1939-45 Books: A Round-Up of the Latest History Titles Marking the 50th Anniversary of the End of the War in Europe

History Today, May 1995 | Go to article overview

1939-45 Books: A Round-Up of the Latest History Titles Marking the 50th Anniversary of the End of the War in Europe


Among the many new titles launched this season as fiftieth-anniversary VE-Day souvenirs, is a new book of photographs from the Imperial War Museum. VE Day: The Album, edited by John Delaney (Ebury Press, 14.99[pounds]) is a collection of 200 photographs, many previously unpublished, which document life on the Eastern, Western and home fronts. The IMW archives are also the source for The Imperial War Museum Book of Victory in Europe, The Northwest European Campaign 1944-45 by Julian Thompson (Macmillan, 25[pounds[). Here the dramatic, tense and exhausting eleven months after D-Day are brought to life via the letters, diaries and taped accounts of British soldiers who battled against the Nazis. Completing the insight, Richard Connaughton's Celebration of Victory: VE Day 1945 (Brasseys, 14.95[pounds]) gives an evocative account of VE-Day itself and looks at exactly what victory meant to the British people. The author examines the visions and hopes for the future that people held in 1945 - with analytical contributions from the Lords Carrington, Healey and Pym, all of whom fought in the war. Meanwhile, for a tour de force overview of the whole period OUP are this month bringing out The Oxford Companion to the Second World War edited by I.C.B. Dear and M.R.D. Foot (35[pounds]). Japanese and German historians have been invited to contribute to this comprehensive reference which includes detailed analysis on everything from politics, strategy and weaponry to the home front and Hollywood at war.

With many alive who still have strong recollections of their wartime experiences, but whose stories may not yet have been told, and with the increasing interest in oral history, it is not surprising that several of these new books are based around memoires, collective and individual. War Memories by Ian Billingsley (Aurora, 7.95[pounds]) is a collection of stories and photographs from those who served their country. Some accounts date from the Great War, but the bulk of the book is devoted to participants in the Second World War. In similar vein, Heroes of World War II - The Men and Women Who Won the War by Tom Bowyer with a foreword by General Sir Peter de la Billiere (Boxtree, 15.99[pounds]) tells the stories of over a hundred acts of bravery recorded among ordinary British, Commonwealth and Allied servicemen and women.

Trevor Royle re-examines a well-known but controversial hero in Orde Wingate: Irregular Soldier (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 20[pounds]). This latest biography explores the complexities of Wingate's character and the underlining reasons for his shifting reputation among the military establishment since his death. In his book, Trevor Royle draws a comparison between Wingate and Montgomery; `another British general who was not always popular with everybody, save the troops who owed him their lives'. In Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Hodder and Stoughton, 14.99[pounds]) Nigel Hamilton studies the man and the champion from all angles from Monty's concern for his men to his less appealing aspects of vanity and pettiness.

Autobiographical accounts of military experiences provide a unique insight. Winged Victory by Air Vice-Marshal J.E. `Johnnie' Johnson and Wing Commander P.B. `Laddie' Lucas (Stanley Paul, 16.99[pounds]) presents the reminiscences of the successes and failures of the RAF by these two well-known leaders. Another touching personal account of RAF experiences and of time spent as a Pow is Geoffrey Willatt's Bombs and Barbed Wire: My War in the RAF and Stalag Luft III (Parapress, 15.95[pounds]). The book is enhanced by the author's sketches and watercolours preserved from the period. The story of the female counterpart to the RAF, the Women's Auxiliary Force is told in Our Wartime Days - The WAAF in World War Two, by Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott (Alan Sutton, 14.99[pounds]). Photographs taken by the women themselves accompany this first-hand testimony providing a rare and fascinating glimpse into the military role of these women on the home front. …

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1939-45 Books: A Round-Up of the Latest History Titles Marking the 50th Anniversary of the End of the War in Europe
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