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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 2nd Sep 2010, 19:18
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From Tailhooker to Mudmover.......By Dick Lord. Very good read about a South African flying for the RN in the 60's & 70's and then moving back to SA to fly Mirages during the war with Angola.

He is an excellent raconteur, and very funny at times
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Old 2nd Sep 2010, 19:40
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Jungle Soldier: The True Story of Freddy Spencer Chapman

An outstanding book, about an incredible man and his life story, focusing on his 'work' deep behind the Japanese lines in Malaysia during WWII. I always find it quite humbling to read these stories and to discover the depths a man will go to for his country. Seems like he caught every disease going whilst in the jungle yet managed to survive and still inflict huge amounts of damage to the Japanese war effort. His back story is one of exploring the Arctic as well as climbing 24,000' mountains for the equivalent cost of a camping stove on an Everest expedition that was being attempted at a similar time!

Worth a read.
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Old 3rd Sep 2010, 13:01
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Hard to beat for me is, Lee Miller's War, - the photographs and writings of a civilian war correspondent following the US troops from St Malo to Munich and Dachau.

Don't be put off by the fact that Miller's reports and pictures were first published in Vogue, or even that Miller herself had once been a Vogue model.

The book is full of Miller's iconic photography which are definitive images of WW2 and have shaped a score of war films. Including the famous picture of Miller in Hitler's bathtub on VE day.
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Old 4th Sep 2010, 11:29
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I'm reading a book by Mark Urban called Task Force Black. I'm quite sure some of the Puma crews will be interested in this one.
I'm quite enjoying it at the moment, I will comment more when I'm finished.
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Old 4th Sep 2010, 12:17
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Another Mark Urban book - "The Rifles". The real "Sharpe" stories
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Old 4th Sep 2010, 20:31
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Probably been mentioned previously, but Geoffrey Wellum - 'First Light' is outstanding. The best book on Battle of Britain ops I have read.

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Old 20th Sep 2010, 09:14
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Has anyone mentioned 'The Ghosts of KG40' by Jack Oakey ?

Novel slightly based on fact, but a quite brilliant book.

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Old 20th Sep 2010, 10:17
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Spencer Chapman's classic "The Jungle is Neutral" was required reading for just about anyone heading "norf" from Australia to fight either in Borneo or SVN in the 60s/early 70s. I still have my copy.
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Old 13th Oct 2010, 23:06
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I stumbled upon this absolute gem, through online bookseller Abe Books, 'The Wild Green Earth' by Bernard Fergusson. ( Bernard Fergusson, Baron Ballantrae - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) (I wasn't aware of the author's [shall we say] 'slightly colourful' immediate post war career in Palestine until I saw the Wikipedia entry.)

It gives an account of the author's second Chindit operation in 1944 behind the Japanese lines in Burma, where the then 32 year old author led a Brigade of 4000 men. (He refers quite a few times to the 1943 Chindit expedition, which seems to have been something of a disaster.)

For those who insist on Aviation content, the book is rich in description of the (then) very novel glider and C47 aerial resupply operations that allowed the Chindits to survive. He also describes in detail (and waxes lyrical) about the operations of the mostly USAAF (but some RAF) light aircraft units that flew into the extremely rudimentary "airfields" the Chindits cut for them in the jungle.

I think it would be safe to say that the book is long out of print. However, it is well worth seeking out for anyone who enjoys a good military read. Published in 1946, it has an immediacy about it, with much naming of names of people obviously still alive.

Refreshingly, Fergusson admits to cock ups and getting things wrong. One incident he describes is sobering. After the war, he sought out the few men who had gone missing on the second expedition and survived Japanese captivity. When only 100 yards into their day's march after leaving their night camp, one soldier realised he had forgotten a piece of his kit and returned to recover it - and was captured by the Japanese patrol that had been closely shadowing the column. Fergusson admits not to having any idea that the Japanese even knew where the British column was, let alone being so close to them.

I found the second part of the book fascinating. More a series of after action reports or staff papers, Fergusson gives what amount to lessons on a number of varying topics, e.g., 'Jungle Travel' / 'Food, Water and Health' / 'The Jap as an Opponent' (refreshingly honest in the high praise he gives to the Japanese soldier, if not to the Japanese senior officers) / 'Signals and Animals' (mules were vital to the Chindits) / and, perhaps of most interest to readers of this site, 'The Light Plane Force'.

I've made a precis of his introduction to the Light Plane Force chapter.


From time to time, General Wingate would summon us to conference to comment on the progress of our training. At one such meeting he introduced a small, broad-shouldered American colonel. Phil Cochran had come to command No. I Air Commando, which itself included the Light Plane Force.

Phil took the stage. For half an hour there poured from his eager mouth a fantastic stream of advertisement. One really blushed to hear him. His boys were marvellous; there was nothing they couldn't do. They would fly us into Burma, and they would fly us out.

He had us laughing, he had us entertained, but he failed utterly to convince us. Wingate looked at us from the stage, to see how we were taking it, and his fierce eyes had a twinkle in them at our obvious disbelief. It was usually his role to startle us, and to make us wonder whether or not he really believed what he was telling us. To-day Phil Cochran was stealing his thunder.

At the end of the meeting I tackled Phil direct. He had spoken about his light planes, which took off (so he said) in seven hundred and fifty feet. I told him outright that I found his claims hard to believe, but that I would like to give them a fair try; and could I have the first experiment? I should welcome the chance to see whether or not the aircraft had the performance which he claimed for them, and whether or not they could really operate on the rough landing strips which were all we could hope to build them.

There was no question, of course, of building strips in the jungle proper; it was a matter of smoothing out existing patches of pasture.

The first two L-5’s had barely arrived when a genuine SOS came in from one of the columns. A man had been kicked in the groin by a mule, was unconscious and totally unfit to be moved. They were building a strip. Had the light planes arrived, and would they come and get him? It sounded like the perfect test of whether or not Phil Cochran's claims were genuine or empty boastings, of whether or not light planes could really land at short notice to evacuate casualties.

An hour later we drove out to the strip, and for the first time I found myself looking at an L.5 - that ugly but serviceable contraption to which thousands of our men were to owe their lives in the next few months. Its own mother could not have called it beautiful; the "flying mess-tin," as our men speedily christened it, was its aptest title. The clumsy, narrow wings were secured to the fuselage by round tubes which looked like the frame of a bicycle.

Flying at fifteen hundred feet, we soon saw some fifty figures working like ants on a patch of pasture not far from the river. The strip looked desperately small. We touched down on the extreme edge of the strip. I saw that we were at the downward end of a hill, and that the far end of the strip was well over the crest. However, we bumped to a halt; and were immediately surrounded by fifty soldiers with picks and shovels, stripped to the waist, sweating from their labours, and all agog to see the new toy.

The injured man, groaning and grey with pain, was hoisted into my seat in the air¬craft, which was to take him away and come back for me. She took off amid the cheers of the crowd; we had arranged for an ambulance to wait at the strip, and the news spread round the Brigade like wildfire, at the end of the exercise, how the poor fellow had been safely in hospital twenty minutes after leaving the ground.

For those of us who earlier in the year (on the 1943 Chindit expedition) had so often had the misery of abandoning our wounded, this first demonstration of the powers of the light aircraft lifted a great weight from our hearts. Nor did this good omen play us false. The pilots were as stout as the aircraft; and to the end of my days when I think of America, or when I hear Americans mentioned, my mind will flicker across the boys of the Light Plane Force before it finally focuses on the relevant context.
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Old 14th Oct 2010, 09:40
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In case it hasn't been mentioned, I just read 'Flying Freestyle' by Jerry Pook. Brilliant, and gives a huge insight into the RAF.

How he took such strain for so long is beyond me, in case he should read this, Hat Off Sir !

My father, ex-FAA leading air mech Seafire to BAe Harrier GR5, completely agrees, we read a great deal and this is the best since ( the very different but also conspicuously enjoyable ) Ghosts of KG40.

Now will get his Falklands book pronto.
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 14:47
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More bang for your buck
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Not a tale of daring do but a fascinating book that traces the history of Orford Ness from the early RFC days through Radar development, AWRE, Cobra Mist up to the take over by the National Trust. It brought back wonderful memories of working there in the trials team on WE177.

Most Secret: The Hidden History of Orford Ness by Paddy Heazell.
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Old 29th Oct 2010, 17:49
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Sea combat off the Falklands
Antony Preston.

Published 1982 by Willow Books in London .

Dunno where he got his sources but my copy was given to me as 'course reading' at Shrivenham in 1982 and was described as 'authentic'.

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Old 29th Oct 2010, 21:13
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Quartered Safe Out Here by George Macdonald Fraser, the author of the Flashman novels. A fascinating insight to the Far East campaign from the squaddy's point of view.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 11:13
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Quartered safe out here

I agree, a fantastic read,particularly when he discusses what his mates were voting for in the 1945 General Election and NOT voting for, in the pc world of their old-age! I, and mates who have read that piece, all cried out 'yes,yes,yes!'

His views on 'shoot to kill',bombing of Hiroshima etc are interesting.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 14:49
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FantomZorbin and Brian 48nav,

I agree - in fact, I agree so much that I mentioned that one in post 103!
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 19:50
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Oops! V. sorry Oh dear, more brain cells have gone AWOL then!
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 20:35
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Best of Breed - Group Captain Nigel Walpole

For those of you who ever flew the Hunter FR Mk 10, a definitive explanation of what it was to be a fighter recce pilot - a role that I considered to be my most enjoyable time in the RAF !

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Old 1st Nov 2010, 11:42
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The Battle of Britain by James Holland

An unimaginative title for a brilliant book, which covers the collapse of France and the BEF, Dunkirk and the build up to the B of B. Many personal accounts from both sides brings the book alive.

ISBN 9780593059135 Published by Random House. Also available from Kindle Epub ISBN 9781407066523
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Old 21st Nov 2010, 21:41
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For those looking for a good military read, let me recommend ‘Boyd: the Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War”. ( boyd. the fighter pilot who changed the art of war - AbeBooks )

This book should be a must read for any officer and NCO in any of the three services, particularly those with aspirations of making a career in the service.

For those non-fighter jocks among you who might, (as I was), be initially dismissive of the seemingly typical fighter pilot hyperbole contained in the title of the book, don’t be. This was the man responsible - against massive resistance from his superiors - for the F15, the F18, and most importantly, the F16, and who, through one of his ‘acolytes’, (see the Wikipedia link), had much to do with the creation and introduction to service of the A10 despite the USAF hierarchy doing everything in their power to kill the project.

However, the fighter stuff is only part of the story. Boyd’s real influence didn’t come to bear until after he quit flying, where he developed the concept of ‘manoeuvre warfare’, a (for the US military, at least), radically novel concept of warfare that changed the way of fighting a modern war.


John R. Boyd, Colonel, United States Air Force

John Boyd - USAF, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of Air Warfare

There should be a copy of this book in every crewroom.
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Old 21st Nov 2010, 22:32
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Champagne anyone...?
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War by Sebastian Junger is an outstanding book about an American platoon in the Korenghal Valley in about 2007.

On the same subject is his film/documentary Restrepo which comes out on DVD in a couple of weeks. The trailer on YouTube gives you some idea about it....

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