Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/January 2017/Book reviews

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Die in Battle Do Not Despair - Peter Stanley

A gun and its crew from one of the two Indian Army artillery batteries which served on Gallipoli

4.5/5 stars

By Nick-D

Die in Battle Do Not Despair is prolific Australian historian Peter Stanley's latest book on the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I. It covers an under-recognised element of this engagement: the substantial contribution made by British Indian Army forces.

The Indian forces comprised the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, two batteries of mountain guns and a large number of mule transport units, and Stanley's achievement in piecing together their part in the campaign from at times sketchy sources is impressive. I found the strongest element of the book to be its first chapters, which explained the unusual structure and purpose of the British Indian Army, and how the units of what was designated "Force G" ended up on Gallipoli. Stanley highlights the contradictory attitudes to the Indian troops by the British, Australian and New Zealand forces: while on one hand the Indians were widely regarded as racially inferior, the white troops had been indoctrinated by the British Empire's propaganda to have very considerable respect for the Indian Army's fighting prowess and traditions. The latter attitude was rightly the case, and Stanley convincingly demonstrates that the well-trained long-service regulars of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade typically out-soldiered the semi-trained white units.

The book's greatest weakness is that, due to the lack of accessible records to draw on, Stanley wasn't able to provide his usual in-depth social history of the Indian soldiers. While he makes good use of the recollections left behind by their (generally white) officers and from other records, what the soldiers thought of the campaign and the white soldiers they fought alongside is never really clear. This lack of records also seems to have constrained the coverage of the mule transport units - Stanley notes that they made a huge contribution to the campaign, with the mule drivers frequently displaying incredible bravery, yet they're only a side note to the book's focus on the infantry and artillery units.

Overall, Die in Battle Do Not Despair is an extremely important contribution to the literature on the Gallipoli Campaign, and is likely to be a key reference for articles covering it and the Indian Army's campaigns of World War I more generally.

Publishing details: Stanley, Peter (2015). Die in Battle, Do Not Despair: The Indians on Gallipoli, 1915. Solihull, United Kingdom: Helion & Company. ISBN 9781910294673.

The British Carrier Strike Fleet After 1945

The British light aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal

3.5/5 stars

By Hawkeye7

In 1945, the Royal Navy had a powerful force of aircraft carriers. While the fleet was not as large as that of the United States Navy, it is worth noting that a British light aircraft carrier was larger than its American counterparts, although the fleet aircraft carriers were smaller than their American cousins. Also, a modern "light" carrier is nearly as large as fleet carrier of the Second World War era.

In the post-war era, the Royal Navy's carriers were constantly active, most notably seeing action in the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Kuwait Crisis in 1961, the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964 and the Falklands War in 1982. The Royal Navy was an innovative service; in the post-war era it invented the angled flight deck, optical landing system, aircraft ski-jump and the amphibious assault ship. The Fleet Air Arm had a poor record of developing aircraft before the Second World War, and was saved by adapting land aircraft, and by buying American designs. In the post-war period it had a better but mixed record; for every far-sighted and brilliant design like the Blackburn Buccaneer and Hawker Siddeley Harrier, there was a failure like the Blackburn Firebrand.

David Hobbs, the author of this 600-page opus really knows his stuff, having served in the Royal Navy as a fixed- and rotary-wing pilot from 1964 to 1997, and as curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum for eight years. Many of the photographs in the book are from his own collection. Sometimes he supposes more knowledge than the reader has. It would have been better to introduce the different aircraft carriers at the beginning of the book; I had to turn to Wikipedia to get them straight. Also the glossary seems comprehensive, but never seems to have the entry you're looking for. What was the 2SL? A SOO? A DLG? Not found in the glossary is the short answer.

These are minor blemishes though. The book is very comprehensive. It contains details about the ships, the aircraft, the equipment and the operations. For any navy type who is looking for arguments as to why aircraft carriers are a good idea, this has hundreds of pages of pointed examples, some you may not think about. For example, in a crisis in the Persian Gulf, how can airlift bring troops from Europe if they don't have permission to overfly the countries of the Middle East? Nonetheless, he tries to be fair to the RAF, pointing out many examples of successful inter-service cooperation as well as the occasional embarrassing gaffes. Nor does the Royal Navy leadership escape criticism. The CVA-01 controversy has its own chapter.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in aircraft carriers.

Publishing details: Hobbs, David (2015). The British Carrier Strike Fleet After 1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-601-8. OCLC 920863371.

The Spy Catchers. Volume Three: The Secret Cold War 1975–1989

3.0/5 stars

By Hawkeye7

The official history of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) concludes in this volume, written by John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley. Crawley has been working at the War Memorial on the official history of Australian operations in Afghanistan.

This volume covers the period from The Dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 to the end of the Cold War with the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. While Malcolm Fraser owed his rise to the prime ministership in large part to voters frightened by the pace of change under Whitlam and wanting it arrested, if not rolled back, Fraser by and large continued processes and policies initiated by his predecessor. (The manner in which he seized power meant that public appearances were usually accompanied by the throwing of eggs and tomatoes, generating additional work for ASIO.)

In the particular case of ASIO, Whitlam had initiated a far-ranging inquiry into the organisation under Justice Edward Woodward. This reported under Fraser and, to the surprise of many, he accepted its findings and recommendations, and implemented them. Few working for ASIO were unaffected by the reforms, which involved a new legislative framework, and moving the office from Melbourne to Canberra in 1984. Further reform came at the hands of the Hawke Government, which took office in 1983, in the wake of the Combe-Ivanov affair, which receives detailed treatment.

Perhaps because the period is more recent, the book generally lacks the sense of strangeness and desperate need for background that was so evident in the previous volumes. Nonetheless, it still reads like it was written by Baby Boomers for Baby Boomers. It mentions incidents such as the Sheraton Hotel incident and the Franklin Dam controversy out of the blue with no context whatsoever when Millennials and the younger members of Generation X will have no memory of this.

The book has to grapple with the fact the the Cold War, although in its final throes, was a very active period so far as the intelligence services were concerned. Unfortunately, during the slack 1960s and early 1970s, ASIO was penetrated by the KGB, resulting in a loss of cooperation with the United States - precisely the circumstance that organisation had originally been set up to avoid.

If you read the other other two volumes, you know what you're in for. In many ways though, this volume is the most readable but also, given the period it covers, likely to be the least read.

Publishing details: Blaxland, John; Crawley, Rhys (2016). Volume Three: The Secret Cold War 1975–1989. The Official History of ASIO. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-76029-321-5. OCLC 960694822.

Recent external reviews

US Navy battleships during the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Davies, J.D. (2008). Pepy's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation, 1649-1688. Barnsley, United Kingdom: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 1848320140.

Silverman, David J. (2016). Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674737471.

Gerwarth, Robert (2016). The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End. New York City: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374282455.

Twomey, Steve (2016). Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781476776460.
Nelson, Crain (2016). Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness. New York City: Scribner.
Best, Nicholas (2016). Seven Days of Infamy: Pearl Harbor Across the World. New York City: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 1250078016.

Richie, Alexandra (2013). Warsaw 1944 : Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw uprising. New York City: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374286558.

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