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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 11th Oct 2021, 17:52
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Should of course be 'Tall TAILS of the South Pacific'!
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Old 18th Nov 2021, 18:48
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Old 19th Nov 2021, 00:56
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Might have to buy that seeing Mike served on the Premier Sqn of all time as I did. (he has already told me that some charecters are mentioned, one being RIP).
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Old 19th Nov 2021, 01:47
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Originally Posted by DaveUnwin
Tall Tales of the South Pacific by John Laming. He served 18 years with the Royal Australian Air Force and flew P51 Mustangs, Vampires, DC-3s, Convair 440s Lincolns etc etc - even got his hands on a RAN Sea Fury a couple of times, and then went onto a successful civil career. An excellent read - very well written.
And much of his wonderful prose and tales are here on PPRuNe, such as You'll never make a pilot 👍 😎 🇦🇺
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Old 29th Nov 2021, 12:23
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“Wellington – Years of the Sword” by Elizabeth Longford

I have always been fascinated by the exploits of the Duke of Wellington, as taught to me from school days and the history of the Battle of Waterloo etc, but interest was rekindled in 1957 when I was posted to RAF China Bay (Sri Lanka) across the bay from the RN Naval Base at Trincomalee on the eastern coast of the island. The reason being that at Trincomalee there is an old colonial Fort (Fort Frederick) once occupied by Arthur Wesley later the Duke of Wellington. This fort was built by the Portuguese in 1623, rebuilt by the Dutch, and occupied by the British in 1782, re-conquered by the Dutch and finally liberated by the British East India Company. The Wellington connection is that inside Fort Frederick it was possible to visit Wellesley Lodge the bungalow that Wellington lived in when he was in Trinco as a Colonel in the British East India Company in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, finally returning home in 1805.

For most of us, Wellington equals Waterloo. However, Waterloo was one peak only in the career of this extraordinary man. Between 1794 and 1815 he participated and led his troops in over 20 campaigns and battles including India, the Peninsular wars in Spain and Portugal and finally at Waterloo. The success of this biography that it reveals the subtlety and full variety of Wellington’s genius as well as the fascinating complexity of England in his time. Of special interest to me are the details of the battles he fought in India before he became famous in his European campaigns, in particular the defeat of the Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore and his first major victory at the Battle of Assaye. In the book Longford recounts, when a friend asked Wellington what was the best thing he ever did in the way of fighting, the Duke sombrely replied: “Assaye.” In April and May 1799, Wellington participated in the siege of Seringapatam in Mysore, and led an attack on the entrenchments of the fortress there. After Seringapatam was taken, Wellington was made civil governor and remained there until 1802 afterwards travelling to Ceylon and taking up residence at Fort Frederick in Trincomalee.

So when this book and its companion volume “Wellington – Pillar of State” were published in the 1970’s I added them to my library.






Wellington was born Arthur Wesley, third son of the Earl of Mornington, in 1769 - the same year as Napoleon (In 1798, he changed the spelling of his surname to “Wellesley” by which he is known today). His family, which belonged to the ruling class of Englishmen in Ireland, was long on the tradition of proud service to the King and chronically short of funds! Neither his childhood nor his years at Eton were happy; but at seventeen when he went to Anjou, to study at France’s Royal Academy of Equitation, he came into his own, learned well, and emerged qualified and cosmopolitan.

On 7th March 1787, he was gazetted as an ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot and for the next few years rose through the ranks. He courted Kitty Pakenham but her family would not allow her to marry him - his family was not rich enough, so he went to India at the age of twenty-seven still a bachelor.

Wellington as he looked around the time of his return from India


It was in India that he made his name and amassed a fortune consisting mainly of prize money gained during his campaigning in India, so on his return to England in 1805 he returned with around £42,000 (£4 million in today’s money). When his brother’s term as Governor-General of India ended in March 1805, the two brothers returned together to England on HMS Howe and it just so happened that on the voyage home HMS Howe stopped at the little island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic and the brothers stayed in the same building in which Napoleon would live during his later exile.

Fort Frederick as I photographed it in 1957 whilst stationed at RAF China Bay




In 1805 he returned England as a Knight of the Bath, a Major-General, a hero to his countrymen and acceptable, at last, to the Pakenhams, (he had courted Kitty by post over the twelve intervening years; it was scarcely surprising that the woman he married proved different indeed from the charming girl he had left.)

When he was forty, the youngest Lieutenant-General in the army, he took command of the allied armies in the Peninsular War. With Napoleon’s downfall, abdication and exile to Elba, the hero of Europe began a debauched career as ambassador to Paris. All the ladies, from the formidable Madame de StaŽl to the melting Signora Grassini, vied-often successfully-for his favours. His behaviour with them and as a diplomat caused some disquiet, and there was evident relief when he was dispatched to the Congress of Vienna. When word came of Napoleon’s escape, Wellington took command once more, and after the spectacular eve-of-battle ball in Brussels, led the British and Dutch-Belgian armies that together with the Prussian army, led to his triumph at Waterloo.

Lady Longford’s biography draws on material from private papers and Wellington’s own uninhibited correspondence. ‘Wellington: The Years of the Sword’ is a marvellous book – her account of the Battle of Waterloo runs to 54-pages, making it an outstanding read.

As a PS. Elizabeth Longford wrote a follow-up about Wellington - “Wellington - Pillar of State” which records his time as a diplomat and prime minister (twice) and numerous affairs. This too is very readable, especially if you want a complete history of this fascinating man. Intriguingly Elizabeth Longford was related by marriage to the Pakenham family (Kitty Pakenham being of course Wellington’s wife) and the author happens to be Kitty’s great-great-great-great niece, so she has a particular interest in the subject.


The companion book "Wellington Pillar of State"
FWIW I live not too far away from his stately pile (Stratfield Saye the mansion in Hampshire given to Wellington by a grateful nation) and it is well worth visiting (Covid restrictions allowing) if only to see the 18-ton funeral carriage (created from melted-down cannons captured at Waterloo) that carried his body from Chelsea Hospital to St Paul’s Cathedral in November 1852. When I visited some years ago, visits were by guided tour only and with very limited opening times (about four days at Easter and the whole of August). I found the guided tour very interesting. Anyway, passed on FWIW – the book is worth a read. Additionally the statue of Wellington on his horse Copenhagen that was originally at Marble Arch in London was moved in 1885 to Aldershot and gets a mention in TripAdvisor (reputedly as visiting the statue in Aldershot is the only reason to visit Aldershot!).




PPS. Came across this caricature in the second of Longford’s books about Wellington, “Wellington-Pillar of State” — obviously alluding to his reputation as a ‘ladies-man’ par-excellence’!


Hand-coloured etching dated April 1819 — © The Trustees of the British Museum


Description

A scene in St. James’s Park. Wellington, handsome and debonair, wearing uniform, bestrides a cannon on a gun-carriage, taking a long stride as if riding a velocipede. The muzzle is pointed towards three ladies (left), two of whom affect alarm. One runs to the left, looking round from behind a fan; she takes the arm of a young woman holding a large muff, and wearing a pelisse to the knee above long drawers, who says: “It can’t do any harm, for he has fird [sic] it so often in various Countries, that it is nearly wore it [sic]!” The third clasps her hands ecstatically, saying, “Bless us! What a Spanker! - I hope he won’t fire it at me - I could never support such a thing!” Two other ladies watch from the right, behind the Duke. In the background are Buckingham House (left) and the Chinese bridge (right).
So all-in-all a very good read

The Years of the Sword is an outstanding military read, if only for the 50-pages or so that describe the Battle of Waterloo and it gets 10 out of 10 from me - Enjoy!
WT


Last edited by Warmtoast; 29th Nov 2021 at 12:34.
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Old 29th Nov 2021, 13:50
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The Years of the Sword is an excellent book, I loved Wellington's insight into Nelson's character that is quoted in the book. How he could change from an arrogant, preening bore into an insightful and interesting interlocutor depending on what he (Nelson) knew/thought about his audience, met a few others like that.
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Old 29th Nov 2021, 18:12
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Additionally the statue of Wellington on his horse Copenhagen that was originally at Marble Arch in London
I think it was actually at Hyde Park Corner - but they do look very similar
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Old 29th Nov 2021, 20:21
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I'm sure I can remember the mounted statue of the Duke being in Aldershot in the 1960s.
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Old 29th Nov 2021, 22:04
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Probably already been nominated as a good military read but I’ve just finished ‘the glider gang’ by Milton Dank

Certainly opened my eyes and tells what really happened during the WW2 airborne operations. The blue on blue, attrition rates and the piss poor planning that went on makes pretty uncomfortable reading, when compared to the sanitised versions that we all grew up with.

I am in awe.
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Old 29th Nov 2021, 22:53
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Originally Posted by Blossy
I'm sure I can remember the mounted statue of the Duke being in Aldershot in the 1960s.
It's still there near the Royal Garrison Church.


Duke of Wellington statue at Aldershot

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Old 30th Nov 2021, 19:56
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The Edge of the Sword. By Gen Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley
Although the author served with distinction in WW2, this book concerns his exploits in the Korean War. In April 51 as the Chinese swept into S Korea they needed to cross the Imjin River in order to surround Seoul. At the Imjin they met 1 Bn The Gloster Regiment. The Bn held fast for several days against overwhelming odds (literally waves of Chinese being killed attempting to rush their position). But The Glosters couldn't hold on forever and eventually were surrounded and captured. Farrar-Hockley continues his story of his, and comrades', time in captivity.
A fantastic read of high intensity warfare and in great detail - he was after all actually there, (on a par with We Were Soldiers Once...And Young). Likewise the harrowing experience of captivity in the hands of the fanatical and ideological Chinese.
Still time to get it by Christmas.

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Old 19th Dec 2021, 18:43
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Amazon Amazon
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Old 20th Dec 2021, 08:22
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Originally Posted by Warmtoast
It's still there near the Royal Garrison Church.


Duke of Wellington statue at Aldershot
...I bet his wife was miffed that he took the TV remote with him!
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Old 20th Dec 2021, 14:49
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Oh please PLEASE put a 'Like' button on PPRuNe, just for posts like 622's
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Old 20th Dec 2021, 19:03
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Apologies if earlier in the thread, i have browsed over the years but not start to finish: RIFLEMAN by (and autobiography of) Victor Gregg, with Rick Stroud.
Real boy’s own stuff - but it’s all a true story - and Devastating on Dresden, he was there. You’ll have to read it to find outs how that came about.
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Old 20th Dec 2021, 21:54
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This is hands down the best aviation book of the year for me, and one of the all time great aircrew bios.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 11:06
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Return to the Reich by Eric Lichtblau

A chance encounter on the web led me to this wartime tale of incredible bravery:

'Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee's Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis' by Eric Lichtblau (2019)
ISBN 10: 1328528537
ISBN 13: 9781328528537




This is the publisher's blurb:

The remarkable story of Fred Mayer, a German-born Jew who escaped Nazi Germany only to return as an American commando on a secret mission behind enemy lines

Growing up in Germany, Freddy Mayer witnessed the Nazis’ rise to power. When he was sixteen, his family made the decision to flee to the United States—they were among the last German Jews to escape, in 1938.

In America, Freddy tried enlisting the day after Pearl Harbor, only to be rejected as an “enemy alien” because he was German. He was soon recruited to the OSS, the country’s first spy outfit before the CIA. Freddy, joined by Dutch Jewish refugee Hans Wynberg and Nazi defector Franz Weber, parachuted into Austria as the leader of Operation Greenup, meant to deter Hitler’s last stand. He posed as a Nazi officer and a French POW for months, dispatching reports to the OSS via Hans, holed up with a radio in a nearby attic. The reports contained a gold mine of information, provided key intelligence about the Battle of the Bulge, and allowed the Allies to bomb twenty Nazi trains. On the verge of the Allied victory, Freddy was captured by the Gestapo and tortured and waterboarded for days. Remarkably, he persuaded the region’s Nazi commander to surrender, completing one of the most successful OSS missions of the war.

Based on years of research and interviews with Mayer himself, whom the author was able to meet only months before his death at the age of ninety-four, Return to the Reich is an eye-opening, unforgettable narrative of World War II heroism.
To expand a little on the description above, Fred Mayer spent some considerable time, with the help of forged documents and a stolen uniform, posing as a convalescing German officer, all the while living in officers' quarters in Innsbruck! The forged documents included a paybook, and the Reich actually ended up paying the Jewish spy in it's midst! Courage and fortitude on this scale certainly gets my utmost respect, and convincingly underlines the real meaning of the term 'hero'.

I obtained my brand new hardback copy of the book on the UK Abebooks website (abebooks.co.uk), for £9.01, including postage. It is also available via the international version of the site (abebooks.com).

There is also a paperback edition available, plus an
Amazon Kindle version Amazon Kindle version




Wikipedia's entry for Fred Mayer's here.

If you cannot afford the time to read the book, this 52-minute film on Youtube will give you the lowdown on this remarkable chap and his colleagues. Interviews with Fred Mayer and friend Hans Wynberg are included in the film:


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Old 27th Dec 2021, 20:27
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Originally Posted by Jackonicko
This is hands down the best aviation book of the year for me, and one of the all time great aircrew bios.

Indeed it is a great read and seeing I was on 6 with Sooty, it brought back some memories. Ex Lone Cat 04. I remember OC 6 at the time (Ex Red Bull Air Race Director) saying the exercise was eye opening and was more like a Sqn exchange in actual output. Mike's stories of the airboure stuff backs OC6's assessment! I have photos of the dead Migs as well Jacko!

Last edited by Cat Techie; 27th Dec 2021 at 23:28.
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Old 29th Dec 2021, 00:11
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"Death of a Hero"........about Captain Robert Nairac and his disappearance back in the '70's. Intrigued me as a child........the book gives a real insight into the murky and extremely violent goings on back then.
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Old 30th Dec 2021, 16:46
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Originally Posted by Cat Techie

Indeed it is a great read and seeing I was on 6 with Sooty, it brought back some memories. Ex Lone Cat 04. I remember OC 6 at the time (Ex Red Bull Air Race Director) saying the exercise was eye opening and was more like a Sqn exchange in actual output. Mike's stories of the airboure stuff backs OC6's assessment! I have photos of the dead Migs as well Jacko!
just read it too after an Xmas present of kindle and would echo your endorsement. Very good read, with a bit of dust in the air in the middle.
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