/ A long book about WW2?

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tony on 19 Feb 2014
I have a long flight coming up next week, and I don't sleep well on planes, so I need a long book to keep me busy/send me to sleep. I've decided that I don't really know as much about WW2 as I'd like to, so I'm after recommendations for decent accounts of the war. Suggestions?
markh554 on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Depends what you are into, whether it is an official history (Winston Churchill) or a modern take on it (John Keegan, WW2), a specific battle (Robin Neilands - Normandy 1944) (Stalingrad), or a soldiers perspective (Stephen E Ambrose).

A good book is called Blood Red Snow, written from a German POV in Stalingrad.
davidbeynon - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Not the longest but "Most Secret War" by R. V. Jones is well worth a read.

"Rise and fall of the third reich" is very readable, although parts don't don't hold up in the face of more recent evidence.

If fiction/alt history is more your bag then you could try something by David Irving I suppose... Or not.
Trangia - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

The "Battle for Sicily" 1943 by Carlo d'Est.

Detailed and very readable account of this little known campaign

"The Berlin Raids 1943/44" by Martin Middlebook.

The RAF's supreme effort to end the War by targeting Berlin. It failed at the loss of over 600 bombers and their crews.

"Dunkirk" by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore.

Covers the well known evacuation but also the little known story of the the rear guard who were sacrificed, left behind and fought on tenaciously enabling the bulk of the BEF and many French soldiers to escape.
In reply to tony:

Antony Beevor's books are excellent. He has a very ambitious one about the whole of WW2. I'm currently reading Stalingrad, which is really good.
zebidee - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

A brilliant book about WW2 is "The Good War" by Studs Terkel.

Difficult to get hold of though, I think I got my copy from Amazon US.
balmybaldwin - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

for ficiton based in WW2 (and a fair amount of fact) Ken Follet's Winter of the World is good (second part of a trilogy - the first being Fall of Giants set in WW1)
Trangia - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:
Also "Fortress Malta" by James Holland

A detailed account of the siege of Malta, at one stage the most heavily bombed place on earth (there were over 3,000 bombing raids on the tiny island). The Malta convoys and the gallant RAF defence of the island in the face of overwhelming numbers of Axis aircraft. Also the civilian contribution to the battle.
Post edited at 11:20
In reply to Trangia:

> Also "Fortress Malta" by James Holland

> A detailed account of the siege of Malta, at one stage the most heavily bombed place on earth (there were over 3,000 bombing raids on the tiny island). The Malta convoys and the gallant RAF defence of the island in the face of overwhelming numbers of Axis aircraft. Also the civilian contribution to the battle.

My granddad was an anti-aircraft gunner there - something about which he never spoke. It must have been horrific.
tony on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to everyone:

Many thanks - lots to explore. I like the idea of a Studs Terkel book, although I suspect it wouldn't be quite the history lesson I'm looking for.
FactorXXX - on 19 Feb 2014
Steve Perry - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

All Hell Let Loose +1 a fantastic book not to be missed by WW2 enthusiasts wanting to read about the whole conflict with great eye witness reports.
For individual sections of war then Antony Beevor's Stalingrad followed by Berlin are fantastic. Also Alan Clarke's Barbarossa is up there too for me.
Trangia - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to FactorXXX:

> 'All Hell Let Loose' by Max Hastings: -


It was a choice between his magnificent work "Catastrophe" (about the origins of the Great War and the utter incompetence of the political and military leaders on all sides which lead to the most appalling casualty rates on all sides during the opening days of the war in 1914 when massive troop formations blundered about Europe's frontiers like latter day Napoleonic War Armies with little cohesion, planning or leadership. The daily casualty rates on all fronts exceeded anything seen later once trench warfare became established); and "All Hell Let Loose" for my Christmas present.

I'm half way through the former and have the latter on my wish list.

Max Hastings is a very good military historian exposing many of the myths surrounding the two world wars.
jshields - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Steve Perry:

+1 for All Hell Let Loose, probably the best book covering all of WW2 ever done IMO. Stanlingrad is also excellent.
Jon
pneame on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Nearly finished "the desert war" by alan moorehead.

fantastic read - gives good background, and "eyes on the ground" view and some great sketches of the players involved
redjerry - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

The 3 book Richard Evans series is great....should keep you busy for a while.
Trangia - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to pneame:

> Nearly finished "the desert war" by alan moorehead.

> fantastic read - gives good background, and "eyes on the ground" view and some great sketches of the players involved

If you enjoyed that, try "The Desert Generals" by Correlli Barnet.

Fascinating study of the very different characters of O'Connor, Cunningham, Ritchie, Auchinleck and Mongomery, which reminds readers of the three major British victories in the Western Desert, before Monty's Alam Halfa and Alamein, and punctures the inflated Monty myth.....
pneame on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Trangia:

I will - one of the desert generals (not one in that list) was a great uncle, who rather ignominiously got caught and taken to a POW camp in Italy.

"The desert war" makes it clear how easy that would be - dust, chaos, sketchy lines of communication.... oops.
Trangia - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to pneame:
That would have been General Neame, Cyranaica Command, captured along with General O'Connor on 6th April 1941 in their staff car, which as you say had lost its way in the dark, by a German unit operating behind the British lines? Very bad luck indeed.

How interesting for you being his great nephew.

I see that he won the VC at Neuve Chapelle in the Great War, and after his capture he assisted quite a few fellow officers to escape from the Italian POW camp where they were housed.

Quite a character! Did you get to meet him before he died?
Post edited at 19:49
pneame on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Trangia:
I did - he was indeed a character. Very old school - a real gent. Very into bagging big game in his youth - on one occasion, the big game ( a tiger) decided it had had enough and went for him.

Thereafter, it occupied a spot in a glass case just inside the entrance to his home.

One of his sons was also an active mountaineer while in the army.

On one occasion, I was hanging around in Snell's field and one of the lads wandered up -
"Did you see your cousin in the Alepenstock last night?"
"No! Shit. I don't know what he looks like - I was only 6 when I saw him last!"
"Oh! If I'd known, I'd have introduced you!"

We both thought this was hilarious.
I still do.

I still haven't met him (since I was 6)

Oh, and my great uncle also climbed with Frank Smythe.
Post edited at 20:26
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Bobling - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Not WW2 but "The Last Valley" about Dien Bien Phu kept me going on a long flight a few years back, fascinating stuff.
John Stainforth - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Another vote for "Stalingrad".

But if you want a really fun read, I highly recommend "Going Solo" by the superlative writer Roald Dahl. This is about his experiences as a fighter pilot in the RAF during WWII.
lowersharpnose - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:
Some good suggestions. I would add to them:

Why The Allies Won by Richard Overy
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/831378.Why_the_Allies_Won

Hitler & Stalin, Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/782319.Hitler_and_Stalin
Post edited at 00:58
cap'nChino - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Rise and fall of the third Reich is a must read
As it's "the Second World War" by Anthony Beaver

Both would be my first starting position.

Another one if you prefer something a little more light hearted and you want an actual story line is World with out ends by Ken Follett. Though I've just discovered this is part two of three. Does explain a lot.
RichardMc - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

"History of the Second World War" by Liddel Hart is a very good military history.
"Second World War" by Michael Gibert takes a wider view (political as well as military) and gives some insight into the human cost of the struggle.
RichardMc - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to mh554:

> Depends what you are into, whether it is an official history (Winston Churchill) ......

Winston Churchill's History of the Second World War is by no means an official history. But it is a wonderful (biased) account by a major player and well worth reading all six volumes.

Steve Perry - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to RichardMc:

> "Second World War" by Michael Gibert takes a wider view (political as well as military) and gives some insight into the human cost of the struggle.

I read that and it was a good factual book but if you want a book covering the same subject in a much more short winded manner, All Hell Let Loose is a much more captivating read.
markh554 on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to RichardMc:

He seem to rememeber his being Britain's Official History. Might be wrong....
Paul Atkinson - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Whilst I think All Hell Let Loose is an excellent read I wouldn't particularly recommend it as a first book for an all encompassing WWII history. Hastings deliberately takes a slightly different approach so as to make his book complementary to straight histories (he says so in his intro as I recall), looking at the subject as a collection of human experiences rather than more conventional historiography

John Keegan's The Second WW is a superb more standard history and the more recent Andrew Roberts book Storm of War even better IMHO and I would recommend the latter first and foremost to anyone asking what the OP did. Evans is very good but too long and Germany specific for the remit. Gordon Corrigan is interesting and entertaining with some genuinely new thoughts especially on the military side of things but barking mad on some stuff. All the related Hastings and Beevor books are good, especially Beevor's Stalingrad and Hastings' Bomber Command and Armageddon as are those of Richard Overy, particularly Russia's War

Hope there's something of use in there

P
mbh - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

Gerhard Weinberg "A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II"
900+ pages and 170 pages of notes.

I have dipped into this a lot over the last 20 years and find it very good. It is academic rather than racy and journalistic in style, but a good read all the same.
prog99 on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to Paul Atkinson:

I read Most secret war by RV Jones recently (possible recommendation here) which is about the electronic warfare.
Rambles on a bit at times but worth a read.
RockSteady on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

I really liked this book on General W.J. Slim - broadened my perception of WWII into the struggle with Japan in Burma.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Slim-Master-War-Modern-Warfare/dp/184529226X

andymac - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to pneame:
Interesting.

So was your uncle one of the Commanding officers at Goose Green ?

2 Para.?

Reading about him just now.if its him.
Post edited at 18:29
pneame on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to andymac:

Cousin - yes, he was. Apparently his brother (also in the army) was all bent out of shape as he didn't get to go too. From what I've read, it wasn't much fun, so I'm not sure he missed much!

Some suffering, I guess, is all in the eye of the beholder. After all, mountaineering looks pretty weird to those who don't do it.
tony on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to everyone:

Once again, many thanks to everyone. It seems I may need a long cruise, never mind a long flight! I may investigate the availability of some of the suggestions as audiobooks.
Trangia - on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to pneame:

Goodness! You come from a very military family.

Were you in the Army?
neilh - on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

What about the " Band of Brothers" book by Ambrose, adn all the one following the Japanese War in the same vain.
pneame on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to Trangia:

No! I'm not very good with being ordered to do stuff
Jon Read - on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

I'm not a big fan of details of strategy etc, I always wanted to know what it was actually like to be there, and the extraordinary things that happened on a day to day level. I completely recommend any of the "Forgotten Voices" series -- all short personal accounts from The Imperial War museuam interview archive, privates and generals (and civilians) alike.

http://www.forgottenvoices.co.uk/
Trangia - on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to Jon Read:

> I always wanted to know what it was actually like to be there, and the extraordinary things that happened on a day to day level.

"Quartered Safe Out Here" by George MacDonald Fraser (author of the Flashman series) about his everyday life as a squaddy in the fierce jungle fighting in Burma against the Japanese. Pretty brutal stuff from a first class writer.

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andymac - on 21 Feb 2014
In reply to pneame:

No I don't think it was much fun.

From what I've read ,your cousin was one of the most popular 'Ruperts' with the ranks.

And highly thought of.

ena sharples - on 24 Feb 2014
In reply to tony:

"Origins of WW2" A J P Taylor. Contentious theory that Hitler blundered into it, but a good read.

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