Author Archive

I am reviewing the war memoir book Sabre Squadron by Cameron Spence which is a very good book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This is a true story of an SAS mission that occurred during the First Gulf War and was the longest mission ever undertaken by SAS soldiers at 6 weeks. The mission was part of the search for Scud missiles in the wake of Iraq attacking Israel with these in the hope of breaking the Arab part of the coalition which was essential if the armed forces amassed in Saudi Arabia were going to oust Iraq from Kuwait. It was ultimately successful and Israel wasn’t drawn into the war but SAS soldiers on the ground in Iraq had to find the mobile Scud sites. The permanent Scud missile sites were taken out quite early on and the Iraqis smuggled the missiles to the sites in buses under the Allied Forces noses. Once they SAS found the sites they often had to use a laser guider to guide the bombs in. In this particular mission they thought they were dealing with 30 soldiers and it was actually more like 300 and one of the land rovers thought a place with barbed wire and concrete structures which are always bad signs was deserted and it turned out they got ambushed and if they had turned around would have been killed so had to slam the vehicle in reverse and make a speedy exit. I think if you enjoy books by Chris Ryan and Andy McNab you will be in your element. It has lots of delicious details about warfare and I think will especially appeal to anyone considering a career in the army or soldiers. I really enjoyed this book and Cameron Spence was a NCO in the SAS who carried out this mission. It rivals books like Bravo Two Zero. It’s an enjoyable read and is a decent length at around 400 pages.

 

The book I read to research this post was British Military Operations 1945-85 which is an excellent book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book was published around 1986 and covers the various theatres of conflict Britain has been involved in, in quite a lot of detail and is quite informative. Britain at least up until 1985 had been involved in armed conflict somewhere in the world every year with the exception of 1968. Britain has a relatively small but extremely capable army that has unsurpassed experience in dealing with terrorists or insurgents. Most of these conflicts the British armed forces have achieved notable victories. There were conflicts like the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya when they had to move all the villagers out of the war zone when the civilians weren’t too happy but even in that they did have success in dealing with the Mau Mau. One thing they did was use ex Mau Mau who had changed sides to hunt down the others in small groups often accompanied with one soldier. They had a lot of success with this in the Boer War too. The enemy would have no idea if these units were friendly or not and could be captured etc. In Northern Ireland a ploy used by the security services was taking people off the street and questioning but because they couldn’t interrogate them they let them contribute information if they wanted to. This was done on such a large scale the PIRA couldn’t work out who had told them what as they were overwhelmed with the number of people involved. I learned a lot from this book and it is a very interesting read certainly worth the 50 p I paid for it. If you see it for sale secondhand I definitely recommend it. Britain wanted wealth from the empire just after World War 2 to help pay off the loans from America but gradually decided the best path was to let her subject countries become independent which allowed her to scale back her military. As with things like the Suez Crisis she couldn’t stick to one policy and couldn’t accept the Egyptians nationalizing the Suez Canal. This was partly to pay for the Aswan Dam which the West was threatening to pull the finance for. Britain in particular feared British ships might be banned from the canal. It wasn’t just loss of earnings. Of course at this time Britain just couldn’t afford to fight a war and hadn’t thought it out properly.

The book I read to research this post was A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book which is a kind of controversial recent history is about Kim Philby but is also about the spy ring for the Russians and is in particular about Anthony Burgess and the game of cat and mouse the British spy services played with the KGB around the 40′s and 50′s. Funnily enough when Philby fled to Russia despite being a double agent and a communist he was far from happy even slashing his wrists on occasions. Philby was head of the British spy service at the time of World War 2 and one thing it says is he wasn’t concerned about the consequences of the information he passed on to the KGB. At one stage MI6 produced a list of staunch anti communists in Germany who might resist the Russians and he passed this list on. To their dismay MI6 later found out every person on the list had been shot. We don’t know how many names were on the list as that is classified. On another occasion a Soviet spy offered information including identities of more or less the entire network of Kim Philby and his fellow double agents in exchange for money and political asylum for him and his family. He was eliminated and it was obvious a person of the rank of one of the spies he had mentioned had messed the case up namely Philby. The people who worked with Philby were so inept they didn’t realise this and he had had the spy assassinated. This is an amasing story and I must admit Ben does write absolutely fantastic history books and his consistency astounds me. It reads almost like a novel and is absolutely enthralling. I did thoroughly enjoy this book and would enthusiastically recommend anything by Ben Macintyre.

The book I read to research this post was The Face Of Battle by John Keegan which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book takes an indepth look at 3 great British battles, Agincourt, Waterloo & the Somme. The first 2 were successful for Britain and the last was a bit of a stalemate. Keegan writes absolutely brilliant history books mostly from around the 2 World Wars. Agincourt along with the somewhat similar battle Crecy is the kind of battle at first glance makes you proud to be British and was between them and the French. The French outnumbered the English but there cavalry hesitated big time in a relatively narrow space were due to the mud the horses were sinking and they were slain by archers. The British longbowmen had a reputation for being lethal. The resultant prisoners were mostly slain due to there larger numbers as the British thought they might pick up weapons and start fighting again. At Waterloo some of the soldiers most notably the Belgians were allowed to leave with out being captured despite losing the battle and many of these soldiers fought in other battles so in hindsight it was probably the wrong decision. At the Somme in World War 1 most of the shells fired by the British were shrapnell containing lots of steel balls due to a shortage of high explosive but this did little damage to the German fortifications. Many of the British were mowed down by machine guns as they advanced and gains despite the heavy losses were minimal. A lot of lessons were at least learned from this offensive that were applied to later battles. I did really enjoy this book and it’s a substantial length with lots of useful information. Keegan is one of my favorite history book authors.

 

The book I read to research this post was Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning by Viktor Frankl which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book is the follow up to Man’s Search For Meaning also by Viktor Frankl and the best book I have ever read. In that book it was about his experiences in a concentration camp during World War 2 and how he found meaning to his existence whilst there which led to him developing logotherapy and becoming a celebrated psychiatrist and psycho therapist. One man went to him devastated about his wife’s death which had left him alone. Viktor told him he should think that he is suffering instead of his wife and has spared her this ordeal. One thing he often focuses on is a life has to have meaning and an example of this is lab rats had a lever that every time they pressed it produced food. At first they ate lots and lots of food but then it lost its meaning and they went off food and sex. It is only by having sad experiences we can appreciate the good times. Everything is relative. In a concentration they enjoyed great happiness eating a bit of stale bread because they were starving and if they had been well fed would have turned their noses up at it. Another thing is expectations where we expect something and if it disappoints we are upset but if it exceeds our expectations no matter how little we expect are happy. This is only a short book of around 150 pages and Viktor is from Vienna in Austria which of course was invaded by Hitler during World War 2. This is a very interesting book and I enjoyed reading it.

The book I read to research this post was Gobekeii Tepe: Genesis Of The Gods by Andrew Collins which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. Gobekeii Tepe was discovered in 1994 and is a remote part of South West Turkey and is the earliest archaeological construction in the world. Some historians have claimed we will find things like the Akashic Vaults which are records of human consciousness and thought to be in Egypt but this is more exciting. The Gobekeii Tepe is a series of megalithics on a huge scale that were probably by hundreds of organized workers in 9,400 BC & that is 7,000 years before the time of Abraham. Andrew reckons beings came to Earth from outer space and this was the site of the Garden of Eden built by aliens rather than a God. It is a fascinating book. Apparently a farmer found broken stones whilst ploughing with inscriptions on them and notified the nearest museums in 1984 but it took them until 1994 to get back to him. One things it shows is at the time the local must have had an organized society with agriculture to support the thousands of visitors it received. When this was built and it was lined up with the stars, there was a different pole star called Deneb and there is a hole in one of the stones thought to be aligned with it. The stones were quarried many miles away and we know among the things they worshipped was the volcanic rock/mineral obsidian and in some cases this was highly polished to make the first mirrors. This obsidian was transported hundreds of miles. We know among other things they drilled agate gem stones with diamond drills to thread them into necklaces. Andrew tends to write books on the occult and paranormal and I think this book which is his most recent publication is one of his best. I really enjoyed reading it and found it very interesting. There are also inscriptions on the rocks of creatures that didn’t live in the area and the nearest water source was 3 miles away. There isn’t known to have been any kind of water pipeline which makes you wonder how they supplied the workers and visitors.

The book I read to research this post was Modern Sea Power by Bernard Brett which is an excellent book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book was written at the height of the Cold War so apart from looking at the history of navies tends to look at the rivalry between NATO & the Soviet Bloc. Bernard is an art teacher who has a strong interest in the navies of the world and I think he has done a commendable job with this book. Much of it looks at the 2 World Wars and it is around 250 pages so is a reasonable length with sumptious photos. The book mostly looks at the development of the modern navy which started with HMS Dreadnought in 1905 which was the first ship to have big guns and heavy armament and of course the dreadnought class of ships was named after her. In World War 2 American ships were limited to 61,000 tons which was all that could pass through the Panama Canal & the Japanese took advantage of this with their Yamamoto Class 72,000 ton ships though which only saw limited production. Another big development in World War 2 was the submarine and the German developed an engine for these which was high performance and used hydrogen peroxide instead of pressurized oxygen to provide combustion. After the Americans looked at nuclear power with the potential that the submarine could almost run indefinitely underwater. Yet another big development has been the change from battleship to aircraft carrier as the most expensive ship in a fleet. The British developed a kind of catapult that would launch a Hurricane aircraft into the air and the fact it couldn’t land and the pilot had to bail out once the enemy had been destroyed was seen as an acceptable loss. Many of the Atlantic convoys had this. It was primarily to take care of enemy battleships. The periscope which allowed a submarine to run submerged but at the same time be able to see above the surface was a Dutch invention during World War 2. Around that time Britain had more merchant shipping than any other nation but they were catching up rapidly. This was largely due to the British Empire. I really enjoyed reading this book which is on an interesting topic and the author has done a good job with it.

The book I read to research this post was London’s Lost Railways by Charles Klapper which is a very good book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Charles wrote this book in 1976 and rather unfortunately died in 1980 but had a distinguished career in transport and transport journalism. This book which is somewhat dated is about the railways in and near London which have either closed or been relegated from passenger and freight to freight only. In many cases large companies oversaw the building of lines and owned and operated their own engines on these lines. Since this book was published the Chunnel has been built and a series of extensive upgrades like the expansion of Farringdon station have taken place. Of course TGV’s even operate between London & various destinations on the continent. One thing mentioned in the book is often coal was brought in to London from the North and various railways linked this to the docks where it could be exported. Apparently 11 national lines terminated in London at one time. Shoreditch for example was the terminus for the Eastern Counties. There was a high level Crystal Palace station which was an important goods depot. The big competitors to the railways were the underground trains & buses. It’s interesting to note there were orbital railways around the suburbs of London which are run particularly by buses. This book is only around 130 and many of the lost lines I have never heard of. I enjoyed reading it though & I think if you see it for sale maybe going cheap is probably worth buying.

The book I read to research this post was Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams which is a very good book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book is an autobiographical account of Kayla’s job in the US Army. She was a Sargaent ┬áin the Intelligence Corp in Iraq and became proficient in Arab. At one stage she had to help with interrogating prisoners. She appears to be quite a sprightly lass who spent 6 years altogether and for much of that time was based in Mosul & Baghdad. She gives quite a candid account and had quite a bit to put up with, with drunken soldiers fancying their chances of getting her into bed and getting quite nasty when turned down. One interesting point she mentions is another female soldier got sexually assaulted and was under age but was drinking at the time. She got punished for drinking but the men soldiers got away unpunished even though they had committed a serious crime. Apparently 15 % of the US Army are women. Kayla had a job getting funding for charities as a fund manager and it was quite well paying. She also had offers in the same field that were even better paying, but saw the army as more of a challenge. She also wanted to train for a technical career and the army would train her and give her $50K towards her training at college if she signed up for 5 years which is what she did. With her particular trade in the minimum was 4 years sign up and the maximum was 6 years but the bonus for signing up on that was quite small so she didn’t bother. I enjoyed this book and it is around 290 pages so is a reasonable length. I think it is a must read for anyone contemplating going in the armed forces.

I am reviewing the book Twentieth Century History For Dummies which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book looks at history on a worldwide scale in the twentieth century. It has seen much bigger upheavals than previous centuries and we have gone into a world that is changing more and more rapidly. I really enjoyed reading this book especially some of the stories I have seen on the news that it was able to go into deeper. I think more or less every major country is covered. There is stories in it like how Idi Amin overthrew President Obote in Uganda and took the country over and expelled all the Asians from the country and by all accounts was a tyrant. He had many people tortured and killed. Unfortunately for him he starting attacking Tanzania which resulted in him being overthrown. They then put Obote back in power but what the West didn’t notice was he had just as many people put to death and was just as much a tyrant. Amin was a bit of an exhibitionist which attracted attention more to what he did. There is also substantial sections on World War 1 & World War 2. It looks at the history impartially and mentions where there are conflicting accounts of what happened. A major development of the 20th century has been the industrialization of Japan. This can be traced back to the Korean War when America and her allies were desperate for military transport of various types and it could be manufactured in Japan and shipped out because they were near far faster than from America. After World War 2 initially America wanted Japan to have an economy based on farming so it would be more difficult for them to re arm and cause any problems like in World War 2. Since the atom bombs in World War 2 Japan has had nothing to do with nuclear weapons although they do use nuclear power and has focused on developing industry.