Friday, September 04, 2009

He's back from holiday...

Unfortunately....

Brilliant time had by the entire crew (I think) with temperatures regularly in the 34'C plus range, usually 38' and on one memorable day 44'C! Azure skies, sunshine, white beaches, turquoise sea, smashing..... sigh... back now though... temperatures are half what they were, and it's been raining... still on the plus side at least the curry's are better!

Way too hot to delve into my carefully selected holiday wargaming kit this time round - which was a shame... but I did get a whole load of reading done amongst which these two are probably the most pertinent to this blog...

First off - a book that Fire at Will [click here] passed on to me a Salute this year...

Cadogan is a bit of a hero of mine (given my interest in the period) following a big post on him back in 2007 (blimey!) (click here) but have to say that this book was a little disappointing - Will had already told me that he'd thought it a little pedestrian, and although I finished it quite quickly, it didn't tell me much about the man that I didn't already know.. so I'd agree.

The first two thirds of the book were more about Marlborough than Cadogan. Given the relationship between the two this is not surprising I suppose, but it seemed a little bit of an opportunity lost to me - I was under the constant impression that the research was a little shallow, nothing that seemed to bring the man to life, though there is no doubt that the author has a restrained admiration for Cadogan....

There is the usual discussion about backhanders and how "honest" Cadogan and Marlborough were with the public purse - the same stuff that was trotted out at the time in the efforts to disgrace both men... no doubts in my mind that they did make a little money on the side (speculation, and insider trading, I'd guess you'd call it these days...) but it doesn't deflect in any way from the fact that most men of power in those days were equally involved, and doesn't deflect from the fact both these men were hugely talented, brave, resourceful and immensely clever individuals...

As I sat thinking on the recliner (with a French ale) after I finished the book, I thought that I'd like to pass this book on (unless Will wants it back!) so if you fancy reading it - leave me a comment with an email I can contact you at, and I'll post it on free - but here's the deal - when you've read it you have to send me a review, and then send it on to someone else..

Steve the Wargamer rates this one as a five out of ten - but I'd be interested in other peoples views...

The second book, however, was outstanding!!

I've been a huge fan of Beevor for ages - I started with "Crete", moved on to "Stalingrad", and then read "Berlin the Downfall" last year - I have to say that this book is well up to standard and is an outstandingly easy read...

Up until now my vote for a good overall book on D-Day would probably have been Max Hastings "Overlord" or even Cornelius Ryan's book that they made into "The Longest Day" (ah... memories of the young Sean Connery shoving handfuls of cotton wool in his ears because of the noise coming from Lovatt's piper! ) but I have no hesitation now in recommending this one instead...

Scope is from just before D-Day to to the fall of Paris so covers the invasion itself, the Caen battles (Operation Goodwood, Epsom, etc), Patton's tank drive into western France, and the closing of the Falaise gap.

Beevor is very good on personal history (I particularly enjoyed the story about a bunch of German pioneers who were ordered towards Normandy from southern France, were separated from their parent unit early on, and how they managed to make their way north - in a captured Citroen with a cask of calvados in the boot - before finally ending up as part of the German forces defending Paris!) but he's also very good on the politics and the personalities of the main players, and on the Allied side helps very much to explain what an outstanding job Ike did keeping the whole thing together and on the road when all the key players seemed to have their own agenda's...and yes, he does the same for the German side equally as well.

All in all the picture I came away with was of immense bravery on both sides, the brutality of the fighting (especially between the Canadians and the SS around Caen), the totality of allied air power and what a huge bonus that was, and the importance of propaganda on the German side in maintaining their resistance (one of the young SS prisoners asked his US captors whether the damage from the bombing of New York was very great...)

Huge book, massively easy to read, un-putdownable in my case, Steve the Wargamer gives this one a 9.5 out of 10...

That's it for now - still catching up on all the blog activity while I was away (Flanderkin Serjeant [click here] has been particularly and very interestingly busy in my absence!) but look out for posts in the near future on battlefields visited while I was away (I made it to the Operation Dragoon beach I wanted to visit, and on the way back also had an extended look around Pegasus bridge!), and I owe DG a write up on the final battle in the AWI campaign.

Coming up in the near future I have the Southampton Boatshow, and then Colours [click here] on the weekend of the 12th and 13th - hopefully DG and I will also get a game in that weekend, and hopefully it will be the first battle in a new campaign as I've managed to persuade DG to have a go at Charles Grant and Phil Olley's "Raid on St Michel" ...

Phew.... time for a rest ....off to have a lunchtime sandwich on the boat, and perhaps a spot of fishing (too windy to sail)....

5 comments:

  1. Looking forward to your battlefield posts, visited Pegasus 20 + years ago the cafe was the best bit then, the old bridge was dumped & forelorn like to see what it's like now. We cycled to caen from the beaches stopping at the cemetries on the way very interesting & moving must get the Beevor book I havn't read any of his yet so thats the christmas list sorted!

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  2. Very helpful review of the Beevor book. I was wondering if I needed to read another D-Day book but it looks like I do. Will be off to Colours too!

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  3. I'm eager to try the "Raid on St Michel" campaign too . . . but more troops need to be painted first . . . *sigh*.

    I will look forward to your battle accounts of it.


    -- Jeff

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  4. Steve, please pass the book on as you wish

    I'll probably get around to Beevor D Day sometime, possibly before next years SOGG big game, which has a D day theme (but no other clues yet), as his Crete book was good preparation for this years game.

    Will

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  5. Hi
    Welcome back to the daily routine
    Here in central Spain we also had a very hot summer with many days above 40ºC... time for the swimming pool
    Rafa

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