Recommended Books

Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift

The 24th Regiment
Isandlwana and
Rorke's Drift
Ian R Gumm

"There have been a number of battlefield guides produced over the last decade along with countless volumes describing the actions on that fateful day in January 1879. However, there have been a distinct lack of publications that combine both in a short, but comprehensive and succinct manner. Ian has done just that with this guide. It is very readable and has taken note of all of the latest publications. I would highly recommend this guide to anyone contemplating visiting the battlefields."
Bill Cainan, former Curator, The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon

This book is the story of the Battle of Isandlwana and the defence of Rorke's Drift, both of which took place on 22nd January 1879. The British force at Isandlwana was virtually wiped out by Cetshwayo's Zulus, whilst a small part of that British force would fight for survival against overwhelming odds at Rorke's Drift. It is more than just the story, however, as contained within the book is a self-guided tour of the Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift battlefields. There are geo-coordinates to help you navigate around the suggested stands and a narrative to be read at each stand to bring the battlefield to life.


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The King's Men

The King's Men
Fallen in the Great War
The King's School, Gloucester
Bob Brunsdon

Published in the centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War, this book tells the stories of 'The King's Men', the thirty-five Old Boys of the Gloucester King's School who fell in the service of their country between 1914 and 1918. It also covers life at the school at the turn of the century and its use as a wartime hospital.

The King's Men fought in theatres of war across the globe and served in all three of the Armed Services. They include Captain Eric Harvey MC and Bar, brother of the celebrated poet Will Harvey and friend of composer Ivor Gurney, Captain Basil Bruton who was killed during the Gloucesters' valiant stand in Italy in 1917 and Cyril Searancke, a Royal Naval Lieutenant whose ship was sunk by a mine in the Mediterranean in 1915. Also included are Gloucester rugby players Guardsman Peter Roach, killed by a sniper on Christmas Day 1914, and fledgling RAF pilot Douglas Henderson, victim of a flying accident just after the war's end.

The book also includes detailed maps and geo-coordinates enabling visitors to the battlefields to see the places The King's Men fought and to pay their respects at the relevant cemeteries and memorials.

The author, a former pupil at the King's School and retired Gloucestershire police officer, now works as a military historian and battlefield guide. Following in the footsteps of heroes, he takes groups and individuals to the battlefields, including those of the Great War, to gain a true perspective of the conflicts that have shaped the world in which we live today.

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The Great Promise

The Great Promise
Frederick L Coxen

On a spring day in 2009 Frederick L Coxen sat at his kitchen table going through the effects of his deceased paternal grandparents. Rummaging through the tattered box of relics he came across a small brown ledger; printed on the front cover of which was "Army Book 152 Correspondence Book (Field Service)". He had stumbled upon the First World War journal of Captain Frederick G Coxen, his late grandfather.

If that was not enough, tucked deeper in the box was a more recent letter written in 1945. The letter was addressed to no one in particular and was headed with the title "I Had A Dream The Other Night". The letter told of a pact made in the summer of 1914 between four young men to notify one another's family in the event that they became a fatality in the war — an un-kept promise that had haunted his grandfather, also named Frederick, to his dying day.

The Great Promise is thus the transition of a previously un-published primary source, the journal of Captain Frederick G Coxen, into a fascinating historical account of the first year of the First World War. It is also describes the personal quest of his grandson to fulfil his un-kept promise.

Captain Frederick G Coxen answered the called to the colours in August 1914 and serve in the Royal Field Artillery. He was among the first British soldiers to land in France at the beginning of the First World War and fought in every major engagement until being gassed in May 1915. His journal covers his first year at the front almost day by day; detailing his reports, observations, emotional asides, musings, and even occasional jokes. It makes a fascinating read, one that I recommend all those interested in the First World War.

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Always A Soldier

Always a Soldier But Never G.I.
A World War II Soldier's Personal Journey
Emmett T. Lang

The year was 1942 and the country was united in the fight against Germany and Japan. On the home front, all industry was mobilized for war, and the draft boards were collecting young men to join the armed forces. Emmett Lang, a naive 20-year-old, wanted to be a soldier. But even after scoring a nearly perfect score in the Army General Classification Test, he was sent to infantry basic training. Despite this inauspicious beginning, Lang decided he would do his duty and take every opportunity to make his service career as rewarding and enjoyable as possible.

This is the story of Lang's Army career, an honest account that includes letters home, divisional and regimental histories, and after-action reports - with a generous dose of humorous anecdotes. Always a Soldier But Never G.I. contains stories of the action on the front lines in Europe and Battle of the Bulge, and gives an insider's personal view of the life of a World War II soldier-the hardships, adventures, and sometimes the horrors - yet Lang's story is told with wit, humor, and a love of life that cannot be suppressed.

It is a firsthand account of the action during World War II; one that I thoroughly recommend to all those interested in this conflict.

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Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge
Hitler's Final Gamble
Patrick Delaforce

By late 1944 the Allies were poised to smash the Siegfried Line and break into Germany. Supply lines were shorter thanks to the port of Antwerp. Arnhem aside, there had been a long run of victories and there was no intelligence even from ULTRA to suggest a German counter-offensive.

So the major December attack through the mountainous Ardennes by massed Panzers and infantry took the Allies totally by surprise. Fog and low cloud negated the Allies' air supremacy, English-speaking German commandos in captured jeeps created panic and withdrawal of US forces became a near rout with morale all but broken. For ten days the situation worsened and Antwerp was seriously threatened and 21st Army Group in danger of being cut off. Clear skies for the Thunderbolts and coherent counter-attacks by rapidly deployed reinforcements turned the tide in the nick of time, so preventing a catastrophic defeat for the Allies.

All this and more is graphically narrated in this fine study of a pivotal battle, that so nearly changed the course of war.


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Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder
A Century of Tank Warfare
Philip Kaplan

The tank is such a characteristic feature of modern warfare that its difficult to imagine a time when its presence wasn't felt on the battlefield in some form or another. Rolling Thunder, from eminent historian and author Philip Kaplan, traces the history of the vehicle from its developmental early days on the battlefields of the Great War, to modern-day uses and innovations in response to the growing demands of twenty-first century warfare.

Featured in this volume are images of some of the most highly regarded and imposing types, such as the Chrysler-built Grant, the Skoda-built Hungarian Turan and the M-26 Pershing tank, employed so extensively during the Korean War. Tanks employed during the battles of Barbarossa, El Alamein, Kursk and Ardennes all feature, their histories depicted in words and images.

From the battlefields of the Great War to modern-day theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the history of this impressive war machine is tracked in detail.


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The War in Italy

The War in Italy 1943 - 1944
John Greham & Martin Mace

Despatches in this volume include that on the Conquest of Sicily from 10 July 1942 to 17 August 1943 by Field-Marshall Viscount Alexander of Tunis; the despatch on the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew B. Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean; despatch on naval operations in connection with the landings in the Gulf of Salerno in September 1943, by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew B. Cunningham; and the despatch on operations of the Allied Armies between September 1943 and December 1944, by Field Marshal the Viscount Alexander of Tunis.

This unique collection of original documents will prove to be an invaluable resource for historians, students and all those interested in what was one of the most significant periods in British military history.

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Machine Gunner

Machine Gunner 1914-18
Personal Experiences of The Machine Gun Corps
C E Crutchley

In 1914 there were only two machine guns supporting a British infantry battalion of 800 men, and in the light of the effectiveness of German and French machine guns the Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915. This remarkable book, compiled and edited by C E Crutchley, is a collection of the personal accounts of officers and men who served in the front lines with their machine guns in one of the most ghastly wars, spread over three continents. The strength of the book lies in the fact that these are the actual words of the soldiers themselves, complete with characteristic modes of expression and oddities of emphasis and spelling.

All theatres of war are covered from the defence of the Suez Canal, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia in the east to France and Flanders, the German offensive of March 1918 and the final act on the Western Front that brought the war to an end.

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Hitler's Atlantic Wall

Hitler's Atlantic Wall
Normandy
Paul Williams

This highly informative book begins with an examination of the background to Germany's primary military objectives in relation to the western end of their self-styled 'Fortress Europe' including the early foundation of shore defences in northern France.

In 1941, there was a switch in emphasis of the Atlantic Wall's role from attack to defence. Beach defences became more elaborate and the Nazi-controlled Todt Organisation began a massive building programme constructing new bunkers and reinforcing existing sites, using forced labour.

Hitler appointed Rommel to formulate Germany's anti-invasion plans in early 1944. At the same time the Allies were making extensive studies of the fortifications and preparing for the challenge of overcoming this most formidable of obstacles.

Using, in many cases, previously unpublished accounts of the soldiers on the ground this book follows Britain's 79th Armoured Division, Sir Percy Hobart's 'Funnies', as they utilised their unique weaponry in support of Allied efforts to ensure the success of the invasion. The author draws on British, American, Canadian and German sources.

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Last updated: 22nd February 2019