Spartacus Review

Volume 48: 29th August, 2010

Second World War

Title: Firefighters and the Blitz

Author: Francis Beckett


Publisher: Merlin Press

Price: £13.95

Bookshop: Amazon

Spartacus Website: Firewatching


Firefighters in the Second World War were as crucial to victory as the army - and they ran the same sort of risks. Sixteen thousand were killed and 180,000 injured. The rest never forgot the dreadful things they saw: "Once you've pulled a dead child out of a burning building, you never forget it", said one of them. This is their story, from the Blitz in 1940 to the doodlebugs in 1944. It is also the story of how the modern fire service was created, under the pressure of a new sort of war, and of how the firefighters' own trade union made it work.

Title: Long Range Desert Group Patrolman

Author: Tim Moreman


Publisher: Osprey

Price: £11.9

Bookshop: Amazon

Spartacus Website: Desert War


Nicknamed the 'Libyan Desert Taxi Service' by the SAS, the Long Range Desert Group was tasked with strategic reconnaissance and raiding operations deep inside the enemy-held deserts of North Africa. Armed with light weapons only, and equipped with specially converted light cars and trucks capable of withstanding the harsh conditions, the LRDG quickly proved it could operate in parts of the desert which other troops, including the enemy, found impassable. This new Warrior title, examines the soldiers of the LRDG from the group's formation, through training, to combat in vast, lonely, and deadly deserts of North Africa.

Title: Killing the Bismarck

Author: Iain Ballantyne


Publisher: Pen & Sword

Price: £20.00

Bookshop: Amazon

Spartacus Website: Bismarck


In May 1941, the German battleship Bismarck, accompanied by heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, broke out into the Atlantic to attack Allied shipping. The Royal Navy ‘s pursuit and subsequent destruction of Bismarck was an epic of naval warfare. Astonishingly, nearly seventy years on, this new book by Iain Ballantyne, Killing the Bismarck, alters our perception of this legendary episode, by focusing on the eyewitness accounts of British sailors, marines and carrier aviators, some of them published for the first time in a compelling narrative. During this action-packed story we go aboard cruisers playing a lethal cat and mouse game as they shadow Bismarck and experience the horror of the British battlecruiser Hood’s destruction, a disaster that filled the men of pursuing Royal Navy units with a thirst for revenge. We fly in Swordfish torpedo-bombers as valiant aircrews take off in atrocious weather and defy storms of anti-aircraft fire during desperate bids to cripple Bismarck. We sail in destroyers as they make daring torpedo attacks, battling mountainous seas. During the final showdown battleships Rodney and King George V, supported by cruisers, destroy the pride of Hitler’s fleet in a close-quarters battle, the terrible reality of which has never been fully depicted in print before. We also experience Winston Churchill’s anxious vigil and learn of the key role the victory played in establishing the ‘Special Relationship’ between the USA and UK. The author analyses the myths surrounding Bismarck and her destruction, considering whether they have any substance. Included are portraits of the short fighting lives of legendary British warships, such as the battleship Prince of Wales and destroyer Cossack as well as men who sailed to death or glory in them. Providing a harrowing insight into the unremitting cruelty of war at sea, as well as the courage and compassion of frail humans pitted against savage weather and plunged into brutal combat, Killing the Bismarck is delivered with the verve of a novel, taking the reader on a roller-coaster ride in which each twist and turn yields new shocks.