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#Bookreview CHILDREN AT WAR 1914–1918: “IT’S MY WAR TOO!” by Vivien Newman (@worldwarwomen) (@penswordbooks) Stories that should be heard #history #non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you another non-fiction book and one I’ve particularly enjoyed (although perhaps ‘enjoy’ isn’t the best word):

Children at War 1914-1918 by Vivien Newman

Children at War 1914–1918: “It’s my war too!” by Vivien Newman

For most British readers, the phrase ‘children during the war’ conjures up images of the evacuees of the Second World War. Somehow, surprisingly, the children of the Great War have been largely and unjustifiably overlooked. However, this book takes readers to the heart of the Children’s War 1914-1918.

The age range covered, from birth to 17 years, as well as the richness of children’s own writings and the breadth of English, French and German primary and secondary sources, allows readers to experience wartime childhood and adolescence from multiple, multi-national standpoints. These include: British infants in the nursery; German children at school; French and Belgian youngsters living with the enemy in their occupied homelands; Australian girls and boys knitting socks for General Birdwood, (Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Imperial Force); Girl Guides working for MI5; youthful Ukrainian/Canadians wrongfully interned; German children held as Prisoners of War in Siberia; teenage deckhands on the Lusitania, not to mention the rebellious underage Cossack girl who served throughout the war on the Eastern Front, as well as the youngest living recipient of the VC. At times humorous, at others terrifying, this book totally alters perceptions of what it was like to be young in the First World War.

Readers will marvel at children’s courage, ingenuity, patriotism and pacifism and wholeheartedly agree with the child who stated, ‘What was done to us was wrong.’

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Children-War-1914-1918-Its-war/dp/147382107X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Children-War-1914-1918-Its-war/dp/147382107X/

https://www.amazon.es/Children-War-1914-1918-Its-war/dp/147382107X/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Children-at-War-19141918-Paperback/p/16545

Author Vivien Newman

About the author:

Viv has been interested in social history since primary school, when her teachers commented upon her “very many questions”.

Viv’s doctoral research on women’s poetry of the First World War uncovered a treasure trove of long-forgotten women’s poems. These widen our knowledge of women’s wartime lives, their concerns, and their contributions to the war effort and subsequent Victory.

Viv has taught women’s war poetry in both academic and non-academic settings and speak widely at history conferences (both national and international). She gives talks to a variety of audiences ranging from First World War devotees of organisations such as the Western Front Association as well as to Rotarians, Women’s Institutes and U3A.

As well as writing articles about women during the First Word War, Viv has numerous books either already or soon to be published: “We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First Word War” explores women’s uniformed and un-uniformed lives between 1914 and 1918. “The Tumult and the Tears” is an annotated anthology of Women’s Poetry of the First World War. “The Children’s War 1914-1919” explores British and Allied children’s wartime lives. Viv has also edited a unique wartime journal in “Nursing through Shot and Shell”.

https://www.amazon.com/Vivien-Newman/e/B00Q2TU41S

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback ARC copy of this historical book that I freely chose to review.

I read a book about children during WWII from the same publisher a while back and enjoyed getting a completely different perspective on the subject (I’ve always been interested in what happened to civilians during the wars, and thankfully, the interest in the topic has resulted in more resources becoming available and more books being published in recent years). When I saw this book, I expected another excellent read. And I got it.

The author explains in her introduction that, at first, she had intended to write mostly about British children, as she was more familiar with the material and the research subject, but she came across some French books talking about the experience of French children, and once she started digging, she found other sources and people also shared with her the stories of some children that she felt she had to include. As a result, we might be reading about what British or French children were doing to try to help the war effort in one page, and then read what the German children were doing, in another. Although the messages about which side was right and which wrong were the complete opposites, the experience of war for all those children was pretty similar. It’s also true that some countries and territories were hit harder than others; there were children who never knew who would come to take over their town or village next and soon discovered that the colour of the uniform made little difference in the end.

The description of the book gives a good idea of some of the contents, and I’d find it difficult to choose my favourite chapter or anecdote. There are all kinds of stories: funny and amusing ones, inspiring ones, stories of bravery and courage well beyond the protagonists’ years, tragedies and disasters, terrifying experiences the children never forgot, tales of endurance, and many memorable images that will remain with me forever. I particularly enjoyed reading samples of children’s diaries and letters. Little Simone de Beauvoir was delightful (and you could already see the woman she’d become), and I soon became a fan of Piete, a young girl we see grow more insightful and mature as the years pass and whose compassion and anti-war feelings develop over time. She even writes a letter of condolence to the parents of the boy whose helmet her brother brought back home as a war souvenir. There were also moving accounts of the children’s war efforts from the home front, and I’d happily read a whole book about the story of the Girl Guides and how they got to work for MI5.

We see the children as victims of the war, directly (like in the sinking of the Lusitania), or indirectly (they were among the many victims of the explosion of a TNT factory in Silvertown), and also having to cope with lack of food, with unwelcome guests (having to house and share all they had with soldiers, both friends and enemies), or becoming internees in camps for immigrants from enemy nations (the story of the Internment Camps in Canada is particularly hard to read, as it has been kept under wraps and denied for many years. It highlights how easily things can change, and how those who had been encouraged to leave their homes and travel across the world with the promise of work and a warm welcome turned into enemies overnight, even those whose countries of origin were not fighting in the wrong side). Everybody can come under suspicion in dangerous times, and it’s difficult not to think of recent events while reading this text.

We have wonderful examples of the heroism of children in the home front, at work (in ships, in factories…), and also those who enlisted pretending to be older, sometimes much older than they were. There were boys, and also girls (mostly on the Eastern bloc, in Russian and Polish armies) fighting as well, and it’s impossible to read about all of them and not think about the children who still fight and die in wars and conflicts all over the world. We might feel reassured that some of the things the book narrates couldn’t happen nowadays, but unfortunately, many others could and still do.

The author includes pictures, documents, and images that help put names to faces and provide a background for some of the stories. There are also endnotes indicating the sources of the references or providing extra explanations, and a bibliography that contains books and websites, which will allow those intrigued by any of the events or individual stories to research them further.

This is a wonderful book, with heart-wrenching and inspiring moments in equal measure, and full of unforgettable characters. It’s fundamental to remember WWI, and its impact on everybody, particularly the children. We should never forget the price paid by both sides, and we must remember there is no such a thing as winning a war, only surviving it, and that applies to whole generations of people, to countries, and to the world at large. I recommend it to anybody interested in gaining a different perspective on WWI, to those researching the topic, to historians, and, in general, to anybody who wants to learn a bit more about that historical period and how it affected the youngest of the population.

Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, and to share, click and comment if you like. And keep reading and reviewing!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

THE SNIPER ENCYCLOPAEDIA: AN A–Z GUIDE TO WORLD SNIPING by John Walter (@penswordbooks). A must for researchers and a fascinating book for anybody interested in the topic #referencebook #militaria

Hi all:

I’m coming a bit left field with this book. I’m not a big fan of firearms, although I’ve used them in some of my books (no personal experience beyond a BB-gun my dad used to have when I was younger), but I was fascinated by this book.

The Sniper Encyclopaedia: An A–Z Guide to World Sniping by John Walter
The Sniper Encyclopaedia: An A–Z Guide to World Sniping by John Walter

The Sniper Encyclopaedia: An A–Z Guide to World Sniping by John Walter.

The Sniper Encyclopaedia is an indispensable alphabetical, topic-by-topic guide to a fascinating subject.

This is a comprehensive work that covers virtually any aspect of sniping. The work contains personal details of hundreds of snipers, including not only the best-known — world renowned gurus such as Vasiliy Zaytsev and Chris Kyle — but also many crack shots overlooked by history. Among them are some of more than a thousand Red Army snipers — men and a surprising number of women, who amassed sufficient kills to be awarded the Medal for Courage and, later, the Order of Glory. Some of the best-known victims of snipers are identified, and the veracity of the most popular myths is explored.

The book pays special attention to the history and development of the many specialist sniper rifles — some more successful than others — that have served the world’s armies since the American Wars of the nineteenth century to today’s technology-based conflicts. Attention, too, is paid to the progress made with ammunition — without which, of course, precision shooting would be impossible. The development of aids and accessories, from camouflage clothing to laser rangefinders, is also considered.

Finally, The Sniper Encyclopaedia examines significant locations and specific campaigns — the way marksman have influenced the course of the individual battles and places which have played a crucial part in the history of sniping, from individual sites to sniper schools and training grounds. The book contains authors’ biographies, a critical assessment of the many books and memoirs on the world of the sniper, and a guide to research techniques.

https://www.amazon.com/Sniper-Encyclopaedia-Z-Guide-Sniping/dp/161200721X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sniper-Encyclopaedia-Z-Guide-Sniping/dp/161200721X/

https://www.amazon.es/Sniper-Encyclopaedia-Z-Guide-Sniping/dp/161200721X/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sniper-Encyclopaedia-Hardback/p/16001

About the author:

John Walter, born in Glasgow in 1951, is among the world’s most prolific writers on small arms—author of seventy books, translated into more than a dozen languages. Walter has worked with edged weapons, bladed tools, firearms, railway locomotives, warships, scientific instruments and even heraldry. Among his published works have been several studies of the Luger pistol; four editions of Rifles of the World; The Airgun Book; The Rifle Story and The Handgun Story; Guns of the Elite and its current successor, Guns of the Elite Forces; The German Rifle; and The Greenhill Dictionary of Guns and Gunmakers.

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback review copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Let me be clear about this: I know next to nothing about weapons in general, and I only know about snipers and their weapons of choice what I’ve picked up in TV series and documentaries, movies, and books. So this is not an expert’s review, rather the opposite.

You’ll probably ask why I was interested in this boo. Partly, because I’ve watched movies and news items about snipers (both modern and historical), and it’s impossible not to recall certain events and think about the people and the weapons behind them. Also, because I’m a writer, and I know how important it is to have reliable sources to research topics we want to write about. I’m also a translator, and after dedicating a fair amount of my time to working on books by other writers, I’ve discovered how complicated it can be to find the right word or term to refer to an object or device you know little about, and how complex it can get to describe an action that might come natural to an expert on the field, but is anything but for somebody totally new to it. Of course, you also have to think that not all readers are going to be experts either. How do you explain something that you don’t understand yourself? After trying to make sure a fight scene in a petrol tanker sounded accurate without having any idea what it looks like inside, I can tell you it’s not easy.

So, beyond my personal curiosity, (and yes, I must confess I’ve always wondered about the kind of training and personality required for somebody to be able to focus on such a task and not think… well, you know what I mean), I thought this sounded like a great resource for researchers and writers, and the reviews from people who knew about the subject reassured me that it wouldn’t disappoint.

And it didn’t. The book is fascinating and, as you can imagine, packed with information. The author explains his methodology, and clearly states that although he has tried to include as much information as possible, the sheer numbers of people and weapons made it necessary to scale down the size of the project. The availability of data was another difficulty. The book refers mostly to USA, UK, German and Russian snipers, and mostly those in the military (Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper credited with somewhere between 505 and 542 kills, depending on the sources, and who proved to be a nightmare for the Russians, who called him ‘the White Ghost’, is also included, and his memoir, called The White Sniper, sounds fascinating, I must say) and/or security forces, and Walter explains that in some cases (for example when having to choose weapons and manufacturers), his personal taste has played a part. He has also included more detailed entries about snipers whose biographies have been published, as people can easily access more information. (There have been, and are, many snippers in the armies of other countries, but their details are not available to outside researchers).

The author includes a page on bibliography and sources, dividing it into general studies, genealogical details, weapons and equipment, and tactics and training. Those include online resources and books that will delight people keen on digging deeper into the topic.

The encyclopaedia is, of course, organized in alphabetic order and full of illustrations, mostly photographs, but also drawings with details of sights and weapons. There are also lists of snipers, some about specific conflicts (WWI, for example), or even battles (Leningrad snipers is one of those), but also lists of male and female top snipers (they are both Russians, as it seems the Russian army uses snipers far more than any others). As an outsider it is a bit strange to think of what these numbers actually mean (the top male “scorer” has over 700 “scores”) and reading this book one’s mind boggles at times. I was fascinated, at the same time, by the female snippers, their pictures, and their stories. Among them, one that will stay with me is the story of Nataliya, or Natasha, Kovshova who fought during WWII and died with Mariya Polivanova after being badly injured, by pulling the pin of a grenade and taking some of the enemies with them. They were made Heroes of the Soviet Union posthumously and, although it seems there have been some questions as to what exactly happened, the basic facts are correct.

As I said, there is especial attention given to snipers who have written books about their experiences or have had books written about them, and that makes this encyclopaedia interesting to those trying to explore or find personal accounts on the topic, as it provides biographical information and also information about the content of the book, if available in English. As the back cover summarises, this book includes: 750 standard entries, 100 extended features and ‘top 20’ lists, over 400 biographies and 200 illustrations, and I recommend it to anybody who wants to gain a solid basis in the knowledge about sniping, the people involved and their weapons. Another great book by Pen & Sword.

Thanks to Rosie, the team of Pen & Sword and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! 🙂

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A Material History of Nazi Germany by Roger Moorhouse (@Roger_Moorhouse) (@penswordbooks) Great images and fabulous writing. #History #Photography

Hi all:

I bring you another book by Pen & Sword, and I think this one will be of interest to many people.

The Third Reich in 100 Objects by Roger Moorhouse

The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A Material History of Nazi Germany by Roger Moorhouse  (Author), Richard Overy (Author, Foreword) A Fantastic Book, didactic, entertaining, and moving. Great images and fabulous writing.

Hitler’s Third Reich is still the focus of numerous articles, books, and films: no conflict of the twentieth century has prompted such interest or such a body of literature.

Approaching the canon of World War II literature is a challenge for a general reader but the 100 objects approach is a novel and accessible presentation.

This is a compelling, frequently shocking and revelatory guide to the Third Reich that has been collated and presented by two of the world’s leading World War II historians.

The photographs gathered by Roger Moorhouse and Roger Moorhouse include Pervitin, Hitler’s Mercedes, Wehrmacht toilet paper, Hitler’s grooming kit, the Nuremberg courtroom, the Tiger Tank, fragments of flak, the Iron Cross and, of course, the Swastika and Mein Kampf.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Third-Reich-100-Objects-Material-ebook/dp/B0761TQX82/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Third-Reich-100-Objects-Material-ebook/dp/B0761TQX82/

Hardback:

https://www.amazon.com/Third-Reich-100-Objects-Material/dp/1784381802/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Third-Reich-in-100-Objects-Hardback/p/13559

Author Roger Moorhouse
Author Roger Moorhouse

About the author:

I was raised in Hertfordshire and ‘enjoyed’ an unspectacular career at Berkhamsted School, before being inspired to return to education by the East European Revolutions of 1989. Thereafter, I enrolled in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of the University of London in 1990 to study history and politics. I graduated with an MA in 1994 and have since studied at the universities of Düsseldorf and Strathclyde, cunningly avoiding gaining a Ph.D. at either.

I began my writing career working for Professor Norman Davies. I collaborated with him on many of his recent publications, including Europe: A History, The Isles: A History, and Rising ’44. This working relationship culminated in 2002 with the publication, in three languages, of a co-authored study of the history of the city of Wrocław (the former German Breslau) entitled Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City.

2006 saw the publication of Killing Hitler, my first solo book. An account of the numerous attempts on Hitler’s life, it was a critical and commercial success and has been published in numerous other languages, including German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Japanese.

My most recent book – entitled Berlin at War – is a social history of Berlin during World War Two, which was published in the summer of 2010. Based on first-hand material such as unpublished diaries, memoirs, and interviews, the book gives a unique “Berlin-eye view” of the war. It has been well-received, with positive reviews in most major publications. Writing in the Financial Times, Andrew Roberts said of it that: “Few books on the war genuinely increase the sum of our collective knowledge of this exhaustively covered period, but this one does.”

My new book, published in August 2014, is The Devils’ Alliance, a history of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, one of the few remaining unexplored areas in the history of World War Two. It is published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Pact’s signature, in August 1939.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roger-Moorhouse/e/B001H6N0AI/

Twitter:

 

My review:

Thanks to Alex and the rest of the team at Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have always been fascinated by antiques and collectibles, not so much for their monetary value, as for the stories (and the History) behind the objects. As museums prove, objects can make us feel closer to other cultures and eras, creating a tangible reminder of lands and times distant from ours. Some objects might have an intrinsic interest (they are made of valuable materials, or by well-known artists), others are interesting because of their owners (kings, queens, or famous historical figures, like writers, inventors, artists…), and others because of what they represent. Although no objects are good or bad in their own right, they become infused with meaning through the use they are put to, and they can make us feel all kinds of emotions, from delight to abject fear.

In this book, the author has collected a hundred objects to give us, as the subtitle states, ‘A Material History of Nazi Germany’. And he achieves his aim with flying colours. The author is an expert on the period and has written many books about Hitler and Nazi Germany, and although I’m sure different people would have chosen differently, the selection he has put together gives the reader a good understanding of all aspects of life in Nazi Germany. We find personal objects, both of the Nazis (from Hitler’s paint box and his moustache brush to medals, decorations, and death cards) and their victims (the well-known Judenstern [the yellow star Jews had to wear), a forced labourer’s ‘Work Card’, or Sophie Scholl’s Matriculation Card [a member of the White Rose resistance movement]), objects that illustrate everyday life under the regime (ration cards, a gas-mask, the devaluated German banknotes, Hindenburg Lights…), examples of propaganda (The Schattenmann [the shadow man, a warning against talking about military secrets], a variety of posters including one for the propaganda anti-Semitic film Der Ewige Jude, the Great German Art Exhibition Catalogue, and the many imposing buildings), objects directly related to the war, including weaponry (planes, tanks, bombs, even the V-2 Missile) and documents. Each object is accompanied by a brief note (around a page or so) explaining its origin and putting it into context.

Richard Overy’s introduction sets well the project of the book and its author and emphasises the importance of image for Hitler and his party. This becomes increasingly evident as one progresses through the book, where there are ample examples of uniforms, symbolism (like their use of runes, the swastika, and the German eagle), badges… The writing is both informative and compelling, and it varies to suit the nature of the object. Sometimes it is descriptive and fairly neutral, but at others, it is impossible to read without feeling grief, sadness, and/or anger. The book has the advantage of not following a narrative thread, whereby it is easy to read in fits and starts, and readers can pick and choose the objects they are interested in, or go through them all, as I did. If we read it from beginning to end, the objects form a chronological history of sorts, as we start with objects that reflect the beginning of the regime, and eventually get to weaponry and documents from the very end of the war. The last object is Göring’s cyanide capsule, so you get the idea.

There were objects I was familiar with, and others that I knew about but had never seen (for example, the iron bed of a psychiatric asylum, that, as a psychiatrist, I found particularly moving and horrifying), and some that were complete surprises, like a Hitler Elastolin Toy Figure, the Mutterkreuz (a cross given to mothers who had 4 children or more. The author summarises it thus: It signified, in effect, the politicisation of the German womb, [Moorhouse, p. 109]), or the very cute ‘Goliath’ miniature tank (sorry, but there are some lighter moments as well. In case you feel curious, you can check it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliath_tracked_mine). What I was more impressed by, apart from the quality of both, images and writing, was the way these disparate objects and the narrative behind them managed to give me a good sense of what life was like at the time, without having to read tonnes and tonnes of pages full of dry information. This book illustrates well the power of images. I have read plenty of books set on that era and watched many movies that take place in the same historical period but seeing the real objects helped me feel closer to the action, the people, and the events than I had ever before.

I recommend this book to people interested in the history of the period who are not big experts on it and don’t want an exhaustive account of battles and events. I also recommend it to anybody thinking about writing a book about the era, or people who design sets or work sourcing props or designing backdrops and objects for theatre, television or film. There is plenty of material to inspire numerous productions, and it is all collected in a single, easy-to-read, and well-indexed volume, with notes that facilitate further research tasks. Another winning volume published by Pen & Sword.

A quick note: my version of the book is a hardback copy, but I’ve checked the e-book version and the images are as good as those in the print version (although depending on the use you are thinking of giving it, you might consider what suits you best, as there’s little difference in price between the two versions, but this varies depending on the store).

Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author for this outstanding book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

 

 

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