New Publication – West Wall

B1432

Following the 1914-18 War, France and Germany decided to build fixed fortifications along their common border. Both lines of fortifications required considerable investment but neither provided a complete line of defence because they were not taken all the way to the coast, leaving Belgium and the Netherlands as a bypass route around the end of the fortifications. In 1940, the German Army sped for Paris, taking the route through Belgium and avoiding the well-engineered French Maginot line. Having taken the West Coast of Europe from the Spanish border to the Norwegian North Cape, Hitler decided to build a line of fortifications along the coastline, providing heavy defences from Normandy to the Belgian border. The Siegfried Line became redundant because the Germans expected to hurl any Allied attack on the coast back into the sea. By superior resources and innovative preparations, the Allies managed to establish a beach head in Normandy in 1944 and then begin the breakout towards Germany and final victory. The Siegfried Line suddenly became important to the defence of Germany.

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The Battle of Crecy, A Campaign in Context

B1431

The Battle of Crecy sits at one of history’s turning points. Prior to 1346 the armoured knight was master of the battlefield. France was recognized to have the most modern and strongest army in Europe. England was a prosperous if militarily backward country, sitting somewhere in the mist off the coast of Europe. Perceptions and power moved following the Battle of Crecy. Six hours of bloody battle humbled the French Army before what it had considered an inferior English force. The French armoured knights were decimated and driven from the field, the French King wounded and a fugitive. The Welsh longbowmen of the English army have received much of the credit for victory, but that places the battle out of context. This is an engaging book that places the reader in the events and society of the time. The text is supported by good illustrations through the body of text. This includes sketches, maps and photographs. There is a bandw plate section, which has become traditional in this type of history.

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The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

B1430

The author is best known as a photographer and this book contains some stunning full colour photography. The text has been well-written and tells the story of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight but that is the central theme rather than the full scope. Even thought the British military have suffered swinging cutbacks in the decade of the Blair/Brown regime, the BBMF has continued to survive along with the Red Arrows display team and this is important because once lost, the collection would be very difficult to recreate.

The stars of the BBMF are the Hurricanes and Spitfires that commemorate the aircraft that took part in the Battle of Britain. The addition to the BBMF of a Lancaster originally generated some controversy because it was not part of the Battle of Britain story, but it commemorates the thousands of aircrew who took part in the Battle of Germany at great cost to themselves. The Lancaster is now so firmly established as a worthy co-star that it is inconceivable that a BBMF display should ever take place without it participating. More recently, a Dakota has become an integral part of the BBMF and goes some way to commemorating the role of RAF Transport Command. To keep the BBMF flying, it needs engineers and pilots who are drawn from the modern line squadrons where today they have been brought up on jet technology and modern navcom electronics. There is no shortage of personnel wishing to join the BBMF and great reluctance, on the part of those who are selected, to leave. As part of their induction, they require training aircraft. The Lancaster and Dakota are able to take new recruits on conversion flights, but the Spitfires and Hurricanes are single seaters. During WWII, pilots learned to fly on Tiger Moth biplane trainers and then spent some hours on advanced trainers before a first solo flight in a Spitfire or Hurricane. The BBMF has employed the Chipmunk trainer to provide experience of flying piston-engine tail wheel monoplanes to convert experienced jet pilots to the BBMF aircraft. All of this story is told by the author with a feeling for his subject and with an eye to capture of these historic aircraft as images. The editorial and production team have done a first rate job of setting this out for the press and the result is a very good value for money book that uses full colour throughout. The only question raised is why more publishers cannot manage to achieve this standard at an affordable price. The book will obviously appeal to all aviation enthusiasts, but it will undoubtedly appeal to a much wider readership because the BBMF has established a wider fan base where people who otherwise have little interest in aviation are drawn to these iconic planes.

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The Dam Busters Story

B1429

The author has established a reputation for authoritative works on the RAF Bomber Command during WWII. This has included both books on the Dam Buster Raid and the filming of the story. Reviews of these related books are contained in this review database. It is therefore no surprise that his latest work is carefully researched and accurate. In the history of the RAF there have been two iconic events, the Battle of Britain and the Dam Busters Raid, serving the reputation of Fighter Command and Bomber Command.

This new book is part of the “Story” series from Sutton and it provides amazingly good value for money. As with the other books in the series, it features a hardback binding and is printed on good quality paper in a size that will fit the pocket. It is available at a very low price and is an ideal book to give to the young to develop in them an interest in reading books and in the topics covered in this volume. That is in itself a major achievement by author, editorial team and publisher. There is concise and accurate text, packing information into a relatively small number of pages. The use of margin notes and well-written photo captions makes this a very effective reference work and a programmed learning text. As the author is a specialist in the subject, there is information that is equally useful to a more experienced reader and the format provides a fast reference to the highly experienced enthusiast. What really makes this book and the series outstanding is the lavish illustration. This book includes some accurate drawings of a weapon that has only recently ceased to be a secret weapon. There are a number of very good maps and sketches of the targets and the action of the weapon. There are also some very well selected photographs of the aircraft and crews involved in the raid, including a number of rare full colour photographs which have previously only been reproduced in books as bandw images. This is a must for birthday and Christmas presents for the younger reader, it is also a valuable addition to the most extensive enthusiast and professional libraries.

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V-Bombers

B0165

The book has 8 pages of colour illustrations but also has a host of very good BandW photographs. All three V-Bombers, Vulcan, Victor, and Valiant, are covered in a readable history of these important nuclear capable aircraft, including an account of the Black Buck missions during the Falklands War when Vulcans flew the 16,000 mile round trip, supported by Victors converted to the refuelling tanker role. The book seems to assume it has covered the end of the story but does not cover the efforts to return a Vulcan to the air display circuits.

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Urquhart Castle and the Great Glen

B1361

The great rift valley that cuts a bold path diagonally across Scotland from Fort William to Inverness is a place of mystery and splendour, home to myth and magic, valour and hardship, a place of unsurpassed beauty. Attempting to encompass all of this in 125 pages is a challenge for any author. That this author has succeeded well is an achievement. He has also provided a very good list of recommended further reading. As an introduction to a place and a history, it would be hard to better. The Caledonian Canal which opened the Great Glen as a short cut for naval and commercial shipping, avoiding the difficult waters around the northern coast of Scotland has become a popular waterway for visitors in yachts and passenger vessels, their number increased each year by those who take the road routes and tour the highlands.

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Unknown Seas

B1271

The great explorations before the Fifteenth Century have largely been lost. Some attempts to reconstruct possible voyages from Egypt, Ireland, Scandinavia and South America give us some idea of how ancient navigation may have been conducted and how man went forth into the unknown and terrible seas. Surviving fragments of maps from some of these early voyages have remained to tantalize us, but it was the Portuguese explorers who began to record voyages of exploration by writing detailed pilots for their own use in repeating voyages and avoiding dangers. These pilots were very valuable documents guarded with care. Of all the Portuguese navigators who sailed to Japan and the Americas, Africa and India, Vasco da Gama is perhaps the most widely known.

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USS Constitution – Anatomy of the Ship

B1340

The Conway ‘Anatomy of the Ship’ series has established a high reputation amongst modellers and ship enthusiasts. This edition maintains fully that reputation and follows the established pattern of concise textual history, photographs and high quality drawings. The dust cover includes a 1/150th scale fold-out plan. The wealth of detail is designed to meet the needs of expert model makers. This subject is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Nick-named “Old Ironsides”, USS Constitution was one of four heavily armed frigates built for the embryonic US Navy and tasked with anti-piracy patrols.

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