Wednesday 31 August 2022

Book Review: The Hitler Assassination Attempts, John Grehan



I thoroughly enjoyed this pithy account of the many attempts made on Hitler’s life. In all about 60 or so are covered. 

Some of these were carried through - Elser, Stauffenberg - many were attempted, only to be aborted, and a great many were never put into action, for a whole host of reasons. 

Grehan’s writing style is solid: in fact he covers a great deal in a very succinct manner, and he seems suitably circumspect where evidence is scant, concluding that some of these alleged ‘plots’ are most likely false. 

The many attempts on Hitler’s life span almost his whole political career - 1921 to 1945 - meaning that this book not only tells the fascinating stories of the many plans to be rid of him, but also the broader history of his rise to power, international brinksmanship, with initial success both in peace and war, and finally his eventual apocalyptic downfall. 

If, like me, you’re fascinated with this era of recent history, I’d recommend this. I really enjoyed it. 

Monday 22 August 2022

Book Review: Napoleon's Infantry, Gabrielle Esposito



This follows the form and style of Esposito's very similar book on Wellington's infantry. I enjoyed both books and learned a good deal from them. So that's good! 

But there are some less good things: the plentiful 'uniform plates' (as they used to be called) bear too little relation, in terms of placement in the book, to the text, are all public domain, and are sometimes, effectively speaking, repeated (the same unit being depicted by differing artists, for example). 

Also some of the information would've been better conveyed via tables or lists rather than long form text (e.g. enumerating all the minutiae of uniform and/or equipment details), esp' as in long form the frequent repetition of certain stuff gets a bit monotonous.

But overall the information conveyed is pretty comprehensive, wide-ranging and thorough. The evolution of the French infantry from royal, via revolutionary, to full blown 'Napoleonic' is, to a nerdy buff like me, fascinating. And Esposito covers everything from internal auxiliary type French troops to the many foreign so,divers that France employed. 

Not perfect, but an attractive, informative and enjoyable addition to the Nappy buff's uniformology library. 

Friday 12 August 2022

Book Review: Hill 112, Tim Saunders

Another very enjoyable book by Tim Saunders, on the post-D-Day Normandy campaign (I’ve read a couple of others by him, on similar territory!. 

I’m always worried, esp’ at the outset of, that the sheer detail in a book such as this is going to overwhelm me (and in all honesty I think I retain very little of the densely packed info’ presented). But, in the end, I’m very often carried along. Such is the case here. So Saunders must be doing something right!

Hill 112 is a piece of high ground Monty’s forces battled the Germans - many of the latter being SS units - for, both sides ranting and needing the commanding position it gave. So it became a hotly contested and bloody battleground. We have Tiger-phobia, massed artillery, air superiority (Allied, of course), naval bombardments. All sorts!

I feel like I’ve read about this Hill 112 action before? Poss in another book by Saunders? Or perhaps in a book by another author? Either way, the story of the back and forth action seems quite familiar! But I don’t mind reading about the same thing multiple times. In fact I like it. That way one can gradually accrue knowledge on a subject. 

This account is detailed, well written, and liberally illustrated with both wartime photos, some more recent images of the terrain as it is now, and quite a few maps. There’s also a glossary of acronyms and initialisms. Despite this latter feature there are still instances of abbreviated terms used in the body of the text that are missing from the glossary! 

I enjoy the use Saunders makes of primary sources. They help make the action more vivid. But I also enjoyed the higher level ‘command and control’ aspects. Reading this has made me want to learn more about Monty’s D-Day and Normandy campaign. He’s often criticised (perhaps mostly because of Arnhem?), but his plan of pinning German forces in place so the Americans could break out was very successfully and effective. 

Anyway, if you have a strong interest in the Normandy campaign, as I certainly do, then this is definitely worth  reading.