Andro Linklater

‘Uncle Bill’ as the troops remembered him

Uncle Bill, by Russell Miller - review

Given the outcome of recent military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is pertinent to look for one particular quality…

Russian Roulette, by Giles Milton - review

Had Onan not spilled his seed upon the ground, he might have invented invisible ink. The possibility had not occurred…

Beware of the sheep: an Aubrac landscape

Notes on…Walking in the Auvergne

The homicidal sheepdog that launched itself at me from behind a grassy hillock, had the look of a demented hearth…

Saving Italy, by Robert M. Edsel - a review

During the civil war, the Puritan iconoclast William Dowsing recorded with satisfaction his destructive visit in 1644 to the parish…

The end of the road for the British: Cornwallis surrenders to George Washington at Yorktown, October 1781

The Men Who Lost America, by Andrew O’Shaughnessy - review

The birth of the United States was a more complex — and less heroic — drama than the one enshrined in American folklore, says Andro Linklater

The Tank war, by Mark Urban - review

In November 1941, Sergeant Jake Wardrop narrowly escaped being killed when his tank was crippled in the midst of a…

Life and Letters, by Allan Massie - review

It is a safe bet that Alex Salmond has no immediate plans to embrace Allan Massie as one of Scotland’s…

A chilling reconstruction of the executions of Flying Officer Gordon Kidder and Squadron Leader Thomas Kirby-Green

The Real Great Escape, by Simon Read — review

The scene is chilling. Four men stand in the snow, all in uniform. The men are in pairs, one in…

Fighter pilots under instruction, June 1943.

Winning the war with wheezers

The Anfa Hotel in Casablanca has seen better days. Seventy years ago it was the grandest hotel in Morocco, good…

D’Annunzio as the soldier poet by Tancredi Scarpelli

Italy’s first Duce

There is something to be said for a bald-headed gnome with the power, according to his biographer, to seduce any…

Eavesdropping on the enemy

Say ‘Colditz’, and the name immediately triggers an image of prisoners of war digging tunnels, building gliders and in general…

Map of the World by Abu Muhammad Al-Idrisi (c.1100-1164), geographer and cartographer to the court of King Roger II (c.1095-1154) at Palermo

Selective vision

In 1904, the great Halford Mackinder, founder of the modern academic discipline of geography, published one of the most subversive…

Fading ambition

‘Despite 30 years of war,’ remarked General Stanley McChrystal, the commander in 2009 of NATO forces in Afghanistan, ‘civilisation grows…

The courage of countless generations

The most stirring sermon I ever heard was delivered by a company sergeant-major in the Black Watch to a cadre…

Some legends flourish …

Confronted by the dead Athenian heroes of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles gave voice in his funeral oration to an idea…


Target man

Spencer Perceval, the only British prime minister to be assassinated, had made an army of enemies


Not quite cricket

To the French, Albion’s expertise in perfidy will come as no surprise. But centuries of warfare have given them time…

Triumph of the redcoats

Given the choice between philosophising in the company of Socrates or fighting in the army of the soldier-monarch Charles XII…


To the Ends of the Earth by T.M. Devine

When Scotland’s rugby team landed in Invercargill for the World Cup, they were greeted by a piper in full Highland…

Losing the rat race

This is a book for anyone whose blood ever ran chill on reading the most sinister recipe in fiction, Samuel Whiskers’ instructions on how to cook Tom Kitten: ‘Anna Maria, make me a kitten dumpling roly-poly pudding for my dinner, make it properly with breadcrumbs.’ With or without breadcrumbs, or indeed butter and flour as Anna Maria preferred, rats will eat anything, dead or alive, from kittens to albatrosses.

Patience v. panache

The square jaw and steely gaze are deceptive.


‘I told them’

No messenger bearing bad news can expect to be popular.


Alone on a wide, wide sea

It must be heaven to wake up inside the imagination of a mapmaker.


. . . and they did to us

The craters are all filled in, the ruins replaced, and the last memories retold only in the whispery voices of the old.


Tried and tested

In June 1964, when Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for acts of sabotage against the apartheid government of South Africa, he was, as photographs reveal, a burly, blackhaired man, with a handsome, pugnacious grin.