was very affectionate and he found if he took the cat and later selling the Big Issue magazine they attracted a crowd which of course resulted in more money. He did get prosecuted for illegal busking and later got in trouble for being on someone’s elses pitch for selling the Big Issue and people giving him money although not necessarily buying the magazine which broke their rules. The cat inspired him to turn his life around and even come off methadone cold turkey style. His mother’s family lived in Australia and he saved up enough to visit. It is a really inspiring story that is probably more about the owner than the cat. I really enjoyed it. I think the main thing is he found a purpose in life.