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Subject: Military History Bookshelf - July 2016 rss

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John Robinson
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Hello everyone,

The start of another month. Let everyone know what you are currently reading or if you have just finished then tell us what you thought of it.
Military fiction is also welcome here too.

Ive been playing a lot of GMT's Bomber command recently and have just started this book to learn more about that campaign




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Not really military history but a fascinating read non the less.
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Jason Maxwell
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Pulling my question over from last month's thread as I wasn't thinking about it being the last day of the month when I asked it. Anyone have a good recommendation for a book about flying boats and their military use?
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John Robinson
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JasonRMax wrote:
Pulling my question over from last month's thread as I wasn't thinking about it being the last day of the month when I asked it. Anyone have a good recommendation for a book about flying boats and their military use?




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M Evan Brooks
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Completed:



The "Russian" Civil Wars, 1916-1926: Ten Years That Shook the World by Jonathan Smele

Rating:

With a retail price of $74.00 (and an Amazon price of $69.06), this is an expensive academic tome. However, virtually all histories of the Russian Civil war begin with the advent of the Bolsheviks and conclude in 1921 with the evacuation of the last major White Armies under Baron Wrangel. A few histories do extend into 1924 with the Tambov Rebellion but I am not aware of any which range over a decade (1916-1926). Therefore, I felt it was a mandatory acquisition -- I was wrong!

While noted as 464 pages in length, the actual narrative is a mere 253 pages (followed by 107 pages of footnotes and a 47 page bibliography). Even more distressing is the period 1921-1926 is covered in nineteen pages.

The author begins and ends the "Russian" Civil Wars with Basmachi Muslim "revolts". However, rather than a civil war, these were more of a frontier conflict more akin to the United States conflict with the Native American tribes. Utilizing this as a start and end point is misleading at best; furthermore, there is little narrative concerning the Muslim personages and their accomplishments or lack thereof. He notes that the last major military operation of the Civil War occurred in the autumn of 1921 (cf. page 224).

The book itself shows that the author has a vast knowledge of the Civil War(s), but the average reader will rapidly lose a sense of chronology and distance. I do admit to having almost all of the books in English that the author notes, but much of his footnotes refer to academic quarterly journals, often reminding one of a dispute over tenure, e.g., he criticizes Abramson's Prayer for the Government (which covers Jews and Ukrainians between 1917-1920), but nowhere does he address the potential failings of that particular text.

As the Civil War(s) flame and ebb throughout the former Russian Empire, the individuals tend to fade into obscurity. While the author notes the Makhnovist army in several places, he does not even begin to describe its leader, Nestor Makhno, until page 188. I do agree with the author in that the best histories of the Civil War are Mawdsley's Russian Civil War and Lincoln's Red Victory, although why he omits Figes' A People's Tragedy is beyond my understanding.

The narrative itself is overly academic in tone, and nowhere does the author use a five cent word when a twenty-five cent word may be found. I literally had to read this with a dictionary. In fact, let me issue a challenge -- how many of the following words are in YOUR vocabulary?

psephological; puissant; anomie; quotidian; fissiparous; warp and weft; ruction; autocephalous; ultramontane; dirigiste; amenorrhoea; recrudescence; nem.con

Spoiler (click to reveal)
psephological (referring to elections); puissant (having a great influence); anomie (a lack of ethics); quotidian (daily); fissiparous (inclined to divide); warp and weft (referring to the vertical and horizontal threads on a loom); ruction (disturbance); autocephalous (self-governing within the church); ultramontane (advocating supreme papal authority); dirigiste (an economic system where the state exercises a strong influence over investment); amenorrhoea (failure to menstruate); recrudescence (outbreak after a period of inactivity); nem.con (unanimously)


Overall, there is little to interest the general reader and the academic discourse does not illuminate the actual course of the Russian Civil War(s).

Note: latest edit was to add three additional words









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Matthew Barber
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jon7167 wrote:






Night Fighters and the early radar development associated with them is a fascinating subject. http://www.gyges.dk/Himmelbett.htm is a pretty cool website detailing the German side of night fighter tactics, specifically the convuluted series of radars, signallers, jammers, spotlights used to guide German night fighters. (Fridays at work are for schmucking around on the internet...not work!)
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Jason Maxwell
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jon7167 wrote:
JasonRMax wrote:
Pulling my question over from last month's thread as I wasn't thinking about it being the last day of the month when I asked it. Anyone have a good recommendation for a book about flying boats and their military use?





Thanks, adding them to the list!
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BrentS
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The Landmark Arrian

Arrian is widely considered the most reliable primary source for the campaigns of Alexander and I was excited to finally get around to reading him. Typical of the Landmark series, this edition was cram packed with goodness, not just a thoroughly annotated, footnoted and indexed translation, but dozens of maps and almost twenty appendices/essays on various Alexander related topics……the most interesting and surprising being one by Eugene Borza, doyen of Macedonian scholarship, on the identity of the occupants of the royal tombs at Vergina.

My only disappointment is that I wasn’t able to get this in hardback as it’s a keeper as a reference. I have all four of the Landmark classics available and I see from their website that they’re planning more……Xenophon’s Anabasis, Polybius and others……..but they’re very slow (almost thirty years for the editions published so far) as they obviously take an enormous amount of work to put together. There’s a hint from their website that Julius Caesar might be released in 2017 (I assume that will be both the Gallic and Civil Wars) and that’s something I’m eagerly looking forward to.

Brent.
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goshublue wrote:



The Landmark Arrian

Arrian is widely considered the most reliable primary source for the campaigns of Alexander and I was excited to finally get around to reading him. Typical of the Landmark series, this edition was cram packed with goodness, not just a thoroughly annotated, footnoted and indexed translation, but dozens of maps and almost twenty appendices/essays on various Alexander related topics……the most interesting and surprising being one by Eugene Borza, doyen of Macedonian scholarship, on the identity of the occupants of the royal tombs at Vergina.

My only disappointment is that I wasn’t able to get this in hardback as it’s a keeper as a reference. I have all four of the Landmark classics available and I see from their website that they’re planning more……Xenophon’s Anabasis, Polybius and others……..but they’re very slow (almost thirty years for the editions published so far) as they obviously take an enormous amount of work to put together. There’s a hint from their website that Julius Caesar might be released in 2017 (I assume that will be both the Gallic and Civil Wars) and that’s something I’m eagerly looking forward to.

Brent.


That looks like a very nice book. My recent ventures in Field Commander: Alexander sparked a bit more of my curiosity about Alexander, this might be a good way to enlighten this spark.

The book of Herodotus attracts me too. I already have a good edition with loads of footnotes and appendix, but to have two nice editions on the same bookshelf... laugh Thanks for this idea !
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As a follow up (and by special request), I completed Victory Rode the Rails by George Edgar Turner. Overall, I thought that it was good, as I learned more about the importance of railroad transportation during the ACW and its influence on military thinking, organization, and events.



Turner follows the war chronologically and weaves in the importance of railways to military operations from 1861-1865. He also compares and contrasts the North and the South in terms of railroad policy and practices.

Turner rates the Union higher than the South in understanding the importance of rail transport, maintenance of rail assets, and so forth. The North had better rail lines and access to all of the necessary technology and materials to maintain and even improve their transportation network. Perhaps more importantly, the North had the men who understood rail better, from its generals to logistical experts like Haupt. A lot of this came down to organization and management; something we take for granted in the 21st century.

Turner essentially retells the military campaigns of the war, highlighting the importance of railroads as a running theme. Accordingly, the book could have benefited from campaign maps showing troop movements, or at least theater maps to help follow the action. The book lacks these, so have your atlas handy. Otherwise, the railway maps and photos in the book were of marginal value.


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Khartoum 1885: General Gordon's Last Stand, by Donald Featherstone

Been focused on the Age of Imperialism recently, with a particular emphasis on Egypt and Sudan between 1882 and 1898. Planning several scenarios for Battle Cry including Abu Klea, where the Mahdists clashed with one wing of the Relief Expedition... British mounted infantry using camels!

In addition to ordering a couple of books I purchased this extremely cool HaT 8180 Gardner Gun set with Royal Marine detachment. Must acquire the proper army men for the Abu Klea scenario; game publishers have budget limitations, I do not.

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AND

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Just started this small volume, lent to me my a mountaineering friend whom is part of the Clark-Hall family. Published by a small New Zealand imprint back in 1995 so probably somewhat hard to obtain today.



It's a slim volume of 172 pages and I'm already 57 pages in so will be finished in a couple of days.

Air Marshal Sir Robert Clark-Hall, K.B.E., C.M.G., D.S.O. had a long career in aviation and this autobiography was completed after his death by his son.

It starts off with his training from a cadet until his naval service in the Boxer rebellion. Sir Robert learnt to fly in 1911 using a small legacy - his flying license was no.127!

He was the pioneer in the Royal Naval Air Service and then the RAF in the development of armaments for aircraft - including some dangerous and alarming experiments he personally conducted with 100lb dummy bombs and a real 2 pounder cannon that risked tearing the flimsy air frame apart! He foresaw that the role of machine gum armed aircraft should be to shoot down other aircraft and laid down the requirements of such aircraft - including superior speed and a quick climbing ability. This section is fascinating, and as far as I have got.

From the foreword, he will then go on to commanded of the HMS Ark Royal at Gallipoli - a seaplane carrier - before transfer to command a fighter wing on the Western Front. Before the Second World War he retired early to start a new life in New Zealand.

At the outbreak of War he put himself at the disposal of the New Zealand Government ("Don't worry about rank!") and ended up commanding the RNZAF group in the Solomon Islands.

I think I am going to enjoy this one too! With my June reading, a bit of a glut of early RFC and RAF experiences.
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Looking at some old books and some new on the WW1 Mesopotamian campaign.

"The Bastard War: The Mesopotamian Campaign of 1914-1918" A.J. Barker (1967)

Quote:
The Bastard War is about a relatively unturned page of World War I: the campaign in Mesopotamia between 1914 and 1918. It is a tribute to Barker's scholarly industry that this exhaustive study precludes further investigation in this area in the immediate future. The story of the Mesopotamian campaign is one of political ineptitude and mismanagement, of muddled planning and military blunders. What makes Col. Barker's account of more than mere historical interest is his belief that the lessons to be learned from the campaign are as applicable today as they were fifty years ago. He reminds us that most of the problems of the modern world stem from the great upheavals of World War I. Since some of the more persistent trouble ""emanates from the region of the Persian Gulf–an area vital to Britain's economy, but where British influence has been steadily declining in recent years,"" the author rightly regards the Mesopotamian campaign as being of special significance. His thesis is consistently meaningful; his treatment of history objective; his presentation of background material judicious.


"When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921" Charles Townshend (2010)

Quote:
Since 2003, Iraq has rarely left the headlines. But less discussed is the fact that Iraq as we know it was created by the British, in one of the most dramatic interventions in recent history. A cautious strategic invasion by British forces led - within seven years - to imperial expansion on a dizzying scale, with fateful consequences for the Middle East and the world.

In When God Made Hell, Charles Townshend charts Britain's path from one of its worst military disasters to extraordinary success with largely unintended consequences, through overconfidence, incompetence and dangerously vague policy. With monumental research and exceptionally vivid accounts of on-the-ground warfare, this a truly gripping account of the Mesopotamia campaign, and its place in the wider political and international context. For anyone seeking to understand the roots of British involvement in Iraq, it is essential reading.
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Eawyne wrote:


That looks like a very nice book. My recent ventures in Field Commander: Alexander sparked a bit more of my curiosity about Alexander, this might be a good way to enlighten this spark.

The book of Herodotus attracts me too. I already have a good edition with loads of footnotes and appendix, but to have two nice editions on the same bookshelf... :laugh: Thanks for this idea !


The Landmark Herodotus is also excellent. Relevant to that, if you're interested in exploring Herodotus even further from an academic perspective, I can also highly recommend the Great Courses lecture series on his History.



I've listened to most of the Great Courses series on ancient history and classics and Elizabeth Vandiver is one of my favourite lecturers. Although straying from military history now, I can also highly recommend her courses on classical mythology, the Aeneid and the Iliad and the Odyssey (the last two being best done together......they were clearly designed as one unit but for some reason the Teaching Company has split them into two separate courses).

As always with the Teaching Company, it's best to wait until individual courses go on sale, as they all periodically do. They're also cheaper in audio than video format and I've rarely found that I miss anything without video.

Brent.
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dmcamp wrote:
"When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921" Charles Townshend (2010)

Quote:
Since 2003, Iraq has rarely left the headlines. But less discussed is the fact that Iraq as we know it was created by the British, in one of the most dramatic interventions in recent history. A cautious strategic invasion by British forces led - within seven years - to imperial expansion on a dizzying scale, with fateful consequences for the Middle East and the world.

In When God Made Hell, Charles Townshend charts Britain's path from one of its worst military disasters to extraordinary success with largely unintended consequences, through overconfidence, incompetence and dangerously vague policy. With monumental research and exceptionally vivid accounts of on-the-ground warfare, this a truly gripping account of the Mesopotamia campaign, and its place in the wider political and international context. For anyone seeking to understand the roots of British involvement in Iraq, it is essential reading.


Would the author be any relation to the C-in-C in-theatre at the time? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Vere_Ferrers_Townshend
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The Evolution of Operational Art: From Napoleon to the Present. Edited by John Andreas Olsen, Martin van Creveld.

https://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Operational-Art-Napoleon-Pr...



Solid retrospective about evolution of understanding what is operational art of war with examples of its implementation by different nations.

Making the notes/short excerpts of what I've read there: http://history.hexandcounter.ru/
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notquitekarpov wrote:
dmcamp wrote:
"When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921" Charles Townshend (2010)

Quote:
Since 2003, Iraq has rarely left the headlines. But less discussed is the fact that Iraq as we know it was created by the British, in one of the most dramatic interventions in recent history. A cautious strategic invasion by British forces led - within seven years - to imperial expansion on a dizzying scale, with fateful consequences for the Middle East and the world.

In When God Made Hell, Charles Townshend charts Britain's path from one of its worst military disasters to extraordinary success with largely unintended consequences, through overconfidence, incompetence and dangerously vague policy. With monumental research and exceptionally vivid accounts of on-the-ground warfare, this a truly gripping account of the Mesopotamia campaign, and its place in the wider political and international context. For anyone seeking to understand the roots of British involvement in Iraq, it is essential reading.


Would the author be any relation to the C-in-C in-theatre at the time? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Vere_Ferrers_Townshend


I wondered that also at first but in his author's note he says he is not related to him as far as he knows. It is a strange coincidence.
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Just finished this old classic about Market Garden. It focuses mostly the allied point of view so looking forward to give It never snows in September a look to see the German point of view as well

This will have to wait. Just started reading Syria 1941. I don't know much about this campaign. The only thing I read about this came from the notes in Reluctant Enemies


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An absolute 'must read'! Covering an often forgotten part of WWII.


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HansK wrote:
An absolute 'must read'! Covering an often forgotten part of WWII.



It would be helpful to type in the author and title, because sometimes it is hard to read the cover images, especially when the image is small.
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Once you get past the author's attempts to insert his own experiences into the narrative the book itself is an easy read. It treads over familiar ground for anyone who has read anything on the 100 days campaign, but despite this I've enjoyed reading it.
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tms2 wrote:
HansK wrote:
An absolute 'must read'! Covering an often forgotten part of WWII.



It would be helpful to type in the author and title, because sometimes it is hard to read the cover images, especially when the image is small.


I was interrupted while posting this, and so forgot to add this info.

The book is called "Hell before their very eyes" by John. C. McManus.
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petegs wrote:
Currently reading:



Once you get past the author's attempts to insert his own experiences into the narrative the book itself is an easy read. It treads over familiar ground for anyone who has read anything on the 100 days campaign, but despite this I've enjoyed reading it.


Gosh, that author must be really old to recount his experience of this battle wow
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JasonRMax wrote:
Pulling my question over from last month's thread as I wasn't thinking about it being the last day of the month when I asked it. Anyone have a good recommendation for a book about flying boats and their military use?


Here's some suggestions- all WW1 aircraft but very well done books





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