5 November 2017

Last of the Kriegies: The Extraordinary True Life Experiences of Five Bomber Command Prisoners of War

‘Last of the Kriegies' tells the extraordinary stories of five of the last remaining Second World War RAF Bomber Command Prisoners-of-War: pilot Reg Barker, bomb aimer Charles Clarke, air gunner David Fraser, air gunner Albert Gunn and navigator Henry Wagner. Each veteran shares the journey they went through joining up with the Royal Air Force, their training and crewing up, and operational duties with RAF Bomber Command. We accompany them on raids over enemy territory as they fight to survive against the relentless flak, searchlights, and deadly enemy nightfighters. Eventually each airmen's next of kin receives a knock on the door and the dreaded ‘regret to inform' you telegram.

Reg, Charles, David, Albert and Henry describe the circumstances in which they are shot from the sky, descending by parachute in to hostile territory, and their subsequent failed attempt to avoid capture. Interrogation follows and we hear how the downed airmen negotiate the aggressive and devious tactics employed by their captors as they try and extract secret information. Our ‘Kriegsgefangener' soon find themselves behind the barb wire of a German prison camp facing the trials and tribulations of daily life as a ‘kriegie'; the battle with hunger and frustration, the baiting and harassing of prison guards, friendships made, and attempts to break out and escape their captivity. In the final months of the war some of our POWs endure the gruelling and harsh conditions of the forced ‘Long March'. Despite frustrating delays, as the Nazi regime enters its final death throes, our airmen eventually taste the sweetness of liberation and journey home to loved ones and family.

Fighting High Publishing and Bomber Command historian Steve Darlow present the extraordinary testimony of five veterans who endured and survived being shot down, captivity, degradation, and suffering. Illustrated with previously unpublished photographs and with a foreword from former Gulf War POW Squadron Leader Bob Ankerson RAF (Ret'd) ‘Last of the Kriegie's' reveals the extraordinary strength and resilience of the human spirit struggling with incarceration and the loss of freedom.

Available from:
Fighting High Publishing
Casemate

The Devil's Own Luck - Pegasus Bridge to the Baltic 1944-45

Early in the morning of 6 June 1944, Denis Edwards landed by glider at Pegasus Bridge in the daring operation that opened the Allied invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. Over the coming nine months he kept a detailed record of the dramatic events that he experienced as a member of the indomitable Major John Howard's Company of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. These included the near disastrous Rhine crossing and finally linking up with the Russians in Spring 1945.

Denis Edward's book also includes useful sections which relate to the POW experiences of his friend Bob Ambrose - who was captured in Normandy; Harry Clarke's story of the landing at Hamminkeln Railway Station; and a full list of the load and crews of the six gliders in the 'Coup de main' force 5th June 1944.

The full table of contents is:

Part 1 - The Hand of Destiny
Chapter 1 - Early Days
Chapter 2 - Training
Chapter 3 - Into the Fray

Part 2 - A Normandy Diary
Chapter 4 - The Longest Day
Chapter 5 - Herouvillette and Escoville
Chapter 6 - The Chateau St Come and Breville
Chapter 7 - Mostly Hellfire Corner
Chapter 8 - The Advance to the Seine

Part 3 - Belgium and Germany
Chapter 9 - The Ardennes
Chapter 10 - Across the Rhine

Endnote
Appendix

From my perspective, if you have any interest in the 2nd Bn. Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and their participation in the action at Pegasus Bridge, the battle for Normandy and the Rhine Crossings, you can do no better than to refer to The Devil's Own Luck. There are very few personal memoirs from this unit but this is an exceptional book. Indeed, when I met a veteran of the 2nd Bn. in 2016, he said he refers to this book when trying to recollect details of his experiences - so that sounds like a good recommendation to me.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

16 October 2017

Alarmstart: The German Fighter Pilot's Experience in the Second World War

Alarmstart (scramble) charts the experiences of the German fighter pilots in the Second World War, based on extensive recollections of veterans as well as primary documents, diaries and flying log books, with photographs from the veterans themselves, many never previously published.

For anyone interested in this period, and specifically the experience of members of the Luftwaffe, the information provided is of  great value as there are no more than a handful of WW2 Luftwaffe members alive today. Patrick Eriksson had the foresight to record their experiences first-hand before it was too late. Some witnesses ended up as senior fighter controllers, and one was even a Luftwaffe psychologist. The recollections and views of the former pilots are put within the historical context of the German aerial war.

By no means all the witnesses were from the ranks of the ‘aces’, and the awful strain of the conflict is manifest: ‘My friend Leo, Kapitän of the 8/JG 54, in the last weeks on the Channel front developed insomnia, anxiety attacks. He was “flown out” (abgeflogen) and should have been relieved. He was shot down and killed in September 1940.’

This first volume covers Poland, Denmark and Norway, the Phoney War, the invasion of France and the Low Countries, the Battle of Britain, combating the RAF sweeps in the West, and finally, the Battle of Germany (home defence).

Available from:
Amberley Publishing
 

3 October 2017

Lilliput Fleet

To guard our harbours and coastal convoys, Britain called up the Lilliput Fleet, a tiny fighting force of trawlers and drifters hastily converted into warships to face the might of Nazi technology, the Luftwaffe, mines and E-boats. The fishing fleet became the Royal Naval Patrol Service - a vital arm in the war at sea.

Their resources were few but their courage boundless. The little ships tackled any task, sweeping safe channels for merchantmen, dealing with each and every mine, hunting U-boats, participating in all landings from Madagascar to Normandy.

The ex-fishermen were joined by amateur yachtsmen and unabashed landlubbers. United by their dauntless determination, they welded themselves into a force to be reckoned with.

A. Cecil Hampshire, at the time a naval officer at the Admiralty, was intimately connected with the formation of the Patrol Service, and from his own experiences and the official records he has written a unique history of these little ships.

Available from:
Amazon

22 September 2017

WWII & NYC

Published in conjunction with the groundbreaking exhibition 'WWII & NYC at the New-York Historical Society', WWII & NYC captures the little-told but epic story of New York in the years 1939 - 1945, and the war's impact on the metropolis. 

This story unfolds in four different sections. The first covers the years 1933-41 and recreates the noisy contest of opinions in New York over whether the U. S. should involve itself in the war, and introduces the scientists at Columbia University who conducted top-secret research to develop the atom bomb. 1942-45 saw a city mobilising for war, as industries converted to wartime production and huge terminals surrounding the port shipped men and supplies to Europe. The reader then follows New Yorkers to war with stories of individuals who served. The concluding section captures scenes of war's end with the surrender of Germany and Japan. 

Available from: 
Scala Publishers

20 September 2017

The Exbury Junkers - A World War II Mystery

On a fine spring morning in 1944, seven weeks before D-Day, a lone German bomber emerged from the clouds over the Isle of Wight. It circled low over the northern part of the island and somehow managed to withstand a barrage of anti-aircraft fire before flying across the Solent to the Hampshire coast, where it fell victim to an attack by two RAF Typhoons and to further anti-aircraft fire. The bomber crash-landed in a field close to Exbury House which, at this time, was the home of HMS Mastodon, a naval headquarters closely involved in preparations for the Normandy landings. None of the men on board the Junkers survived.

In the aftermath of the crash, a number of questions began to arise... Why had the Junkers flown alone in broad daylight directly to an area of the south coast of England where preparations for D-Day were reaching a crescendo? Why had it loitered suspiciously over the Isle of Wight? Why, when it was under attack, had it appeared to take little or no defensive action? Why had it fired red Very lights? And, crucially, why were there seven bodies in the wreckage at Exbury when the Ju 188 should only have been carrying a crew of four?

John Stanley first encountered the mystery when on a family holiday on the Isle of Wight and determined to uncover the truth about the mystery. He subsequently spent many years of his spare time painstakingly researching the incident, including contacting every known eyewitness and all the relatives of the seven young Germans who died in the crash. The results of his patient detective work are to be found in this fascinating book.

Available from:
Woodfield Publishing

31 August 2017

Eastern Front Sniper - The Life of Matthäus Hetzenauer

Eastern Front Sniper is a long overdue and comprehensive biography of one of World War II’s most accomplished snipers.

Mathäus Hetzenauer, the son of a Tyrolean peasant family, was born in December 1924. He was drafted into the Mountain Reserve Battalian 140 at the age of 18 but discharged five month’s later.

He received a new draft notice in January 1943 for a post in the Styrian Truppenübungsplatz Seetal Alps where he met some of the best German snipers and learned his art.

Hetzenauer went on to fight in Romania, Eastern Hungary and in Slovakia. As recognition for his more than 300 confirmed kills he was awarded on the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on April 17, 1945.

After nearly five years of Soviet captivity Mathäus Hetzenauer returned to Austria on January 10, 1950. He lived in the Tyrol's Brixen Valley until his death on 3 October of 2004.

Available from:
Greenhill Books