the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

Archive for the tag “WWII”

Friday Funny…don’t mention the war…or is it Macbeth?

Just for you, Mantis, sunning it up over yonder seas…I fear it may be too early for a beer or many, although it is never too early.

So as you internalise a really complicated situation inside your head, enjoy…


This material has been plundered without permission from You Tube without intent to breach Copyright. Any attempt to say otherwise will result in loss of privileges. Furthermore, I wish to apologise to my Germanic friends and beer makers for any possible offense. If any Scots were insulted, too bad, get fucked.


Book Review; Catch That Tiger by Noel Botham & Bruce Montague

13592735In one of the lesser known acts of bravery in WWII, this book retells the story of a humble officer and a few hand selected non-comms who were given one simple order, directly from Churchill himself; “Go catch me a Tiger!”

The Tiger tank was the ultimate in tracked terror, an almost perfect combination of destruction and refinement, the largest tank of the North African campaign. Dwarfing anything that Germany, England, or America had in stock, the Tiger housed an 88mm within a 60-tonne shell capable of demolishing Allied armour accurately from 2 miles, while seemingly not having a single flaw. So steps up Major Doug Lidderdale.

When Churchill demanded that an intact Tiger be captured and brought back to England for analysis one would expect a crack team of elite commandos, the envy of every soldier and hero of book-reading youth, but no, Dog and his selected men were just mere tank repairers, which as this book reveals, was a heroic bloody mob in itself as they raced into battlefields with tractors to two back damaged tanks under shell fire.

The book is a mix of fact derived from letters and official documents, including Lidderdale’s own diary, but at times it feels a little fictional as conversations take place between some of the role players. All in all, it is an amazing story as young men risk life and limb to hijack a weapon that had no obvious predators, fiercely protected by the Nazis, and not only get it back to Allied lines, hide it from their own side and try to smuggle it back to Old Blighty.

With scenes of deception and cloak and dagger stuff, it reads at times like a James Bond novel, so it came as no surprise when Ian Fleming himself popped up in a starring role! In a case where any attempt to hide the ending, the Tiger obviously is captured, and shipped to England (with no real sense of urgency, I noted) amongst spies, repeated sub attacks and internal command break downs.

The propaganda photo soon after the tank's capture - however the team involved were not allowed to be mentioned as it wouldn't 'look good' if Commandoes hadn't carried out such a heroic deed.

The propaganda photo soon after the tank’s capture – however the team involved were not allowed to be mentioned as it wouldn’t ‘look good’ if commandos hadn’t carried out such a heroic deed.

A good book for anyone interested in war memoirs.

Book Reviews; two for the price of one…

…and the subject matter couldn’t be more different.

imagesThe first again hits that favourite spot for me; WWII and Naval Warfare – Clash of Carriers – The True Story of The Marianas Turkey Shoot by Barrett Tillman.

While a lot of naval books focus on the ‘big’ battles of war – Jutland, Midway, The Atlantic – this one is an in-depth study recollecting a US vs. Japan battle in the Philippine Sea in gaining control of the Guam and its island neighbours. The term ‘Turkey Shoot’ was coined by an airman after one of the dogfights during the week-long fight and is famous for being a totally fought in the air by two battle groups hundreds of miles apart where surface ships never saw sight of each other.

While Midway became the real turning point in the Pacific War for the Americans when Japan lost a lot of its major ‘flat tops’, Philippine Sea all but sealed the deal as the Japanese, stretched at best, lost not only three more carriers, but somewhere close to 75% of its remaining seaborne aircraft, and more importantly experienced pilots.

The recollection is very good in building up to the battle, the planning and sparring from both sides while putting into layman’s terms what was happening, and what the risk was to both sides. Calling on interviews from survivors on both sides it is (almost) balanced in its reporting, however it does tend to lean towards the American side i bias, something which is probably easy to do when the author is a Yank, and the Yanks were deemed the victors.

All in all a fascinating read that doesn’t bore one with too much jargon and has a good focus on the thoughts and fears of those who dueled in the air. I have read many a book on war and more often than not I have sometimes wondered how the hell the Allies managed to win, what with poor planning, poor execution, and more often than not inter-service distrust. This book almost has you thinking the same thing, but the underlying tone in this is courage, and risk, and the Americans more than had this with near fatal results. Nothing to take away from the Japanese; hopelessly outnumbered and in inferior hardware, but if one chapter sticks out for me, it comes near the end when the American aircrews are left with no choice but to ‘come home’ in the dark.

Thrilling stuff that makes it hard to put down…


images-1The second book is shamefully a genre I read too much of; chick-lit.

I don’t shy away from it, and over the years have enjoyed more than a few, and this one on the blurb alone made me read it, and I am bloody glad I did.

“Letters to a Love Rat’ by Niamh Greene is a girly book, about in part, girly books. It has an interesting plot; one girl writes letters (but never sends them) to a man who crushed her heart years back on the advice of her counselor. Another wakes up after her honeymoon to a note from her new husband which asks her to put out the recycling, oh yeah, and tells her that her he’s left her. The other girl writes a blog (with appropriate following) detailing her affair with her boss…

…the key, they all refer to the central man, Charlie.

In true Irish fashion the book is funny without trying hard to be so, and the writing is great as the three leading ladies are as different as different can be. Throw in a hunky janitor, a house painter, a gay prison guard, and no less than three famous writers, and you have a story (or three) that’s hard to put down.

It seems that Niamh has written a few books where the titles suggest a similar style/plot line, but if this one is anything to go by, I will keep a keen eye for them.

Book Review; Ark Royal by Mike Rossiter

images-3World War II…check…navy…check…

Two of my favourite subjects come together in a book by a man who I have reviewed in the past. Rossiter wrote a great story on the recovery of a B29 bomber that had crashed in Greenland and here he was coming back looking for what is undoubtedly the greatest aircraft carrier known.

The book is in fact two stories nicely weaved into a seamless historical bio of both the ship during its battles in WWII, and Rossiter’s battles (some would say obsession) with locating the wreck in the western Mediterranean.

As it is a non-fictional piece of work there is no need to hold off from revealing the outcome, it is there in public domains for all to see for themselves; Ark Royal was the most modern carrier made (which ironically also doomed it), she fought with distinction on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, hunted down the likes of the Graf Spee, Admiral Hipper, and most famously Bismarck. She offered support and relief to the embattled armies fighting on Crete and Malta and against Rommel in North Africa, and despite high-ranking officials (including Churchill himself) survived many attempts at her destruction through lack of support and weaponry. Even the Nazi propaganda machine claimed her sunk on more than one occasion…

Mike Rossiter is owed a lot in locating and filming her hull 1000m below the surface, and thanks must also go to Paul Allen who at the time owned the largest luxury yacht in the world and loaned it for the expedition.

A book that suits war buffs and civvies alike, the book is not full of too much jargon and worded well to tell a story…


HMS Ark Royal in her death throes...

HMS Ark Royal in her death throes…

Book Review; Get Rommel by Michael Asher

My love for reading historical records from WWII is always tempered by this remark; “How the hell did we not end up speaking German?” and this book is yet another that reinforces just how bloody lucky we were. It was no small miracle that Hitler was by himself tactically stupid yet only just more stupid than those in power, collectively, in the UK…

This book brilliantly tells one of the lesser-known secret ops of WWII to capture, or kill the greatest General of the wart, Erwin Rommel, The Desert Fox. This one botched plan was also the birth of Special Forces, namely the Commandos, SAS and SBS and from inauspicious beginnings and typically English aristocracy it is a wonder that such revered fighting men ever came from it.

This book tells a great story covering desert warfare, tactical achievements and failures, bumbling chains of command and sincere character references making it a fascinating, frustrating and very easy read for anyone who is interested, or not interested in war. As much designed to tear down the aura of invincibility of the SAS as applaud it Asher is in no doubt who were the heroes and who were the idiots of the campaigns to the point of all but discrediting a posthumous Victoria Cross…touchy subject, but if the book is to be taken as gospel you would agree however this vein of cynicism does maintain a strong presence right through the book, whether rightly or wrongly it becomes a subjective matter.

The only crticism of the book I would mention is a lack of pictures that are relevant to the story.


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