Thomas Jackson’s Eventful Life

By Eamonn O’Keeffe

Son of a Walsall bucklemaker, Thomas Jackson (1785/6-1859) guarded King George III at Windsor Castle and Weymouth while serving in the Staffordshire Militia before losing a leg as a Coldstream sergeant during the 1814 storming of Bergen-op-Zoom.

Forced to retire from his trade as a plater due to old age and ill health, Jackson composed an account of his military adventures in 1846, intending to leave ‘a record of my history’ for the benefit of his children and their descendants. However, with the assistance of a local Yeomanry officer and the financial generosity of his ‘fellow townsmen’, Jackson was able to publish his Narrative the following year.

‘The Attack on Bergen-op-Zoom’. From James Grant, British Battles on Land and Sea, Vol. II. (London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873)

The result is a remarkable but largely unknown account of life in the Napoleonic-era British army. Indeed, until now, the Narrativehas never been reissued since its initial printing 170 years ago; only a handful of original copies survive in university and research libraries in the United Kingdom and North America.

Yet despite its relative inaccessibility, numerous past historians have recognised the Narrative’s value; excerpts of Jackson’s prose, including his evocative descriptions of barrack-room life, have frequently been quoted in histories of the Napoleonic-era British Army. Australian scholar Neil Ramsey, who examined scores of British soldiers’ narratives in a recent monograph on military memoirs, singled out Jackson’s story as meriting ‘far wider attention as one of the most harrowing accounts of war’s miseries to be written in the nineteenth century’.

My interest sparked by scattered quotations in secondary works, I perused the Narrative during a visit to the British Library and soon chanced on Jackson’s fulsome description of John Lyster, the Staffordshire Militia’s veteran drum-major. Owing to my longstanding interest in military music, I immediately connected this detailed pen-portrait with a painting held by the National Army Museum in Chelsea, ‘The Staffordshire Militia on parade at Windsor Castle’ – the same image which now graces the book’s cover. Pleased though I was to have identified the drum-major featured in the painting, I could not help but conclude as I perused the memoir that Jackson’s lively account of his ‘eventful life’ deserved a far wider audience.

Although he played no part in the more famous Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns, Jackson’s memoir has much to offer students of military and social history, offering rare insight into militia service, military medicine, and life as a Chelsea pensioner. Indeed, Jackson provides one of the most detailed personal accounts available of the post-war experiences of a Napoleonic-era British veteran. While most military memoirs end with news of peace or discharge, Jackson goes on to chronicle his subsequent work as a coal merchant’s clerk, schoolteacher and plater in Walsall, describing his struggles raising a family amidst economic turmoil and cholera outbreaks.

‘The halt, c. 1815’ depicting the Coldstream Guards. Watercolour by Orlando Norie, 1854. (Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection)

Editing and annotating Jackson’s Narrative was a challenging yet rewarding task, requiring both command of the historiography of the relevant regiments and campaigns as well as detailed primary research. Recourse to the Staffordshire Militia and Coldstream muster rolls held at the National Archives in London enabled me to trace Jackson’s military career, while church records, censuses and local directories afforded insight into the author’s family and civilian life. This new edition of Jackson’s Narrativeincludes annotations throughout to correct errors, clarify unfamiliar terms, and identify the people and places mentioned in the text. Extensive footnotes also provide supplementary information to place the account in its proper context, unravelling the intricacies of the English militia system and the vicissitudes of the 1813-14 Low Countries campaign. Carefully chosen illustrations complement the Narrative‘s text while a series of maps helps readers follow Jackson’s home service, his experiences abroad in the Low Countries, and the 1814 storming of Bergen-op-Zoom.

‘The Upper Ward – Windsor Castle’. Print from W.H. Pyne, The History of the Royal Residences, Vol. I. (London: Dry, 1819)

Thomas Jackson’s account offers fresh and often sharply critical insight into life in the ranks. While many other soldier-memoirists recounted their wartime adventures with pride, his Narrative is tinged with bitterness and disillusionment. Despite glamorous descriptions of pomp and circumstance at Windsor Castle, the Narrative soon takes a darker turn, offering gut-wrenching descriptions of the bungled assault on Bergen-op-Zoom, the amputation of Jackson’s right leg and his subsequent year-long convalescence.  Embittered by the loss of a limb, the veteran ultimately felt degraded for having been a soldier, convinced he had been cast off by an ungrateful nation with a pittance for a pension. He recounts with obvious indignation the callous insults that greeted him on his return to Walsall in 1815. ‘Serves him right’, cackled a group of idling locals as they gaped at the homecoming soldier, limping along with his new wooden leg. In their eyes, Jackson was a fool to have ‘gone for a soldier’ in the first place.

Jackson’s account, often charming and enlightening, is an invaluable historical source and an eminently worthy addition to the canon of Napoleonic-era rankers’ memoirs. But ultimately the Narrative is one war amputee’s intensely personal tale of suffering and survival – a sobering reminder of the brutality of war and the human costs of conflict.

Narrative of the Eventful Life of Thomas Jackson: Militiaman and Coldstream Sergeant, 1803-15 (From Reason to Revolution) is available to order here.

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The Russian Army in the Great Northern War 1700-21: Uniforms, Organization, Materiel, Training and Combat Experience

By Boris Megorsky.

My friends and I started our group ‘Preobrazhensky Life Guard regiment, 1709’ back in 2003; we had done the same regiment in the Napoleonic period and now wanted something new that had been missing then. Despite Peter the Great being one of the most notorious figures of the Russian history, his times never attracted as many reenactors as early 19th century or Second World War or Medieval (same in the miniatures world). So we thought we’d step in and do something in a different way, compared to what we had done in Napoleonics.

Join your right hand to you muskets!

First, we aimed to study and then represent the drill strictly according to the period manuals and instructions at least at a platoon level. That meant manoeuvring and firing in four- or even six-rank formation; there are many aspects in Petrine tactics that inherited from the 17th century and that faded out by 1800s. Then, we concentrated on events in fortresses and castles and on naval battles – a pleasure that Napoleonic re-enactors rarely have. We did some historical tracking and 24 hour tacticals too. And we did our best to not to become a ‘classic’ re-enactment group consisting of a Colonel, Captain, NCO, flag bearer and a drummer with couple privates. We all were rank and files when we started and at certain moment friend of mine and myself were promoted to NCOs – these are still the highest ranks in our group; we dreamt of doing a full scale company however challenging it sounded and still sounds. Numbers are the issue, so we adopted an umbrella approach where

Admittedly, the GNW Russian foot unlikely formed pike blocks like this, but the photo went out nice. Photo by Stepan Sochivko, 2009.

we invite friendly groups from various locations who may not necessarily represent Preobrazhensky but who are willing to wear green and red coats (not the only possible but still typical colour for Petrine foot). Thus our formation at bigger events amounts to 20-40 uniform men from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Narva, Riga and other places. And we have pleasure to ‘fight’ our like-minded friends from Sweden and Finland who re-enact GNW Caroleans.

As a re-enactor I of course was first interested in uniforms, then in tactics. This interest eventually led me to more academic studies of Petrine siege warfare – the theme in which I now specialise. Two books and dozen articles have been published. I also became rather aware of source materials and studies on the GNW Russian military, both old and new. This is why I thought it was worth writing an overview book in English that would encompass recent results of various Russian scholars. A lot of new data was retrieved and printed in Russian after Angus Costam’s Army of Peter the Great (1993) or Hoglund’s, Salnas and Bespalov’s GNW Sweden’s allies and enemies. Colors and uniforms (2006) were published in English! Naturally, language barrier won’t allow the worldwide army of 1700s period lovers to read it all in Tsar Peter’s native language, so I hope my book will help.

What is special about the book? The reenactor in me wanted to describe in detail all pieces of uniform, equipment and weapons that were in use in the army, and to cover often overlooked evolution of uniforms and answer odd questions like: how did the fashion for grenadier caps evolve? Did they wear waist coats without coats and vice versa? Why is it inaccurate to illustrate scalloped pocket flaps? There is, of course, a voluminous appendix describing known regimental uniform colours.

Members of several societies under the flag of 2nd Company, Preobrazhensky Life Guards, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the battle of Poltava.

The scholar in me felt it was interesting to compare how tactical instructions and manuals were followed (or not). The combat experiences I gathered include not only conventional field battles but also sieges, small war and naval fights. Another appendix provides timeline of the war with (nearly) all possible combats where the Russians took part between 1700 and 1721.

The reader in me wanted to share what is now the modern view on Peter’s army organisation, of Russia’s pre-reform troops and of her efforts to raise new army and the navy. The bibliography of over hundred titles gives enough reference for further in-depth reading. By the way, many of those titles are available in downloadable copies (free and legal), so I can share them if you ask.

The Russian Army in the Great Northern War 1700-21: Uniforms, Organization, Materiel, Training and Combat Experience (Century of the Soldier) is available to order here.

‘Preobrazhensky Life Guard regiment, 1709’ website: and Facebook page:

My articles on Academia:

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What the Allied Air Forces Did in Sicily

By Alexander Fitzgerald-Black.

Castello di Lombardia from the northeast.

It was a hot and dry summer afternoon in Sicily. Most of the locals had already gone home to take in their early afternoon siesta. It was 2013, and I was part of a Canadian-American battlefield study tour. That day we were exploring the beautiful mountaintop commune of Enna, where Canadian and American troops met during the Second World War clash that brought destruction to the island 70 years before. We visited the Castello di Lombardia, an ancient fortress that dominates the terrain north and east of Enna. From atop the castle’s ramparts, we had an impressive view of the battle sites that marked the middle point of the Sicilian campaign. We could see Leonforte and Assoro, famous Canadian battlegrounds, and into the American sector near Nicosia. As we started back towards the touring vans, one of the Canadian army officers with the group asked me, “So, Alex, where’s the air force in all of this?”

He knew that I was working on my master’s thesis, a history of the Allied air forces during the Battle of Sicily. At the time, I had completed my literature review but had yet to dive deeply into the primary sources I had so carefully photographed in a visit to England on my way to Sicily. I consulted documents at the National Archives at Kew, the Air Historical Branch at RAF Northolt, and at

Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vs of No. 243 Squadron RAF undergo maintenance at Comiso, Sicily. Photographed over the tail section of an abandoned Messerschmitt Bf 109G of 6/JG53. © IWM (CNA 1029)

the University of East Anglia Archives in Norwich. But these documents remained unread files on my camera, laptop, and at least one external hard drive at the time. The best I could do was assure him that the air force was there, despite what some of the literature on the subject would have you believe.

In a nutshell, that’s why I wrote Eagles over Husky. Although the Allied air forces played a critical role in the success of Operation HUSKY – the invasion of Sicily in 1943 – much of the literature disparages or downplays their efforts. Most campaign histories, like Carlo D’Este’s Bitter Victory or Mitcham and von Stauffenberg’s The Battle of Sicily, focus primarily on the army’s fight. These authors occasionally fly airplanes through their narratives and see the air force’s contribution through the army and navy’s fault-finding perspectives. I wanted to write a detailed account of the battle from the air force’s perspective. What I found was an overlooked air war that was just as critical to strategic success in Sicily as the boots on the ground.

Why were the Allies in Sicily? There’s an interesting story behind that, and you’ll find it in my book. The short version is that the Allies had a large military force in the Mediterranean at the end of 1942. They thought they could best employ it by defeating the Italians and opening the Mediterranean to Allied shipping in 1943. Doing so would entice Nazi Germany to dispatch forces to defend its

A Martin Baltimore of the Tactical Bomber Force of the North West African Air Forces, flying over its target by a road in Sicily, while bombing retreating German forces heading for Messina, August 1943. © IWM (C 3772)

southern flank, including an already overstretched Luftwaffe. As it turns out, the Allies accomplished these objectives with Operation HUSKY. In July 1943, the Luftwaffe wrote off more aircraft in the Mediterranean than in any other theatre of war.

For Operation HUSKY, the Allied air forces secured air superiority against a resurgent Luftwaffe and an Italian Air Force defending its homeland. Allied bombers struck the Italian homeland relentlessly and with effect, destroying ports and marshalling yards. The Italian capitulation in North Africa, coupled with direct threats to the homeland by land, sea, and especially the air, convinced the Italian government that Fascism in Italy had run its course. As the Germans and their remaining Italian allies made a final stand in Sicily, the Allies brought tactical air power to bear. Air power could not stop the Axis evacuation, but it could help the Anglo-American armies make the enemy pay for every stand they made. The result was another bitter Axis defeat following on the heels of Stalingrad, Tunisia, and Kursk. That’s what the Allied air forces did in Sicily.

Eagles over Husky: The Allied Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign, 14 May to 17 August 1943 is now in stock and available here.

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The Revd G. A. Studdert Kennedy – Much more to him than Woodbines

By Linda Parker.

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy became one of the most famous army chaplains of the Great War. He gained a place in popular imagination as ‘Woodbine Willie’, a popular and brave chaplain who gave our cigarettes with bibles and had a tendency to use colourful language in sermons.

Although Studdert Kennedy was a good example of an army chaplain, ministering to his troops in the front line, having the knack of communicating  with them  and winning a Military Cross, there was much more to his whole life and ministry and he achieved much in the years before his early death in 1929. Archbishop Temple said of him; “Many of us regard him as one of God’s greatest gifts to our generation.”

There had not been a biography of Studdert Kennedy since the 1970s and having recently completed a biography of the Revd Phillip ‘Tubby’ Clayton, with the encouragement of Duncan Rogers, I decided to use previously unused sources to tell the story of this remarkable priest at war and in peace. The structure of the book is mainly chronological but I departed from the narrative for several chapters describing particular parts of his ministry, such as his career as an author of vastly popular poems and books, his theological ideas of a suffering God and his fame as a charismatic and sometimes controversial speaker and preacher.

Although writing biography is difficult, I felt there was enough interesting material about Studdert Kennedy’s life to please readers who were interested in the life of poor parishes before and after the war, in military chaplaincy, inter war church and society and the popular literature of the war.

An author of biography has to be careful not to paint too rosy a picture of the subject. There were certainly those who criticised Studdert Kennedy in his life time. His speeches and written work were controversial in his attitudes to war, pacifism, socialism and marriage. He has also been criticised along with other Great War chaplains for helping to sustain military morale, a criticism which recent scholarship has disproved. Although I hoped I kept an open mind I agreed in many ways with his friend and theologian Canon Mozely who described Studdert Kennedy’s gifts as those of “Prophet, pastor and teacher.”

Information on my previous books on military chaplaincy can be found on the Helion website and my own website My next projects involve the role of army chaplains in the Second World War.

A Seeker After Truths: The Life and Times of G. A. Studdert Kennedy (‘Woodbine Willie’) 1883-1929 is now in stock and available here.


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The First Modern Air War in Latin America: The Chaco Air War, 1932-1935

By Antonio Luis Sapienza

The Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia was the first modern conflict in Latin America in the 20th Century where military aviation was widely used in all roles. Bolivia had a very powerful military aviation, but unfortunately for them and luckily for Paraguay, its high army command, led first by General Hans Kundt (a First World War German officer) first and then General Enrique Peñaranda, did not take advantage of it. On the other hand, the Paraguayan Commander-in-Chief, General José Félix Estigarribia used military aviation to help him defeat the enemy on the ground, and the result was clear: the

Clockwise, A couple of Paraguayan Air Arm Potez 25 bombers, a Paraguayan Wibault 73C.1 fighter, a Bolivian Curtiss Hawk II and a Bolivian Curtiss-Wright Osprey.

Bolivians were expelled from the Chaco after three years of war.

Regarding the Paraguayan Air Arm, during a short period of six years, from 1927 to 1933, the Paraguayan government acquired a total of 58 aircraft: 16 fighters, 14 bombers, 12 transport and liaison planes, 12 trainers and 4 flying boats, being the last ones for the Naval Aviation. The combat aircraft, Potez 25 bombers, Wibault 73C.1 and Fiat C.R.20 fighters, were mainly purchased from France and Italy, while the rest from different sources, especially from Argentina and the United States, like Breda Ba.44, Travel Air S6000B, Curtiss Robin, among others.

Paraguayan fighter pilots posing next to some Wibault 73C.1 fighters at Isla Po’i AFB in the Chaco, in 1932.

On the other hand, between 1925 and 1934, the Bolivian Air Forces, as it was called then, purchased a total of 104 aircraft: 15 fighters, 20 fighter-bombers, 36 bombers, 18 trainers and 15 transports, mainly from the UK, France, the United States and Germany. Their main combat types were Vickers Scout, Curtiss Hawk II and Curtiss Osprey fighters, Vickers Vespa, Breguet XIX, Curtiss Cyclone Falcon and Junkers K.43 bombers. They could also count on some Junkers W.34 and Ju.52 3/m transport planes, and some other types.

First, the reader will find a brief description of the war scenery, the Chaco, followed by some information on the aerial explorations of the area performed by the Bolivian military aviation before the war. The following chapter is devoted to the organization of the Bolivian and Paraguayan military aviation before and during the conflict, including aircraft acquisition, pilot and mechanic training, air bases and so forth. Then, a complete chronology follows of the pre-war period (1923-1932), the war itself (1932-1935) and the immediate postwar period (1935-1939). For the first time, all the

Bolivian fighter pilots posing next to some Vickers Scout fighters.

air combats, no more than 20, are described exhaustively, including very detailed information of the participants, aircraft involved, pilots, location, and the final outcome. The book also covers bombing, reconnaissance, medevac, liaison, transport missions during the war. In the postwar period, all aircraft purchased by both countries are detailed, and as a conclusion, a final balance of the air war is presented.

Very few books were published in Paraguay and Bolivia on this topic, which was a motivation to prepare the present material, after more than 30 years of intense research, including interviews with veteran pilots and mechanics, checking pilots logbooks, collecting pictures of different origins, visiting historical sites and spending hours and hours in libraries, government and private archives. My first book on the subject was published in the US in 1996, Aircraft of the Chaco War, 1928-1935 with Daniel P. Hagedorn. Since then, I have collected a lot of data and pictures, which deserved to be published, and the result was The Chaco Air War volume in the Latin America @ War Series with Helion & Co.

I am absolutely sure that the readers will be surprised by the facts, pictures, wonderful maps and aircraft color profiles presented in the book since it is focus on the operational part of the war.

Now, regarding myself, I have already published nine books, one in the US, another one in France, one in Spain and six in Paraguay. The Chaco Air War is my first book published in the UK but more volumes will follow in the Latin America @ War series in the near future. Late this year, Aerial Operations in the Revolutions of 1922 & 1947 in Paraguay, will be my second book, and for next year, The 1989 Coup D’etat in Paraguay will follow. There is even a project of publishing a volume on the Chaco Ground War in a couple of years. At present, I am working on a local book project on the history of the Paraguayan Naval Aviation (believe it or not, we do have one!!!)

I studied psychology at the Catholic University in Asunción, Paraguay. I am married and have two kids. Aviation History has been my hobby in the last 35 or more years, together with aircraft scale modeling, a hobby I have had since 1967!! I teach English at a binational center in Asunción.

I really hope you like the Chaco Air War book. Cheers!

Latin America@War: The Chaco Air War 1932-35. The First Modern Air War in Latin America is now available here.

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Rowland Jones – Old Boy of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School

By Jane Ainsworth.

I received an exciting New Year ‘gift’ when I was contacted ‘out of the blue’ (actually South Wales) by Robert Briggs, one of the nephews of Rowland Jones. Robert’s older brother David had recently given him and their eldest brother Michael’s widow a copy of my book Great Sacrifice, which they had all enjoyed reading.

All three brothers had attended Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, Robert had been Head Boy for his year and David had taught there for six years. They had participated each year in the Remembrance Ceremony of calling out the names of the Old Boys on the First World War Memorial and they were, therefore, shocked to learn so many years later that ‘Jones R’ was related to them.

Robert was pleased that I had found some information that was new to them, especially about their grandfather Sam Jones, who was an early Labour Councillor and the first Socialist Mayor of Barnsley. As custodian of their family archives, he wanted to share some information with me.

Unfortunately, the family photograph of the soldier I used in Great Sacrifice is not of Rowland Jones, although the one from the newspaper that I found is. 

Also, the child who died in infancy was a boy called Jesse not a daughter Jessie, a mistake that I recently found was made in the local newspapers at the time. Intrigued by the family story and to do justice to his memory, I ordered Jesse Jones’ death certificate. This recorded the result of the Inquest held by Thomas Taylor, Coroner, that on 26 September 1894 Sam and Annie Jones’ son ‘accidentally drowned by overbalancing himself into a Peggy Tub Head in Water 1 Minute’ at 20 Smithy Green, Monk Bretton, aged one year and ten months. Sheffield Evening Telegraph reported details of the accident the day after Jesse’s death:

‘Annie Jones …had, during the day, left a peggy tub containing water in the garden adjoining their house and, about half-past five her [son, Jesse], aged about one year, was playing about the garden when [he] began to look into the tub, and stretching over to play in the water overbalanced [himself], and fell into it. Shortly afterwards [his] mother found [him] head downwards in the tub, dead.’

Sam and Annie, whose daughter Olive was 13 months old at the time, must have been devastated to lose their firstborn child in such a tragic way. They also suffered the loss of their third child and second son, born a year after Jesse’s death, when Rowland was killed in action in the First World War.

Serendipitously, my husband Paul and I had booked a short break in Laugharne for the end of January and I arranged to visit Robert to view photos of Rowland, his British War and Allied Victory Medals, dog tags, Memorial Plaque and Scroll in addition to various documents obtained by the family while undergoing research.

Robert subsequently very generously emailed me jpegs of the photographs and other memorabilia. As Great Sacrifice will not be reprinted I am not able to publish any corrections or new information in my book. However, with the approval of Robert and David, I agreed to write this blog and to use some of their precious family photos so that their uncle can be remembered properly in the centenary year of his death.

ROWLAND JONES was born on 4 October 1895 in Barnsley; he attended Barnsley Holgate Grammar School for one year, aged 14, before starting work in the same colliery as his father, who was Checkweighman at Wharncliffe Woodmoor Colliery. When Rowland enlisted at Barnsley on 28 February 1916, aged 20, he was an Underground Haulage Hand living at Gilsland House with his parents and siblings. After undergoing training, he was granted a Commission on 26 June 1918 as a Second Lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding). Rowland had only been on the Western Front in France for about a fortnight when he was fatally wounded. He died on 13 October 1918, aged 23, just nine days after his birthday and less than a month before the war ended.

Rowland was buried in the Rocquigny–Equancourt Road British Cemetery, and, after the war ended, his father visited the grave on the Somme. Sam Jones was one of the Aldermen of Barnsley involved in the erection of Barnsley’s Cenotaph, behind which the impressive Town Hall was subsequently built.

Rowland Jones is remembered by name on the headstone of his parents’ grave in Monk Bretton Cemetery, the BHGS War Memorial in the Cooper Gallery (former Grammar School premises) and on the Painted Pillar, which lists 200 names, in the War Memorial Chapel in St Mary the Virgin’s Parish Church in Barnsley.

He is remembered by his family and I hope that his story will live on because of Helion & Company publishing my book … (A few copies of Great Sacrifice are still available).

Photographs of the Jones family and memorabilia are used in this blog by kind permission of the Briggs family, who have copyright.

Order a copy of Great Sacrifice here.

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A Most Enigmatic War: R.V. Jones and the Genesis of British Scientific Intelligence 1939-45

By James Goodchild.

Following publication of my book A Most Enigmatic War: R.V. Jones and the Genesis of British Scientific Intelligence, Helion have kindly asked me to write a short article about the importance of the research into this fascinating subject.

At the beginning of the Second World War, there was no such arrangement as British Scientific Intelligence – it simply did not exist! Owing to the advancements of warfare technology in the first four decades of the twentieth – obviously accelerated by the First World War – there had been mooted discussions within the small cadres of RDF ‘boffins’ that the Committee of Imperial Defence (that reported to the Cabinet of the British Government) knew very little of German scientific and technological capabilities. For this reason, Reginald Victor Jones – a young academic from the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford – was attached to the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS, forerunner of MI6) to ascertain what Britain and the British military forces might encounter. Jones’s wartime experiences are well-known because of the 1978 publication of his war memoirs entitled Most Secret War. All historians have since accepted his account uncritically, which has created the common misconception that Jones was some kind of heroic lone crusader in the quest to understand Axis science and technology (S&T). My first book corrects this historical anomaly, and subsequently opens a new field of research into British scientific and technical intelligence (STI).

A Most Enigmatic War is the culmination of five years of research into wartime STI. Over fifty archival collections were consulted in order to understand the complexity of the extensive network of organisations, involving thousands of men and women who contributed to the intelligence on Axis S&T. What was especially amazing is that there were at least 25 members of Jones’s team who contributed to the successes (and failures) of ADI (Science)! This is certainly not the impression given by Jones in his memoirs. Of particular surprise and, again, something entirely forgotten by Jones (or perhaps he was concerned about national security even after the ULTRA secret was revealed in 1974) was the 3G(N) organisation housed in Hut 3 at Bletchley Park which contributed significantly to the discoveries made by ADI (Science).

Bletchley Park – Home of the Codebreakers, from where ADI (Science) obtained much intelligence, especially from 3G(N) in Hut 3. Source: Author’s own collection.

ADI (Science) did have some impressive successes, such as the scientific deductions that revealed the navigational radio beams used by the Luftwaffe to bomb the major cities in Britain, and the discovery of the Würzburg and Giant Würzburg radar dishes that that was the root cause of so many losses for Bomber Command from 1941 through to at least 1943.

Arguably, the greatest success of ADI (Science) during the Second World War was discovering the Giant Würzburg. With a 9-metre diameter, the Giant Würzburg was as tall as adjacent buildings and trees and could detect incoming aircraft from as far away as 50 miles. This particular Giant Würzburg was acquired by the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in 1981, photographed by the author in 2011. Source: Author’s own collection.

Yet the ADI (Science) watchdog was too late to bark in some situations, for example the Channel Dash of February 1942, the failure to discover the HS293 guided missiles that sunk battleships in the Mediterranean, and the lateness of intelligence on the V-1 ‘doodlebugs’ and V2 rockets that caused so much loss of live, especially in London and Antwerp.

The Hs293 guided missile was arguably the weapon that surprised British Intelligence the most during the Second World War. This photograph (taken in 2012) is of an Hs293 hanging in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin. Note the rocket engine attached to the underbelly of the missile. Source: Author’s own collection.

I can truly say that I loved researching for A Most Enigmatic War and, for readers interested in writing their own work of history, I would suggest that passion for the research project is the fundamental requirement to success. Ideally, there also has to be a gap in historical understanding. My initial motivation stemmed from reading Jones’s war memoirs, but then the more I read around wartime STI, the more I realised how remarkably influential Jones’s book had become since the late-1970s. And so, Jones and STI became the core of my doctoral studies at the University of Exeter, and then the subject of my first book. There is much in A Most Enigmatic War that should excite both the academic as well as the casually-interested reader. I am currently working on my next book – the research of which is complete – on the subject of S&T developments of the First World War. Inevitably, the modern pursuit of intelligence emerged during the Great War (the war Jones’s father fought). Yet the difference was that S&T became the root cause of many intelligence developments, rather than the target.

A Most Enigmatic War: R.V. Jones and the Genesis of British Scientific Intelligence 1939-45 is now available to order here.

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Defending Island Britain in the Second World War

By David Rogers.

I have been writing books for Helion and Company for a number of years now. In most cases these books have explored the infrastructure of war, that is to say the process of government and the effect of the war on civilians in Britain. Defending Island Britain is no different. I wanted to understand how the civil and military authorities interacted in the complex issues of defending Britain, and the preparations needed to ensure minimal casualties and disruption to civilian life should the unthinkable happen. In keeping with some of my other books the preparations for war started well before war was declared in 1939. There were still buildings bought or requisitioned during the war in government hands in 1950. The defence of Britain, at least the administration and infrastructure, lasted well over ten years, which is interesting in itself.

Relocating the young and vulnerable was a significant part of these preparations. Fortunately, I know a couple of people directly involved. Now 96 a near neighbour was a student teacher at the outbreak of the Second World War and found himself knocking on parent’s doors asking them if they wanted their child or children evacuated. I am also having lunch later in the year with a lady now in her mid to late 70s who was evacuated from the East End and relocated to my north west London Borough. Their personal experiences helped to shape my thinking on the whole issue of evacuation.

There was a complex debate concerning the need to evacuate the young and the vulnerable early in the war, yet the policy later was that those remaining in coastal areas were asked to stay put should the enemy come. Indeed, a leaflet was produced to that effect.

©Danercon Ltd 2017. The stay put leaflet.

Part of the rationale for this was that of keeping the road network free of evacuees. The experiences gleaned from France showed that vital roads were sometimes ‘clogged up’ with evacuees. In addition, evacuees moving to new areas invariably spread unrest when they relocated.

Whilst these and other preparations were invoked there was also the need to strengthen, and in some cases initiate defences, particularly along the coast and at vulnerable targets. These preparations took many forms. Mines, sea defences and barbed wire were standard in places of likely invasion, lookouts, RADAR, barrage balloons, AA guns etc for airborne attacks.

There are also sections of Defending Island Britain concerning the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. Where available, comments from those in the know who wrote up their work during the war, proved a valuable insight. In some cases, small sections of these documents are reproduced with references to their National Archives folios. In the case of the Battle of Britain, Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, the head of Fight Command at the time, wrote a comprehensive account. If you get the chance it is well worth reading the 40-50 page document in its entirety, the National Archives reference for which is in the book. The Few, as Churchill called those who fought in the Battle of Britain, have a fitting memorial on the north bank of the Thames in London.

© Danercon Ltd. The Few memorial

The 75th anniversary of the Battle which included some 20 Spitfire and Hurricanes was a sight and sound I will never forget.

Vulnerable targets took many forms. In some cases, they were factories the whereabouts of which were kept a secret for as long as possible. This was easier for factories not producing aircraft as it was obvious when new planes took to the skies! Other vulnerable targets were government buildings where vital war work was undertaken. There were literally thousands of vulnerable targets listed in a register, one of which was the Tower of London. Such is the nature of this and other ancient buildings that they were thought to be at risk of stray bombs if not a targeted sortie. For that and other reasons the Crown Jewels were removed to Windsor Castle for the duration of the war. Little was known concerning their movement to the Castle, however there were reports in the press in 1947 of their return to the Tower via the Bank of England. In the early weeks of 2018 a documentary concerning the Queen’s coronation was broadcast which detailed the Jewels storage in the Castle, of which the Queen knew nothing until that program was made. Documents detailing the removal of the Jewels from the Tower to the Castle are stored in the Royal Archives in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle and are not available to the general public. If only a copy of my book were available to the Queen, she would have known ahead of the program!

In keeping with my other books, I have spent a long time in the National Archives trawling through seemingly countless folios trying to piece together these and some of the other issues. I always enjoy the challenge of research, indeed my nine-year university ‘career’ involved six years of academic research during which I obtained a PhD in chemistry and a further three years as a postdoctoral demonstrator. Little did I realise at the time the literature searches would be of use to this extent in later life.

Defending Island Britain in the Second World War is now available to order here.

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Ken Wharton’s Latest Work on the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’

By Ken Wharton

This latest edition continues Wharton’s remarkable compilation of the period of history which blighted Northern Ireland for around 30 years, known as the troubles. He uses thorough research, analysis and oral testimony from those who fought there, allied with his biting opinion and drawing heavily on his own experiences there.  The latest book covers the period of 1991-93, which included the murder of Protestant shoppers in a fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast, the machine-gun slaughter of both Catholic and protestant civilians at Greysteel, the slaughter of Catholic workers at a Council Cleansing department in West Belfast and the murder of protestant workers near Omagh.

He was motivated to write extensively about one of Britain’s forgotten wars, by Sinn Fein and the British Left’s current attempts to re-write history in a way which masks and in some cases, actually glorifies the IRA’s terror campaign.

The author has a collection of over 60 books written on the troubles, and also relies on very detailed research from the Belfast Telegraph and by the Belfast Newsletter.  He also has paid access to the Daily Expressive on-line archives.

He is both motivated and excited by the opportunity to tell the story from the perspective of the front-line soldier who patrolled the tough and dangerous streets of Belfast, Londonderry, Rosslea, Newry and Crossmaglen.

The biggest misconception of the troubles is that it wasn’t a war; people claim that it was ‘peace-keeping duties’ and an ‘aid to the civil power’.  It was more than just that; it was a war against a well-organised, well-supplied, well-motivated and malevolent terrorist ‘Army’.

The author believes that the depth of the research, the everyday details and the level of violence by the paramilitary groups goes much, much deeper than TV and press news of the time revealed.

The casual reader will be able to live and re-live the horror which prevailed and judge for his or herself, whether or not it was a war, and see the depths of depravity to which the Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries sank to, in order to further their causes.  For academics, the sheer weight of explained statistics which have long been covered up by the British and Irish Governments and the Ministry of Defence.

The author has written 11 detailed books on the troubles, with a 12th planned.  He has been interviewed numerous times by the BBC and British newspapers and recently gave a lecture on the troubles to Officers at the elite Sandhurst Military Academy.

For new authors attempting to break into the world of publishing, he would offer one simple piece of advice: if you have a story to tell, never give up your dream, never stop trying and never lose hope of finding the right publisher.

The author currently lives in Queensland on the Gold Coast, having lived in Germany and in his native Yorkshire.  He is a former soldier, graduate from the University of Warwick and was a professional salesman for over 30 years.  He is a former football referee and is the veteran of 500 skydives.

He served in the Royal Green Jackets, although never achieved other than the basic rank of Rifleman.  He loves writing and is still dedicated to his beloved Leeds United and Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

For those who are not familiar with his works and, indeed with military terms and expressions, he includes a Glossary of Terms in his books.

Another Bloody Chapter In An Endless Civil War Volume 2. Northern Ireland and the troubles 1988-90 is now available. You  can order it from our website here.

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From Reason to Revolution Events Update

For fans of the From Reason to Revolution, we have two special events coming up in Spring 2018.

Firstly, Helion is co-sponsoring the 2018 East Midlands Napoleonic Days, taking place at the Long Acre Studios, Bingham (formerly the drill hall of the South Notts Hussars) on 3/4 March. The brainchild of historical novelist Peter Youds, the event covers all aspects of the Napoleonic era. In Peter’s own words:

The term Napoleonic refers to the period, not just the man, so there is a wide range of subject matter – social history as well as purely military affairs, costume balls as well as cannon balls!

As well as historical talks, there will also be displays of costume and needlework, wargaming, an art exhibition, and activities for children. For more information about the event, for which admission is free , please see

Amongst the speakers will be From Reason to Revolution series editor Andrew Bamford, and series authors Carole Divall, Gareth Glover, and Eamonn O’Keeffe. We will be taking the opportunity to launch Gareth’s and Eamonn’s contributions to the series at the event (readers will have to wait a little longer for Carole’s book on the British Army in Egypt, due out in the Autumn). Both new titles, numbers 13 and 14 in the series, are memoirs and both are unusual in that they tell a complete life-story rather than just a series of military adventures. Beyond that, however, the similarities cease. John Harley’s The Veteran, edited by Gareth Glover, is a rip-roaring tale of scandal and adventure, full of scurrilous anecdotes. On the other hand, the Narrative of the Eventful Life of Thomas Jackson, edited by Eamonn O’Keeffe, brings us firmly back down to earth with its account of the brutal realities of war. Jackson, a sergeant in the Coldstreamers, lost a leg in 1814 and his account of his suffering and subsequent tale of trying to make ends meet on a post-war pension is harrowing stuff.

Moving on, the second event is the first in what is hoped to be an annual series of conferences, very much in the mould of those which have proved such a success for our Century of the Soldier series. The first From Reason to Revolution series conference will take place on 29 April, at the York Army Museum, and is generously sponsored by the Society for Army Historical Research.

The theme for this year’s event is Command and Leadership, within which we have eight papers spread across three panels, looking at leadership both at a regimental level and in terms of high command and generalship. Speakers include published series authors Arran Johnston, Will Raffle, and Yves Martin, as well as others whose papers are offshoots from works-in-progress which will be added to the series portfolio in due course. We will also be taking the opportunity on the day to launch book number 17 in the series, John Harding-Edgar’s biography of General Sir George Murray, Wellington’s chief staff officer for much of the Peninsular War. As with the East Midlands event, the full range of series titles will also be available to purchase on the day.

Just as with the Century of the Soldier conferences, the papers will be published as part of the series; all being well, we will launch the 2018 proceedings at the 2019 conference!

Tickets cost £30, which includes lunch and refreshments, and can be ordered from the Helion website where a full list of speakers is also available:

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