Top 5 Second World War books for your Christmas wishlist

If you’re battling First World War fatigue in this, the Centenary Soldieryear, Duncan Rogers – our Publisher – picks the best Second World War books on our shelves to cleanse your military history palate this Christmas.

the_oder_front_vol_2_front_coverThe Oder Front 1945 Volume 2. Documents, Reports & Personal Accounts’ by A Stephan Hamilton

Duncan says: “Published in mid-December, this is one of the best single-volume treatments of the nuts-and-bolts of how the Germans attempted to organise their defences east of Berlin – drawing on a mass of unpublished material.”

Breaking new ground in its operational-level detail of the German defence of the Oder Front between January and May 1945, Volume 2 pieces together the various orders, directives and command guidance issued by the Führer, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) and Heeresgruppe Weichsel commanders to examine who drove military decisions and how they shaped Germany’s final defence in the east.

This work is an excellent companion to Volume 1 and fills an important gap in the history of German military operations during the last months of the war.

Stout Hearts. The British and Canadians in Normandy 1944’ by Ben KiteStout Hearts

Duncan says: “This is a detailed, but extremely readable account of how the British and Canadian forces functioned in Normandy – from the infantry through to the artillery, armour, and medical services – and much more besides.”

Stout Hearts is essential reading for those who wish to understand the ‘mechanics’ of battle. How does an army care for its wounded? How do combat engineers cross obstacles? How do tanks fight? How do air and naval forces support the army? But to understand what makes an army ‘tick’, you must also understand its people.

Therefore, explanations of tactics and techniques are not only well-illustrated with excellent photographs and high-quality maps, but also effectively combined with relevant accounts from the combatants themselves. These dramatic stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things are the strength of the book – bringing the campaign to life and entertaining the reader.

German Field WeaponsWorld War II German Field Weapons & Equipment. A Visual Reference Guide’ by Keith Ward

Duncan says: “Incredible 3D modelling.”

This title is the first in a series that employs a simple and effective concept to illustrate and describe the multiplicity of equipment and weapons systems used on the ground during the Second World War. Whilst many books have described such weapons and war matériel, Keith Ward’s unique abilities as a 3D technical artist bring these items to life. Illustrated throughout in full colour, here – in a single concise volume – are all major and many minor and less well-known items of German weaponry and equipment rendered precisely (including detailed cutaways showing their internal workings). Technical details are also provided. This is an essential volume for anyone interested in the German armed forces of the Second World War.

Rikugun: Guide to Japanese Ground Forces 1937-45: Volume 1: Tactical Organization of RikugunImperial Japanese Army Navy Ground Forces’ by Leland Ness

Duncan says: “Based firmly on Japanese sources, this provides a mass of information unavailable in any other Western-language book.”

Utilising both the voluminous raw Allied intelligence documents and postwar Japanese documentation as primary sources, this first volume covers the tactical organisation of army and navy ground forces during the 1937-45 war. Using the wartime Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) mobilization plans (and the unit organisation tables, unit strength tables and unit history tables compiled by the War Ministry and the 1st Demobilization Bureau during and after the war), a complete picture of IJA ground forces through the war is presented. The evolution of the Japanese force structure is examined including infantry, armour, cavalry, artillery and naval ground combat units from battalion to division level – each thoroughly discussed and illustrated with tables of organisation and equipment and mobilisation data. This forms the framework for any discussion of the Imperial Japanese Army’s capabilities and intentions.

Eyes of the DesertThe Eyes of the Desert Rats. British Long Range Reconnaissance Operations in the North African Desert 1940-42’ by David Syrett

Duncan says: “A finely-detailed and thoughtful study.”

Through meticulous research in original archival material, this book tells the extraordinary story of how a relatively small number of dedicated men developed the methods and techniques for crossing by motor vehicle the depths of the then-unmapped and seemingly impassable great deserts of Egypt and Libya – the Western Desert – during the British army’s North African campaign of 1940-43.

The Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service, as a matter of course, did extraordinary things; the heroic was the commonplace. Their tactics, techniques and remarkable success in desert warfare continue to make them of great interest to the student of military affairs. Likewise, as it seeks to answer how the deep desert can best be used for military purposes, this study is pertinent to today’s military operations – perhaps more so than at any time since the Second World War.

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