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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 24th Apr 2009, 09:01
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A very good military read

If the mods think this is more suited for Jetblast, with apologies, I'll leave it to them to move it there.

Occasionally, people post here asking if anyone can recommend a 'good read'. I've just finished one such book, 'A Storm in Flanders - The Ypres Salient, 1914-1918', by Winston Groom.

The author may be familiar to some as the man who wrote 'Forrest Gump'. He's an American, and writing to an American audience, but don't let that put you off. The Americans don't arrive until page 243, and he does not in any way exaggerate their role.

I'd rate the book as top shelf. I'd like to think I'm pretty well read on WW1, but he trouches on aspects of Ypres that I was unaware of, and the personal accounts he draws on are extraordinary in the detail they give of what must have been among the more horrible battlefield conditions any troops have fought in in modern - perhaps any - times.

One aspect he touches on surprised me. He explodes the myth of the British 'Chateau generals', giving details of the rather large number of British general officers killed in action in WW1. Also, if you're a Canadian, you'd come away after reading this book feeling very, very proud of the part your soldiers played at Ypres.

On a similar subject, the Canucks have just made a movie based (rather loosely, I suspect) on the life of one of their more highly decorated soldiers at Ypres. It's called 'Passchendaele', and is also well worth looking out for.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 10:19
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Agincourt, by Juliet Barker.

The book is not just about the battle itself but the politics leading to the invasion and siege of Harfleur, the trek to Calais and the aftermath for England and France. I couldn't put it down.

Summarised by Bernard Cornwell.......If you buy just one book of history this year, choose this one. A triumph.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 10:25
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Quite a useful thread, this.

I'll try to get hold of a copy of 'Storm in Flanders'. Sounds good.

I'd recommend 'The last valley', for a great account of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

Not at all what I expected.
 
Old 24th Apr 2009, 10:30
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Best I've read with an mil aviation theme....

Wings On My Sleeve - Eric 'Winkle' Brown
Hardest Day - Dr Alfred Price
Blond Knight - Raymond Tolliver
Night Fighter - Jimmy Rawnsley
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 12:45
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Of many good books around - an interesting one is the biography of Adrian Warburton DSO and Bar, DFC and 2 bars, DFC (USA). The book is called "Warburton's War" and written by Tony Spooner. Not only does this book give the story of one of the RAFs most decorated (and probably least known) pilots of WWII, but it also shows what can be achieved when a Flt Cdr provides the leadership and encouragement to allow one of the military's misfits to reach his true magnificent potential. It is also a useful background for the history of the air war in Malta - particularly recce.

Warburton went to the same school as Bader and Gibson and quite probably achieved more than both of them in a military sense during his wartime career. He was a "failed" pilot who became a navigator, then learned to fly again very quickly as the supply of pilots in Malta dried up. A one off and something of a maverick (despite being married and having a wife in England - he lived openly with Christine, the "it girl" of Malta) he got results which is what the leadership wanted despite his almost total lack of service discipline. He probably contributed more than any other person to the success of the war in the mediterranean theatre and was recommended for the VC on several occasions - his detractors outside his circle saw to it that he did not get the medal he deserved - he still managed 2 x DSOs, 3 x DFCs and an American DFC for this exploits.

Buy it cheap on Amazon.

W
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 13:33
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A.Warburton

W',

Thanks for the tip, I'll seek out the book.

I've always felt A.W. deserved a decent book, and a better film than the Alec Guiness version ( ' Malta Story ' ? ) which alludes to his exploits.

He has a place in history, and it's doubtful if there would have been a Taranto Raid without his input.

I did see a programme about him ( and Christine's fate, possibly even crueler than his ) which I'm not ashamed to admit I found rather moving.

As other books I'd recommend, try ' Lost Voices of the Royal Navy '(1914 - 45 ) by Max Arthur, and for a hint at what really went on, ' The Secret War For The Falklands ' by Nigel West.

As for Adrian Warburton, it always seemed to me he was our version of Antoine De St' Exupery ( there's another classic book, ' Wind, Sand and Stars ' ) - though A.W. seems to have been more occupied in tactical flying, rather than spend admittedly enforced time on writing & poetry !
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 13:35
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"Wing Leader" - Johnnie Johnson
"First Light" - Geoffrey "Boy" Wellum

(The latter had fought in the Battle of Britain and been posted to a Spitfire OTU for a rest from Ops by the age of 19. Makes you think, doesn't it?)
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 13:50
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Two from the other perspective

Storm of Steel
Forgotten Soldier
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 13:53
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"First Light" - Geoffrey "Boy" Wellum
I'll second that - an excellent read

Once again I'll plug Sandy Woodwards account of the Falklands conflict - 100 Days. That first chapter...

I know the whole Vietnam thing has probably been overdone, but I'd recommend John Del Vecchio's book "The 13th Valley". The accounts of the tension of fighting in the jungle are peerless IMO.

I've just finished Anthiny Beevor's book Stalingrad, which also was excellent. The suffering endured by the troops on both sides was unimaginable.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 14:46
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Just finished In Foreign Fields: Heroes of Iraq and Afganistan, In Their Own Words Found the book amazing and very moving.

The sort of stories that I used to read when much younger about the heroes of the Second War.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 15:05
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i totally agree about the G Wellum book and that led onto Brian Kingcombes book 'A Willingness To Die' which is written more about life between sorties during the BofB.
Off topic i know but can any of you remember a ITV programme about the last flight of a 617Sqn Vulcan ( had a mate who featured in it as he was the flem prepping the jet)


regards to all

andy
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 17:15
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This is a bit of a cheat for this thread as this book is primarily about the pioneering years of civil aviation, but Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K Gann is a fantastic read. To qualify for inclusion in this thread, though, the author flew right through WW2 as a civilian pilot attached to US Military Airlift Command, mainly on C47s and C87s (the transport version of the Liberator). Some great tales, I especially like the bit when he narrowly avoids redesigning the Taj Mahal with a severely overloaded C87 by dropping full flap at the last second and scraping over the top.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 19:05
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"The Big Show" Pierre Closterman
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 19:36
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Some excellent recommendations above, particularly First Light by Geoffrey Wellum.

I would also like to recommend my current read, a little more modern but excellent all the same, Forgotten Voices Of The Falklands War by Hugh McManners, a real eye opener.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 20:36
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'Tornado Down' - It's one of my favourite book's I have ever read .

'Vulcan 607' - Rowland White is also another spectacular read.
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 21:47
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Don't get time to read half as many of these books as I would like, but 3 which I have managed to read and found particularly interesting are

Winged Victory: The Recollections of Two Royal Air Force Leaders by AVM 'Johnnie' Johnson and Wg Cdr 'Laddie' Lucas - a very good read about 2 wartime fighter pilots, their experiences from attempting to join up as aircrew through to combat ops and then as senior officers. A very enjoyable and easy read, yet one that is also very thoughtful and does leave you wondering how some of today's leaders would have coped in their shoes.

Secret Empire: Eisenhower, The CIA and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage - tells the story of the development of not only satellite-based espionage, but also of interest was the story of how the U2 was developed.

Most Dangerous Enemy - so you think you know the story of the Battle of Britain? Whilst Susannah York in all her glory provides a great deal of emjoyment, there's an awful lot more to this prolonged action than is usually brought up. For example, it tells the story of one side being a bunch of gifted amateurs, chivalrous, romantic and daring, whilst the other side was a bunch of hard nosed, professional, calculating fighters. But which was the RAF and which was the Luftwaffe???
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 23:14
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dead pan, re your comment on "The 13th Valley": the bloke who put me on to it knew the author well and was there with him, in the same unit. He told me that although the story was 'novelised', it was very close to what he and his comrades went through in the Au Shau valley in their first tour. I have to agree; a damn fine read, as is another Vietnam classic, "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young".
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Old 24th Apr 2009, 23:58
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Best book on the Vietnam War, in my view undoubtedly 'A Rumour of War', by Phillip Caputo. A classic novel of Vietnam and its aftermath, this Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir is widely considered among the best ever written about the experience of war.

If that whets your appetite, follow it up with Caputo's 'DelCorso's Gallery'.

"At thirty-three, Nick DelCorso is an award-winning war photographer who has seen action and dodged bullets all over the world-most notably in Vietnam, where he served as an Army photographer and recorded combat scenes whose horrors have not yet faded in his memory. When he is called back to Vietnam on assignment during a North Vietnamese attempt to take Saigon, he is faced with a defining choice: should he honour the commitment he has made to his wife not to place himself in any more danger for the sake of his career, or follow his ambition back to the war-torn land that still haunts his dreams? What follows is a riveting story of war on two fronts, Saigon and Beirut, that will test DelCorso's faith not only in himself, but in the nobler instincts of men."

Finally, to complete a fantastic trilogy, Caputo's 'Indian Country' charts the vet's return to home, attempt to reesume a normal life and the inevitable tensions and stresses this endures.

All in all, just about the perfect set of holiday reading. Enjoy.

ALU.
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Old 26th Apr 2009, 19:35
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For anyone who enjoyed Geoff Wellum's First Light or Pierre Clostermann's The Big Show I can also strongly recommend James Goodson's Tumult in the Clouds, a gripping, brilliantly written account of his war flying Spitfires in an Eagle Squadron then P-47s and P-51s.

For something a bit more recent I'm still a big fan of Robert Prest's F-4 Phantom: A Pilot's Story, about flying Phantoms with the RAF in the seventies.

And in case it didn't get mentioned because it was just too obvious, Chickenhawk, Robert Mason's book about flying Hueys in Vietnam is just about unbeatable.

On the fiction front, it's worth looking out for Mike Lunnon-Wood's Long Reach and King's Shilling, military thrillers about a Guatemalan invasion of Belize and a British intervention in West Africa respectively.
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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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