Archive for the ‘british history’ Category

The book I read to research this post was The US Army At Camp Bewdley 1943-1945 by Adrian & Neil Turley which is a very good book which I bought at a local bookstore. Bewdley is a small market in Worcestershire about 20 miles south west of Birmingham in Britain. In 1943 the US Army along with the Allies was preparing for D-Day when they would land in France. This meant sending troops to various sites in Britain and Camp Bewdley or Burlish Camp as it was known to the locals was one of the sites they were sent to. 4,000 troops were put in the army base with a further 10,000 being put up in tents a little to the North of Bewdley. Camp Bewdley was situated part way between Stourport and Bewdley. It was quite close to the Stourport suburb Burlish. A hospital was built here for casualies from the D-Day action and in total 12,000 casualties mostly needing some kind of surgery. The troops were brought over from America in the Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth among other ships. Lt General Patton the very famous hero of World War 2 made one of his classic speaches here. He ridiculed the Nazi’s for saying America didn’t have the stomach for war and told the they will have something great to say about the part they played in the war. There was a landing field nearby for liaison aircraft of which they had 2. There was also a base and hospital built at Wolverley near Kidderminster and not far from Bewdley. The land for all this was taken by compulsory purchase order. An act of parliament had been passed to give them this power shortly before the war. The troops of course were sent back to America in 1945. A friend of mine told when she used to play near the site in I think the 60’s they used to find spent bullets left behind. There is also a nearby suburb of Kidderminster called the Rifle Range which gets its name because it used to be a firing range for the US army and they still have roads built at that time to accommodate tanks and other military vehicles. I really enjoyed this book and sadly these kind of books are probably hard to find even on sites like Amazon. I think it is a self published book but does deserve a wider audience.

The book I read to research this post was British Steam Since 1900 by WA Tuplin which is a very good book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This is a book about the development of steam trains since 1900 and the many contradictions among engineers about how to make them more efficient. It was a time of little communication between the manufacturers and railway companies. This resulted in for example a train might perform well on one railway and be thought good but might perform badly on other railways. It also meant much development research was often duplicated by several manufacturers often unsuccessful. One of the bosses at GWR called Churchward had the foresight to realise that everything to do with steam engines by 1900 had been tried at least once and it was just a matter of doing research. Another thing he discovered was that the regulator should be left slightly open in doing this research otherwise they risked damaging the train and only GWR drivers for a long time did this. By collaborating on research they found out if a train had more cylinders than the one or two often used it could be made more stable with the driving strokes of the other cylinders driving it through the strokes of any given cylinder. This of course was later done with diesel and petrol engines. In Britain trains were often built with a 0-6-0 arrangement which was quite efficient but in America where at that time they didn’t build them to the same quality they often had a 0-6-2/2 or 0-6-4 configuration because they were less stable and the engineers in America thought the lead wheels  were essential for stability. Of course on high performance trains like the Coronation Class lead wheels were essential. This book is only around 180 pages so is quite short and was published in 1971 so is probably well out of print. It’s interesting nonetheless and I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it definitely.

 

The book I read to research this post was Churchill by Ashley Jackson which is an excellent biography that I bought from kindle. This is a biography of Winston Churchill’s life that gives quite a balanced account and I think is well researched. Winston fought in the Boer War & World War 1 and had quite a distinguished military career. In the Boer War he was a news correspondent who also wrote books about his experiences and was taken prisoner but escaped. Much has been said about him being the only one to escape from the POW and how there should have been others also escape but didn’t. It looks like he seized the chance and the other prisoners were indecisive. He escaped in Portugese held Africa which was neutral. He became a bit of a celebrity as a result. He had a cabinet career which started around this time and would last on and off for over 50 years. In World War 1 he resigned from government and joined the army but soon afterwards rejoined the government as Minister of Munitions. He did such a good job he would later become prime minister during World War 2 with the hope he would bring some of the magic he had during World War 1 to the government and they wouldn’t be disappointed. He carried the same cigar around in a cigar case that would become an important symbol of his speaches. He believed passionately in free trade without tariffs which would lead to him changing party which did happen several times. He also very much believed in self government for Ireland but with in the Commonwealth and many people in Ireland were so fed up with British rule they did indeed leave the Commonwealth. He made many rousing and inspiring speaches during World War 2. After the war Labour under Atlee won the election by a huge majority but Winston remained leader of the Conservative Party despite that and by that time was an institution to many people in Britain. He won the election in 1951 and in his time in the cabinet served under 6 kings and queens. I really enjoyed this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It is quite a long book and does a lot to dispel the idea he was set in his ways and old fashioned. It’s interesting that one of his ancestors was the Duke of Wellington and both men saved their country in its hour of need.

 

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 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.