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Panzer Krieg by Jason Marks Vol 1 Panzer Krieg by Jason Marks Vol 1

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


In An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson offers a comprehensive telling of the 1942 invasion of North Africa by American and Allied forces.  Th...

Book of the Week: An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson Book of the Week: An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


In An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson offers a comprehensive telling of the 1942 invasion of North Africa by American and Allied forces.  The reader bears witness to every phase of what happened, from the very top decision makers, down through the ranks of officers, and finally to the tip of the spear. Even though you know the end of the story, Atkinson is able to put you in the moment, wondering, alongside the men in command, whether their forces will be able to get the job done.

The book covers a fascinating moment in the history of WW2: The before, during, and after of the first major clash between American and German ground forces. We all know history of what happened later on, the Allies rolled over Europe and into Germany, but what happened before all of that? This book covers a time when the American army was untested and hardly respected. Coming off of years spent with almost no military at all, they were now entering the single most violent and massive conflict in human history. It was little wonder that enemies and allies alike had doubts.

Atkinson has crafted my favorite kind of military history here. We see things from every perspective imaginable in the conflict. The stories of numerous individual soldiers are told in gripping detail, while their officers struggle with the burdens of command, and Eisenhower, overlooking it all, is forced to spend most of his time playing politics. At every level, Atkinson is both informative, and a good story teller.  Although the book mostly focuses on the American army, a decent number of pages are devoted to their allies and enemies, so you get a very complete picture of things. 

This book actually pushed me over the edge into buying the wonderful game Command Ops, as I finished reading it with a strong desire to capture the feeling of commanding a large ground force in battle, giving orders and then watching them filter down the chain of command.

An Army at Dawn is the first in a trilogy which goes on to cover the war in Italy and Western Europe in the same style. While I have not read the other two books yet, they are high on my list. If you are at all interested in the topic, this book will have you turning pages deep into the night.

- Joe Beard

Vikings At War By Kim Hjardar  and Vegard Vike  What a cast Viking history has: Ragnar, Ivar the Boneless, Cnut, Harold...

Vikings At War by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike Vikings At War by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



Kim Hjardar  and Vegard Vike

 What a cast Viking history has: Ragnar, Ivar the Boneless, Cnut, Harold Hardrada, Eric the Red, and his son Leif, Olav Tryggvason. Let us also not forget Snorri Sturluson without whom we would know next to nothing of the Norseman history and culture.

 This book is easily the best  book on Viking history I have ever read. To qualify that, just look at my last name, and the fact that my father tried to name me Olaf. It purports to be a book about Vikings at war, but it is really so much more than that. It is really a book of this, and of Viking history. It is a history of not only the Vikings in northern Europe, but of everywhere the Vikings went, and it also goes deeply into  the actual facts of Viking warfare. It has lists of all all of the Viking rulers and kings from Ireland to Russia. The book itself is a large 'coffee table' book that has on almost every page an illustration, map, or inset on some important person or weapon etc. This book escapes the deficit that most books on Vikings have about only talking about the Vikings in Britain, Ireland, and France. 

 This book shows the history of the Vikings in the following: Spain, Ireland, Britain, Russia, and the Mediterranean. Most people would be surprised that the actual word Russia comes from a Viking ruler called Rus. The Vikings even had the temerity to attack right up to the gates of Constantinople, one of the largest and most fortified cities on the globe. Their ferocity in battle gained them a place of honor in the Byzantine emperors' Varangian (a word for Viking) guard. Harold Hardrada, the king of Norway, who led one of the Viking invasions of Britain in 1066 was a member of the guard in his youth.

 Don't think that the book's primary focus has been short changed. It is also a compendium of Viking weapons, strategy, and tactics. Separate chapters go into axes, spears, swords, and armor.

 Viking seafaring has not been left out either. The authors explain how the Vikings actually got to the far flung lands they visited. Their different ship types and how they were sailed are also delved into.

The Oseberg longship

 The authors should be proud. The book brings to life the Viking age, but also brings to life some of its main characters. Maybe with this book we can finally put to rest all of the silliness of horned helmets. Wearing one while wielding an axe or sword would be near impossible. 

 The tale of Harold Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardrada (hard counsel), is one of my favorites. His escape from Norway as a child, to his battles as part of the Byzantine army, and then his return to Norway to become king til his death at Stamford bridge is the stuff of legends.

 Their bravery on land is not to be questioned. However, it was their bravery at sea that is still more astounding. To take to the North Sea in their longships would have seemed to many others as pure madness. At a time when ships hugged the coast and put in every night for safety, the Vikings were sailing right in the middle of some of the roughest seas known to man.


The Tide at Sunrise A History of The Russo-Japanese War   By Denis and Peggy Warner  The Russo-Japanese war has ...

The Book of The Week The Book of The Week

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


A History of The Russo-Japanese War 


Denis and Peggy Warner

 The Russo-Japanese war has always fascinated me. I have read everything I could about it, that has been written in English. The land war has so many what if moments on the Russian side. As far as the naval war, the funeral procession around most of the world by 'The Second Pacific' squadron is mesmerizing. The fact that this is a rehearsal for WWI just makes it that much more interesting. Machine guns, search lights, and modern firepower should have alerted the major powers what was in store for them.

 I first bought this book when I was a teenager, and now I am on my second aging copy. It just has everything about the war, and also goes into all of the different personalities. This is a picture of General Nogi, who lost two sons in the war.

 I reread it or bits of it on a yearly basis. Funny thing though, I have never looked up any other books that the authors have written. Maybe this book is so good that I think nothing else the authors could do would match up to it. There are more than a few books on the Russo-Japanese War, but when I am asked "Which book should I read on this war?". The answer is always the same, this book.

THE BOOK OR BOOKS OF THE WEEK OR MAYBE BI WEEKLY, WHO KNOWS?         Hello everyone! With any luck this maybe become a regular fe...

Book of the Week! Book of the Week!

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



 Hello everyone! With any luck this maybe become a regular feature. Each week or maybe bi weekly a AWNT team member takes a turn in recommending a book or even a set of books chosen from their book shelf. The book doesn't have to be a new release or even something they've just read. It doesn't even have to be historical. It could be fiction or non fiction, educational, scientific, a graphic novel, anything except porn..sorry to disappoint:)
 So I'll kick start this new and exciting (ahem) feature off with a series of books I've just recently got into. It's a series of novels set in WW2. We are transported to the East Front and follow a squad of Axis soldiers who come from different Axis nations plus one Hiwi (Russian volunteer). The author does a decent job in convincing the reader that this set up could possibly exist under the circumstances they find themselves in. The first book I bought was the paperback omnibus of his first set of novels, Bloody Stalingrad, that follow the squad during Stalingrad and the subsequent encirclement. Then as I was given a Kindle Fire for Xmas I went and bought the next omnibus, Rise of the Bloody Phoenix,  which consisted of the next two novels this time focussing on the 2nd battle of Kharkov. Also waiting in the wings is the next book, Bloody Citadel, which is yet to be published which appears to centre around Kursk.
 I'm normally pretty dubious about all these self published novels you now find on Amazon. Especially historical novels were far to often you'll come across glaring historical issues that make you throw the book away in disgust (this has happened on more than one occasion). However I'm obsessed over Stalingrad and certainly didn't want to miss out on a possible gem so I took a chance and bought the trilogy. Thankfully Andrew (the author) has done his research and it shows. Yes like many war novels liberties are taken and truths possibly stretched abit but I've not come across anything that has ruined the book or read any startlingly obvious historical errors (I see a book on sale that follows the SS in Stalingrad, that sort of thing annoys me).
 The author at times has a habit of being a touch repetitive and yes he isn't the most accomplished writer I've come across, however I can forgive him these minor indiscretions because he has done an excellent job in getting the reader invested in the main characters. You really do warm to them and want to spend time in their company, routing for them has they battle through the harsh winter conditions of the East Front.
 I actually can't think of many, what I'd consider, truly great war novels (The Red Horse is an epic tale of the Italian war experience, written by an Italian veteran of the East front. He has also wrote an account of his experiences during the retreat across the steppes). I can think of quiet a few really enjoyable war novels and  even more absolutely dire ones. Andrews books easy sits in the really enjoyable category. It's a typical War novel in many respects and it doesn't profess to be anything else. Maybe if you have little interest in the East front you may not view it in the same light as I do, however if you do have an interest and enjoy films like Cross of Iron (the book is very good aswell) then it wont disappoint.
 So if you own an E Reader go buy the books so far. Defiantly worth the money:) Even the paperback of the Stalingrad omnibus is worth the price, well I don't regret paying for it.
So that concludes my BOOK OF THE WEEK OR MAYBE BI WEEKLEY HOPEFULLY COULD BE MONTHLY... feature. As you can see from the excellent title you may, possibly, see another team member pick a favourite book or two or maybe more if they pick a series....yeah OK I'll shut up..bye!

STOP PRESS: I'm sure many of you have seen the excellent German war film Stalingrad? Well I've just discovered the actual book the film was based off. At first I thought the author had just seen the film then wrote the book, however after abit of research I found out it was originally released pre the film in Germany. The book is called Stalingrad: The Loneliest Death by C Fromm

STOP PRESS AGAIN: Below is a list of other recommended East Front fiction. In no particular order.

1. Cross of Iron
2. The Forsaken Army
3. Stalingrad by T Plievier
4. Pavlov's House
5. The Kindly Ones
6. The Red Horse
7. Siege
8. Scar of Honor
9. Black Cross
10 Into the Gates of Hell Stug Command '41
11. Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun (Book three of a trilogy that follows a Fallschirmjager unit. The other two books are set during the para drop at the fort Eben-Emael in Norway and the second book at Crete)

'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 by R Nicol book review Reading so many military history books covering WWI and ...

'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 book Review 'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 book Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & Vol 2 by R Nicol book review

Reading so many military history books covering WWI and WWII I started to notice one company in particular never let me down. Every book I read that came out under their name I enjoyed from start to finish. Infact many I'd have happily placed in my top ten book list and those that didn't wouldn't be far off. This company is Helion. Though they fall under Casemate (who also publish great reads) if I see a book that looks interesting and then I note it's published by Helion it becomes a definite buy. So if a book has caught your eye, but maybe you're in two minds check to see who publishes it. If it's Helion then I say buy it! So when I noticed this book was published by Helion I knew I had to read it! I had to review both volumes for the blog!

Unlike my colleague and AWNTs other book review Bob, I love books that that take it down to the soldier in the frontline level. Were Bob likes his books about Strategy and the big picture, I prefer books that take me down to a trench and the individual soldier, describing what he witnessed and felt, introducing me to his comrades. In a strange way I feel reading these books (fair to say mainly memoirs) help keep these soldiers alive, even though sadly many you get to know will die during the course of the book. So 'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again Vol 1 & 2 looked like it would be a winner, WWI (my obsession), Helion and promising to take me down to the trenches with the Scots Guards sounds perfect, surely it must be a winner....

Funny enough though I've read alot of WWI books I haven't read any that are based around a particular regiment rather than an individual soldier. Actually I tell a lie, the excellent series by Jack Sheldon "The German Army on\at...." and the superb "The Otherside of The Wire" by Ralph Whitehead (more on that later) are along similar lines but covering a German Army\Corps, were this two volume set covers a renowned British regiment. "The Otherside of the Wire" By Ralph Whitehead (Helion) is actually my benchmark when it comes to in-depth research by an author. This series easy has a place in my top ten books of all time. Ralph's research into the soldiers mentioned in the two volumes currently released is amazing, the best I've read so far and I thought no one could do it any better. 'Till The Trumpet Sounds Again I hoped would be just like "The Otherside of the Wire" but this time looking at a British unit. So everything is in the books favour, will it come close to "The Otherside of the Wire"..

Well, as soon as I started reading I knew this was going to be something special. The book starts with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, about to leave the UK and then follows them as the cross the channel and head towards their first engagement and the battle of Mons, it then stays with them through the long retreat and then finally the counter attack and the battle of The Marne. It soon becomes apparent how much research the author has done. More or less every soldier mentioned in it's pages, esp those that die or are wounded in any actions mentioned (if wounded it says if he gets sent back to the frontline or not) have their background described, were they lived, when they signed up, their previous job, who they are married to, who their parents were, if he had any children, if he had been in any trouble whilst in the ranks, even down to any tattoos he has and where and what they are of! I love this sort of detail! The author has used not only the regiments diary but also letters sent to loved ones and any interviews taken after the War. At one point I was reading extracts from a letter written by a Officer, during which he has to break off from writing due to a barrage. He then continues to finish the letter. A couple of paragraphs later this same Officer is killed and you find out the letter was taken out of his pocket and sent to his loved one with any other personal articles he had had with him when killed. He had just been told his wife was expecting another child. It's this sort of detail that brings it all home. For me makes it all real and keeps these men in living memory. The second chapter then goes to the 2nd Battalion who crossed later than the 1st. It follows them through the first battle of Ypres, a terrible baptism of fire. The third chapter then goes back to the 1st battalion and describes their experience of "The First Battle of Ypres". The two volumes continue in this way going back and forth between the two battalions, yet it never gets confusing and is very easy to follow. Volume 1 goes from 1914 to July 1916 and the start of the battle of the Somme.

Volume 2 carries on were Volume 1 finished right through to 1919. A slightly smaller book than Vol 1 it doesn't let you down. I'm sure after finishing volume 1 you'll want to get Volume 2 as soon as possible. R Nicol hasn't let the men of the Scots Guards down and this book is a fantastic testament to their deeds through "The Great War". If any member of your family actually fought with the Scots Guards during WWI this is more than just a must HAVE to buy it!

Now did R Nicol manage to uphold my feelings about Helion and did he infact come close to "The Otherside of the Wire", what I consider to be pretty much the perfect military history book? Well yes and no. Yes I still see the name "Helion" as a mark of a good read but coming close to "The Otherside of the Wire"? A tough ask and I have to say he didn't just come close, he matched, if not over took Ralph's work in my top ten list! I mean achievement. I have no hesitation in recommending this superb series. It had everything I want in my history books in spades, with a cherry on top! It definitely goes in my top ten if not top five books of all time. Again Helion didn't disappoint. Helion must be the jewel in Casemates crown! It will be a long time, if ever, before I forget the men of the Scots Guards and their experience of WWI which is all thanks to R Nicols superb research and writing skills. If you're like me and love books that take you down to the frontline and the experiences of the soldiers and officers in the line then this two volume set is a must buy. Even if WWI isn't really the conflict you're interested in I still say buy it as I'm sure once finished it wont be the last book you read on WW1. Only if you prefer the more dry books which look at the bigger strategy etc (yawn) like my colleague Bob should you look elsewhere. If you check the book reviews on the website by Bob you'll most likely find the type of book that appeals to you reviewed there. One thing I will say is that Helion also publish the type of book that appeals to those like Bob as he too has been impressed with their offerings!

So "'Till The Trumpets Sound Again" Vol 1 and Vol 2 by R Nicol impressed me no end. Very few things will I whole heartedly recommend for people to spend their hard earned money on. I certainly don't want to do a review that entices someone to buy it on my word and then not  be happy. However every now and again something comes along where I have no doubts what so ever in recommending to people and this is one of those times. If you enjoy the same sorts of books that I do then it's a no it! It's everything I want and more when it come to a military history book. R Nicol should be very proud! It's books like this that in recent times has made me go for the hardback edition rather than the soft back. I like to keep my books in good order. I once let someone borrow a book of mine and when it came back to me it looked like it had actually gone through the War..never again! 

 With in the pages of this two volume set are the reasons why I became obsessed with WWI, devouring book after book on the War. Those like me will under stand what I mean by this. I hope after reading these two books that maybe one or two other people will understand what I mean and also become obsessed with WWI. That might even be you!

Until the next time...happy reading!

21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division A Review The author, Angelo Caravaggio, has ...

21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division 21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


21 Days in Normandy: Maj. Gen. George Kitching and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division

A Review

The author, Angelo Caravaggio, has put together a detailed historical account and explanation for the Normandy performances of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division and it's commander, Major General George Kitching. The book endeavors to explain and examine critical factors that have lead previous historians to conclude that neither the commander nor the division performed up to battlefield expectations. 

Those readers who enjoy precise descriptions of commander functions and military definitions will be pleased with the in-depth research the author has undertaken to explore just what happened in those 21 days in Normandy. In fact, nearly 100 pages of the 289-page book are devoted to appendices detailing historical information about operational plans/instructions, conference notes, operational intentions, strength returns, chapter notes, an extensive bibliography and of course a thorough index. 

While analyzing such comprehensive information not everyone's cup of tea, Mr. Caravaggio no doubt found it necessary to include this as a means of bolstering his case that the 4th Armoured Division and General Kitching had been unfairly treated in previous accounts of the relevant Normandy actions. War plans Totalize and Tractable were unevenly applied during the race to close the Falaise gap; to a certain extent, the 4th was blamed for some of the failure to ensnare the thousands of Germans who did escape; albeit abandoning most of their equipment in the process of beating a hasty retreat.

The Commanders

from the book: Canadian Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Guy Simonds (left)
and 4th Canadian Armoured Commander Maj. Gen. George Kitching

The author does a convincing job recounting the various challenges faced by Kitching during the series of Normandy battles: a) training in brigade structure initially and, unlike other armoured divisions, not having time to change/train with the new and more flexible task force structures before the major operations designated Totalize and Tractable; b) losing valuable training time by being forced to waterproof all tanks, which turned out to be an unnecessary waste of valuable time; c) the mediocrity and/or lack of experience of Kitching's brigade commanders; d) the ongoing personal friction between Simonds and Kitching; e) the complex yet ill-considered design structure of both operations, resulting in compressed frontages for armoured maneuvering and subsequent inability of the following infantry brigades to support tank operations; f) the inflexibility of scheduling carpet bombing that leading to attack delays and g) language barriers and operational differences between the 4th and the Polish Armoured Division during the Falaise end-phase. 

The Attack Plans

from the book: complicated operational plans, in this case, Totalize
One of the main hindrances was the command structure forced upon subordinate units. Field Marshall Montgomery rigidly expected that orders and plans were to be followed precisely, thus limiting spontaneous field decisions. Further, Simonds was a bit of a micromanager in the sense that he did not give his division commanders reign to determine their own battle plans but instead took it upon himself to issue the detailed orders from Corps level. 

As mentioned earlier, the 4th Canadian Armoured also suffered from the less flexible pre-invasion brigade structure, which confounded combined operations between tank and infantry elements. Notably, during actual operations, many of the initial brigade commanders were early casualties; new commanders were forced to assume command on the spot. According to the author, this actually helped the various formations succeed because the training at those levels had been very good; the new leaders were forced to improvise tactics that were more spontaneously task-force oriented. If we are to accept the conclusions of the author, the 4th did  fight with much more cohesion and success than history gives it credit. Nevertheless, due to the overall inability of the Canadian Corps to achieve a closure of the Falaise gap, Kitching was relieved as the commander for negligence, ostensibly due to personal conflicts with others in combination with the failure to achieve operational goals. Someone had to be found as a scapegoat in this situation. 

21 Days in Normandy could appeal to the harder core military history enthusiasts who appreciate detailed acronyms, comprehensive explanations of commanders' duties, extensive tables of order and equipment, copies of actual orders and information of similar ilk. More time could have been spent engaging in narratives about the actual fighting, but that is, of course, a matter of preferential bias. The reviewer considers that this book will be especially attractive to enthusiasts of Canadian operations in the Normandy battles; those who are already familiar with the previous reputations and actions of the formations under scrutiny here

To all of whom this appeals, I think you will tremendously enjoy this book! -- Marc Hanna

Hitler's Arctic War: The German Campaigns in Norway, Finland and the USSR 1940-1945 A Review Chris Mann and Christer Jorg...

Hitler's Arctic War: The German Campaigns in Norway, Finland and the USSR Hitler's Arctic War: The German Campaigns in Norway, Finland and the USSR

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Hitler's Arctic War: The German Campaigns in Norway, Finland and the USSR 1940-1945

A Review

Chris Mann and Christer Jorgensen have put together an interesting, informative and enjoyable narrative about the arctic campaigns of World War II.  Pen & Sword provide the publishing 'punch' by using modern publishing techniques that, for example, embed the graphics and images alongside the related text. This is preferred to the usual method of having sets of images in collected sections of the book because these are tied directly with the text. I'm very impressed with the eye-pleasing layout of this book. 

The Scandinavian Expanse

It can be hard to get a sense of the scope of these campaigns, involving thousands of kilometers of land stretching from Trondheim to Murmansk, from the North Sea to the Arctic Ocean with the Baltic in the middle of it all. The authors do an effective job giving the readers the right impressions about the scope and involvement of land, sea and air forces in this bitter theater of operations. The land campaigns were miserable in the spring and summer, as the troops on each side tried to maneuver using poor maps, having to skirt marshes and ford rushing streams -- all the while dodging swarms of famished mosquitoes. The winters were even worse as men froze to death in the frigid arctic conditions. 

Many are familiar with the blitzkriegs of Poland and France in the early stages of World War II, but the authors remind us that Scandinavia lived rent-free in the mind of Hitler. Foremost was his concern about securing the resources from this rich area, but he also remembered how the Kreigsmarine got bottled up in World War One without access to non-German ports. He hadn't forgotten that it was the low-morale sailors that fomented the capitulation in 1918. As a result, he eyed the ports sweeping north along the Norwegian coast as vitally necessary to his long-term strategy. 

The Winter War 1940

from the book -- Finnish ski-troops and ferocious-looking reindeer on patrol

But Stalin had struck first in the North, albeit not doing so well in the aptly-named 'Winter War.' The authors explain the origins and outcomes of this brutal side-show in some detail, covering some less-well known facts and intrigues that led up to the conflict. 

Note that the image above is just a sample of many in the book provided to illustrate the battle for the Finnish frontiers. Ultimately, the Russians won the Winter War, but only by licking their wounds and down-sizing their terms of surrender. Stalin frightfully realized his armies were sub-par.  

Norway 1940

from the book -- map of Norway operations

Hitler and his Admirals tried to get the jump on the allies in Norway, doing so even before launching their strikes into France and the Low Countries. This complex operation Weserubung involved amphibious landings and extended naval operations conducted by both sides, stretching along the coast of Norway from Oslo in the south to the far north where lay the vital port of Narvik. So much was at stake that Germany committed precious airborne troops and Western Allies sent vulnerable aircraft carriers directly into the fray. Indeed, the authors do a marvelous job explaining the tos and fros of this short-lived yet strategic battle. Hitler considered Norway so vital that for the rest of the war he stationed over a quarter million troops to guard the coastline and ports used for the precious Scandinavian resource deliveries.

Wargamer aside: it's noteworthy that many strategic wargames about WW2 simply cannot properly model this Norwegian conflict. For example, many game designers avoid the question of using naval forces altogether by stimulating players to make an airborne drop on Oslo as sufficient to represent the entire campaign. Their design focus is on adequately simulating East front combat and Western Allied invasions, but as a result, the Norwegian portion of the campaign is treated as a nearly irrelevant side-show. Part of the charm of studying the actual campaign is in relation to my love of strategic simulation of this war and how elusive it can be for designers to incorporate a realistic Norway campaign. I've yet to see it done satisfactorily in either board game or computer game formats -- at the strategic level. 

Barbarossa in the North

from the book -- Soviet combined arms counterattack
The authors provide due homage to German-Finnish efforts of seizing Murmansk and Leningrad from Russia when the weather was favorable in 1941 and 1942. The weather might have been, but conditions, especially in the far North, were not. German area commanders and, to a lesser extent, Russian commanders were simply not aware of how difficult it was to attack in these reaches of forest and marsh. Not only that, but the Finnish were simply not motivated to attack beyond recapturing territory lost in the Winter war, resulting in sporadic diplomatic confrontations with their German ally and resultant campaign failures.  

from the book -- typical summertime obstacles in the far North

Eventually the entire push entered a stalemate period. This episode lasted for three years until the Soviets launched a major counterattack in 1944 designed to drive Finland out of the war. Although stalemate situations are generally not interesting in a military sense, the authors provide absorbing details about operations and discuss the vexations on both sides of the conflict during this period. 

The Arctic Convoys

from the book -- the seemingly ubiquitous but ultimately ineffective Tirpitz (with torpedo netting, of course!)

It's hard to imagine more bitter and horrifying conditions than were found on convoys sending aid to Russia during the grim years of 1942 and 1943. This is when the usefulness of Norway truly manifested as a base of operations for Germany. Even the threat of the Tirpitz leaving it's bases to raid convoys was a horrific consideration for the Western Allies. It wasn't well known that Germany had trouble getting fuel to this ship nor that Hitler was loathe to send it out, due to the losses the Kreigsmarine had suffered taking Norway in the first place. Ultimately the battleship only engaged in one combat mission, bombarding a British naval Base at Spitsbergen. The book describes more so the vagaries of defeats and triumphs on both sides of this far-from-trumpeted and dismal battle theater.

The Victors

from the book -- Russian in full winter camouflage, circa 1944 Finnish front and dressed as extras for Ice Station Zebra

Obviously the allies won the conflict in the far north, but it's fair to say that the ultimate winners were once again the Russians. Convoys arrived from the west, supplementing the Soviet war machine, while 1944 attacks in Finland forced the smaller country to change sides and fight Germans and remove them from their soil. The authors definitely do a great job explaining the nuances of the Finnish-German relations during this contentious time near the end of the war.  

In conclusion, this book is highly recommended. It may not satisfy hard-core historians who want to see orders of battle for each engagement and tables of organization and equipment. The focus in the book is more on an entertaining but accurate account of this vast theater of operations, and this is well accomplished in 224 pages. The book comes with referenced chapter notes/citations, a bibliography and an index. All in all, this reviewer highly recommends adding this book to your collection. -- Marc Hanna. 

Liaison 1914 by Edward Spears Review    Those who know me or are regular readers will be well aware of my obsession with WWI. It go...

Liaison 1914 by E Spears Review Liaison 1914 by E Spears Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Liaison 1914 by Edward Spears Review


 Those who know me or are regular readers will be well aware of my obsession with WWI. It goes without saying that I'm going to have a fairly extensive WWI book collection, though I've said it just in case:). Only a handful of those books I'd class as poor or were difficult to get through, on the other hand a good number of them I thoroughly enjoyed and I'd really struggle to make a list of my top ten without feeling I'd left out many books well worthy of a place in the list. Then we have those that wouldn't just be in my top ten WWI books but be in my non-fiction military history top ten list and, finally, a handful would be vying for a place in my all time favourite books ever, no matter the subject matter or genre. Carry on reading to see where I'd place Liaison 1914.


 The book is a fairly hefty tome at 469 pages and a further 119 pages of Appendices and Index. Altogether 589 pages to delve into (see, I can count and add up). The book is a narrative of the authors time in Belgium and France as liaison officer between the British and the French. At  the time Edward Spears was a young, highly literate lieutenant with the Royal Irish Hussars, but due to his fluency in French he was made liaison officer between Field Marshal Sir John French the British Expeditionary Force commander (BEF) and the French High Command. As you can imagine, he was in a fantastic position to understand what was going on at the time, most likely better than anyone else on the Entente side at that time. This means this book, his narrative of the retreat from ⚔ Mons, a retreat that could have wiped out the BEF before they even started, would\should make an engrossing read, a real page turner...and it does, with bells on! 


 All the major Entente players in France and Belgium make an appearance at some point to a greater or lesser degree. He manages to bring these men, with such immense responsibility on their shoulders, to life just as well as any great author. You can really get a grasp of their personalities, including both good points and their flaws. He also manages to convey to the reader the urgency and perilous nature of the circumstances he and the Entente as whole found themselves in at the time, not helped by the inherent  mistrust (remember until now France had always been the British natural enemy and it had been Prussians i.e Germans who had saved the day for us against the French 99 years previously at Waterloo) which at times broke out into anger between Sir John French and commander of the French armies, Joseph Joffre.  This obviously didn't help the situation and it was more luck, excellent low level leadership and bravery of the men at the frontline that managed to save the day and put the Entente into a position where they could strike back, which they did do with the famous battle of ⚔ The Marne and then the so called Race to the Sea, until both sides were worn out and dug in. Digging-in created the famous trench system that ran from the northern coast right down to Switzerland, though this is beyond the scope of the book which ends on September 14th.

 For me, this book in particular really brought to life those historic days and helped me understand not only what was going on during that near disastrous period of the War but also how it must have felt on the ground for those involved. When I read military history books, memoirs in particular, I always have a feeling I'm listening to ghosts from the past, many cut down during or not long after the events told, but in a small way still alive on the pages of the book, so they aren't forgotten.

 Edward Spears was one of the first British officers in France due to the nature of his role and, over the course of the War, he continued to serve as liaison officer. He had been wounded four times by the time the War ended and had earned a chest full of medals and awards, he managed to survive the War. I truly wish he'd written several volumes to cover his entire War experience, but sadly that's not going to happen. Before his death at the good age of 87 in January 1974 he had been interviewed for the BBC's famous and "must watch" 1964 documentary The Great War and so appeared several times over the course of that excellent documentary. He also appeared in one episode of the WWII documentary, A World at War, talking about his WWII experience. If you search the web you can find some of his Great War interview clips.

So at the start of this review I talked about the WWI books I've read and where this one would go with regards to my top ten list. Well I can't say what number it would be but I will say it's a definite for my all time top ten books of any genre! As for just WWI books, it easily deserves a place in my top five! Anyone with the slightest bit of interest in WWI must at some point read Liaison 1914. I'd even recommend it as a great read to those who haven't shown any interest in the War, though I reckon by the end of it this would be the first book of many they'll end up reading about the War:) Go out and treat yourself to a copy, or if you know of someone who can't decide what to get you for Xmas then look no further!

Thanks for your time. Until the next time have fun, oh nearly forgot, have a Happy Xmas and New Year!

A quick mention of a good companion read A Frenchman in Khaki by P Maze

Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly & J Lambshead A Review     First I need to apologise to Pen...

Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook

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Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly & J Lambshead

A Review

First I need to apologise to Pen and Sword regarding the delay in reviewing this particular book. It's partly down to ill health but also if I'm honest with myself I've found this particular review difficult to start as the book isn't normally the sort of thing I'd read so was nervous about reviewing it. I'm out of my comfort zone:)


Now onto the book. The authors come with excellent credentials and are easily qualified to write a book like this. R Priestly created the world renowned Warhammer and Warhammer 40K system for Games Workshop. Dr J Lambshead designed the computer wargame Fredrick Foresythe's Fourth Protocol which was the first icon driven game and was also the editor of Games & Puzzles and Wargame News. He has also written a number of books for Games Workshop and Osprey. Finally he is the author of SF&F novels published by Baen Books. So with their experience you know you're in good hands and in this book they share this experience which can only help any of you out there who fancies designing a game yourself or help you with any tinkering or modifications you want to do with a current system.

The book is divided into nine chapters with a References section and finally an Index at the back of the book. The first chapter is an introduction that lasts twelve pages and eases you into the book. The next chapter talks about scale. The scale of a wargame is of vital importance in how the game will play and effects everything. Next comes a chapter on "The Language of Design". This deals with wargame and design jargon for example talks about "LOS" or line of sight. Following this is a chapter called "Alea Iacta Est", the famous line supposedly said by Ceaser, translated "The Die is Cast". So,  it doesn't need to much working out to know this chapter deals with Dice and randomness with in a wargame design. Chapter five "Presenting a Games Rules" is self explanatory. How many wargames have you played that have had rules that only an enigma code breaker could decipher? So it's an important aspect of any game design. Also talks about tables, not an actual table like the one you'll be playing on but tables in the rules. Chapter six "Skirmish Games" talks about skirmish wargames. Chapter seven "English as She is Writ" kind of goes hand in hand with chapter five. Again dealing with how to convey your system and rules to the player. Chapter eight "Expanding the Rulebook". This chapter deals with creating expansions to your core rule set. For instance adding new armies etc. The final chapter "Campaigns as Wargames" deals with creating campaigns for your rule system.

The book is full of photographs and is very well written as you'd expect from a book that talks about how to write rules. It's also full of useful information for those contemplating designing a tabletop wargame. Not sure how relevant it is for those wanting to design a hex wargame, but several of the chapters would be useful. I'd also say it's aimed at those who have little to no experience in designing a wargame, well it's certainly of more use to them. Saying this it wouldn't hurt for anyone be it novice or experienced in giving it a read. I say this because so many wargames come out and then forums are full of players totally confused by the rules. I think until you've actually tried you don't realise how difficult it is to convey to others your new game solely by the rulebook and what you've written. So maybe some of the chapters in this book would be of use to even a published wargame designer. Please don't expect a book that really goes into great detail and depth and covers every aspect under the sun. At 149 pages it should be apparent this book doesn't do that. It's more an overview with helpful advice of what the authors consider the main aspects of tabletop wargame designing. Aspects which will be relevant to pretty much all types of wargame systems. Your not going to come away with knowledge that's going to make you design some new innovative award winning game. It's just helping relative newbies dig decent foundations to their game design. If your looking for more than that then your prob best looking elsewhere.

The book is 149 pages not including the Reference and Index. Priced at £14.99 it's also not that expensive for such a niche book and wont break the bank. Certainly cheap enough to buy to see if it has any useful info for you as you start out on your game design. I would certainly appreciate it if I was about to start out on a tabletop wargame project.

Published by Pen & Sword it's available in all good book shops!

Wind in the Wires and An Escapers Log by D Grinnell-Milne Review First off I have to admit I'm a WWI obsessive. This prob...

Wind in the Wires and The Escapers Log book review Wind in the Wires and The Escapers Log book review

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Wind in the Wires and An Escapers Log by D Grinnell-Milne Review

First off I have to admit I'm a WWI obsessive. This probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to those who know me. I've always had an interest in the Great War for as long as I can remember, more so even than WWII. Though at some point this interest crossed a line and I freely admit now borders on an obsession.  I think it was when I first watched the film Regeneration, which had quite an impact on me. From then on, I devoured memoir after memoir, which to this day is still the case. So you can imagine I've a pretty fair sized library of WWI books, which will probably continue to grow long into the future.

As just mentioned, I've read a lot of memoirs. Though most deal with the War on the land, I have read a few written by those who fought the War in the air. I think air warfare during WWI is fascinating. More so than in later wars, as we are dealing with the birth of war in the skies, in machines that had only recently managed to get man airborne.  So, you were more  likely to be killed just trying to fly the thing or due to some sort of failure than actual enemy action. Yet all nations never had any problems recruiting young men (boys to be honest) to go through the Russian roulette of training and then, with just a few hours solo under their belt, off into the skies above France or wherever it was they had been posted to. Life expectancy was low and could drop a lot lower depending on the role of the plane and plane type you had been assigned to. God help you if you had been assigned to a Be2C Recon plane during April '17 for instance. Even if assigned to a fighter squadron, your chances weren't great of getting past three weeks, though being assigned to a squadron like 56 Squadron which was full of great pilots would increase your life expectancy, a bit.

You'll find the pilots in the RFC would have come from a public school, though many had first served in the trenches and maybe came from a prestigious regiment like the Guards, though this was not always the case, as during the rush to enlist many public school boys joined whichever regiment would get to France first. One of the requisites the recruiters were looking for at the start of the RFC, apart from youth, was the ability to ride a horse, showing how little really was known about flying and what would make a good pilot! Yet you'll find it was a certain type of person that volunteered to be a pilot. You'll come across  extroverts, rebels, risk takers, adventure seekers, all extremely confident young men, when you start reading about the RFC. Though stress may eventually take its toll on those traits, for the most part the pilots are as interesting to read about as the machines they flew and died in. The author of this particular book is no exception to the rule. Well educated, proud, loyal, witty, determined, confident, aloof, eccentric and with a great turn of phrase (you can add fatalistic to that as the War went on, a trait most pilots gained at some point, if they lived long enough. Usually shown through, what today we call, a dark sense of humour). The book is so good because the author was not only a pilot but also a brilliant writer. A reason many Officer accounts are such great reads is due to the high standard of education they had been through.

Wind in the Wires is a great read. Easily up there with the other classics like Cecil Lewis' Sagittarius Rising. Though Grinnell-Milne wasn't in such a famous squadron as 56 squadron, which Cecil Lewis flew in, doesn't detract from the memoir at all. In fact, his training and first deployment early on in the War was being assigned to a recon squadron. I found this extremely interesting, as usually you'll find most memoirs come from fighter pilots and cover mid to late war. So it was a refreshing change to read about what was the beginning of the RFC, and what it was like to be in a Recon squadron around this time. As you'll find out, it wasn't exactly how you'd have imagined. The squadron was definitely not a stereotypical RFC squadron. His experience during the first phase of his War in the air wasn't ideal. It's fair to say the squadron wasn't too friendly or supportive; whether it was due to low moral being a recon squadron is hard to tell.  Halfway through the book he becomes a POW and there follows a brief description of his POW experience (the second book An Escaper's Log covers that period). Many failed attempts later, he finally escapes and once back, this time, he is assigned to a fighter squadron for the remainder of the War. Now you'll find that typical RFC squadron and you'll love being in their company for the rest of the book. This is the period Duncan got 5 out of his 6 confirmed victories. Anyone with any interest in WWI and the air war will love the book. Duncan is a brilliant writer and has an excellent eye when it comes to capturing all the little nuances, traits and mannerisms of someone's personality and then getting it onto the page. The book is a real page turner and for a while you'll be with him, through the highs and lows of being a pilot in the RFC during WWI. Highly recommended.

An Escaper's Log is his second book which covers the period of his incarceration as a POW and we follow him through the highs and lows of many failed escapes. The fact he never gives up shows the type of man that he was. I haven't previously read any accounts from prisoners of war in WW1, so it was very interesting and an area I'm keen to explore more. When he finally manages to escape and get back home, he has the chance to stay home and train new pilots, yet he turns it down, a testament to the man and his desire to get back up in the clouds again. Though it was the first book, Wind in the Wires, I was really interested in, I also really enjoyed An Escaper's Log. A book I probably wouldn't have read on its own but I'm glad I have. Well worth reading!

I also highly recommend a trilogy by Derek Robinson, Goshawk Squadron, War Story and Hornet's Sting. A fictional account of a RFC squadron and its pilots. Full of humour, as well as horror, the author does a brilliant job in bringing a squadron to life, from the fantastic banter between pilots to the vivid realistic descriptions of air combat and the author of Wind in the Wires, Duncan Grinnell-Milne, could easily have been a character in one of those books. So if you've read any of these books you'll have an idea what Duncan was like!

'We have no hesitation in ranking it with the very best of the war books.' Daily Telegraph

'Wind in the Wires is a war book in class by itself…. From beginning to end the book a lure to read…outstanding.' Flight

'An addition to the number of books about flying needs more excuse than the mere subject of air fighting. This book is excused by the charm of the author's style, by his judgement in pruning his story, and by the interest which his own personality arouses.' Manchester Guardian

'The most beautiful air book that has yet appeared.' Birmingham Post

'The most interesting and attractive quality of the book is the fact that it gives a graphic account of the fledgling days of wartime flying. When the time comes for the great writer of the future to compose a comprehensive narrative of the war, this is one of the books that will help him acquire a true perspective.' Nottingham Guardian

Iron Cross Brigade: Story of Werner Gosel and Sturmgeschutz-Abteilung 244    Before I get to the book let me first tell you abo...

Iron Cross Brigade by C Bauermeister and Jason Mark (eds.) Review Iron Cross Brigade by C Bauermeister and Jason Mark (eds.) Review

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Iron Cross Brigade: Story of Werner Gosel and Sturmgeschutz-Abteilung 244

 Before I get to the book let me first tell you about the publisher Leaping Horseman Books.  They are a small publisher based in Australia; the main man behind the company name is also an author called Jason Mark. They specialise in books about WWII East front, with Stalingrad being a major focus. If you've browsed their website you'll notice the books aren't cheap. However, hand on heart they are worth every single penny\cent. Not only is the actual content fantastic, all are extremely well researched and written, the materials used are top quality from the paper to the covers, and all have faultlessly clear photographs and maps. Out of the five books I own, one of them is probably my favourite book of all time and that includes fiction. The others easily get into my top twenty and a majority of them into my top ten! I certainly haven't regretted buying any of their books and I imagine that will continue on into the future, as I have total faith every book they release will be a page turner.

 Jason has several books published by Leaping Horseman, as the sole author, aswell as being involved in other books published by Leaping Horseman including this particular book. The first book I bought from Leaping Horseman was Island of Fire by Jason Mark. I'm finding it difficult to express how I felt reading that book. Suffice to say, with no hesitation at all, it's my favourite book, not just favourite military history book but my favourite book full stop. I've been fascinated by Stalingrad for a long time now, devouring as many books on the battle as possible. Island of Fire is the perfect book on Stalingrad, extremely well researched and takes you right into the savage, brutal combat for one of Stalingrad's Factories. I'd love to have the whole battle done in this detail , so Jason how about doing say a thirty volume Stalingrad set?:)

Iron Cross Brigade is a pretty unique book in how it's set out. First, you have Werner Gosel's autobiography of his War experience, then you have the unit history penned by Jason and Christian and finally a section that is the unit diary over a set period of time. The autobiography, coupled with the unit history, and the author's excellent narrative work fantastically well. They aren't totally separate sections of the book either. To give an example, when Werner is wounded, then the authors continue with the unit's history until Werner returns. The book is so much the richer than if it had been just a straightforward autobiography\memoir. The decision to write the book like this was a mark of genius. I hope, if the chance arises, Jason will work on similar lines for future memoirs.

The book follows Werner Gosel and the men of Stug.Abt.244. At the start of Barbarossa, Werner was a despatch rider on the staff of Stug.Abt.244. He was then trained as an Officer and sent back to this unit. Soon they were at the gates of Stalingrad where Werner was wounded in the early stages thereby avoiding the fate that was to befall the unit. The book, however, sticks with the unit, as it is thrust into the hell of Stalingrad. Eventually what was left of the unit went into captivity with only three Officers ever making it back home to Germany.

After Stalingrad, the unit is rebuilt and, when Werner returns to it, after a brief stint with Stug.Batterie 395, it is then involved at Kursk and  in the following retreat. Werner is made Adjutant in August '43 and is eventually captured by Russians, while trying to break out of the Brobuisk pocket. By this time, Werner had reached the rank of Battery Commander and was not released until five years later and the book looks at how ex-servicemen struggled and the difficulties they faced after the War in East Germany; something I hadn't read about before and is extremely interesting.

As for the unit, after Brobuisk it was rebuilt, yet again, and from October '44 until the end of the War fought on the West front. It fought around St Vith during December '44, and was finally destroyed for good in the Ruhr Pocket when on 14th April '45 the commander told what was left of the men to break up into small groups and  break out and head for home.

Just like the other books I've read from Leaping Horseman, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book kept me gripped from start to finish and it now sits proudly with the other books I own from them. One aspect of their books I really like is that you come across familiar regiments\units that you've read about in another of Jason's excellent titles. So, a unit that is mentioned that may not have a major part in the book you're reading, isn't just a number, but you remember faces and experiences it has gone through, and so they have character of their own. Jack Sheldon, Ralph Whitehead and Jason Mark are by far three of the best researchers I've come across. I know any book by these authors is going to be superb and well worth reading and will take pride of place on my book shelves.

If you're only going to own one military history book you can't go far wrong choosing one of Leaping Horsemans. Iron Cross brigade doesn't let the side down in this respect. It's highly recommended.

492 Pages on high quality gloss paper
247 Photos
17 Maps
Includes units full War diary from 1943

Island of Fire, Into Oblivion and Besieged are three other books I own published by Leaping Horseman and all three are must haves.