Trenchard: Father of the Royal Air Force
By Russell Miller
Hugh 'Boom' Trenchard was embarrassed by being described as 'The Father of the Royal Air Force' - he thought others were more deserving. But the reality was that no man did more to establish the world's first independent air force and ensure its survival in the teeth of fierce opposition from both the Admiralty and the War Office. Born in Taunton in 1873, Trenchard struggled at school, not helped by the shame of his solicitor father's bankruptcy when he was sixteen. He failed entrance examinations to both the Royal Navy and the Army several times, eventually obtaining a commission through the 'back door' of the militia. After service in India, South Africa - where he was seriously wounded - and Nigeria, he found his destiny when he joined the fledgling Royal Flying Corps in 1912, where he was soon known as 'Boom' thanks to his stentorian voice. Quick to recognise the huge potential aircraft offered in future conflicts, he rose rapidly to command the RFC in France during the First World War despite handicaps that would have blighted conventional military careers: he was obstinate, tactless, inarticulate and chronically unable to remember names - yet he was able to inspire unflagging loyalty among all ranks. Despite his conspicuous distrust of politicians, he served as a successful Chief of the Air Staff for a decade after the war and then, at the personal request of the King, took over as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, which he reorganised and reformed. He never wavered in his belief that mastery of the air could only be achieved by relentless offensive action, or in his determined advocacy of strategic bombing. His most enduring legacy was the creation of the finest air force in the world, engendered with the spirit that won the Battle of Britain.
Daughter of Empire
By Pamela Hicks
A source of inspiration for the film Viceroy's HousePamela Mountbatten was born at the end of the 1920s into one of Britain's grandest families. The daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten and his glamorous wife Edwina Ashley, she was brought up by nannies and governesses as she was often parted from her parents as they dutifully carried out their public roles. A solitary child, she learned to occupy her days lost in a book, riding or playing with the family's animals (which included at different times a honey bear, chameleons, a bush baby, two wallabies, a lion, a mongoose and a coati mundi). Her parents' vast social circle included royalty, film stars, senior service officers, politicians and celebrities. Noel Coward invited Pamela to watch him filming; Douglas Fairbanks Jr. dropped in for tea and Churchill would call for 'a word with Dickie'.After the war, Pamela truly came of age in India, while her parents were the Last Viceroy and Vicereine. This introduction to the country would start a life-long love affair with the people and the place.
Lenin the Dictator
By Victor Sebestyen
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
By David Render, Stuart Tootal
A gripping account of World War Two, from the perspective of a young tank commander.In 1944 the average life expectancy of a newly commissioned tank troop officer in Normandy was estimated as being less than two weeks. David Render was a nineteen-year-old second lieutenant fresh from Sandhurst when he was sent to France to join a veteran armoured unit that had already spent years fighting with the Desert Rats in North Africa. Joining the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry five days after the D-Day landings, the combat-hardened men he was sent to command did not expect him to last long. However, in the following weeks of ferocious fighting in Normandy, in which more than 90 per cent of his fellow tank commanders became casualties, his ability to emerge unscathed from countless combat engagements defied expectations and earned him his squadron's nickname of the 'Inevitable Mr Render'.In Tank Action David Render tells his remarkable story, spanning every major episode of the last year of the Second World War in Western Europe, from the invasion of Normandy to the fall of Germany. Ultimately it is a story of survival, comradeship and the ability to stand up and be counted as a leader in combat.
The Rival Queens
By Nancy Goldstone
'A gripping tale of royal feuds and divided kingdoms' - AMANDA FOREMANSet in Renaissance France at the magnificent court of the Valois kings, THE RIVAL QUEENS is the history of two remarkable women, a mother and daughter driven into opposition by a terrible betrayal that threatened to destroy the realm. Catherine de' Medici, the infamous queen mother of France, was a consummate pragmatist and powerbroker who dominated the throne for 30 years. Her youngest daughter Marguerite, the glamorous 'Queen Margot', was a passionate free spirit, the only adversary whom her mother could neither intimidate nor fully control. When Catherine forces the Catholic Marguerite to marry her Protestant cousin Henry of Navarre she creates not only savage conflict within France but also a potent rival within her own family. Treacherous court politics, poisonings, international espionage and adultery form the background to a story whose fascinating array of characters include such celebrated figures as Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Nostradamus.
Margot at War
By Anne de Courcy
Margot Asquith was perhaps the most daring and unconventional Prime Minister's wife in British history. Known for her wit, style and habit of speaking her mind, she transformed 10 Downing Street into a glittering social and intellectual salon. Yet her last four years at Number 10 were a period of intense emotional and political turmoil in her private and public life. In 1912, when Anne de Courcy's book opens, rumblings of discontent and cries for social reform were encroaching on all sides - from suffragettes, striking workers and Irish nationalists. Against this background of a government beset with troubles, the Prime Minister fell desperately in love with his daughter's best friend, Venetia Stanley; to complicate matters, so did his Private Secretary. Margot's relationship with her husband was already bedevilled by her stepdaughter's jealous, almost incestuous adoration of her father. The outbreak of the First World War only heightened these swirling tensions within Downing Street. Drawing on unpublished material from personal papers and diaries, Anne de Courcy vividly recreates this extraordinary time when the Prime Minister's residence was run like an English country house, with socialising taking precedence over politics, love letters written in the cabinet room and gossip and state secrets exchanged over the bridge table. By 1916, when Asquith was forced out of office, everything had changed. For the country as a whole, for those in power, for a whole stratum of society, but especially for the Asquiths and their circle, it was the end of an era. Life inside Downing Street would never be the same again.
By Adrian Goldsworthy
Caesar Augustus schemed and fought his way to absolute power. He became Rome's first emperor and ruled for forty-four years before dying peacefully in his bed. The system he created would endure for centuries. Yet, despite his exceptional success, he is a difficult man to pin down, and far less well-known than his great-uncle, Julius Caesar. His story is not always edifying: he murdered his opponents, exiled his daughter when she failed to conform and freely made and broke alliances as he climbed ever higher. However, the peace and stability he fostered were real, and under his rule the empire prospered. Adrian Goldsworthy examines the ancient sources to understand the man and his times.
City of Lies
By Ramita Navai
Lying in Tehran is about survival. Welcome to Tehran, a city where survival depends on a network of subterfuge. Here is a place where mullahs visit prostitutes, drug kingpins run crystal meth kitchens, surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is sold in the sprawling bazaars; a place where ordinary people are forced to lead extraordinary lives. Based on extensive interviews, CITY OF LIES chronicles the lives of eight men and women drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society and reveals what it is to live, love and survive in one of the world's most repressive regimes.
The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood
By Robert Hutchinson
'THE AUDACIOUS CRIMES OF COLONEL BLOOD is television mini-series material ... the clash of blades, the whizzing bullets and galloping hooves guarantee nonstop adventure.' Jonathan Keates, LITERARY REVIEWOne morning in May 1671, a man disguised as a parson daringly attempted to seize the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Astonishingly, he managed to escape with the regalia and crown before being apprehended. And yet he was not executed for treason. Instead, the king granted him a generous income and he became a familiar strutting figure in the royal court's glittering state apartments.This man was Colonel Thomas Blood, a notorious turncoat and fugitive from justice. Nicknamed the 'Father of all Treasons', he had been involved in an attempted coup d'état in Ireland as well as countless plots to assassinate Charles II.In an age when gossip and intrigue ruled the coffee houses, the restored Stuart king decided Blood was more useful to him alive than dead. But while serving as his personal spy, Blood was conspiring with his enemies. At the same time he hired himself out as a freelance agent for those seeking to further their political ambition.In THE AUDACIOUS CRIMES OF COLONEL BLOOD bestselling historian Robert Hutchinson paints a vivid portrait of a double agent bent on ambiguous political and personal motivation, and provides an extraordinary account of the perils and conspiracies that abounded in Restoration England.
By Steve Heaney, MC, Damien Lewis
2,000 blood-crazed rebels. 26 elite British soldiers. One man's explosive true story.Airlifted into the heart of the Sierra Leone jungle in the midst of the bloody civil war in 2000, 26 elite operators from the secret British elite unit X Platoon were sent into combat against thousands of Sierra Leonean rebels.Notorious for their brutality, the rebels were manned with captured UN armour, machine-guns and grenade-launchers, while the men of X Platoon were kitted with pitiful supplies of ammunition, malfunctioning rifles, and no body armour, grenades or heavy weapons.Intended to last only 48 hours, the mission mutated into a 16-day siege against the rebels, as X Platoon were denied the back-up and air support they had been promised, and were forced to make their stand alone. The half-starved soldiers, surviving on bush tucker, fought with grenades made from old food-tins and defended themselves with barricades made of sharpened bamboo-sticks, tipped in poison given to them by local villagers.Sergeant Steve Heaney won the Military Cross for his initiative in taking command after the platoon lost their commanding officer. OPERATION MAYHEM recounts his amazing untold true story, full of the rough-and-ready humour and steely fortitude with which these elite soldiers carried out operations far into hostile terrain.
By John Hussey
John Churchill was born in 1650, the son of a defeated Cavalier captain, in a household which had been ravaged and rendered almost destitute by the English Civil War. Yet by the time of his death in 1722 he was among the richest men in the country, with a dukedom, a palace and a principality to call his own.His rise to power came through a combination of good luck, astute political manoeuvring, and a brilliance on the battlefield that made him easily the most successful general of his time. In this concise biography of the man and his military genius, John Hussey describes in detail the campaigns that made Marlborough famous: the 1704 campaign to save the Austrian empire, which culminated in the great victory of Blenheim, and the audacious invasion across Louis XIV's Ne Plus Ultra lines in 1711. These campaigns are put in the context of the times, to create a portrait of a man who is still celebrated as one of the world's greatest ever military commanders.
By Jane Wellesley
Reissued for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo The first Duke of Wellington's victory at Waterloo in 1815 is remembered as one of our nation's greatest triumphs and, two hundred years on, the 'Iron Duke' is still very much a public figure. But here, Jane Wellesley's family memoir paints an altogether more intimate and compelling portrait.Jane journeys through the past, unearthing memories and secrets to illuminate her family tree. It is a saga peppered with fascinating characters: the 2nd Duke was a full-time eccentric and had his lawnmower pulled by an elephant; the 7th Duke, Jane's grandfather, worked for MI6; and Jane's grandmother's involvement with writer Vita Sackville-West created ripples in the Bloomsbury set as well as her marriage.The Wellesley story shows how Wellington's descendants have lived on in the light of their ancestor's fame, and how a family is so much more than the history of one man.