“A blow-by-blow account of the fateful day. I couldn’t put it down.”
Hill 107 is an unremarkable feature 351 feet high overlooking the point where the Tavronitis river estuary flows into the Mediterranean on the northwest coast of the island. Fresh water attracted village settlements, and the hamlet at Maleme was established on the hill’s lower northeast slope near the river by shepherds from the village of Lakkoi, from the southern foothills of the White Mountains. Such fresh water outlets also attracted pirates, who plundered the locals. A vantage point like hill 107 provided village security to give warning. The height overlooked a kilometer long by half-kilometer wide primitive red-clay dirt landing strip. Maleme aerodrome, concreted today, was barely finished in 1941.
The ‘miracle of Dunkirk’ is lauded in British history and folklore as a victory of human endeavor, celebrated each year with a profusion of TV documentary veteran accounts and memorial services. German soldiers constantly referred to the wunder or miracle of reaching Dunkirk in wartime letters back home. There the resemblance ends. For the British it was a miracle of survival and deliverance, for the Germans it was one of achievement. They had reached the sea in May 1940 in less weeks than it took years for their fathers not to succeed in 1914-18.
The name Borodino Field resonates with patriotism and Mother Russia for Russians. The battle in September 1812 is known to most as one of the epic climaxes in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Napoleon’s pyrrhic victory there took the French Grande Armée to the gates of Moscow and on to catastrophe during the subsequent winter. Another lesser known, but equally bitter battle was fought at Borodino Field in October 1941.
Balaclava was the cavalry battle, and this book deals with the three cavalry actions that took place that day. Russian, Turkish and British individuals are followed throughout the 24-hour period, from the siege lines around Sevastopol, Russians suddenly emerging from the dawn mist of the Crimea, to eight minutes of ‘cut and slash’ by the Heavy Brigade and the Light Brigade running a two-way horrific gauntlet of fire through the Valley of Death. New material has been extracted from letters, diaries and after action accounts from all sides.
This book covers the near abortive American landings at Omaha Beach on D-Day 6th June 1944, utilizing the ’24 Hours’ format of the experience through sight, sound and smell of the American and German adversaries with helpless French civilians caught up in between. This is perhaps the first time all three perspectives have been juxtaposed together. Tracking individuals from midnight to midnight exposes new ground and disentangles many previously held myths about what happened on that fateful day.
24 Hours on the Somme describes that catastrophic day hour by hour through the differing perspectives of both sides. The British trench view is juxtaposed against the German parapet and dugout alongside the backdrop of their staff commands, who, ensconced in chateaus to the rear, could see nothing. The book charts this dreadful day through the eyes, ears and senses of the soldiers themselves, through eye-witness accounts, diaries, unit logs and a mass of supporting material exhaustively harvested from across Europe.
24 Hours at Waterloo is not about Wellington and Napoleon or the strategy and tactics of the commanders. It is about how the decisions they made affected the fortunes of two-dozen or so individuals from the different armies that are tracked across the battlefield that day. The wealth of first hand accounts, diaries and letters offer the type of grainy authenticity and immediacy commonly used in TV war reports.
This second edition of the magazine Battles That Changed the World is about decisive battles that have altered the course of history. This time the focus is on Hastings 1066, Waterloo in 1815 and Stalingrad 1942 – 1943.
Each battle is introduced by an outline of the war from which it has been taken with a short narrative of the course of the battle itself. The main commanders are reviewed as also the typical experience of the combatants. The Battlefield Tour reviews each battle from a ‘Then and Now’ perspective viewing the field in a three-dimensional perspective, as in the previous issue. Battlefield Detective articles examine controversies and the Hollywood reviews once again assess how successfully popular feature films that have portrayed these epic events.
The magazine offers a ‘then and now’ historical perspective of three battles fought against superior odds. It includes Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn in 1876, the heroic defence of Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, and the epic siege of the British paratrooper enclave at Oosterbeek outside Arnhem in 1944. ‘Stands’ are identified at each location where readers can position themselves and read contemporary descriptions of what happened to soldiers at that precise spot during the battle. ‘Battlefield Detective’ articles expose the latest scientific and archaeological findings to debunk myths or offer forensic investigative comment and how accurately Hollywood presented these epic events is examined.
Interviews with Dutch civilians and British and German veterans during the battle of Arnhem reveal that nearly all of them stood on the Utrechtseweg at some time during the battle. Closer examination of this one road has started to unveil aspects of the battle not considered before.
The participants had no idea about what was going on around them in big-picture terms. The street is the personal story of what it is like to fight a modern war in your own back-yard.
This is the story told from the human perspective how military men adapted Leonardo Da Vinci’s parachute ‘umbrella’ and glider concept as a means of going to battle. Different countries evolved their own personalized approaches to airborne warfare and these are examined through the individual experiences of those that pioneered them. Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany were at the forefront of translating this into military reality.
There is enormous interest in the Second World War generation, primarily from their families, who look for insights about a conflict that is unsurpassed in scale, length and bitterness since. This is not a story of battles and campaigns, rather selected vignettes from defining moments that happened during the War, described through interviews, letters, diaries and personal accounts. What was it like to witness the fall of France and wait anxiously to be taken off the beaches at Dunkirk or struggle ashore through obstacle-strewn surf on D-Day?
Tank Men is a turret-eye perspective of what it was like to fight from tanks from their sudden appearance in 1916 to the end of the Second World War. The book describes what it was like for British, German, Russian, French, American and Italian tank crews to be inside a tank at war, a tight metal box, from which little can be seen to obviate an all-pervasive claustrophobia heightened by the fear of burning. This is the human, brutal and often moving story of tank men at war.
On 25 June 1876 the US army lost one percent of its authorised strength in a single battle against Plains Indians at the Little Bighorn. Red Sabbath authoritatively blends contemporary Indian and soldier accounts with the most recent archaeological and forensic facts. Robert Kershaw has recreated the ‘feel’ of the battle, a series of dispersed and chaotic company actions, which the Indians overcame piece-meal. The book is a fresh approach to a battle that has long defied definitive conclusions.
This book covers Hitler’s pitiless invasion of Russia in 1941 viewed almost entirely through the eyes of ordinary soldiers and junior officers, from both sides. Extensive use is made of diaries, letters and oral accounts previously unpublished in English, including secret SS Files that monitored rumours and reactions from the German Home Front to these events. The Russian soldier’s refusal to surrender and fight to the death, despite being out maneuvered or surrounded was to break the tempo of the German Blitzkrieg in Europe for the first time.
This is the story of the ten-day battle for the Normandy foreshore as seen through the eyes of German and Allied soldiers who fought and died in June 1944. Village fighting in the hinterland developed into stalemate as the Germans began to match the Allied build up after seven days. Bocage hedgerow terrain proved two-edged, favouring defence but stymieing the mobility sought by both sides and unsuitable for armoured sweeps. D-Day vividly describes the battle to get ashore and then for the next hedgerow and hill, a fight for survival and comrades.
Arnhem was a resounding defeat for the British, but in human endurance terms, the stuff of legend. Press glamorization at the time laid the basis for a ‘legend’ upheld by Allied historians for years. Exhaustive research of the few remaining German post-operational reports corroborated by numerous contemporary eye-witness accounts revealed a new perspective. This was how the battle appeared to the ordinary German soldier, from private to battalion commander level. Kershaw interviewed many veteran participants throughout Germany.
Robert J Kershaw
Robert Kershaw is a former Para, having joined the Parachute Regiment in 1973, commanded 10 Para and left as a full Colonel in 2006. His active service includes tours in Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War (during which he was awarded the US Bronze Star) and Bosnia.
He is now a professional writer and has written twelve highly praised books of military history. He has been interviewed on numerous TV documentaries and has published articles in the Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express. He recently edited Paradata, an online encyclopaedia covering the living history of British Airborne Forces, which won the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Military category of the 2008 Interactive Media Awards. Kershaw has led site-specific battlefield touring groups across the world, including at Waterloo. He has also given lectures at the National Army, Airborne and Tank Museums and aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner.
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