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.
By David Render, Stuart Tootal
A gripping account of the Second World War, 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
Set 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 control. When Catherine forces the Catholic Marguerite to marry her Protestant cousin Henry of Navarre against her will, and then uses her opulent Parisian wedding as a means of luring his Huguenot followers to their deaths, in the notorious St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, she creates not only savage conflict within France but also a potent rival within her own family. Rich in historical detail and vivid prose, Nancy Goldstone's narrative unfolds as a thrilling historical epic. 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. From Catherine's early struggles with her husband's exquisite mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and her exultant rise to power, through Marguerite's poignant sacrifice of love and happiness to save her husband's life, and ultimately to the political awakening that leads to a threat to her very survival, THE RIVAL QUEENS is a dangerous tale of love, betrayal, ambition and the true nature of courage, the echoes of which still resonate.
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.
Margot at War
By Anne de Courcy
An unconventional view of the First World War from inside the glittering social salon of Downing Street: a story of unrequited love, loss, sacrifice, scandal and the Prime Minister's wife, Margot Asquith.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 five 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 Steve Heaney, MC, Damien Lewis
No back up. No air-support. No rescue. No chance.OPERATION MAYHEM is the first ever account of a truly epic elite forces mission: one of the most highly decorated in modern military history.Airlifted deep into the heart of the African jungle in the midst of a bloody civil war, twenty-six operators from the secret British unit X Platoon were sent into combat against two thousand rebels - being used as bait to lure the enemy into a decisive, do-or-die battle. High on blood-lust, voodoo and drugs, the rebels were notorious for their brutal savagery. Equipped with captured armour, heavy machine-guns and grenade-launchers, they vastly outgunned the men of X Platoon - who were kitted out with pitiful supplies of ammunition and malfunctioning rifles, plus no body armour, grenades or heavy weaponry.Intended to last just days, the mission mutated into a desperate siege, as the men of X Platoon - more formally known as the Pathfinders - faced what the rebels dubbed 'Operation Kill British'. Half-starved, surviving on giant African snails, fungi and other bush tucker, this handful of elite warriors were forced to make their stand unaided and alone. They fought using grenades made from old food-tins and 'punji fields' - rows of vicious sharpened bamboo-stakes - as the locals joined forces with them to defend against the onslaught. Sergeant Steve Heaney was awarded the Military Cross for taking control of the battle after X Platoon lost their commanding officer. His story is full of the rough-and-ready humour and steely heroics with which these elite soldiers carried out operations far into hostile terrain.The ferocious close quarter combat at the village of Lungi Lol brought to an end the horrific, decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. OPERATION MAYHEM is the first ever account of this untold true story - one fought and won deep behind enemy lines.
By Tim Bouquet
The inside story of today's Dambusters, 617 Squadron RAF, at war in Afghanistan.In May 1943, 617 Squadron RAF executed one of the most daring operations in military history as bombers mounted a raid against hydro-electric dams in Germany. 617 Squadron became a Second World War legend. Nearly 70 years later, in April 2011, a new generation of elite flyers, now flying supersonic Tornado GR4 bombers, was deployed to Afghanistan - their mission: to provide close air support to troops on the ground.Tim Bouquet was given unprecedented access to 617's pre-deployment training and blistering tour in Afghanistan. From dramatic air strikes to the life-and-death search for IEDs and low-flying shows of force designed to drive insurgents from civilian cover, he tracked every mission - and the skill, resilience, banter and exceptional airmanship that saw 617 through.
City of Lies
By Ramita Navai
This is real Tehran: a city that is hidden from view and rarely written about, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and subterfuge.It is a place where mullahs visit prostitutes, drug kingpins run crystal meth kitchens, surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is uploaded onto the Internet and sold in the bazaars. Plotted around the city's great central thoroughfare, Vali Asr Street, CITY OF LIES chronicles the lives of eight protagonists drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society. This is a world of gangsters, socialites, dutiful housewives and volunteer militiamen - ordinary people forced to lead extraordinary lives. Based on extensive interviews and research, CITY OF LIES is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of modern Tehran, and of what it is to live, love and survive under one of the world's most repressive regimes.
The Silver Spitfire
By Tom Neil
A brilliantly vivid Second World War memoir by one of 'the Few' Spitfire fighter pilots.Following the D-Day landings, Battle of Britain hero Tom Neil was assigned as an RAF liaison to an American fighter squadron. As the Allies pushed east, Neil commandeered an abandoned Spitfire as his own personal aeroplane. Erasing any evidence of its provenance and stripping it down to bare metal, it became the RAF's only silver Spitfire. Alongside his US comrades, he took the silver Spitfire into battle until, with the war's end, he was forced to make a difficult decision. Faced with too many questions about the mysterious rogue fighter, he contemplated increasingly desperate measures to offload it, including bailing out mid-Channel. He eventually left the Spitfire at Worthy Down, never to be seen again.THE SILVER SPITFIRE is the first-hand, gripping story of Neil's heroic experience as an RAF fighter pilot and his reminiscences with his very own personal Spitfire.
Testament of Youth
By Vera Brittain
This classic memoir of the First World War is now a major motion picture starring Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington. Includes an afterword by Kate Mosse OBE.In 1914 Vera Brittain was 20, and as war was declared she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life - and the life of her whole generation - had changed in a way that would have been unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era.TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain's account of how she survived those agonising years; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time, and has lost none of its power to shock, move and enthral readers since its first publication in 1933.
By Michael Hastings
The inspiration for the upcoming movie WAR MACHINE, starring Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and Ben Kingsley (streaming on Netflix from 26 May).General Stanley McChrystal, the innovative commander of international and US forces in Afghanistan, was living large. Loyal staff liked to call him a 'rock star'. During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional Allied help for the war effort, McChrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of ROLLING STONE. For days, Hastings looked on as McChrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership. When Hastings' piece appeared a few months later, it set off a political firestorm: McChrystal was ordered to Washington, where he was unceremoniously fired.In THE OPERATORS, Hastings gives us a shocking behind-the-scenes portrait of Allied military commanders, their high-stakes manoeuvres and often bitter bureaucratic in-fighting. He takes us on patrol missions in the Afghan hinterlands and to hotel bars where spies and expensive hookers participate in nation-building gone awry, drawing back the curtain on a hellish complexity and, he fears, an unwinnable war.
Until the Final Hour
By Traudl Junge
'To have such an uncomplicated, unaffected witness present at some of the key defining moments of the 20th century was fortunate for historians...her testimony rings absolutely true, when other politically motivated accounts of the last days of Hitler do not' Andrew RobertsTraudl Junge was 22 years old and dreamt of a career as a ballerina, until the 'opportunity of her life' beckoned and she was appointed as Adolf Hitler's secretary. From 1942 until his death she was at his side in the bunker, typing his correspondence, his speeches and even his last private and political will and testament. It was only after the war that the horrible reality of Hitler's regime began to dawn on her, and she became racked with guilt for 'liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived.' Her journal, written in 1947, is a startling eyewitness account of Hitler's court during its final years, and of the building sense of doom as the war progressed.
By David Blakeley
Nine men. 2,000 enemies. No back-up. No air support. No rescue. No chance...First in - the official motto of one of the British Army's smallest and most secretive units, 16 Air Assault Brigade's Pathfinder Platoon. Unofficially, they are the bastard son of the SAS. And like their counterparts in Hereford, the job of the Pathfinders is to operate unseen and undetected deep behind enemy lines. When British forces deployed to Iraq in 2003, Captain David Blakeley was given command of a reconnaissance mission of such critical importance that it could change the course of the war. It's the story of nine men, operating alone and unsupported, fifty miles ahead of a US Recon Marine advance and head straight into a hornets nest, teeming with thousands of heavily-armed enemy forces. This is the first account of that extraordinary mission - abandoned by coalition command, left with no option but to fight their way out of the enemy's backyard. And it provides a gripping insight into the Pathfinders themselves, a shadowy unit, just forty-five men strong, that plies its trade from the skies. Trained to parachute in to enemy territory far beyond the forward edge of battle - freefalling from high altitude breathing bottled oxygen and employing the latest skydiving technology - the PF are unique.Because of new rules introduced since the publication of Bravo Two Zero, there have been no first-hand accounts of British Special Forces waging modern-day warfare for nearly a decade. And no member of the Pathfinders has ever told their story before. Until now. Pathfinder is the only first-hand account of a UKSF mission to emerge for nearly a generation. And it could be the last.