Category Archives: critique

Ian Kershaw : To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949

Kershaw, Ian. To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949. Penguin, 2016. 624 p.

NB : Please note that I have read the translated version in French.

One of the few books of Ian Kershaw that I had not read (the synthesis side motivating me very little), I took the opportunity to repair this mistake. Indeed, we remain in a rather global synthesis with some reservations when he talk about the subjects he masters less, a little too Anglocentric in the reflections, a lot of points that would have deserved more details. But on the whole, we remain on a rather good synthesis in order to follow the big evolutions of the structures of the society and the political regimes in Europe, while adopting a rather broad comparative approach: by avoiding the analysis center only on UK / France / Germany (with a short passage on the War of Spain found in too many books). The inclusion, to varying degrees, of the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe (but also some points on the countries Scandinavians, who would have deserved more) provides a broader and informative perspective.

Not necessarily the best work of Kershaw, but strongly advise for those who do not necessarily know the subject of Europe between wars, and deeply instructive in terms of reflections on the current period … To be completed, if possible, by the Robert Gerwarth’s book: The Vanquished for a more precise zoom on the immediate post-war years.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (UK Shop).


Winter War – Finland / Soviet Union

CLERC, Louis. La Guerre Finno-Soviétique (novembre 1939 – mars 1940). Econimica, 2015. 212 p.

The case of Finland during the Second World War has always impressed me, although up to now I have concentrated mainly on the aerialn in particular through the works of Kari Stenman. Wishing to extend a little outside the strictly aerial domain, I sought to document more about the Winter War.

I then stumbled upon this book which quickly attracted me for several reasons:
1 °: It is in French ;
2 °: I am rarely disappointed by the quality of the collection “Campaign and Strategies” of Economia Publications;
3 ° The author is reported at the University of Turku in Finland, which implies access to the country’s archives and documentation, and not only from secondary translated sources. On this point, no disappointment given the very rich bibliography, of which a large part in Finnish.

For the rest, the book is quite classic for this type of military history, I would not return on it.

The big interest lies in some discoveries (at least for me):
1: If the Finnish army fought heroically in view of its means, it is clear that the Winter War ends with a real miracle for the country. At the end of the campaign, the Finnish army is on the brink of complete collapse and it would have been very easy for the Red Army to occupy the country. Fortunately for the Finns, the Soviet leaders are eager to finish.
2: Despite its resistance, the Treaty of Peace is extremely heavy on the territorial plane for Finland. It is far from the semi-victory or honorable defeat often presented. We can easily understand the sequence of events and the alliance with Germany in 1941.
3. Paradoxically this defeat is partially transformed into victory because the country avoids an annexation (or Protectorate) by the USSR. In addition, the memory of this Winter War will push the Soviets to accept a compromise peace in 1944 which will prevent Finland from being fully embraced in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war.
4 °: One is surprised by the weakness of the Scandinavian support in particular Swedish (despite the treaties and promises of pre-war). Finland is clearly left alone.
5 °: It should be noted that the book is not only about the military, but includes many passages on the social structures and the attitude of the population in order to better understand this confrontation from the inside. It is clearly here that one sees the advantage of having an author living on the spot and reading in the local language.
5 °: We will appreciate very much in the end the little put in perspective on the memory of this war in the memory Russian and especially Finnish. Interesting to understand the positions on the political and international level of this country.

Clearly a synthesis of very high quality to apprehend this conflict sometimes forgotten or presented in a very succinct way. And in French in addition.

All that remains is to hope for a follow-up on “The War of Continuation”.

NB: Just two (small) criticisms, the absence of illustration (but it is specific to the collection) and maps relatively unreadable (often zooming in and with a multitude of names of villages or places, not obvious when ‘One does not master local geography).

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (shop United-Kingdom).


History of No.47 (RAF) Squadron

CLARK, Owen. Under Their Own Flag: A History of 47 Squadron 1916-1946. Fighting High Ltd, 2016. 160 pp.

I acknowledge that I bought the book primarily for the part relating to the participation of No.47 (RAF) Squadron in East African Campaign. On this point, the book does not add much, the text being essentially a synthesis (of very good quality) of the existing publications on the subject. I did not find any new information. Note, however, several photographs of Wellesley probably unpublished (at least I have never seen it), as well as some interesting elements (including a poem written by one of the pilots in reference to the events of 13 October 1940.

The remainder of the book, however, is very interesting, in particular, the period relating to the WWI (the Squadron having been based on the Eastern front), then participation in the Russian Civil War in support of the troops of the “Whites” in the south. This part is probably the center of the author’s work and researches in great detail. Not really knowing the subject of British support, I would not say more on the substance. But, in any case very instructive to read.

For the rest, we can note a few pages relating to the operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and especially related to the events in the Dodecanese  and the island of Kos, as well as the participation in the Burma campaign.

Overall, the text is quality, with a lot of details about the missions. It should be noted, however, that it’s mainly a synthesis text with a certain distance from the pilots and other members of the Squadron. Similarly, the testimonies are almost non-existent. We are quite far from the two book of Steve Brew devoted to No.41 (RAF) Squadron.

Concerning the form, I am very mixed. Certainly, the paper is pleasant to the touch, the photos are very well printed. However, I am sorry, but the text divided into three columns on each page with a font of less than 12 (maybe 10?), Is sometimes quite unpleasant for reading …

Similarly, it is a shame not to have a real bibliography, a dozen sources are insufficient for me (especially when the 3/4 are relative to the Russian adventure). Same, for the footnotes (or at the end of the book) almost absent. This double absence always hampers me in order to be able to evaluate the research work carried out by the author.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (shop United-Kingdom).


Luftwaffe above Ireland.

HORGAN, Justin ; CUMMINS, Paddy : Luftwaffe Eagles over Ireland. Horgan Press, 2016. 340 p.


As I had seen this book quoted several times on some forums, and the exotic side of the subject. I had already read a book about Irish military aviation (O’MALLEY, Michael C. Military Aviation in Ireland: 1921-1945). So, I admit to being slightly attracted by this book.

In the end, after reading, I am very annoyed, because the book finally did not interest me, and I think reselling it. I am annoyed because the book is of high quality. A beautiful paper, full of illustrations (documents of the different aviators concerned, extract of the Irish reports of the time or ORB of the Squadrons of the RAF, extract of the press, nice photos of the current places of “crashes and landings” , A very nice presentation (except, the text not justified, it is ugly for the eyes).
The text is made up of about 20 chapters, each of which tells the story of one of these German planes (if I understand correctly, not all of them are presented when the information is almost non-existent). Generally speaking, there were quite a few details about the German aircraft flight, RAF events when there was an interception, the landing in Ireland and the event chain until the internment ). Again, I have no criticism, it is very complete and perfectly illustrated.

But, I absolutely did not hang on the book, and I quickly turned the last chapters looking at the pictures.

I regretted the small number of testimonies that the German airmen or the Irish in contact with them. I would have liked to know more about the living conditions in the internment camp (despite the testimony of one of these Germans with conditions that seem to have been very pleasant), as well as to know more about the relations with the Irish population. The author also briefly presents the different means of observation and observation in Ireland, but I would have liked to learn more about the organization set up to manage neutrality. Ultimately, information that probably does not correspond to the title of the book and its purpose.

In any case, even if I have not really hung on reading, the book is of high quality both in form and substance, and it will probably interest other people (I probably did not Enough thought before buying).

The book is available for purchase directly on the author’s website:

A shameful copy – paste

FERRARA, Orazio. La Regia Aeronautica nella Campagna del Somaliland (3 – 19 Agosto 1940). Roma : IBN, 2016. 188 pp.

It should be noted that, unlike some books of this publisher, it is only in Italian and not a bilingual English – Italian version.

For the rest, I am very critical about the result. Half of the photographs do not directly concern the subject (the conquest of British Somalia by the Italians), but more RAF and SAAF in Sudan and Kenya with particularly questionable legends. To put it simply, all South African airplanes and pilots are “avieri inglesi” or “con i colori inglesi” (a somewhat problematic, for example, for Ju.86 of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron). Another example is the photo of Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbrander in front of a Gloster Gladiator of the No.2 (SAAF) Squadron based in Wajir (Kenya) with a legend: “Somaliland, relax di piloti inglesi”. It is also rather embarrassing to see the South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts reported as an English official … when one knows his political impact in the conduct of ICB operations. I do not continue, because almost all the photographs present big problems of legends. More seriously, they seem to have been copied and pasted from the Tinus le Roux website, seeking South African people who do a very impressive job of collecting testimonials (photo, notebooks and theft) and South African pilots still living or their families. Carrying out such a copy – paste, without any authorization is very limit, not to say more.
Otherwise, there are at least some photographs relating to the Regia Aeroanutica.

There are still many errors in the order of battle of the RAF, notably No.2 (SAAF) Squadron with Hartbees (positive point, the author uses the most consistent term to name this device, probably a copy- Paste from the right book or website).

Regarding the Somaliland Campaign Operations Summary on a day-by-day basis … again, the result is very mixed. The author deals with a number of air operations that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject (the title is for British Somalia and not East Africa). For example, the Wellesley bombing of Massawa or an air collision between two South African Hawker Fury in Kenya). However, the text provides some details on the action of the Regia Aeronautica in relation to the more classical work of Shores. There are also excerpts from the “Bulletin of the Comando Supremo italiano”. It is unfortunate that this information is somewhat drowned in other contractors of air operations specific to Sudan / Eritrea and Kenya.

In the final, the book is not inherently bad, as it brings some supplements concerning pilot names, aircraft identification and other details on the activity of the Regia Aeroanutica. Unfortunately, it also includes several very big defects especially the photos very badly legend, as well as several errors that seem to show a lack of knowledge on the subject. In addition, the author seems to have a very limited practice in retrieving information (see copy and paste) from other authors / researchers without asking for any authorization. It is regrettable, to say the least, to note such behavior in relation to the research work carried out by enthusiasts. For this simple reason, it is very difficult to advise this book. Personally, I absolutely do not encourage him to buy.

History of the Rhodesian Air Force – Beryl Salt

SALT, Beryl. A Pride of Eagles – The History of the Rhodesian Air Force (1920 – 1980). Helion & Company, 2012. 856 p.

The book is devoted to the history of the Rhodesian Air Force (now Zimbabwe) since the first budget discussions and the creation of an Air Section in November 1935 at the 1st Battalion Rhodesia Regiment until the arrival of Robert Mugabe, in 1980, and the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe. If certain elements of civil aviation are pointed out, it is advisable to focus more on the following work: PHILLIPS, N.V. (Squadron Leader). Bush Horizons, the Story of Aviation in Southern Rhodesia (1896 – 1940). Harare: Air Force Association, 1998. 194 pp. Unfortunately very difficult to obtain. The book is mainly devoted to the post – 1945 period, which concerns two – thirds of the content and more particularly the Rhodesian Bush War. I would not go over it, even though I strongly recommend reading it to people interested in the history of military aviation in Africa. The book contains many details, various anecdotes, and testimonies. It must, however, be completed by the following two books to provide a completed framework on the Rhodesian Bush War: GELDENHUYS, Preller. Rhodesian Air Force Operations: Air Strike, Peysoft Publishing, 2016 and PETTER-BOWYER, P.J.H. Winds of Destruction. 30 Degrees South.

To return to the period which interests me more, the author deals with the three Squadrons linked to Rhodesia, in this case No.44, 237 and 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, although in practice only the second can actually be Considered as Rhodesians. No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron was created in April 1940 on the basis of the No.1 Squadron Southern Rhodesian Air Force, as the colony did not have the means to manage the air unit in a war context. The Squadron, then, was based in Kenya since June 1939 as part of the defense agreements of the British Empire. The unit is equipped with a collection of Hawker Hart and Audax biplanes to work with ground troops. The history of No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron is devoted to a series of chapters, three of which are specific to operations in East Africa. The first in the field concerns deployment in Kenya and transformation into a Squadron linked to the RAF. The first (first loss in the desert) depicts the first flights along the Kenya – Ethiopia – Somalia border following Italy’s entry into the war. Finally, the third issue (The East African Campaign: June 1940 – November 1941) has little to say about its contents and is essentially concerned with the Sudanese deployment beginning in September 1940. The contents are clearly lacking details (about 15 – 20 pages) to really grasp the participation of the unit. It is true that operating mainly in collaboration with the ground troops, the majority of its missions are relatively discreet and often repetitive, which prevents them from being able to render the reading attractive. However, the author brings a certain amount of information that is totally absent from the other publications relating to East Africa, its aerial role often leading to the forgetting of it. The presence of extracted numbers from the Squadron ORB also proves work based on primary sources. In addition, there are many testimonies from Pilot Officer Eric Smith, including excerpts from his logbook, which makes reading quite lively. Other excerpts are from the Rhodesian Herald and some other documents from former members. We also note more maps to locate geographically the places, as well as some photographs.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (shop United-Kingdom).


Christopher Shores – The Remake

SUTHERLAND, Jon ; CANWELL Diane. Air War East Africa (1940 – 1941), the RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword, 2009. 192 p.

After the book by Christopher Shores (Dust Clouds …), this one is a logical sequel, as it could almost be presented as a version 2.00 of the previous one. Indeed, we are not in the presence of a real research work, but rather a compilation of recent publications to complement the excellent study provided by Christopher Shores (and Corrado Ricci) in 1996. Indeed, the two co-authors Have consulted several sources later, although it is regrettable the absence of certain titles. Schoeman’s work on South African hunting, with references to James Ambrose Bown (The War of a Hundred Days), is sometimes somewhat outdated. It is even curious to see the authors cited the book mainly devoted to ground operations and not the one specific to the SAAF of the same author (A Gathering of Eagles, although also a little obsolete). Overall, this book remains very curious, because it is not bad in itself, but it suffers from big flaws. In the first place, there is a lack of research in the primary archives (the authors often repeat certain errors that are easy to detect by consulting the ORBs for example) and updating the data without taking into account the whole of the recent literature, forgetting Some of the classics (although sometimes it seems that the authors have consulted the information, but not cited, the very brief bibliography: only 15 references, without any archive, is glaring.) Secondly, The analysis is very limited, it is unfortunate to take up again this argument of the missed opportunity of the Italians for an offensive in the Sudan …, while the political influence of the Prime Minister Jan Smuts is almost absent. (Or from a more confidential literature) and does not correct any However, the whole is not bad. The writing is easy to read (especially for a non-English speaker), the main air operations are described correctly, several elements are provided on the terrestrial aspects.

This book can hardly be used to go further because of the absence of any research work in the archives and the absence of any bibliographic references (except for a short and ridiculous list of 15 references, some very At the end of the book).

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (English Shop).

Air Operations over East Africa – Christopher Shores

SHORES Christopher. Dust Clouds in the Middle East : The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar (1940 – 19422). London : Grub Street, 1996, 320 pp.

This book is fairly quick to present since it is, for me, the bible on air operations during the campaign of East Africa. It is Christopher Shores, therefore has a presentation day by day, very advanced in terms of research in the archives, with a willingness to present all the belligerents, and very rigorous. It should be noted, however, that although the part relating to ICB operations was drafted in collaboration with General Corrado Ricci (former Squadriglia 410a squadron commander), it is essentially a presentation of the action British and South African, with regular references to the Regia Aeronautica. Unfortunately, there is still the (unsolvable) problem of the destruction of the Italian archives … In any case, this is an excellent and thorough study on the subject, and the absolute reference for all research, despite the few criticisms to be made of the ” work. First, it is relatively old (1996), which deprives it of recent access to certain South African archives, as well as the new information published in recent books. It contains relatively little information on ground operations and the strategy of the different belligerents, in order to put aerial facts into perspective, although it nevertheless provides an honest synthesis. Finally, there are some errors in the consultation of the archives available at the time, especially problems of dates. But on this point, we remain on minor problems, as already mentioned several times in the chronicle of the air operations on this site. The essential defect is more the age of the work (twenty years), which today requires new information to supplement or correct events. Moreover, and as always with Shores an excellent index gathering the names of aviators and units engaged.

Finally, the East African Campaign is only one chapter (about half) of the book, as it also deals with other, relatively forgotten events in the Second World War such as operations in Syria (conflict zone Sadly topical) between the British and the French air force of the Vichy regime or the Inronclad operation against Madagascar. As a result, very good moments of reading.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (English Shop).

Gladiator and Fiat CR42 – Hakan Gustavsson et Ludovico Slongo

GUSTAVSSON, Hakan ; SLONGO Ludovico. Gladiator Vs. CR.42 Falco (1940 – 1941). Oxford : 2012, Osprey. 80 pp.


I must admit that I am not a very big fan of the books published by Osprey, as the subjects are often too cut out, sometimes repetitive, and often too short (with the limit of 80 pages). As a result, Osprey’s production is often very uneven by its quality. Regarding this book, we are clearly in the best of Osprey.

First, the two co-authors are among the best experts on the subject. The Swedish Hakan Gustavsson is the author of a website referring to biplanes during the Second World War (pilots and planes). Ludovico Slongo is one of the leading specialists of the Regia Aeronautica in East Africa. They are also co-authors of a two-volume series on the Operation Compass in North Africa (Dessert Prelude: Operation Compass), which I highly recommend reading for its very high quality.

Then, after the first, relatively interesting, but fairly classic chapters devoted to the technical description of aircraft, as well as some elements on the training of pilots, the second half is devoted to air operations. The part strictly relating to East Africa is about eight pages, to which should be added two others specific to a biography of the Italian ace Mario Visintini and correct many errors or uncertainties. More generally, it is the remark that could be made to the whole of the part devoted to East Africa. It is really a reference synthesis on the Regia Aeroanautica with a multitude of additions, corrections and additions compared to the information already published especially by Christopher Shores. The only criticism that could be made is that it is only a question of clashes between Gladiator and Fiat CR.42. It is a pity, because of the quality of the content, we would have liked to read more.

Note that the developments relating to North Africa and Greece are of the same quality by offering very good moments of readings.

Personally, I strongly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to discover the subject, because finally we have a good synthesis in only eight pages, although specific to only aspects, which makes it possible to usefully complement the reading of Dust Clouds or Air War East Africa. However, summarizing the book in this aspect would be an insult to the authors, as it also constitutes a reference for any research or deepening on the subject, as it brings a real evolution regarding the apprehension of the role of Regia Aeronautica in the sector. A very good reading.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (English Shop).

East African Campaign – Andrew Stewart

STEWART, Andrew. The First Victory: The Second World War and the East Africa Campaign. Yale University Press, 2016. 328 pp.

First of all, it is clearly a university work, as evidenced by the resume of the author, and the publisher. In addition, references to the bibliography (9 pages + numerous notes) refer mainly to this type of book. It is a shame not to find some books – articles coming from more enthusiasts and not from academics.

Then, as the title suggests, it is an analysis of the campaign from the British angle, or more exactly as the author explains about the British army, but also (Neglected in other books) of several members of the Empire. The majority of the sources consulted by the author come from the British archives, and  from South Africa and even from Kenya. Italian archives are not mentioned in the list of sources. It is, moreover, confirmed by the author in his introduction, that he leaves the study of the Italian side to other authors. Indeed, the books consulted are only the classics Del Boca or the study of Ufficio storico (which dates from 1952). Unfortunately, this study will clearly not fill this point. It is a shame, but it also confirms the shortage of documentation and sources on the Italians during the AOI campaign.

Finally, the aerial aspect is almost totally absent. By turning the pages quickly, I found only very rare mentions about the aerial activity. Remarks which are, moreover, often of poor quality. I am thinking in particular of a paragraph referring to “the obsolete South African Bristol” (SAAF has never used aircraft of this manufacturer in East Africa), as well as to SAAF Hartebeeste piloted by (I have already explained why the term Hartebeeste is inappropriate for me and is more a result of a bad transcription in the British documents and that Hartbees should be used, and the unit of Southern Rhodesia had been integrated with the RAF and not the SAAF, in any case, the latter never piloted South African aircraft). Overall, it is clear from other references that the knowledge of the author is very limited (even erroneous) as soon as he speaks of aviation, and that the latter is the great absent of the study. It is unfortunate, because one can not neglect the role played by the latter in the success of the campaign (notably during the offensive in the south, which the author seeks to put forward widely), but also in the objectives Of the British command. The neutralization of Italian airports, especially in Eritrea, was considered a priority to eliminate any risk to navigation in the Red Sea.

For the rest (but to be confirmed on reading), the book seems of high quality in terms of land operations, as well as explaining at length the British (or rather Anglo – South African) strategy. Extensive developments also seem to be devoted to the political situation of the sector, in particular the problems of rebellion in Aden (which will oblige the RAF, in particular, to distract from the months of October to December some of these very limited means of materialism Finally, more elements seem to be provided on the case of the “Ethiopian Patriots”, as well as on the elimination of the last Italian troops and tensions orchestrated by the fascist party [a not insignificant Italian civilian population remaining On the spot] after November 1941.

Too bad, however, that the illustrations / photographs are starved with about 10 pages in the middle and the print quality very average.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (English Shop).