Friday, 30 August 2013

NEW BOOK - The Kiel Raid - RAF

An ebook contianing eyewitness accounts of the RAF’s first big daylight raid on Germany. Complete with explanatory text and background on the men and machines involved.
On 4 September, the day after war was declared, the British Royal Air Force sent a powerful force of bombers to destroy German warships achored off the naval port of Kiel. The raid was intended to inflict heavy damage on the German navy and demonstrate to sceptics that “the bomber will get through”.
But the Germans were ready and their defences stronger than anyone expected. What followed was a tale of muddle and gallantry, confusion and heroism.
The “Eyewitness World War II” series is a growing collection of ebooks that contain original eyewitness accounts and contemporary newspaper reports of the action in question. You can find more ebooks in this series by searching for “Eyewitness World War II” or by visiting the military page of our website.

Chapter 1 Background
Chapter 2 Men and Machines
Chapter 3 Contemporary Press Reports
Chapter 4 Eyewitness Reports

About the Author
Leonard James has written dozens of books, mostly on history or military subjects for a wide audience. He is uniquely placed to analyse and comment upon the accounts used in the “Eyewitness World War II” series.
Buy your copy HERE

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

NEW BOOK - The Blackout

My friend Len James has a new ebook out contianing contemporary newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts of what it was like to live through the Blackout during World War II
On the day war broke out the Blackout was imposed. It was illegal to show a light outside at night for any reason at all. Cars drove without headlights, windows were blacked out, torches were banned and streetlights switched off. Britain at night became a country plunged into inky blackness.
How did people find their way, what did you do when you wanted to leave a lit room, how did you get to work or school - or back again? These and other questions are addressed here. An invaluable book explaining one of the most annoying and irritating aspects of World War II.
The “Eyewitness World War II” series is a growing collection of ebooks that contain original eyewitness accounts and contemporary newspaper reports of the action in question. You can find more ebooks in this series by searching for “Eyewitness World War II” or by visiting the military page of our website.

Chapter 1 Background
Chapter 2 Contemporary Press Reports
Chapter 3 Eyewitness Reports

Buy your copy at a bookshop or on Amazon

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Persian Empire invades Greece during the Olympic Games

Meanwhile, the vast army of Xerxes was lumbering forward across Boeotia. By about 25 August the lead units were in Thebes, accepting the surrender of that great city. Columns of soldiers headed by senior Persian nobles radiated out to the other cities of Boeotia. All received immediate surrender and symbolic gifts of soil and water. Some Persian nobles were no doubt surprised to find themselves being greeted not only by the local Boeotian civic dignitaries, but also by Macedonian officials whom they had last seen some weeks earlier in the entourage of King Alexander of Macedon. These Macedonians smoothly assured the Persians that the cities in which they were living were, and always had been, very friendly to the Persians – so there was no need for any unpleasantness. No doubt the wily Alexander managed to extract some reward for his helpfulness to the Boeotians.

On the journey to Thebes the Persian scouts had rounded up several stragglers from the League army that had marched away from Thermopylae on the morning of 20 August. Most likely these were wounded men who had been unable to keep up the punishing pace of an army in retreat. Several from the Peloponnese were dragged in front of Xerxes and his entourage to be interrogated. They revealed that the army that had fought at Thermopylae was simply an advance guard of the main armies of Sparta and the Peloponnese. This had been sent, they said, because everyone else was too busy to at the Olympic Games watching and competing in athletic contests in honour of the god Zeus. Xerxes was amazed that the Greeks would go to Olympia rather than try to defend their country and assumed that some fantastically valuable prizes must be on offer. Oh no, came the reply to this question, the only prize is a wreath of olive leaves and the honour of winning.

At this Tritantaechmes, son of Artabanes and a cousin of Xerxes, turned to Mardonius and exclaimed “Good heavens, Mardonius. What manner of men are these that you have brought us to fight. They compete with each other not for money but for honour.” The remark earned Tritantaechmes a stern rebuke from his king. He was probably lucky not to share the fate of his father and be promptly sent home.

from "The Battle of Thermopylae" by Rupert Matthews.

Buy your copy at Amazon or a bookshop

Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie. One of the most remarkable actions in ancient or modern military history took place at Thermopylae in 480BC. Rupert Matthews has personally examined the battlefield in order to try to explain how 300 Spartans could hold at bay the hordes of the Persian Emperor Xerxes. This was no vain sacrifice; the delay gave breathing space for the Greek states to organise their defence, and ultimately defend successfully their homelands. Among other intriguing revelations the author explains the importance of the half-ruined wall that sheltered the Spartans against the onslaught. With concise diagrams and maps of the entire campaign, the reader can begin to understand the extraordinary, apparently impossible outcome of the war.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Spanish Armada goes horribly wrong for Spain

The other main topic of discussion between Medina Sidonia and his senior officers seems to have been the conduct of sea fighting against the English. Since the last Council of War, the Armada had enjoyed the weather gauge against the English, and had used galleasses in a dead calm. Neither had proved to be particularly useful. Even when the Spanish ships had the advantage of being upwind, they had not been able to close with the English ships and force them into a boarding battle. They had been too nimble and had been able to dart away at the last minute.

What was needed, the Spanish officers seem to have agreed, was smaller craft that could outmanoeuvre the English. These smaller craft could grapple the English ships, slowing them down so that the larger Spanish ships could catch them and board them. The smaller ships would need to be not only fast but armed, which ruled out the pataches and zabras that had come with the Armada. Medina Sidonia had no such craft with him, but he knew a man who did: Parma.

Thus it was that after the Council of War broke up Medina Sidonia sent a second patache racing eastward toward Flanders. This craft carried the pilot Domingo Ochoa with orders to arrange the rendezvous and decide exactly where the Armada should anchor off Flanders. He was told to find a few local pilots who knew the coastal waters and to send them back to the Armada. The craft also carried a message which repeated the request for cannonballs and then added “The Duke [Medina Sidonia] praying him [Parma] as soon as possible to send 40 flyboats to join with this Armada that he might be able with them to close with the enemy, because it had been impossible to come to hand-stroke with them.”

When he got this letter a couple of days later, Parma must have finally realised that disaster was staring them all in the face. He had been warning for months that he could not get his barges out unless he had protection against the Dutch flyboats. He had received no reply and had assumed that Philip had some plan. Now it was plain that there was no plan at all, just hope. That Medina Sidonia was asking Parma to send the very craft that Parma hoped the Armada had with it was proof that the rendezvous was not going to take place. After all, Parma only had a dozen flyboats, and he needed all of those to patrol the entrances to Dunkirk and Nieuport to keep them free of the Dutch flyboats. He had nothing to spare.

All that was left for Parma to do was to keep his troops safe and try to ensure that he did not get the blame for what was about to happen. Parma gave orders for the embarkation of the troops into the barges to begin. On the evening of Monday 7 August Parma himself left Bruges to ride to Dunkirk to personally supervise the embarkation - knowing that it was all a charade.

Although Parma did not know it, he was already too late. The climax of the campaign was underway. The final battle was about to begin.

from "The Spanish Armada" by Rupert Matthews
Buy your copy at Amazon or a local bookshop

In this, the fourth book of Spellmount's "Campaign in Context" series, Rupert Matthews looks to the ill-fated invasion of England by King Philip II of Spain. The Armada of 22 warships and 108 converted merchant vessels sailed under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, but found itself harried by storms, fireships, and the redoubtable English fleet. In "The Spanish Armada", Rupert Matthews considers the characters of the commanders such as Francis Drake, Medina, and the opposing monarchs, and as with his previous titles in the series he carefully balances the evidence from textual sources with knowledge of the theatre and reconstructed weaponry in order to explain the events of the battle to the general reader, and the context in which it took place.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Book Review

A review of a book by my old mate Lee Rotherham "A Fate Worse than Debt" has appeared on The Commentator website.

Read the review HERE.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Drachma of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great, as depicted on a silver drachma coin issued early in his reign. Alexander is shown here wearing the lion’s head helmet that was traditionally worn by the demi-god Herakles (Hercules). The Macedonian royal family claimed to be descended from Herakles. Never before had a mortal been portrayed on a coin. The move by Alexander was a bold departure from tradition.

from "Alexander the Great at the Battle of the Granicus" by Rupert Matthews.

Buy your copy at Amazon or your local bookshop

In this, the third book of Spellmounts Campaign in Context series, Rupert Matthews looks to the first major campaign of Alexander the Great. One of the most famous generals all time, Alexander was just 20 when he led his army into battle at Granicus. Despite his youth and his army being heavily outnumbered, he was victorious, and it was this victory that allowed him to conquer Asia Minor. The course of this key battle remains controversial, owing to conflicting accounts in contemporary sources. As with his previous titles in the series, Rupert Matthews carefully balances the evidence from textual sources with knowledge of the battlefield and reconstructed weaponry in order to explain the events of the battle to the general reader, and the context in which it took place.