second chance games

Search This Website of delight

Showing posts with label non-fiction. Show all posts

                            The War of The Spanish Succession by James Falkner     The War of the Spanish Succession was probably ...

The War of the Spanish Succession by James Falkner The War of the Spanish Succession by James Falkner

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


                            The War of The Spanish Succession by James Falkner

 The War of the Spanish Succession was probably the world's first world war. It was fought in areas as far flung as the Seven Years War, which it preceded by fifty years. The war was fought between the French, and Spanish on one side, and the English, Dutch, and Holy roman Empire. It also had bit parts played by the smaller players that Europe abounded with at the time.

 Our story begins with Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and Carlos I of the Spanish empire. Through his mother and father, he was the heir to both of these along with the Netherlands and more. His reign saw the house of Hapsburg become the world's greatest multi-national dynasty. The story continues until the late 1600s when Carlos II reigned over the Spanish empire. He was unfortunately childless and represented the last true Spanish Hapsburg. Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor), and Louis XIV (king of France) were both grandsons of Phillip III of Spain. They, with their children, had the greatest claim to the throne of Spain. There was a third candidate who was very important to our story (but who unfortunately for the the people of Europe and beyond) that died young. This was Joseph-Ferdinand Wittelsbach of Bavaria. He was the son of the Elector of Bavaria and the grandson of Leopold I. There were treaties in force between the major powers that would make Joseph-Ferdinand the king of Spain after the death of Carlos II. His death in 1699 turned Europe into a powder keg waiting to be lit by whomever had the will to strike the match. 

  Carlos II passed away, but before he did drew up a will. In it the Spanish crown was to be offered to a grandson of Louis XIV, the Duc D'Anjou. In the event that he or more to the point his grandfather turned it down it was to be offered to the Hapsburg Archduke Charles of Austria, son of Leopold I. 

  Louis XIV's and the Duc D'Anjou's (now Phillip V of Spain) acceptance of the crown struck the spark that turned into the aptly named War of The Spanish Succession.

  The book tells the story of the War, its military campaigns, political machinations, and final outcome. The war would see the rise of England to be a global power. It would also really be the last time the Netherlands was a top player in the world of European politics. France would be brought to the edge of ruin.  

 This being my first review of a book, I wanted to delve into the physical makeup of the book itself. I have some books that I have owned for twenty years that look as bad as some hundred year old newspaper. They are yellow and falling apart. I'm not just talking mass market soft cover books, but hard cover. The older mass market books are only fit for the inside of a reptile's cage. So what does go into the making of a 'good' book that will see you through the years? Well I am here to tell you don't start your search using book making. At best you will find a plethora of hits on 'la Cosa Nostra' etc. As far as the actual pages turning yellow, it is a process that is well known for making our lives more miserable, oxidation. Lignin is found in all trees to varying degrees. It is actually thought to be the reason that trees can grow to great heights. If too much Lignin is in the book's paper, it will oxidize faster. Some book pages are now bleached to make the pages more white. This can break down the page's cellulose and also cause oxidation to happen faster. Book bindings can be either sewn or glued. Suffice to say that in my delving into this arcane study I did find out one thing. The books that Casemate publishing brings to the public are built to last. So, leaving the actual makeup of the book aside, let us start on the Mr. Falkner's part of this endeavor. 

  Louis Le Grand was unlucky in the timing of this war. The Frenchmen that he ruled were still as courageous as they were at the beginning of his reign. The problem was, where were his generals? Turenne, Conde, and Luxembourg were all gone. Only two French Marshals, The Duke of Berwick, and the Duc de Villars were to shine in this war, but not as brilliantly as those older diamonds had.

  Marlborough was close to winning the war in 1709, but his casualties at Malplaquet caused his allies to hamstring him. The Dutch were always an anchor around Marlborough's throat, and even more so now. The political fighting between the Whigs and Tories in England sealed his fate. Louis XIV, with the help of Villars was able to fight on, and managed to broker a much better negotiated peace then was thought possible a few years ago. The author shows this and more in this well done history of the war.

  This book is a godsend for people who want to read about the history of the War of The Spanish Succession, but also the politics and warfare of the time. The author goes into all of the different areas of where it was fought. There have been a few books on Marlborough himself, and a few more about his battles. There have even been some on his entire campaigns, but none on the other parts of the war in recent years. To read about the actions in Spain and elsewhere, you have to spend hundreds of dollars, if not more, on some older books about the war and its personalities. There are some PDF and EPUB versions of these books, but the copying process has left them to be pretty much unreadable, at least to me.  

 This book is an overview of the entire conflict and does not go into the minutiae of the separate battles or sieges. For those, you will have to look elsewhere. However, it does fill the gap in a book that brings the entire war to your finger tips. The author has a solid grasp of the history and reports it in a well done no-nonsense style without any hint of bias. I find this refreshing in a book about this war. Most of the books I have read on the subject have a definite English bias, at least in the amount of information about each side in the war.

 So thank you Mr. Falkner, and Casemate, for this book. It brings to life the war and its battles, and campaigns, and is a great addition to anyone's library.

  Mr. Falkner has the following books (among others) on the history of the times listed with Casemate Publishing:


Book: The War of The Spanish Succession
Publisher: Casemate Publishing, Pen & Sword
Author: James Falkner
 Review Date 8/14/2016

Against the Tommies: History of the 26 Reserve Division 1914-1918 by David Bilton   For my first book review I've picked, by acc...

Book Review: Against the Tommies by David Bilton Book Review: Against the Tommies by David Bilton

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


Against the Tommies: History of the 26 Reserve Division 1914-1918 by David Bilton


For my first book review I've picked, by accident, a book that is rather tricky to review as it's really a photographic journal of the German 26th Reserve Division - photos that  were initially compiled by the divisions Staff Officers in 1920 as a commemorative record of service for veterans of the 26th Reserve Division. So you can imagine text is thin on the ground and heavy on photographs which leaves little for me to analyse or discuss in any real detail. Saying that I've really enjoyed reading it and I'm actually quite pleased I chose it to review as I would never have read it as I normally steer clear of photographic war books.

The 26th Reserve Division is a Division I'm rather familiar with. They played a major part on the first day of the Battle of the Somme 1916, defending a portion of the front line trenches and continued to fight through out the Somme offensive. With the 52nd Inf Division on their right flank, their trench line started just north of Beaumont Hamel tracing a line south past Beaucourt, St Pierre Divion on to the infamous Schwaben Redoubt, then on through Thiepval and finally ending just south of Ovillers, where the 28th Reserve Division took over. If you've read any books on the Somme then your bound to have read of their exploits in that particular battle. The German Army on the Somme by Jack Sheldon, and another favourite series of mine The Other side of the Wire Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Ralph Whitehead, cover the Division in great detail, making this book the perfect companion to these highly recommended books.


Against the Tommies follows the 26th Reserve Division throughout the War, it starts with them attacking the French in the Vosges, then they were invovled in what became known as the "Race to the Sea" as both sides tried to turn the flank. The sides eventually reached the sea and niether had been successful, the only course was to dig in. The Germans pulled back to the closest high ground and dug in, the Entente got as close as possible and also dug in. The War on the Western Front became a 450 mile siege with the continous line of trenches we are all familar with. In the winter of '14 the Division settled in the Somme district until the end of the Somme campaign and winter '16\'17. They then retreated to the newly built Hindenberg line and were involved in fighting around Arras. In the summer of '17 they fought at Passchendaele, otherwise known as Third battle of Ypres. In spring '18 they fought in Germany's last throw of the dice, the great March offensive, where Germany came close to victory, the British and Commonwealth troops were driven out of miles of their front line and the Portuguese force disintergrated in mass panic. The result being the Commonwealth and British forces had to retreat until they had their "backs to the wall". However, after several months of bitter fighting the offensive came to a halt. The Germans had fought themselves to a standstill from which they'd never recover for the duration of the War. Finally, there are a couple of photographs taken during Germany's general retreat and the last photograph entitled "home coming" is a picture of a town center with it's deserted streets, which I think says it all.

As the Division was in the Somme district for a prolonged period of time it really adds interest to the photographs as we can see the towns, villages, churches and chatuexs slowly blasted to rubble brick by brick. You can see how destructive modern warfare was to the landscape at the time. One early war photograph will show a typical picturesque countryside scene and then further along the book  there is a photograph of the same view taken later in the War; that picturesque scene is now like a barren lunar landscape as the weapons and detritus of War take their toll and seem to corrupt nature itself. In fact there are a few cases in the book where several photographs have been taken over a period of time - of  a particular church or chatuex -  as if to record the slow and devatstating effect of artillery as it turns a beautiful building to rubble.


The collection of 405 photographs is extremely wide ranging in subject matter and most have never been published before. Many are of the trenches and the typical you'd expect: group photos, explosions, casualties, captured weapons, POWs and arty emplacements etc. However, it also includes many interesting ones of work behind the lines. Photographs of charcoal collectors, butchers, bakery, setting up weather balloons, troops using a threshing machine, bottling soda water and other normally unseen logistical work. One photograph really stands out from any other photo from WWI I've seen. It's a picture of a young German soldier 14th Kompanie RIR 99 who has an open, innocent face with a massive smile that seems to go from ear to ear! His Company Commander is standing just to one side behind him showing, what seems to be a fatherly look that could say "daft sod". He looks so young, innocent and happy, which makes it so poignant as I know he is only weeks away from the horror that was the Somme offensive and I wonder if he survived the attack and even the War, I hope so.

There are also some photographs of downed planes, and it would be interesting to do some research  to see if you can indentify the squadron and if possible the pilots name. In one photograph the RFC pilot is standing next to his crashed plane and another photograph has a German pilot standing next to the wreckage of one of his kills.

The book is divided into three chapters. The first chapter covers the start of the War to Dec '16. The chapter starts with a brief summary of  each of the actions the division fought in during that period. The next chapter carries on from the last until the end of the War. Again, at the start of the chapter are brief summaries of the actions the division was in for that period of time. Next are three large scale maps of the areas the division was in. The final chapter is a list of dates and names of all the battles the Division was in and finally the figure of killed, wounded and missing Officers. You are also given another total for NCO's and other ranks that the division suffered during the War. The book is 174 pages and 405 photographs. I'd have paid more if the paper used had been photograph paper and been colourised as I think that would have added another level to the book. Still, I recommend it if your looking for an interesting and extensive photograph collection following a particular unit. It's a great companion book to Jack Sheldon's German Army on the Somme or Ralph Whitehead's Otherside of the Wire.

You can purchase Against the Tommies directly from Pen & Sword or from Amazon and any other large book store. Hardback edition retails at £19.99.

Military History books published by Pen and Sword will be reviewed here soon.

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


Military History books published by Pen and Sword will be reviewed here soon.