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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 26th Apr 2009, 21:33
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Customs of the Services - Gp Capt A H Stradling OBE

A great read, first published in 1939 and subtitled 'Being helpful hints and advice to those newly commissioned'. Useful advice includes:

Try to avoid travelling in the same compartment as other ranks. It probably embarrasses both of you. If not travelling on a first-class warrant, and funds are low, try to find a 3rd class compartment not occupied by any other ranks.

Remember these are social calls. A lounge suit shall be worn. The correct time for calling is 3pm to 5pm Monday to Friday. Laxity is creeping in and nowadays junior officers do not object to your calling between 5:30pm and 6:30pm or on Saturdays and Sundays.

Choose your drink with at least the same care that you would your food. Unless you wish to appear uneducated in these matters, never drink more than one sherry or short drink before a meal; you will spoil your palate.

A classic if you can find a copy.

N Joe
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Old 26th Apr 2009, 23:12
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A very good military read
Adam Zamoyski’s “1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow” gets my vote as an “unputtable down” book of military history.

Some 600,000 troops crossed the Niemen River into Russia in the summer and autumn of 1812, among them Frenchmen, Germans, Poles, Italians and Swiss. About 400,000 of them died: on the march, in battle and during the horrific winter retreat. Similar numbers are thought to have perished on the Russian side. Composers — Tchaikovsky, most famously with his 1812 overture — were inspired to write stirring music about the event and Leo Tolstoy put the 1812 campaign at the heart of his novel War and Peace.

As so often happens in war, it was incompetence, not careful planning, that was crucial, bringing Napoleon practically to the gates of Moscow without a fight, only to find that Czar Alexander had razed the city to the ground to deny Napoleon the food, supplies and shelter that he expected.

The confusion and horror of the French retreat through the Russian winter are well described in the letters and memoirs of ordinary combatants that Zamoyski has pulled together from a huge range of sources. The retreat, through an interminable blizzard, is a pitiful procession westwards by a ravaged, starving, frost-bitten French army ‘not dressed for cold weather’. By the end of November, the temperature was minus 30 C, by the time they'd reached the ‘icy death’ at Vilna, it had reached minus 37.5 C.

“1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow” is a masterful piece of military history writing; an epic story describing a dramatic series of memorable events, the humiliation of a great Emperor, the merciless destruction of a massive army and the almost unimaginable suffering of its soldiers.

Highly recommended.

PS Anthony Beevor's "Stalingrad" describes almost similar events about an army defeated partly by the extremes of the Russian winter, this too is highly readable.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 02:34
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In a similar vein, namely the horrors of the Eastern Front, I'd second jungle drum's nomination of The Forgotten Soldier. An unforgettable book.

Something you may not have seen, as it was initially published in a limited paperback run but has deservedly just picked up a major publisher, is this book from Wellington pilot Bill Bailey who sadly passed away in 2007: Alone I Fly.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 05:03
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A couple of the worst books I've read recently have been about Afghanistan -very formulaic and a bit of an insult to the people doing the job out there.

Favourites of recent times are Vulcan 607 and An Ordinary Soldier.

I would also recommend any Derek Robinson novels.

Of previous mentions, I don't there's a bad one there (of the ones I've read which sadly seems to be most of them!), my faves being First Light, the Laddie Lucas compilations and Tumult in the Clouds (aside from Chickenhawk which everyone should have read at least twice!).

Another nice little book is Behind the Cockpit Door by Arthur Whitlock - well worth a read if you can dig out a copy. Not military aviation but is an autobiographical account of being a civil aviation pilot after WW2, from bush flying DC3's in India to being Captain of a 747. Good stuff.

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Old 27th Apr 2009, 06:04
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I have also probably read most of the books already mentioned. However, for a work of fiction Len Deighton's "Bomber" is by far the best I have come across.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 07:20
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Devils Guard - George Robert Elford, is available as a reprint (even if it is not all true, it is still a ripping yarn).

Low level Hell - Hugh L Mills. Scout pilot in vietnam. Almost rivals Chickenhawk for best 'egg beater' book out of that era.

Snake Pilot - Randy R Zahn. Cobra missions.

Dear Mom , a Snipers tale - Joseph T Ward.

Naked in DaNang - Mike Jackson. FAC pilot flying down amongst the insects in a Cessna O-2. Trying to draw fire before unleashing payloads from Phantoms onto the target. Brilliant book.

When Thunder Rolled - Ed Rasimus. Thud pilot in the early stages of the war, on Op Rolling Thunder.

Palace Cobra - Ed Rasimus. On his second tour flying Phantoms, during the Op Linebacker I & II period.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 09:11
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I know they're a bit naff but I also enjoyed Dan Mills' 'Sniper One' and Damien Lewis' 'Operation Certain Death'. Airport trash lit, but worth a read none the less.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 09:16
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Crossfire: Peter Haran & Robert Kearney Australian infantry in Veitnam

Trackers: Peter Haran Australian Tracker Dog teams in Veitnam

Tears on My Pillow: Narelle Biederman Australian Army Nurses in Veitnam

Fireforce: Chris Cocks and infantrymans View of the Bush war in Rhodesia

An Ordinary Soldier: Doug Beatie a Royal Irish Regiment officer in Afghanistan

Sniper One: The Battle of CIMIC house in Alamarah

Love My rifle More than you: Kayala Williams Iraq war from a US female soldier

A lonley Kind of War: Marshall Harrison FAC in Veitnam

Hit My Smoke: Chris Coulthard-Clark Australian FAC's in Veitnam

Battle of Long Tan: Lex McCaulay Australians and New Zealanders fighting for their lives in Veitnam

Firebase Coral: Lex McCauley the Battle for an Australian fire base in Veitnam
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 10:02
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Another Beevor book "Berlin" which really showed how quickly the Russkis moved in pushing the Nazis back.

Highlighted the barbarity on both sides and also detailed how Germans really had no idea of how quickly the war was collapsing as many caught behind the lines.

Some were lucky including the hospital that was over run but a surprising fight back ensured the staff and patients who could be moved were transported west quickly. Apparently Hans Dieter Genchser later German Foreign Minister was in the group that liberated the hospital.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 13:39
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If a good Vietnam (and Indonesian 'Confrontation') read is up your street, try "Sleeping With Your Ears Open: On Patrol With the Australian SAS" (ISBN: 186508297X / 1-86508-297-X) by Gary McKay. A no bullsh1t, told mostly in the first person by people who actually did it, account of SAS ops in SE Asia in the 1960s and early 70s .

Some current (and ex) Australian Army readers, fed a constant diet of how hopeless the RAAF was in SVN by some of their peers, might be somewhat surprised to read of the very high regard the SAS had for the crews of 9 Squadron RAAF.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 13:48
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Another Vietnam chopper book in the same vein as Chickenhawk, but a little more contained, is "To the Limit' by Tom A. Johmson.
It's a first-person tale of a Huey driver in 1st Cav during 1967 - 68.
As good as C-H, but different; worth a look.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 16:53
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A very good military read

How about Flying Start by Hugh Dundas. Out of print currently but worth looking for. He made Sqn Ldr and Wg Cdr at about 21/22 and Gp Capt at 24 I think. All between 1939 and 1945.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 17:10
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"Where soldiers fear to tread" by Ranulf Fiennes, an account of the Dofhar war....
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 17:14
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Earnest K. Gann.

"Fate is the Hunter" . Superb book on early aviation and his life story. A must for all total aviation people.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 21:42
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Have read a lot of those mentioned thus far, all good reads. I particularly enjoyed The Big Show by Pierre Clostermann.

For something a little different, have a look at:

The Sky My Kingdom - Hannah Reitsch


On Being A Bird - Phillip Wills

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Old 27th Apr 2009, 22:21
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Company of Heroes by Michael Durant is worth a read for the real story of Black Hawk Down. Bit pulp fiction, read the whole thing between Aviano and Odiham.
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Old 27th Apr 2009, 23:08
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Has anyone read Gen Rupert Smith's Utility of Force?

I keep meaning to read it, but have a huge pile of books by the bed already which I should probably work my way through before buying any more. Or is Smith's book a good enough read to jump the queue?
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Old 28th Apr 2009, 01:18
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I particularly enjoyed The Big Show by Pierre Clostermann.
A few people have read this book and recommended it. I knew a (now long departed) bloke who flew on Clostermann's squadron as a Sgt pilot after the D-day landings (when they were based on 'bare bones' strips in France) and he became quite passionate when Clostermann's name was brought up - in about as negative a way as you can get. Didn't have a good word to say about the man, particularly his habit of taking the Flight back for a second sweep over German airfields. (The Number 3 and 4 on such sweeps - i.e., the hapless Sergeants - faced the German AAA gunners when they were now fully alert and ready for action.) Col said Clostermann lost more wingmen than he had breakfasts, (a point I seem to recall that Clostermann admitted to in the book). Col didn't like the man as a leader on the ground either.

When I read 'The Big Show', I thought Clostermann made a few comments that hinted that my old friend Col might not have been far off the mark in his assessment of the man. (I seem to recall his mentioning reaming out his groundcrew at the bare bones bases for leaving smudges on his canopy.)

When I came upon the bit early in the book about his sitting around the French messes in Indonchina so bored that he would spend hours on end "...fascinated, watching the small lizards on the bar room walls as they caught insects", I knew Col had been right - the man was a bloody Gecko Watcher! (Anyone of a certain age who spent any time in the tropics with the RAAF [and possibly the RAF?] will understand what that entails immediately.)

Having said that, his escape from Saigon to Malaya in the Auster, refuelling from 4 gallon drums through the torn out roof in flight, was a mean feat, as were his explots after getting to Europe. I don't suppose you survive what he went through without ruffling a few feathers along the way.
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Old 29th Apr 2009, 08:21
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One of the best flying books I've read is 'Think Like A Bird' by Alex Kimbell.

It is the story of an Army pilot's training in Chippies and Austers at Wallop and then intensive Beaver flying out of Khormaksar into the Radfan. Riveting stuff believe me.
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Old 29th Apr 2009, 08:59
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Winged Victory by VM Yeates - A virtually autobiographical account of life on a Camel Squadron in 1918

The Price of Glory by Alistair Horne - The Battle of Verdun, giving in insight to the First World War from the French and German perspective

Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan - Another look at the First World War that may change the way you think about that conflict

A lot of good WWII books mentioned above (The Forgotten Soldier particularly) to which I would add The Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat. Although it is a novel, it follows the factual events of the siege very closely, overlaying it with a narrative that paints a vivid picture of life on the island at the time.
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