Shield of Empire, The Royal Navy and Scotland


The author has established a reputation for well-researched and executed maritime histories. He has particularly established a strong reputation in writing detailed histories of the wooden ship navies of the Napoleonic War period. Here he embarks on a different voyage of discovery that goes some way to redressing the neglect of Scottish naval history by naval historians. With the Union of Crowns in 1603 and the Union of Parliaments in 1707 any separate Scottish naval tradition was absorbed into the predominately English Royal Navy. The more recent Scottish naval contribution has been treated as just a part of the British naval tradition. Scottish naval history has suffered as a result of the timing of the linking of Scotland with England, Wales and Ireland. It coincided with the development of the gun-armed naval vessel. As the gun was introduced it required a ship that was built to carry it and that started to separate warships from merchant ships. The Union of England and Scotland spanned one hundred years of rapid naval development that saw the emergence of the armed cruiser and the line of battle ship. Before the Sixteenth Century, formal standing navies were unusual. Ships that were built for trade were impressed into naval service with few modifications.

The Wars of the Roses


A delightful guide that is heavily illustrated, including colour photographs. Much is still to be seen of the remains from the period of the Wars of the Roses. England is peppered with castles, churches and city walls from the period, some of them in a very good state of preservation, even palaces and private houses have survived. The period is more than an important episode in English history because it marked the passage from the Norman French rule that followed the invasion by William the Bastard in 1066 into the period of the Tudors and the foundations of World Empire. The ruling structure of Monarch, Barons and Church began rapidly to give way to Monarch and Parliament in a largely secular state. It is not surprising that so many people from so many different national and cultural backgrounds should wish to tour the battlefields, the castles, the ancient towns, the churches that are both part of the history of the period and the memorial to it. This book is the indispensable guide and companion for those who seek to walk the ways of York and Lancaster, to see the remains of heraldry and architecture. The author has divided his work geographically, prefaced by a brief history of the Wars of the Roses. The illustrations have been well selected and nicely reproduced.

The Sutton Companion to Castles


Sutton have established a reputation for high quality guides and companions. This book is up to that high standard. Britain has a heavy collection of fortified sites that date back to the Iron Age earthworks that can still be seen today. Many fortified sites have been built on the base of much older strong points. The early Norman and Viking fortifications are now only visible with great difficulty because they were pre-fabricated wooden defences hastily erected to provide a protected base or to guard a key route. There are some Roman fortifications that have survived better, being built of flint, brick and concrete. Some of these defensive structures were later adopted from Norman times and were further developed. As the Normans consolidated their hold on England, they began a major building programme of castles and fortified towns. This programme then continued through the Middle Ages and into Tudor times. The author has created an encyclopaedia of castles, ordered alphabetically. This is a very effective approach and although medieval castles dominate, because they are the dominant remains, early fortifications are covered and so too is life, and the range of artefacts that have survived. Lavish illustration adds greatly to the book and images have been well-chosen and carefully reproduced. The scope is so much wider than the title suggests and even gardens and heraldry are covered.

The Savage Border


The area along what is now the northern border of Pakistan has long been an area of conflict, separating India from Asia and the Middle East. The rugged and inhospitable terrain is well suited to guerrilla warfare where a single sniper can inflict great damage on a large force that cannot deploy effectively. The author is a specialist in the area and its history, having travelled there extensively. This latest book from him is well up to the standards he has set in previous books such as “The Khyber Rifles” and “Spying for the Raj”. Illustration is confined to a bandw plate section but the text supports itself, written with the flow of a journalist.

The Harrier Story


This is another book in the excellent Sutton ‘Story’ series. The type of book that Grandmothers and fond Aunts buy for children at birthdays and Christmas, books that are then cherished and kept. The package is a pocket-sized book with hard covers and illustration throughout, largely in full colour, at a very affordable price. Unlike many books that are deliberately aimed at a young readership, this book has not been dumbed down. The text is clear and concise, the research has been well done, there is copious illustration with high quality images and the result is a compact reference book that would fit into the library of the most knowledgeable and serious reader, but be equally at home in the pocket of a child developing an interest in aviation. There is a considerable amount of information crammed into the small packet but it does not look overcrowded or difficult to access because image captions and margin notes break up the material into very digestible sections. The Harrier in its various forms has been one of Britain’s most significant contributions to the development of aviation. The book briefly looks at the clumsy German and American attempts at building vertical take off aircraft and also at the supersonic naval version of the Harrier which was never built.

The First Emperor of China


Ying Zheng was crowed King of Qin as a child, in what is now western China. From that beginning he was to grow to rule all of the kingdoms, defeating six rival kings. That was an immense task creating a huge unified country that has on average accounted for a quarter of the world’s trade down the centuries. Under Zheng the Great Wall of China was built and a massive tomb constructed for his burial. A belief in mythical properties of mercury may have led to madness and death but there are still so many mythical qualities to Zheng’s life that the separation of fact and fiction is difficult. He burned books and destroyed kingdoms to create a unified China. Everything he did was on an epic scale.

Personal Security Handbook


The author has a background in security roles and this is an interesting book. Even by concentrating on personal security, it is still a huge subject and this book is not really comprehensive enough to justify the status of a handbook. That should in no way put off a potential reader. The work is very easy to follow, there is a great deal of illustration which is not always necessary or beneficial to the text, but makes a potentially demanding subject easier to work through. The great difficulty in presenting any aspect of security is that for most people it contains bad news they would rather not hear about. At the other extreme is the person with a bunker mentality who is terrified of risk. What the book does well is get over the very easy and practical steps that can be taken to reduce risk to the person. Many readers will be pleasantly surprised to find that personal security is largely common sense, awareness of surroundings and avoiding exposure to risk where it is not necessary to be exposed.

Life as a Battle of Britain Pilot


Jonathan Falconer has established a solid reputation for books that cover aviation history during World War Two. Usually, he writes substantial historical works that will stand the test of time and have been thoroughly researched and are well written. Inevitably, these books tend to be more seriously priced and appeal strongly to professionals and enthusiasts in the subjects. Here is a very refreshing new book that is extremely affordable, easily pocketed and yet it achieves the same standards of authority and integrity. It is an excellent study for those coming fresh to the subject and embarking on a voyage of discovery into the world of aviation and aviation at war. A serious student of the subject might learn nothing new from this book although it provides a different and very human view of matters which are often written of in a technical and highly detailed manner that covers small areas in depth but leaves many gaps in a general appreciation of the wider perspective and its human aspects.

Hitler’s Atlantic Wall


The German coastal defences created from 1940 extended south from the Norwegian North Cape to the border between France and Spain. The nature of the fortifications changed as the coastline changed along this great boundary. There was also variation caused by the German view of the threats they faced. The main construction, which has come to be referred to as the Atlantic Wall, runs from Spain along the French coast and up through Belgium to Holland, more than 1500 miles of coast. It was at its strongest along the section of coast from Brittany, along the coast of Normandy to the Belgian border. It can be argued that the Channel Islands formed part of the defences as a flak and coastal battery position off the French coast. Millions of tons of steel and concrete were used and the task was never finished and never as strong as the myth presented by those responsible for building it. Very little has been written in the English language about the Atlantic Wall and this book addresses that deficiency. The Germans poured huge amounts of resource into the construction and the Todt Organization made use of slave labour in addition to the many skilled military engineers and architects. Deciding on the scope of an account is difficult for any author. In this case, the author has concentrated mainly on the bunker system directly at the coast and provided much detail, including a good selection of photographs and a number of excellent sketches and engineering drawings.

Flights into History


A workmanlike book on a period of recent history that is fading as those who lived through it die out. The author is an enthusiast and brings that enthusiasm to his writing. He has taken the story of a number of aircraft and their crews who failed to survive their missions. These snapshots have been achieved through research and archaeology. Eastern England was the base for the combined air assault on Germany by British and American bombers, home to fighters setting out on sweeps across occupied Europe, fighter escorts for the twenty four hour bomber formations and high speed interdictors and night fighters. Even to the closing stages of the war German aircraft continued to raid into England. As a result, East Anglia is rich in the remains of this history with a multitude of museums and monuments to the air war. Many of the exhibits now on display have been dug out of the clay and sand or brought up from the seabed off the coasts of Eastern England and from across the North Sea off Holland and Belgium. Losses by all combatants in this hard fought war were terrifying.