Patience v. panache

The square jaw and steely gaze are deceptive.

Bearing the brunt

Ostensibly this small book is a jolly and true story (illustrated with some charming black-and-white snapshots) about the military experiences of Wojtek (pronounced Voycheck), the bear who, bought as a cub by Polish soldiers in Persia, earned name, rank and number as the mascot of the 22nd Company of the Artillery Supply Command, 2nd Polish Corps.


Might and wrong

‘Was all this the realisation of our war aims?’, Malcolm Muggeridge asked as he surveyed the desolation of Berlin in May 1945.


Aces high

Seventy years after the RAF repelled the Luftwaffe, the Battle of Britain continues to have a powerful resonance.


The map turns red

Norman Stone forsook the chair of modern history at Oxford university for Ankara after realising that the ‘conversation at high tables would generally have made the exchanges in the bus- stop in the rain outside seem exhilarating’.


A dangerous fellow

Do we need another huge life of Arthur Koestler? He wrote a great deal about himself, including three autobiographical works: Spanish Testament (1937), describing his experience as a death-row prisoner of General Franco, Arrow in the Blue (1952) and The Invisible Writing (1954).


A society celebrating itself

The years between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, argues Holger Hoock, ‘saw Britain evolve from a substantial international power yet relative artistic backwater into a global naval, commercial and imperial superpower as well as a leading cultural power in Europe.


Macabre success story

Ben Macintyre has taken a well-known story of wartime deception, embellished it, and shown that it was even more ingenious and even more risky than we had all supposed.


Elder, but no better

William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham was hailed by Victorian schoolboys as the man who made England great.

Poisonous relations

‘The Axis powers and France,’ declared Marshall Pétain and Hitler at Montoire in October 1940, ‘have a common interest in the defeat of England as soon as possible.’ Why this should have been so is one of the many interesting questions to which this book offers no satisfactory answer.

Sideshow on the lake

During the night of 9 February 1916, two men were sitting on opposing shores of Lake Tanganyika.

When words were scarce

Most of us are brought up not badly, but wrongly.

Model of resilience

At a time when the British Army is going through something of a crisis — plucked from the frying pan of Iraq only to be plunged into the fire of Afghanistan, with inadequate equipment, a lack of clear objectives, mounting casualties and dwindling public support — it might not appear to be the best moment to publish a history of the Second Service’s achievements since the days of Cromwell. 

Karl Marx got it right

Whether the refusal to allow the Confederate states the right to self-determination, flying as it did in the face of the Declaration of Independence, was the first overt act of American imperialism is a question that goes largely undiscussed.

A starring role for the Tsar

In reviewing Robert Harvey’s The War of Wars: The Epic Struggle Between Britain and France, 1793-1815 in these pages three years ago, I asked the question, ‘Who, in the end, defeated Napoleon Bonaparte?’; or rather, I repeated the question that Harvey himself posed at the end of his comprehensive account of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

Darkness at dawn

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, by Anthony Beevor
The Forgotten Voices of D-Day, by Roderick Bailey, in association with the Imperial War Museum


Order out of chaos

The English Civil Wars, 1640-1660, by Blair Worden

Behind the fighting lines

Memories of an SOE Historian, by M. R. D. Foot

The secrets of Room 40

‘Blinker’ Hall, Spymaster, by David Ramsay

Memoirs of the Great War

Survivors of a Kind, by Brian Bond

Not just Hitler

The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945, by Richard L. Evans

The spice of danger

From the Front Line: Family Letters & Diaries, 1900 to the Falklands & Afghanistan, by Hew Pike