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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

German Special Operations Book Of The Year

Prewar missions over the UK and Poland; German airfields behind Soviet lines and a "Tatzelwurm" mission against Stalin himself - there is so much amazing stuff in this book, and not just about the Luftwaffe´s most secret missions. Some spectacular photos are also in the book.

The two Russian authors Dmitry Degtev and Dmitry Zubov shed light on several German top secret missions with the help of both Russian archives and previous books only available in Russian. I reckon very few people in the West have seen most of the info and photos presented in this book. It starts with naming Luftwaffe officers involved in prewar reconnaissance missions over Poland, the Soviet Union and the UK. These missions were done mainly by using Deutsche Lufthansa aircraft and the first mission over the UK seems to have taken place in 1937. There are several exact officer and aircraft details in the text but here, like in other places in the book, one would have liked to have seen original documents and/or archival details - because the information is of such great interest. However, later on in the book some original wartime documents are shown, regarding other missions.

The invasion of Norway was of course preceded by secret Luftwaffe reconnaissance flights but nowhere before have I read about the exact aircraft used, and other details. There is also a Swedish connection as the reconnaissance aircraft mostly then used were Fw 200 Condors and part of the trip to and from Norway was a route over Sweden already frequented by civilian Fw 200s from Deutsche Lufthansa.

Most of the book is of course devoted to the Eastern Front and from these pages I believe almost every reader will learn new things about German spies, their equipment, the aircraft used and several secret German airfields behind the Soviet lines. The latter can be explained by very few radar stations, no Soviet night fighters as such and vast uninhabited areas. The many spy missions launched by the Germans over the Soviets, and much increased in numbers after the first German defeats, caused the Soviets to form two new formations: destroyer (anti-sabotage) battalions and a new type of security police, SMERSH, an abbreviation for "Death to spies". But, as the authors also note, quite often the Soviet security organs arrested people who had nothing to do with the Luftwaffe, Abwehr (German military intelligence) or SD (the SS intelligence service). These three German organs came to work together on the Eastern Front to such a degree that the title of the book might as well have contained the words "German special operations". 

Having an interest in the Arctic I was especially keen to read the sections about German insertions in the Arkhangelsk and Komi regions. Even though I have read some about these missions in Finnish books I found lots of new details in The Luftwaffe´s Secret WWII Missions. There are also some to me new details about German operations in Iraq and Iran, even illustrated with a Luftwaffe aerial photograph of an airfield near Teheran. But even more spectacular are the often illustrated pages of the special ops with the rare and futuristic Ar 232 "Tatzelwurm". It had a distinct advantage for special ops: "When taking off and landing on rough ground, eleven additional pairs of small wheels under the lower fuselage came into play, to which special rubber caterpillar tracks could be fitted if necessary."

The highlight of the book is in my opinion the description of Peter Tavrin´s failed but still most amazing Kremlin mission, that includes both German and Soviet photographs and Soviet documents that highlight the role of a "Tatzelwurm" in this desperate 007-type mission to assassinate Stalin. These pages could quite easily be transformed into a blockbuster or a TV series (isn't there already a Russian movie?).

The book ends with psychological portraits of Hitler and the Abwehr´s Wilhelm Canaris, which might seem a bit odd given the Luftwaffe title. But after having read these portraits I think I see the point of the authors. With men like Hitler and Canaris at the top, no secret mission could have altered the final outcome.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Das Book

OK, you have seen "Das Boot" and want to know more about the U-boat arm, its submarine types, bunkers, missions, special insignia, awards, aces and downfall. You are also keen to see original artifacts up close. Well, in that case this new book is what you are looking for.   

U-Boats At War In 100 Objects 1939-1945 is written by Gordon Williamson and the name will probably ring a bell with many reading these words, as he has written more than 40 books - many about German WWII armed forces. Because of his long experience and not least several visits in Germany he has been able to produce a simply stunning book with 100 short but still rich chapters. Each chapter is illustrated with at least one high quality photograph, often more than one and quite often in colour.

Here are just a few of the chapter titles/subjects: The Snorkel; Enigma; Air Support; The U-Boat War Badge; Award Documents; Clocks; Toilet Facilities; The Atlantic Bunkers; The Visor Cap; Propaganda; Hygiene; U-Bootsfrontspange.

For Nordic readers there are two parts of particular interest: The Norwegian Bases and the Type XXI Elektroboot. The latter is the very advanced submarine type featured on the cover of one of my Swedish language books, as one of these submarines was salvaged by the Swedish Navy and affected Swedish submarine design a great deal. Well, that is not unique, German submarines in one way or another affected all postwar navies.

It is no wonder that the recently taken photos are in high quality colour, but it is quite amazing how Gordon Williamson has been able to find several wartime colour photos that I have not seen before. 

Directors of future "Das Boot" films/episodes would do well to purchase a copy of this book, that I will call "Das Book". They should read it carefully and have it handy during filming.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Finest Aviation Book I Have Seen

I have previously been impressed by Mikael Forslund´s work, but his latest book, about the American, British, German, Italian and SAAB bombers in the Swedish Air Force 1924-58, is so stunning it is doubtless the finest aviation book I have yet come across. But there is one annoying thing about it.

This superbly illustrated 296 page aircraft book in A4 format has a title that I find a bit misleading: Swedish Bomber Colours 1924-1958. Given the narrow focus of the title and the rather high price of the book I reckon more than a few aviation buffs will wonder if this book is really worth the money. Well, the camouflage and markings of the aircraft in question are certainly covered in the best possible way both by spectacular photographs, several in colour, and many exclusive colour profiles. But the thing is that this book provides so much background and detailed history about the aircraft types and their use that it is more of a bomber aircraft encyclopedia than just a book about paint and markings. In other words the book delivers more than the title promises. Of course, that is better than the other way around, but it may also make some people refrain from getting this book. Now, hopefully some of you who have doubts are reading these words.  

Here are the aircraft types featured in this book, first I list the Swedish Air Force designation and then the international name:

B 2 - FIAT BR 1
B 3 - Junkers Ju 86
B 4 - Hawker Hart
B 5 - Norhrop 8A-1
B 6 - Republic 2-PA Guardsman
B 7 - Fokker G.1 (not delivered but still featured on one page)
B 16A - Caproni Ca 313
B 17 - SAAB 17
B 18 - SAAB 18

Let me add that all variants are featured. Then there are the wonderful sections about Swedish bombers in foreign service, mainly Danish SAAB B 17 bombers in 1945 and the SAAB B 17s in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian photos and interview are incredible and I was very surprised to learn that two former Ethiopian B 17As in 2020 were being restored in Lithuania, of all places.

If you are into building scale models of Swedish bomber aircraft and want to find good photos and colour profiles this book will be like Eldorado for you. But again, this book is much more than a book for scale model enthusiasts, it will delight any Swedish Air Force buff and it also constitutes a great source for researchers and writers. Well done, Mr. Forslund, very well done!

Friday, December 11, 2020

P-51 Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was first flown operationally not by the USAAF but by the Royal Air Force (RAF). This is reflected in this new book that should please both warbird buffs in general and especially modellers - here you will find sharp reviews of P-51 kits in all scales.

This book combines facts about the various Mustangs produced for the RAF and USAAF; text about how they performed (not least against the German Me 262); splendid b/w and color photos from WWII and the Korean War; superb color profiles; some photos of the plane in smaller air forces (including Sweden´s) plus a beautiful section about the plane in model form. 

The chosen photographs are excellent and I have to mention one in particular, of Major James H. Howard - seeing the photo of him and his plane marked for six victories over German aircraft and six victories over Japanese immediately inspired me to build his particular plane. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for a single-handed battle against over 30 enemy fighters.

Before opening this book I was just vaguely aware of the last Mustang, the Twin Mustang, basically two Mustang fuselages joined together. Weird design - I didn't think it had seen any service. But I was wrong, during the Korean War Twin Mustangs were among the first US aircraft to fight over Korea and they soon, as well as normal Mustangs, showed that they were not obsolete. In my mind the Korean War was a jet fighter war, so the book´s section about Mustangs over Korea held several surprises for me.

Of the book´s 96 large size pages, 37 are devoted to the Mustang in model form, starting with the Academy Mustangs in 1/72 scale and then covering the different 1/48 and 1/32 scale models by various manufacturers. I was surprised at the large number of different kits and appreciate very much how the authors describe the pros and cons of them. It is also in the model section that one finds two photos of Clarence "Bud" Anderson´s "Old Crow". Considering both his Swedish roots and ace status I plan to build  his plane in the near future and while doing so will no doubt have good use of this fine aircraft study produced by Robert Jackson and Lynn Ritger. "Bud" is still alive (!) and I hope he will soon be reading these words.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

The LRDG In Action 1940-1943


This book is different from most books about the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) as it contains a great deal of rare or never before published photographs. It includes a lot of details of special interest to military vehicle buffs, special forces insignia collectors and scale modelers.


The New Zealander and LRDG buff Brendan O´Carroll has made this book in the series “Images of War” truly stand out. To start with, most books in this series are thinner. This one is 215 pages long and largely photographs but also some really good text. Sure, it does contain some photos I have seen before – but as Mr. O´Carroll is a true expert who knows how to write informative captions he has added new value to those photos. 


The many images in The Long Range Desert Group In Action 1940-1943 were taken both by official photographers and the LRDG men themselves, many come from private photo albums, drawers etc. The quality of the photos from personal cameras is not seldom poor (some have been enhanced), but this can both be forgiven, as they can still reveal a lot, and be explained – the films were often developed in Cairo photo shops with unclean water. The resulting images thus could show not only specks of dust but also hairs and parts of insects. Still, there are also plenty of photos in Brendan O´Carroll´s new book that are clear and sharp. Being Swedish I was particularly happy to find a new and crisp photo of a Bofors (made in Sweden) mounted on an LRDG Ford.


Uniforms and insignia of patrolmen are featured in some superb photographs I have never seen before. LRDG members could certainly look very strange and exotic! 


Several images ought to constitute strong inspiration for dioramas, and some of these also feature non-LRDG vehicles and I here have to make special mention of an Afrika Korps Panzerfunkwagen and a Marmon Herrington armoured car of the King´s Dragoon Guards. Simply stunning photos.


Those of you who have read the LRDG book I wrote with Karl-Gunnar Norén may recall the story of Nick Wilder, the LRDG captain who performed a miracle for Montgomery nor far from Tataouine, the town that later became Tatooine in the Star Wars films. Well, sadly we could not locate any good enough photos of Captain Wilder. But Brendan O´Carroll has succeeded in finding some photos of Wilder in preparation for the attack on the Barce airfield. It is just incredible to see these photos.    


You might think that the book ends with the LRDG operations in Tunisia – but this it does not! Instead, it follows the desert veterans to their next assignment as part of the Raiding Forces, Middle East, made up of around 200 LRDG patrolmen and 150 men of the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) and No. 30 Commando. In other words the book ends with some photos from Greek Islands. As soon as I saw them I started thinking about visiting these islands in a year or two. The vaccinations have started folks, so let us start planning to visit LRDG sites again – yet another reason to purchase The Long Range Desert Group In Action 1940-1943.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

SAS Jeep Operations in Germany and Norway

It´s not every day that you find a new book about the SAS in Norway and discover one more Nordic in the ranks of the SAS. Well, With the SAS Across the Rhine is mainly about final operations on German soil. Still, it is well worth getting and now for some details.


Unlike some SAS books this one by the late (he died in 2002) Colonel Ian Wellsted OBE, MA, is very personal, it has plenty of details about his love life. This may put off some readers, but should not – because Wellsted´s memoir highlights something probably quite common – how a turbulent emotional conflict at home can follow a soldier to the battlefield and affect his behaviour a lot.    


In January 1945 Ian Wellsted is trained in the French alps for operations in Norway together with a Danish SAS member I had never heard of before. No, I am not talking about Anders Lassen VC. Every Nordic reader into SAS history knows about Lassen. Wellsted writes about Paul Jensen, a former Spanish Civil War volunteer who after the German invasion of his homeland had become active in a Danish resistance organization until he had to flee to the UK, where he joined the SAS. No year for this is given but Wellsted writes about the man on several pages and Danish history buffs should thus be able to track him down. Would love to find out more about Paul Jensen, or perhaps that was not his actual name? Let me know, dear Danish readers.


To get into the right shape for Norway the SAS men are helped by French alpine rangers, chasseurs alpins, and the part about them was for me extra enjoyable as I have had the pleasure of observing them on an exercise. To be precise I was skiing with the 27thAlpine Ranger Battalion. I thus relate to Ian Wellsted´s warm feelings for his cool French hosts. 


After about a month in the alps the SAS skiers were told Norway was no longer a top priority (but Norway will come back on the agenda) and they were instead sent to Germany to there constitute an advance party with armoured jeeps. So, all you SAS jeep fans, here is a book you will definitely want to read. Wellsted´s jeep battle accounts are supported by 16 photos, not always top quality but none of which I have seen before, and some tactical maps. 


In Germany the author confronts not only German snipers but also a most tense situation with one of his own that obviously is suffering from extreme battle fatigue. 


Once Germany has fallen Norway returns on the SAS agenda. Of course, we now all know that this also broke the German will to fight on in Norway. But at the time things were not so evident, and Wellsted paints a vivid picture of what Norway was like just after the general German surrender. One only wishes this part had been a bit longer and that there had been more photos from it. But the one photo that there is, is of particular interest, with many nice jeep details.


With the SAS Across the Rhine (155 pages) ends with a very modern take on what the WWII SAS was all about and lessons to be learnt from them. This part has been written by one of New Zealand´s greatest SAS history buffs, Terence Gardiner, a retired air commodore, and is in itself worth your time. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hitler´s V-weapons

The story of the battle against the German V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket is more fascinating than I thought. The official history of this battle, recently compiled by John Grehan, reminds of how the unmanned aerial vehicle made its debut long ago and includes Norwegian and Swedish aspects.    

The very secret war against the V-1 and V-2 actually began in Norway already in November 1939, most unexpectedly. This was several months before the country was invaded and became a battleground. What happened was that the British Embassy in Oslo then received two letters from an anonymous German scientist whose name turned out to be Hans Ferdinand Mayer. The embassy staff passed on his letters to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6) HQ in London for further analysis. The letters turned out to be a leak from the heart of German high tech weapons research, or as the official history puts it: "the first serious evidence to fall into British hands that the Germans were developing rockets for military purposes". 

It is almost beyond belief how much the Germans poured into the V-1 and V-2 projects and this new book brings home both the scale of the German efforts and how the British analysts and leaders learnt of them and tried to prepare themselves for what was to come, and then acted. What the rocket threat more exactly consisted of became a lot clearer thanks to a V-2 that accidentally flew to Sweden on the 13th of June 1944. It was an incredible moment to stand by this rocket´s crater - it is still well preserved in a dark forest not too far from Kalmar in south Sweden. In fact, this crater is one of the highlights in my latest book.  

Having recently researched the V-2 that ended in Sweden I can say that I know of no previous book that mentions the following aspect of what happened once the Swedish authorities had become aware of the cause of the explosion. Basically all relevant previous books report that debris from the exploded V-2 was collected and brought to Swedish technical experts and then the debris was sent on to the Allies, to British experts in Farnborough. However, Hitler´s V-weapons also states that two British technical intelligence officers were allowed to enter Sweden soon after the explosion, and here immediately made some important discoveries. In other words the first Allied examination  of a V-2 took place not in Farnborough but in Sweden.

There is also an exciting "what if" scenario in Hitler´s V-weapons - the Special Operations Executive (SOE) selected a German technician for capture, a key person for the V-weapons. But the man turned out to be so closely guarded that the SOE deemed it impossible to get him alive. 

Well, this 328 page book with 16 photographs (some quite moving) should please both V-weapon and UAV buffs, as well as civil defense and London historians.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Battle for Norway 1940-1942

If you are researching or wargaming Norway 1940 and/or Operation Claymore 1941, this book will be of great interest to you. Because in The Battle for Norway 1940-1942 you will find the original words of the commanding British officers. Written not with hindsight, but as they saw things at the time.

This 174 page book is mainly a collection of wartime despatches and is very ably introduced by the men who have compiled them, John Grehan and Martin Mace. They correctly point out the crucial factor for the Norwegian campaign of 1940, air superiority. As the Allies never achieved air superiority over Norway their attempts at contesting the German invasion forces were doomed. 

From a Swedish perspective it is of special interest to see how clearly the value of the Swedish port of Luleå is stated. "To interfere with ore supplies to Germany from Luleå" is the second priority of the British forces. After that came preserving "a part of Norway as a seat of Government for the Norwegian King and Government". I incorrectly supposed that Luleå came after that.  

On the other hand, the despatches and reports from Operation Claymore, the March 1941 raid on the Norwegian Lofoten Islands, are full of successful action. It was time for Hitler to taste some of his own medicine - the element of surprise. To attain this the Royal Navy first had to reach an exactness of timing, and so it did. The list of shipping and factories (fish oil plants) destroyed is impressive.

From a Norwegian perspective it is pleasant to read how highly the Norwegian detachment commanded by Captain Martin Linge was praised. In the relevant passage it becomes clear why Martin Linge became the founder of the most celebrated Norwegian WWII unit, the Linge Company of the Special Operations Executive.   

For researchers the index of persons is great. There are not that many illustrations (16) but the book still gets a high score as it constitutes a source of great historical value.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Most Amazing Tank Destroyer Ever


Which tank destroyer can be called the most effective? We could probably debate that forever. However, I find one tank destroyer a bit more fascinating than the rest. Not least because after 76 years it is still in service. There is now a brilliant book in English about it.


Both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union produced some larger and deadlier tank destroyers than the Soviet SU-100. But in the Red Army the SU-100 was the most powerful medium tank destroyer. At medium ranges it could take out both Panthers and Tigers, even King Tigers. So, why has not that much been written about the SU-100 in English? Well one reason is that it entered service only in the fall of 1944. Another being that you basically have to be Russian and work in Russia many years to produce a book like this. Well, half of the pair behind SU-100 Self-Propelled Gun is Nikolai Polikarpov, chief editor of M-Hobby, a Russian modelling magazine which has been in publication since 1993. I read several of the first issues and still have them. Mr. Polikarpov´s research is one reason this new book is a dream come true for Soviet era AFV modellers. But it is also rich in details for military vehicle buffs. There is no detail of the SU-100 that is not featured, also in splendid colour photographs. The other author of the book, James Kinnear, has brought with him long experience of writing on military subjects, e.g. for IHS Jane´s defence yearbooks and Osprey Vanguard. In addition, the Swedish publisher, Canfora, has done a splendid job presenting the work of the authors. 


The combat debut of the SU-100 took place in Hungary in the first days of 1945. Here one of the few problems with the vehicle instantly became obvious, it lacked secondary armament, i.e. machine guns. This of course meant that to defend the vehicle against German infantry the crew would largely have to rely on personal small arms (SMGs) and hand grenades. The passage about the German documents about SU-100 employment in Hungary is sobering, evidently both combatants misidentified each others AFVs. 


The pages about SU-100s in post-1945 service are amazing if one is also a Cold War history buff. In Soviet service the type was formally taken out of service in 1968. But that was not the end, as it then entered “strategic reserve storage” and was at least returned to some active service during the 1980s. The Soviet forces in Afghanistan used SU-100s to knock out resistance fortifications. 


There are amazing sections about the SU-100 in Czechoslovak and Cuban service. In 1961 both SU-100s and T-34-85s were in combat against the American sponsored landings on Cuba. The photos from Cuba should also inspire any Cold War modeler, a great deal.


Then there is the story of the SD-100 (Czech-made SU-100) on display in the UKs fabulous Tank Museum at Bovington. I had no idea that it is one of several SD-100s knocked out by British paras in Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis. In general, the info and photos about preserved SU-100s and SD-100s is one of my favourite parts of the book.


The most remarkable thing, in my view, is the fact that several SU-100 again entered combat in 2014, when several companies of SU-100s were employed in the Yemeni Civil War. Accordingly, the last of the excellent colour profiles in the book shows a SU-100 in 2017, captured by Houthi rebels from government forces. During the Yemeni Civil War a number of SU-100s have of course been destroyed, but in 2020 at least one SU-100 remained in operation.  


The photographs in the book showing the SU-100 in operational WWII service are not that many, but on the other hand they are mostly of very high quality. I am especially fascinated by the image from Berlin April 1945 with two officers in British or Polish uniforms – the perfect subject for a small diorama. 


This book is so new it even contains photographs from the 75thanniversary Victory Parade in Moscow 2020, when no less than seven working SU-100s paraded across Red Square. SU-100 Self-Propelled Gun is the second in the series “Red Machines” from Canfora. The first was T-60 Small Tank & Variants


To sum things up, this is the way.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Surprisingly Good German Special Forces Memoir

The special forces of German WWII military intelligence, the Brandenburgers, are not as well known as the British SAS, but just as interesting. However, I have to confess that the title of this book made me think that it would not be as well-written and credible as it turned out to be. 

To me the title Blood and Soil somehow signalled propaganda. Still, I was very curious to read this book as the sources about the Brandenburgers are not that many, especially the good books are few. There are many misunderstandings about the Brandenburgers. Indeed, as Lawrence Paterson writes in his introduction: "What wartime records remain are often fragmentary or cloaked in cover names, leading to frequent misdirection and confusion. Many operations attributed to the Brandenburgers were either non-existent, or in fact carried out by other units of the Abwehr [German military intelligence service] or SS."

The name of the author of Blood and Soil, Sepp de Giampietro, sounds Italian and this is because he came from the German ethnic group in South Tyrol, Italy. One learns a great deal from this book how this group viewed both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The punitive measures that Italy directed against the ethnic Germans proved to be very counterproductive.

Initially the author thinks he has joined the German mountain infantry/rangers, the Gebirgsjägers, and is satisfied with that. But after a while his unit is attached to German military intelligence and quite a few South Tyroleans thus became Brandenburgers. The first period of the author´s military training is described with some nostalgia, in spite of what followed. 

The key element of the special forces period of Brandenburger history (their status changed) was the wearing of foreign uniforms and use of captured vehicles, to enable complete surprise at bridges and other crucial objectives. The author very seriously discusses how he and others felt at the time about wearing different foreign uniforms. He also explains how the most important fighting unit was not the company but the commando, an unusually large and autonomous platoon.

The details are rich and fascinating about the German campaign in Greece 1941, the author was among the very first to reach the flagpole of the Acropolis. Then one gets to follow the author in the Soviet Union, up to the Caucasus mountains. The author writes well and not without humour. He is able to give a vivid idea of how things then appeared, how he viewed events at the time. But also shows in several passages how he came to change his views, not least regarding the policies of the Third Reich.  

There are 30 photographs in the book and most of them are of great interest although not all are sharp. I would have liked more pages about 1943-45 but that does not really affect my verdict - this memoir is of great interest to all with an interest in special forces and especially in the history of the Brandenburgers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Last 1945 Battle in Northwest Europe

The general public might think mostly of Nordics when hearing “foreign troops in German uniform”, while in fact the typical foreigner from Western Europe was from Spain and if one looks also eastwards the typical foreigner was from one of the Soviet republics. Thus Night of the Bayonets, is mainly about a very underreported group of soldiers. 

This new book by historian and journalist Eric Lee should be on your WWII reading list not only for focusing on Eastern European soldiers in German service. It is above all a surprising and well-written account of the last fighting to take place in 20thcentury Northwest Europe. Then there is a deeper reason for learning more about the homeland of the main characters, Georgia. By any measure a man from that part of the world was one of the most influential men of the 20thcentury, Joseph Stalin (born Dzhugashvili). Georgia has played and will play a large role in the fate of both Caucasia and Russia. 


It was in Oslo in the 1980s that I first heard about a strange and bloody battle in which Georgian troops in German uniform fought against much better armed German troops. This battle took place on Texel, a Dutch island, and ended only several days after the formal end of WWII in Europe. Ever since I have been keen to learn more about the fighting on Texel, what initiated it and what the underlying motives were. Sure, there have been some books and articles mentioning the battle for Texel. But until I read Night of the Bayonets I had only a rough idea of what happened. 


Eric Lee wisely begins his book by showing how the Georgian Legion in German WWII service was a revival – there had been such a legion during the First World War. Of course, that first legion had no National Socialist profile, and it gained a good reputation in Georgia, from which the second legion could benefit. Georgian history in this respect is similar to Finland´s – during WWII the phenomenon of Finnish volunteers in German uniform was to a great extent a consequence of the battalion of Finnish Jaegers in German service between 1915 and 1918.

Just like the Finnish Jaeger Battalion veterans, men who had served in the first Georgian Legion played an important role in the formation of a new national army. The Soviet authorities did their best to erase the memory of that army and most parts of Georgia´s independent period 1918 to 1921. But Eric Lee summarizes those years well and lets the reader glimpse into an amazing alternative to what happened in Lenin´s Russia. German troops arrived in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi just two weeks after Georgia had proclaimed independence in 1918. Knowing that is fundamental to understanding the relationship between Germany and Georgia. 


Likewise it is fundamental to Georgian history that there was a nationwide rebellion after the Soviet conquest. It took place in August 1924 and led to both thousands of deaths and a great career boost to a local Soviet secret police officer, Lavrenty Beria – later second only to Stalin and actually described as “our Himmler” by Stalin during the Yalta summit in 1945.  


During his invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler´s forces never made it far beyond the Georgian frontier, although they somehow found the energy and time to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in the Caucasus. 


While German WWII troops never were able to hold any sizeable Georgian town they did manage to take a number of Georgian prisoners, who were joined by Georgian deserters and Georgians in German and French exile. At first, while Germany was basically on the offensive, there could be no new Georgian Legion, due to Nazi optimism and racism. But long before the new legion was formed, German military intelligence set up a largely Georgian unit within the Brandenburg Regiment (Wehrmacht special forces). This unit was the Sonderverband Bergmann and by the spring of 1943 it was itself of regimental size. But, rather tellingly, all the officers in it were German. The Germans, especially Hitler, just didn´t really trust former Red Army soldiers. This somewhat changed, initially, with the advent of the Georgian Legion.


The low trust was quite rational, as very many Georgians (and other nationalities) had “volunteered” to serve in German uniform mainly to avoid starvation. Especially during the first year of the great invasion the conditions for Soviet prisoners of war were incredibly grim. The Germans realized that it would be much harder for their Georgian troops to desert on another front than the Eastern one. So, Georgians were sent to Northwest Europe, even to the Channel Islands (Guernsey etc). Still, even in France some managed to desert also in groups, and Eric Lee´s account of what happened in Hirson is remarkable – a Georgian group there managed to join the French resistance. There is also an amazing passage about a similar mutiny by Ukrainian troops in France.


Until April 1945 one of the most peaceful places to end up in as a Georgian was the Dutch island of Texel. Although it did have a large amount of bunkers, some 500, it was also a haven for children from the Dutch mainland. Why the Georgians rebelled there in April 1945 and not just waited calmly for the war to end has puzzled me ever since that day I learnt about the very bloody Texel mutiny. Well, to avoid spoilers I will here just say that Mr. Lee provides credible motives for this seemingly irrational course of action. 


The Germans, of course, counter-attacked, not least with an impressive amount of artillery rounds. Texel, the peaceful oasis, was shot to pieces while the war in Europe was largely winding down. The reader learns about these events both through accounts of Georgians, Germans, Dutchmen and Canadians. Mr. Lee has found some fantastic quotes. 


Night of the Bayonets also deals with the many misunderstandings and remains of Soviet era propaganda that still surround “the Russian War”, as the uprising on Texel is to this day called among the Dutch. More than 3,000 people died in the battle, mostly Germans. No Russians, but the name has stuck.


The photographs are not that many (20) but they are very interesting and some of the WWII photos of the Germans on Texel are even in colour.


So, Night of the Bayonets is a great book, a real must if you are into the last WWII fighting in Europe or Soviet/Georgian history.     

Thursday, October 08, 2020

From Averting Another Armageddon To Losing Norway


You probably have read a number of books about Winston Churchill, and seen several films about him. There is now even a decent Churchill biography in comic book format - that I have previously reviewed. But Churchill was not ”the man who averted another Armageddon”. Those words were about the man most associated with appeasement policy, Neville Chamberlain.


Military and natural historian Nicholas Milton has written a very readable biography about “the architect of appeasement”, Neville Chamberlain´s Legacy, and not far into the book I started thinking of it as a good foundation for a TV series. Like no other book, Milton´s book (his first!) captures the incredible and genuine popularity that Chamberlain experienced following the signing of the Munich peace agreement on 30 September 1938. The prime minister who sincerely believed he had thus secured “peace for our time” soon thereafter received 20,000 letters and telegrams from a grateful public. To say that he was greeted like a rock star just after Munich is something of an understatement. More precise would be to say that he was treated like the Beatles. Even the royal family showed him unprecedented respect, also in public.


Nicholas Milton has found such a wonderful illustration that says a lot about the immense enthusiasm for Chamberlain and his policy – a photo of a Chamberlain doll that was actually produced, to cash in on the general mood in 1938. The name of the product was “Chamberlain the Peacemaker”. I believed that such dolls, mainly of Hollywood/TV stars, only appeared in the 1950s. I was wrong.


But Milton also lets the reader sense the completely different mood in the state that was sacrificed at Munich. The prime minister of Czechoslovakia even called his new task “a duty which is worse than dying”.


The British media was during these days almost totally focused on the peace that a large chunk of the world thought had been secured by Chamberlain. Especially in the UK Chamberlain was the man who had averted another huge war in Europe. Here is what Nicholas Milton writes about one of the few British newspapers that contained a different take, the Manchester Guardian: “Their diplomatic correspondent presciently reported, `[Hitler] will be master of Czechoslovakia´s main defences, and there is nothing to stop him from making himself master of all Czechoslovakia in the course of time´.” 


How did Chamberlain then handle the outbreak of war in Europe, less than a year after Munich? This is where the book gets most interesting for us readers in Norway and Sweden. Nicholas Milton shows how Chamberlain viewed the Norway campaign, how especially impressive the German air component seemed to be. Here, as a reader in Scandinavia, one would have wished for some more pages. Still, this is an important source to better understand how the “strategic withdrawal” from Norway for most members of parliament was more of a “humiliating defeat”, and how this perception very much put an end to Chamberlain´s career.  


Two major surprises in the book that I also feel I should mention are Chamberlain´s fanatical birdwatching, and how – as one of his last acts as a statesman – he was crucial for the creation of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). An international movement for German-occupied countries that was a total contrast to regular armies, and to the image of Neville Chamberlain. There really is a lot more to him than his, at the time, extremely popular policy of appeasement. Historical TV drama producers ought to contact Nicholas Milton as soon as possible.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Essential Study of Foreign Volunteers in the Waffen-SS & Wehrmacht

There are lots of books about foreign volunteers in the Waffen-SS and not as many about the foreigners in the Wehrmacht. What makes A European Anabasis unusual is that it looks at both categories, and contains a lot of credible military analysis.


Last year a paperback version of A European Anabasis: Western European Volunteers in the German Army and SS, 1940-45 by Kenneth W. Estes was published by Helion & Company and it is this version of the book that I shall now review. Unlike many books about foreign volunteers in German formations I would say it treats Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS volunteers with equal attention and the author´s background as a marine, tanker (lieutenant colonel) and professor of history has made possible a convincing evaluation of how the different volunteer groups actually performed. The volunteers from Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway (I have placed them in the order of contingent size) are the main focus, and this is a good choice by Estes, in my opinion. Sure, there were also groups from several other Western European states, like Switzerland and Sweden, but as these groups never reached anything even close to the number of Spaniards and Dutchmen etc their significance for the battles of WWII was, basically, microscopic. 


Well then, two-thirds of the West European volunteers in German formations came from Spain and the Netherlands. Kenneth W. Estes does, however, on occasion mention both Swiss and Swedish volunteers and in one case highlights a Swiss national, Dr. Franz Riedweg, as he was a key figure in the Waffen-SS recruitment program aimed at Germanic populations.  


The author in no way hides the fact that Volksdeutsche from Eastern and Southern Europe played the major role in alleviating the mostly unsuccessful recruiting in Western Europe, especially in Scandinavia. Here the author could have inserted a quote from my co-author Lennart Westberg about how dissatisfied Hitler was with the low Swedish turnout, barely 200 men.  


In the Netherlands the recruiting drive had a rather different level of support. Even the former Dutch Army Chief of Staff, General Hendrik Seyffardt, lent his prestige for a Dutch national “legion” under German SS command. However, it should be noted (as Estes does) that Anton Mussert, leader of the Dutch collaborationist NSB, was too optimistic about Dutch willingness to volunteer for German frontline formations.


Speaking of the frontline, the Wehrmacht´s Spanish Division experienced over three thousand (!) casualties in the fighting at Krasny Bor and the Izhora alone. 


Although Estes has concentrated on understanding the fate of contingents and units, he also presents fascinating details about individual volunteers - men that mostly went down with the Third Reich but in some cases also became rather successful, like the first commander of the Spanish Division, General Augustin Munoz Grandes. In fact, Munoz Grandes became the second-ranking man in the postwar Franco regime. 

Of the book´s 50 photos and paintings most are interesting and often depict Spaniards and Belgians (Walloons). In addition there are 15 useful maps. 


A European Anabasis remains an essential study to better understand the complicated German use of foreign volunteers from Western Europe, and their actual military/political value.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hitler´s Hangmen: The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill

German prisoners of war in the UK had ambitious plans for December 1944.

Years of research by retired Queen´s Counsel Brian Lett has led him to present spectacular conclusions about German plans for the UK connected to the German 1944 Ardennes campaign. This book is of special interest both to those into late German plans and fans of exploring WWII places. 

Recently I have reviewed two other books by Brian Lett that have expanded my knowledge of WWII special operations, see my blog posts "A Deniable Operation Under the Swedish Flag" and "SOE:s Mastermind". Here I will review Hitler´s Hangmen: The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill, a 2019 book by Lett about British fascists, Axis POWs in the UK and how these, possibly even working together, might have affected world history during the German 1944 Ardennes offensive.

Having practiced law for almost half a century it is no wonder that Brian Lett begins his book with a thorough explanation of the Vehmic court, a German punishment court with medieval origins. This vigilante court system was revived among German POWs, also in Britain. Vehmic "justice" seems to have made many German POWs feel that the Third Reich was present also in very small and rural British locations. Lett has visited and photographed a number of these German POW places, and the book will surely inspire several readers to themselves visit them. Few camps are as unchanged as Camp 21 in Scottish Comrie ("British Colditz"), but I must say that even the rather small traces that remain of Camp 17 in Lodge Moor, Sheffield, hold a strange attraction (I confess to being a bit fascinated by WWII-related sites, my latest book is about visiting 200 WWII sites in Sweden).

Now, most readers will be aware of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Oswald Mosley - and the BUF certainly is part of this book - but Brian Lett shows that Mosley at the time was only one of several influential fascists in British society. Lett paints portraits also of British fascists like Arnold Leese and his Imperial Fascist League, and MP Jock Ramsay and his Right Club. The latter seems to have had special opportunities to cause serious damage. 

Considering the information that Brian Lett has provided about British fascists I would say that most (or even all?) authors outside Britain have underestimated the original British fascist groups and are largely ignorant of the Right Club.

Another reason to read Brian Lett´s latest book is that he writes eloquently about characters like the head of Churchill´s personal security, Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, and the officer of the German Army who became the head of the London Interrogation Centre (London Cage), Colonel Alexander Scotland.    

Well, what evidence does the author present to justify the sensational subtitle of this book, The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill? Quite a lot hangs on the plans developed in the Devizes Camp in Wiltshire and I would like to know more about the interrogation team from the US XVIII Airborne Corps that discovered the Devizes plan. To begin with I will read the whole book one more time, not least for the sheer pleasure, but then I hope to some day get more details both about the interrogators and the interrogated.

Monday, September 28, 2020

SOE´s Mastermind

A great read about one of the most influential special operations officers of all time.

His codename was actually “M” as Operations and Training Director of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He was one of the leading British officers on the ground in Arctic Norway 1940. Long before that he had served in Arctic Russia.


Thus I kick myself for not sooner having read this terrific book about Sir Colin Gubbins. SOE´s Mastermind was first published in 2016 and reviews ought not to appear so long afterwards. But, better late than never. Lawyer and SOE expert Brian Lett starts his book perfectly with the escape from Germany in 1914 that was one of the most fundamental learning experiences of young Colin. Then follow years of extreme hardship as a gunner in the First World War and immediately afterwards, in 1919, on the Russian Archangel front. There he had to adapt not only to the Arctic but also to Soviet fighting methods.


On Ireland and in India Colin Gubbins, initially a very conventional warrior, had to learn even more about irregular fighting methods. The Irish Republican Volunteers became his best “teachers” in how to undermine a conventional army, the British Army. The Army realized that Gubbins had learnt a thing or two about irregular warfare and thus he came to write three handbooks for a planned British resistance movement, the first being The Art of Guerilla Warfare, then A Partisan Leader´s Handbook and finally How to Use High Explosives


But Lieutenant Colonel Gubbins was not to become an armchair general - due to various mishaps he had to assume the role of Temporary Brigadier not far from the Arctic Circle in Norway. In spite of very little relevant training and unfavourable geographical conditions he managed to put up a rather good fight against the Germans, until ordered to evacuate his brigade. In spite of being under attack he managed quite well, earning the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Many of the men he had led in Norway were recruited into the newly formed Commandos. Gubbins himself was needed elsewhere, to form the British guerrilla army called “Auxiliary Units” or “Auxies” that were never employed but would no doubt have made life difficult for the Germans in an occupied United Kingdom.


Well, then follow the years as SOE´s mastermind, from 1943 also formal overall boss at SOE. Author Brian Lett refrained from writing another history of SOE, instead he mainly focused on what leading an organization for sabotage in several countries entailed. This being a Nordic-focused blog I will here only mention some Scandinavian aspects. It turns out that SOE from Stockholm launched a number of non-violent sabotage operations directly against the Germans in Norway. For example, capsules with utterly evil smelling fluid were smuggled into Norway and there were smeared on German greatcoats. The terrible smell made the garments impossible to wear and, like broken German windows, caused serious discomfort during the winter. 


In my blog post "A Deniable Operation Under the Swedish Flag" I wrote about Brian Lett´s wonderful book Ian Fleming & SOE´s Operation Postmaster. Well, in SOE´s Mastermind one learns of what became of the “Swedes”, among them not least the Danish volunteer Anders Lassen, who later was awarded a Victoria Cross.


Operation Gunnerside, the operation against the German atomic project in Norway, has been covered in many books. Still, the Gunnerside chapter in SOE´s Mastermind does not fail to keep me interested and it makes perfectly clear that Gunnerside became an immediate milestone. To quote Lett: “After Operation Gunnerside Colin found it much easier to obtain cooperation of the regular services for SOE´s operations.”


Finally, there is a very personal link between Colin Gubbins and the Swedish-British SOE operator Malcolm Munthe. His own son Michael served in the SOE together with Munthe. What happened next to Michael was a major blow to the Gubbins family but I shall here only say: do not miss this book and specially not if you are curious about what became of the SOE networks after 1945 - to quote the last chapter´s title “Did SOE Refuse to Die?”.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Axis Armour You Never Knew Existed

Panzer IVs, Panthers and even Tigers served in the WWII Hungarian Army.

Quite many Axis tankers were Hungarians, which is why also several German Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) were in Hungarian service. A new book looks closer at these, and also the Hungarian vehicles with Swedish roots. 

An amazing number of rare photos and quite a lot of information has been assembled in the new book Hungarian Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the Second World War by Eduardo Manuel Gil Martinez. Being Swedish I was initially mainly interested in the Swedish aspects of his book, but it turned out that the German AFV presence in the Hungarian Army was greater than I thought, and also more interesting than I had imagined. If you are a modeller and you feel like you have run out of Panzer subjects - well, this book will provide you with some extra years of modelling challenges.

Most Swedish armor buffs will know that the Hungarian Toldis and Nimrods were to a large extent Landsverk vehicles, i.e. they were designs from the Landsverk factory in Landskrona in southernmost Sweden. But from this book I learnt something I had no idea of. Not only were the Toldis designed in Sweden, they also contained some components from Sweden, because the Hungarian industry was not able to supply all necessary parts.

Much to my surprise I also learnt from this book that there was even a Toldi converted to a tank destroyer, armed with a German PaK 40. Yes, the book has a photo of it. I can divulge that the result is very similar to a Marder II. Another good reason to release the Toldi also in scale 1/35 - or is there already such a kit and I have just missed it?

Many of the 111 pages of this book are of course devoted to AFVs that were mostly the result of Hungary´s own AFV design efforts. I am talking not least about the Turan tanks and Zrinyi "StuGs". Especially the latter should appeal to modellers. 

Generally speaking this book is a treasure chest for modellers and also provides some insights into the role that Hungary played for the Axis during WWII. The translation at times has some issues but that does not diminish the value of this book. Every tank buff, at least outside Hungary, ought to check out this one.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Early Jet Fighters 1944-1954

144 pages of some of the first (and some of the coolest) jet fighters ever. 

If you are looking for good images of the Third Reich´s jet fighters and are intrigued by how these  designs influenced the aviation industries of the Soviet Union, France, Sweden and other nations... well, then this is a book you will appreciate.

As a kid I remember seeing a model (Airfix?) of a Messerschmitt Me 262 and being quite astonished at learning that it was a WWII aircraft. Over the years I have of course learnt of the even more advanced German jet designs, e.g. from the Horten brothers (Reimar and Walter). But it was only through this book that I got the whole picture of German jet fighter development, and just how much it affected Soviet etc aircraft design. Even from a short distance you can mistake a Soviet Sukhoi Su-9/1946 for a Me 262. In fact, some early Soviet jet fighters not only looked rather German, their engines were actually BMW 003s and Jumo 004s - just one of many interesting facts that one learns from Leo Marriott´s book.

There are many astonishing designs in this book that I have seen nowhere else before. But as a Swede I am of course familiar with the planes of the Swedish chapter. Still, even there was a photo that surprised me - of a Lancaster in Swedish service with a jet engine under the belly, the STAL Dovern project. I learnt even more from Marriott´s text and captions about our early jet fighters. I had no idea that when the prototype for the Saab J 29 "Flying Barrel" (largest photo on the book cover) first flew on 1 September 1948 it was flown not by a Swede but by British test pilot Squadron Leader Bob Moore. Swedish pilots then just had no jet experience, of course. 

There is a also a German story behind the development of the J 29. Marriott explains how the plane´s swept wing design originated in the Third Reich and in 1945 reached Sweden via Switzerland. The new wing type was then tested for real with a strange looking Saab Safir trainer aircraft.
Leo Marriott has found wonderful images of many beautiful and "less beautiful" early jet fighters, and he rightly lets the photos dominate the book. But he also has provided the photos with some really interesting captions. 

Hm, should I now build a 1:72 scale Heinkel He 162, a Yak-25 or a Caproni-Campini N. I?

Monday, August 03, 2020

Astonishing Normandy Discoveries

Two books that have changed my understanding of the great invasion. 

In recent years there have hardly been any finds in Normandy more astonishing than those of UK author Gary Sterne. It all began when he found a map in a pocket of a US Army veteran´s uniform - a map that led him to the forgotten German Maisy Battery battlefield. 

As the Maisy Battery could be forgotten and buried for so long one must wonder what else there is that we Normandy buffs have missed? Well, each year since the discovery in 2006 more and more of the Maisy trenches and bunkers are being restored. At the time of writing this (August 2020) the Maisy Battery is also again open for visitors. Recently I have been reading Gary Sterne´s two-volume work about the US Army ranger history that is so very much part of Maisy (on maps also known as Grandcamp-Maisy). Maisy for decades has been virtually unknown, in the shadow of the Pointe du Hoc battle. 

To summarize the two books by Gary Sterne is no easy task, given their almost incredible amount of facts, maps, photos and previously top secret documents. These books differ a lot from most WWII books in that the author, Mr. Sterne, has chosen to not just quote documents he has found but also to reproduce very many of them in the end product. He has really discovered a lot of ranger history previously unknown to the public, and it is therefore understandable that he was eager to include a lot of documents. Still, especially volume one suffers from simply too many documents. Well, if you are doing serious ranger research or are a relative of one of the most relevant men, the rangers of the 2nd and 5th US Army Ranger Infantry Battalions, you will probably benefit from this abundance of documents – because there is a high probability that the persons you are most interested in are mentioned on one or several of the 492 pages of volume one and/or 668 pages of volume two. 

The value of owning volume one is that you can see where each company was preparing for D-Day on any given day, plus that you get some good and sometimes amusing insights into the evolution of the relationship between the rangers and their British hosts, both commandos and civilians. The rangers were to a large extent the US equivalent of the commandos. A favourite paragraph of mine in volume one is: “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don´t know how to make a good cup of tea. It´s an even swap." This is a quote from the instruction Interaction with the British

The period document written by Maurice Prince of the 2nd Rangers is quoted a lot by Sterne, and rightly so, because it is a rather charming unit history. An example from 5 December 1943 about getting to know wartime Britain: “We learned what rationing really was, the darkness of a total black-out, the shortage of petrol, and the absence of motor vehicles.” The average WWII buff, however, may not be that interested in the many months of preparations for Normandy – which is the focus of volume one – and thus can go straight to volume two. Here one finds not only the most interesting invasion documents of the rangers and lots of Normandy photographs I have seen nowhere else, but also Gary Sterne´s groundbreaking conclusions. 

Learning more about Pointe du Hoc and Maisy it is probably impossible to not long for another trip to Normandy. I have previously reviewed this Normandy travel guide that should both be studied before trips and also be brought along. 

Being especially interested in Swedish-American Captain Ralph Goranson of the 2nd Rangers, as I have written about him in two of my books, I was pleased to find the most relevant after action report about him in D-Day Cover Up At Pointe Du Hoc. Goranson again appears in the chapter “Medals and Battle Honours”, where one gets all the information about every relevant Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star. Relatives and researchers of 2nd and 5th rangers will indeed find a great deal of important documents in these books, the most interesting ones in volume two.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The U-Boat Commanders

323 pages of U-boat history with a bio for every Knight´s Cross holder.

When researching WWII U-boat history you get to a point where you need a good reference book. Well, this is it. This is not a book about every single U-boat and every U-boat commander. But just about all major U-boat actions and key commanders are present in The U-Boat Commanders: Knight´s Cross Holders 1939-1945 by Jeremy Dixon.

This is not the kind of book that puts the U-boat actions into context - there are other books that do that. This is more of a very specialized compilation of biographies and it is organized in such a manner that the first section is very short - it contains only two men: Albrecht Brandi and Wolfgang Luth - because only these two were awarded the Knight´s Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds. Then there is a section about the three who received the above but minus the diamonds; then the 23 recipients of the Knight´s Cross with Oakleaves and finally the 93 who "only" received the cross.

Each biography starts with the number of ships the recipient sunk and how many tons and then the life and career of each recipient is summarized on two to four pages. Postwar life - if the recipient survived the war - is mentioned, but there are not that many details. Every biography ends with a list of other wartime awards that the person received.

There is at least one photograph of every recipient, sometimes there are two and at times also the victims of these men are present in so far that some of the ships they sunk are pictured and the captions provide some data about their histories.

Are you trying to research some major action with U-boats involved? Then the 323 pages of The U-Boat Commanders: Knight´s Cross Holders 1939-1945 will most probably provide several of the facts that you are looking for. The book also provides good information on several decorations, Kriegsmarine terminology and ends with a bibliography.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Sirius, A Watchful Eye In The North

I simply can not imagine a more beautiful book about special forces than this one.

If you have read my book about elite forces in the Nordic states (so far only available in Swedish: Elitförband i Norden) you may have noticed that I have a special interest in the Danish Sirius rangers. Patrolling with dog sleds over huge and uninhabited areas on Greenland is their everyday work.

Sadly, I only recently got hold of Sirius A Watchful Eye In The North by Peter Bondo Christensen, biologist at Aarhus University, with photos taken by Sweden's probably most Arctic photographer ever, Magnus Elander. All the Arctic travel behind their book is in itself worth a lot of respect. The thing is that they have also achieved something brilliant. I simply can not imagine a better, more beautiful book about special forces, dogs and Greenland than this one.

Sirius A Watchful Eye In The North not only provides the reader with an understanding of the unit's history and tasks, I think Peter Bondo Christensen and Magnus Elander have managed to convey some of the feeling of "flow" that the Sirius rangers get when they have learned the "craft" and solve tasks in harmony with both dogs, snow, ice and extreme temperatures.

Magnus Elander's photographs are so beautiful that words fail me - it is such a joy to see them that I can only compare to going to the best art galleries I have visited. No wonder his pictures can be found in magazines such as National Geographic Magazine and he has been named "Wildlife Photographer of the Year".

Serving for a period with the Sirius Patrol means, in a way, being away from the "real" world for two years. You might think that two years is just too much - talk about social distancing! But Sirius A Watchful Eye In The North lets the reader understand that the time on Greenland creates extremely strong friendships, with both humans and animals. The book allows the reader to perceive another world, both more difficult, easier and more beautiful than the "normal world".

The only sad thing about Sirius A Watchful Eye In The North, released in 2018, is that the book is very difficult to get hold of. It is a little easier to find the Danish version, published in 2009 and 2018. Those editions are also completely sold out, but several copies are available in Danish libraries.

The book is 206 pages and the format is slightly larger than A4. Should you manage to find a copy for sale, be prepared to pay a lot. But whatever it costs, you will find that it was worth it - because this is one of the finest books ever created.

Friday, July 24, 2020


307 pages of German paratrooper biographies and personal photographs.

From Norway to Crete, German WWII Fallschirmjägers i.e. paratroopers made a strong impression on the battlefield. The new book Fallschirmjäger! by Greg Way has a personal focus, it lets the reader get to know 18 German paras - mainly their frontline memories but also what they experienced in captivity.

Royal Navy veteran Greg Way started corresponding and then meeting with German paratrooper veterans more than twenty years ago, and his book is the result of these years of contact. While Mr. Way has chosen to concentrate on the history of the individual rather than the unit, he does begin his book with a good summary of the Luftwaffe paratrooper operations and campaigns, and a useful glossary of relevant terminology and abbreviations.

Having lived in the Netherlands and last year written a chapter about how German paras met some rather stiff resistance from Dutch cavalrymen in Landsverk armoured cars (from Sweden), it was of special interest to me to read about the invasion of the Netherlands from the perspective of Kurt Schulz. His recollections are the most gripping I have so far read about that operation. I only wish there had been some more paragraphs about his later service with the 14. Luftwaffen-Feld-Division by the Arctic Circle in Norway. Although this part is not even a page long it contains some highly interesting details and a photo from Norwegian Nesna that make me want to find out more about this little-described division.

The memories of captivity i.e. POW camps are surprising. For example German paratrooper veteran Wilhelm Schulte reported that German POWs in Arkansas were treated well and when one of them died the man was given a proper burial outside the camp that included full military honors from American soldiers.

Combat on Crete is covered i.a. in the chapters about Josef Jendryschik and Bernd Bosshammer. Russia, Monte Cassino and other actions in Italy are covered in several chapters. The book contains an unusually high amount of private photographs, some modern photos of equipment and battle sites plus other types of illustrations like drawings and documents.

To sum things up, Fallschirmjäger! gives the reader good insights into the wartime service and captivity of a cross-section of German paras, and should be of special interest to those researching Crete and Monte Cassino.