One Minute To Midnight

The world has never been closer to nuclear war than October 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. For days, it seemed as though nuclear war was imminent. Finally, when things seemed at their bleakest, a resolution was found.

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The Atomic Times

The Cold War was well underway in the 1950s and both sides were testing atomic and hydrogen bombs. But what were the tests like? This is what The Atomic Times looks at.

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One Hell of a Gamble

October 1962. The world has never been closer to nuclear war. It’s days away. Hours. Minutes. But how did it get to such a stage where nuclear war seemed to be inevitable? Enter One Hell of a Gamble.

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Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw large early successes for the German army on the Western Front, before counter-attacks pushed them back. When the Western Front stabilised, Germany had still made significant gains, including holding territory in France. The French were determined to remove all German soldiers from French soil and as quickly as possible. Attacks were launched in 1915, with an attack in September and October including a reluctant British Expeditionary Force at Loos. <!–more Continue reading my review of Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle–>

Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle looks at before, during and after the battle. Before the battle focuses on why the British did not want the battle, whilst after looks at the impact it had on the British army. Corrigan writes in a clear style and sets out the facts, making it clear when he is offering his opinion. Prior to reading the book, I knew very little about the battle; I now have a greater knowledge of why, and how fiercely, the battle was fought.

Rating (out of 5): ****

July Crisis

28th June 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is assassinated in Sarajevo by Gustavo Princip. One month later, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Within days, Europe is at war. The bloodiest war to date, with an estimated nine million soldiers killed over the course of the four year conflict. But what happened in the month between the assassination and the outbreak of war? Read the rest of the review

#Tokyo45: The Final Days of World War II

The war in Europe ended in May, but it continues in the Pacific as Japan fights on. There doesn’t seem to be any hope of victory for Japan, but no surrender is forthcoming and America is gearing up to invade the Japanese mainland in what will undoubtedly be a bloody battle. The comes to a quick and sudden end with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But what would the key decision makers have been thinking at the time?

That’s what #Tokyo45 looks to imagine. In the form of tweets. Decision makers on all sides are given imaginary Twitter accounts and the narrative of the end of the war is told through tweets on a daily basis. The start of each day contains a short overview of a key decision maker or location. It’s a great way of presenting all sides of the story leading up to the dropping of the bombs and the aftermath of them.

Rating (out of 5): *****

#Havana62: To the brink of nuclear war

October 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The world watches. Waits. The world is aware that it is days, possibly even only hours away from nuclear war. The only way of staying informed is through the newspapers and news reports on the television and radio. But what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had happened 50 years later? The story would dominate round the clock news; it would also be trending across social media. Enter #Havana62

#Havana62 imagines the Cuban Missile Crisis from fictional Twitter accounts from the protagonists, imagining their perspective on the situation as it develops. Accounts often tend to look at one perspective, or examine one side first and then the other; #Havana62 looks at both sides at the same time through the imaginary tweets as the crisis is examined day-by-day. There is also background to the crisis from earlier in the year and short profiles at the start of each day of either those involved or the weapons involved.

It’s a different and interesting take on the Cuban Missile Crisis and I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly recommend the book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

The Complete Dregs Of History

We’ve all heard of Henry VIII. And Elizabeth I. And William Shakespeare. And countless others who have made an impact on history. But what about the everyday person? Or someone who has had an impact for a strange reason? Enter ‘The complete dregs of history’

Numerous characters are introduced in chronological order, with a summary of what they did and why they are included. Fripley’s characters are all entertaining and the book was easy to read and enjoyable. The characters can be a bit hit and miss, but none are worth skipping. A book to return to and pick a character at random.

Rating (out of 5): ***

Viking Panzers: The German 5th SS Tank Regiment in the East in World War II

The book, as the title implies, follows the 5th SS Tank Regiment from 1942 until the end of the war. The book is made up of reports and diary entries from members of the regiment as well as maps and a narrative. The book can become hard to follow in places where it switches from one diary entry to another and it is not clear who it is from, but it offers an authoritative history of the regiment and flows from encounter to encounter seamlessly. Not a book that I would necessarily read again, but a different perspective to usual books about the war.

Rating (out of 5): ***

Air Force Blue

Air Force Blue examines the role played by the RAF during World War II. The state of the RAF prior to the outbreak of war is looked at and how the RAF was able to develop. Fighter Command and it’s role in preventing invasion along with Bomber Command and it’s role in attacking Germany are looked at. There is also a chapter on Coastal Command, who tend to get overlooked in favour of Fighter and Bomber Command.

The books is an excellent overview of how air power was key to victory in World War II and the role played by the RAF in achieving this. A very good book for anyone with an interest in World War II.

The War of the Roses

The War of the Roses charts the history of the struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster. The book keeps events moving, but provides all the important information for the key events. The biggest battles receive their own chapters, whilst events between them look at the politics of the time. An interesting book (I’ve read relatively little about the War of the Roses), but Edgar’s writing style is different to usual conventions; for example, instead of Henry V being written like that, he would be referred to as the fifth Henry. A minor quibble for a very good overview of an important era for English history.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Six Months in 1945

The end of the Second World War is the subject of Six Months in 1945. Instead of focusing on the military defeats of Germany and Japan, the focus is on the changing relationship between the Big Three as they move from allies to enemies. The book starts with the Yalta conference and how the interpretation of the agreements reached affects events and the relationships through to the Potsdam conference and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.

As well as events and the agreements, Dodds also looks at the change in personnel amongst the Big Three leaders and the impact that this has as 1945 progresses. The main change is in the American presidency, with Churchill’s replacement coming at the end of the period focused on.

An interesting read that looks to chart how the wartime alliance led to the Cold War.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima

Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima looks at the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The focus of the book is initially on the lead up to the test of the bomb at Los Alamos, but it also looks at the disagreements with the Japanese government as generals want to fight on, whilst politicians look for an end to the war. The successful test sees the atomic weapon picking up a momentum of its own until it is ready to be dropped. The assembly of the bomb and the mission is covered in great detail, along with the aftermath with accounts from residents of Hiroshima.

An detailed study of the closing days of the war in the Pacific and very readable.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Blood on Red Dirt

Blood on red dirt is a personal account of the Vietnam War by Gary Cowart. The book covers Cowart’s enlistment, training and experiences in Vietnam with the artillery.

Cowart provides a personal experience of the war. He does not look at the politics of the conflict or the wider war, focusing on what he experiences in his theatre of combat. An interesting insight into the Vietnam War.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Sepoys in the Trenches

Sepoys in the Trenches looks at the role played by the Indian Corps on the Western Front in 1914 and 1915 before their withdrawal from that theatre. The battles they were involved in (and the role they played in these battles) is explained. It also shows the difficulties faced, especially in replacing losses of men and officers.

The role of the Indian Corps on the Western Front is often overlooked; in fact, I’m struggling to think of another account that makes much, if any, mention of them. This book certainly taught me new things and is a fresh perspective on the Western Front battles at the start of the war.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: World War One: History in an Hour

As the title suggests, World War One: History in an Hour is a whistle-stop tour through World War One. The book offers a brief overview of important events and contains a section introducing key figures. This could certainly act an an excellent introduction to the whole conflict, but if you already know anything about World War I, it will not teach you anything new.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume 1

The first volume of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples looks at the history of England from Celtic times to the start of the Tudor era. Churchill examines the forming of the country. There are chapters looking at Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but the focus is on England and their relationship with them. England’s relationship with Europe, especially France, is also looked at, with war occurring regularly between the two countries.

The history is a political history, with the focus being on monarchs and powerful families as England forms and evolves. As the country becomes more stable, chapters tend to focus on monarchs and key events during their reigns. It is a very readable history of the forming of England.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Three Before Breakfast

Three Before Breakfast looks at the the sinking of three British cruisers by U9 at the start of World War I. Events before, during and after are looked at, with all three cruisers and the submarine involved being introduced along with personnel on each of the vessels. The actual sinking of each cruiser is looked at from that cruiser’s perspective. The aftermath focuses on political reaction in Britain and the subsequent inquiry, whilst the welcome received by the German submariners is also written about. A detailed account about an action early in the war.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Rommel

Rommel is a biography of Erwin Rommel, the German World War II commander. The biography, unsurprisingly, focuses on his campaign in North Africa with the Afrika Korps, but also looks at his life before World War II and his involvement in the war after Axis forces were defeated in North Africa. The biography shows Rommel to be carrying out his duty to his country and not influenced by Nazi propaganda. Rommel’s greatness as a commander is shown to be that he was able to react much quicker than opposing commanders, allowing him to exploit any opportunities that were opened up in an attack. Rommel’s proximity to the front line is given an a key reason as to why he was able to respond so quickly to events and shape battles. A good overview of one of the most famous commanders from World War II.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Submarine Warfare in the Atlantic

Submarine warfare in the Atlantic examines the submarine battle in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Primarily, it looks at the German U-Boats and their attempt to cut the Allied supply line across the Atlantic, but it also looks at Allied submarines and the role they played. Designs as well as roles are looked at and the different approaches taken by each side are examined, with the Allies settling on a few designs and mass producing them, whilst the Germans were constantly looking at and trying new designs. There are far more detailed books about the Atlantic campaign below the waves (it’s a short book that I read in one go), but this offers an excellent overview into the role of submarines in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.

Rating (out of 5): ****