Tag Archives: military history books

Behind the Lines

Behind-the-Lines

We’re pleased to announce that Behind the Lines: A Critical Survey of Special Operations in World War II is now available from Casemate!

In this book, Michael Dilley discusses the operations of special purpose and special mission organizations during World War II, cover theaters including Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and the United States.

To learn more about Michael Dilley and his research into special operations in World War II below:

Have you always been interested in history?

History was my major in college. I was influenced by teachers who pushed me to ask “Why?” What fascinates me most about history is the viewpoint of participants in the action. Whenever possible I write from that perspective. My wife helped me to see my work from that angle and she was correct. I have always believed that history is not just dates and events – it is people – what they think and feel, and why and how they react to circumstances.

Dilley

Why did you decide to write this book?

When I began reading books on special purpose, special mission units I made a list of operations I would like to write about. After my first two books were published I took out the list. I had already written about some of them. I began to collect data on the operations on that list that I had neglected and to write articles about them. They were pretty well received, which made me think about putting them together along with some others that I had already written. In 1997, I prepared an outline for this book, adding and deleting articles as time went on. I shopped the proposal around, all the while looking critically at the content. One of the early rejection letters influenced me to change the focus of the book and I reworked it. Other writers who looked at the material liked it and encouraged me to continue to work on it.

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Ice, Steel and Fire: Author Event

9781908916495Last week Helion hosted the launch of new title Ice, Steel and Fire: British Explorers in Peace and War 1921-45 at the London Club of the Rifles.

Born out of a tremendous amount of research, Ice, Steel and Fire is the brainchild of author and historian Linda Parker whose passion for the history of Polar exploration was the driving force behind this fantastic study. Polar exploration has enabled us to witness – and the intrepid to experience – the very limits at which a human can survive. ISF7It is within the pages of Parker’s new work that we see how the heroic age of Polar exploration inspired a generation of brave, and some might say foolhardy, young explorers to forge their own paths. Paths that would eventually lead them to the battlefields, beaches and jungles of World War Two where new tales of heroism would be forged.

One such character was Peter Fleming – brother to the famous Ian Fleming. A journalist for the The Spectator, Peter was also an intrepid explorer, travelling through Brazil and Asia in the early thirties before the rumblings of war took hold of Europe. It was Peter who would go on to take part in vital operations across the Far East throughout peter-fleming-port_1399510fWorld War II, specialising in feats of deception that would rival those of his brother’s Bond character. It is explorers like Peter, who cut their teeth adventuring across the world, who would prove to be some of our most valuable assets when the war unfurled itself across Europe. In her work Parker takes the reader on these fascinating journeys, from the innocent days of Antarctic exhibitions to the dark nights of the war.

For those who couldn’t attend the event we have recording of John Coster’s interview with Linda Parker available to listen to by clicking here.

To order a copy of this excellent work visit us here for the UK and pre-order here for the USA.

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Meet the Author: Stuart Nimmo

ImageStuart Nimmo is the fascinating author behind the equally intriguing Perilous Moon: Occupied France, 1944—The End Game. Nimmo recently took part in a “Meet the Author” event at WHSmith Paris to share his experiences of writing Perilous Moon, a book that traces the journey of his father, ImageBritish bomber pilot Neil, through Occupied France. Since Paris, for many, is a fair distance away Stuart was kind enough to answer some questions that illustrate the fascinating process behind his writing, from the original story told to him by his father to his hunt for photographs that paint a vivid picture of life in Occupied France.

Q: Which part of the book did you most enjoy writing and why?

I enjoyed writing all of Perilous Moon, Occupied France but different chapters for different reasons.

PM wasn’t written sequentially, Imagein the same way as one films a television documentary or feature film out of sequence, that’s something I’m very used to.  The book grew like a jigsaw puzzle. It started naturally enough with my father’s story, which had so enthralled his three of his sons when we were children. But my father Neil told the story just once and that was it. We were amazed, and I suggested or rather, I pleaded with him to write it down, but he didn’t. Or at least I thought he hadn’t until Parkinson’s disease had taken its toll.  At that point my stepmother gave me a bundle of Neil’s notes, which turned out to be several attempts at writing his 1944 story. Apart from the early chapter of how he was shot down – which he had rather shockingly written in longhand and almost identically seven times, the rest consisted of short notes and was very bitty, mixed up, and sparse.

I thought he had written about the Lancaster flight very well and the enjoyment came in being able to help him with it at the end of his life. Neil wanted to try again and so it was a rather a wonderful project for us both to do together I think it brought us closer together as never before and at just the most important moment – the end of his life.

ImageThe Helmut Bergman part of the story didn’t begin to unfold until 2003. Bergmann’s papers and photographs were a monumental and unlikely find. To be invited by Military Antiquarian Helmut Weitz to his Hamburg gallery in order to copy what I needed for my research for the book was tremendously generous; to do just that was both exciting and, at the same time, very disturbing. On walking into the Gallery I knew that this growing, duel story was now very different, that it had to become a book and that I would have to write it!

Q: Perilous Moon looks in part at your Father’s experience of the war – did you find any parts of the book particularly difficult to write?

The difficulty camImagee in writing and constructing the two stories as one; they start with the same incident from opposing viewpoints. I really didn’t want to interrupt my father in full flow, or to introduce Bergmann into the plot too early. I had written my father’s story in the first person, in his voice and made every effort to be true to his character and style. Having found Helmut Bergmann’s papers, letters and reports, I had tremendous leads for a lot of research, but decided that I would write his story in the third person and use the flash back technique to tell the same story very much from Bergmann’s point of view. It took a while to get the flow right and included starting the story much earlier than my father had. Having got the shape right I then followed my father and Bergmann in parallel and Imagein real time, which of course fitted. The real difficulty for me was in writing wider historical fact into the story particularly as so many great historians and writers had covered the period so well. I decided to just mark the well-known events, but to find and cover interesting but lesser known events, in more detail, this called for serious research.

Q: As a documentary filmmaker by profession, how did writing this book compare- were there any similarities?

There are many similarities between making a broadcast documentary and writing a factual book, in fact I deliberately tried to write and illustrate “PM” as a highly visual story, and to use documentary techniques. In fact, documentary making is usually about helping interesting people to tell their story in ways that they might not be able to themselves.

ImageI work as a storyteller, I write, I film, I record, I speak, and I tell. I started my television career at a very young age, as Ken Russell’s assistant. I doubt that you can get a better start than that, my work involved research, (which I loved) and generally assisting this hugely talented, eccentric man. Ken took me under his wing, and over the next 10 years he taught me the art making sure that I followed the right career path, part of that was a rigorous and fascinating BBC training in Film Editing at Ealing film Studios.

As with constructing a book, a television editor’s work is very much a matter of understanding the story and compiling take a network programme from the raw, out of order “rushes”.  To construct a gripping, visual tale that’s true to the story, but without reminding the audience that they are actually watching television.  Sadly there are many reasons why such construction is becoming a lost art, not least because of a lack of training, of time and of course of finance.  In short, documentary making is telling a visually satisfying well balanced, and objective story. The BBC was mighty keen on objectivity in my day – this attitude has gone a bit wrong for them recently.

Q: What did you find out whilst researching for the book that surprised you the most?

I found the depth of the ambiguity in Occupied France extraordinary, I knew full well that it was there… but not to that extent!

The help and encouragement that I had from many Germans very pleasantly surprised me; many don’t have a problem now discussing the 1930’s and 1940’s, though they were keen that I examine attitudes and the interwar years more closely.

Q: A key feature of the book is its original period photographs – many of which have been unpublished until this book  – do you have a favourite one and why?

My father’s work was always visual, and mine too!  I started by looking hard for WWII images of Occupied France within France. That proved largely fruitless, as any French person who wanted to live tended not to point their ‘Kody-brown-eye’ at anything that referred to the Occupation or the German occupiers. Those shots that do exist have been used to death or lack candid interest, or are fakes and there are plenty of those about. Almost all the posed shots of armed groups of résistants for example, Résistant groups didn’t ever pose for photographs; the idea is ridiculous, suicidal. Such were the dangers in post-war French politics that most kept quiet about their activities. It was often those changing sides that became the highly visible “resistance de la dernière heure”… They had something to prove. That said, photography was a hugely popular pastime among the Axis combatants, Helmut Bergmann’s own albums taught me a great deal about how soldiers and airmen used their cameras, how they often enough made several prints of interesting shots and swapped them, they shared cameras and so on. My research through many thousands of privately taken photographs confirmed this and other things. It was a matter of getting to know the better German dealers many of whom knew what I was doing and were remarkably helpful and encouraging.

ImageMy favourite photograph?

That’s a difficult one! My father’s self portrait at the front of the book of course, he took it as he was balancing on the two back legs of his chair – that was my father Neil through and through, he was a lot of fun and a great photographer.

I like them all for what they add to the story at a particular point, or they would have been dropped. From a journalistic point of view I like the unexpected that says it all…

Stuart has recently launched his own website to celebrate the release of Perilous Moon. Take a look HERE.

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Casemate book gets arrested at Frankfurt Book Fair

On the Saturday of the recently concluded Frankfurt Book Fair, Casemate’s stand was subjected to an interrogation by both the book fair’s security guards and then the Polizei for a book, Totenkopf,  published by Histoire & Collections and distributed internationally by Casemate, which was displayed on the Casemate stand. The book is a facsimile of an extremely rare photographic record compiled by SS-Totenkopf photographers during the invasion of France in 1940.

After many years of being told to cover up swastikas and SS runes by security at the book fair, Casemate President, David Farnsworth, took a stand and this time refused to cooperate. It is a fact (denied by security) that although both symbols are illegal in Germany, their display is allowed in the context of a historical document.

The book fair’s representative in the Anglo-American hall (Halle 8), Anja Binninger was very helpful in deciding to find out once and for all what the actual situation was and called in the head of fair security and the police for an adjudication.

The result was that our book was “taken into custody” and we were told that if it was found to be in contravention of German law it would be confiscated. Its “arrest” and attendant paperwork (this was Germany remember) took quite some time, during which quite the crowd assembled at our stand.

Histoire & Collections title, Totenkopf (on the table) is taken in for questioning by the Polizei

It was not long before the rumor mill started with one person even being heard to claim that all our World War II books had been confiscated! This was of course nonsense, but we did wait with some interest for the decision by the police.

Happily and interestingly, some 3 hours later, the police returned the book and told us that it did not break the law after all. There was significant additional paperwork and eventually Casemate staff put the book back on display but inside the clear evidence bag in which it had been removed.

Totenkopf is released back to us, Casemate's Simone Drinkwater, Colleen Nolan and Andrew Tarring after the paperwork was concluded.

This may seem like an amusing story, and in many ways it is, however, censorship should always be resisted and although there are those who have taken far riskier stands than we did here, press freedom should be defended no matter how small the incident!

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Wednesdays with Authors – Daniel Butler

Daniel Allen Butler

This week’s author, Daniel Butler’s new book The Burden of Guilt: How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace is now available on both sides of the pond, so we have taken the opportunity to ask our well-established author a few questions on what made him want to write about such a crucial time in our world history, and what he has uncovered.

Daniel's new World War I book


The book itself will reveal much about how the First World War truly began, who orchestrated it, and how accountable Imperial Germany really were in destroying over a thousand years of European civilisation.

Daniel, when did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

I began reading on an adult level at the age of nine, and by the time I was fifteen I understood that someday I would become an author. It wasn’t a question of “if” but rather “when.” And I knew even then that I would write history—it was already, for me, that fascinating, and I would have to share that fascination.

What is it about writing that appealed to you?

History is very vital, very much “alive” for me, and the opportunity—as well as the ability—to make it so for others, especially for people to whom history had been a dry and dusty subject in school, to do just that is irresistible.

Do you have any advice for budding military history authors wanting to get
published?

Absolutely. First of all, make certain that you really do have something to say. By that I mean be sure that the premise of your book, and the conclusions you reach, actually ADD to the readers’ knowledge of the subject on which you are writing. Second, do your homework! There is no such thing as “too much research.” Don’t try to be “different” just for the sake of being different; avoid sensationalism—it has no place in responsible history; similarly, don’t overinflate a small detail into a major premise: too often that looks like an author is stretching for recognition and damages their credibility. Finally, write with restraint but never be afraid to show your passion for your subject, either to the readers or to a prospective publisher.

How much research did you do for the book? Can you give us some tips on this?

I did literally years of research. The First World War has always been a compelling subject for me, so I began to study it seriously when I was an undergraduate more than thirty years ago. Because of the premise of “The Burden of Guilt”—that the Great War began because of deliberate actions and policies consciously undertaken and by followed by Imperial Germany—I had to be certain that I was as close as possible, in terms of documentation, to the people who made the decisions. Which is why I did as much of my research as possible in places like the National Archives, the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Public Records Office, the Bundesarchiv, the Bibliotheque Nationale, and the Osterreich Nationalbibliothek—if there was a primary source document related to my work, I wanted to have it!

What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book?

The attraction is due in no small part to the fact that I realized somewhere early on that who we are, individually and as a nation, or even a race, is the result of our history: everything that has happened up to the present moment has shaped up, whether we realize it or not. And that holds true for individuals, communities, cities, nations, and humanity as a whole. However much we might want to focus on the future, or claim that “all that matters is the present,” it is literally impossible to escape the truth that we are the product of the past. And anyone who tries to believe otherwise or tell you any different is an idiot—and anyone who tries to ignore the past is an even bigger idiot. If we are to understand who and what we are, on whatever level from the individual on up, we can only do so by understanding the past—by understanding history.

Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?

Because we ARE the product of the past, and because if we are going to understand who and what we are we have to understand history, it’s imperative that we fully understand the pivotal events that gave our present world its direction. The Great War—the First World War—is THE profound event of the Twentieth Century. We are living in its aftermath in a far more real and immediate way than we are any other event of the past one hundred years—including the Second World War. Every major conflict since 1918 has had its roots in the Great War—including the present-day American occupation of Iraq. World War One was the greatest cataclysm in Western history since the fall of Rome, and in four years it swept away fifteen centuries of civilization. To me it was vital, absolutely vital, that the story be set straight, that the First World War was not some ghastly accident of politics and militarism, but rather the result of deliberate decisions taken by men who WANTED a war. Maybe—just maybe—the next time people with similar ambitions appear, we can be a little wise and deny them the authority and the opportunity to launch another such catastrophe.

How long did it take you to write it?

Ah, now that is a tale in itself! I had spent years doing the research, and apparently I had so completely immersed myself in my material, and absorbed it so thoroughly, that the writing took only nine weeks! Actually, it was an exhausting nine weeks, because during that time I did little of anything but write, eat, and sleep—and I got very little of the latter! It was almost as if the book were inside me forcing its own way out—a compulsion, if you will, to write it. Once I started, I couldn’t stop! That was a marked contrast to my usual writing style, where I will spend from six months to a year—sometimes more—on the text.

Where and when do you usually write?

I write at home, at a Starbucks near my home, at the public library, pretty much anywhere I feel the compulsion to write. Laptop computers are wonderful devices—they let me take my notes and research anywhere I go, so that I can write almost anywhere. I do my best writing in the evening and late at night, which means that when I’m actually writing a book, I’m not at all what you would consider one of those dreadfully perky “morning people”!

What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?

I enjoyed writing it because as I was in the process of writing, I realized that I was getting something off my chest, as it were; that I was saying something which I had felt needed to be said for decades—that the responsibility for the Great War lay squarely on Imperial Germany, her politicians as well as her military leaders. That the war was not some historical fluke, or the product of social/economic/political pressures in Europe as a whole which suddenly exploded. I had an opportunity to set the record straight, and I was able to seize it. Why should you read it? Because it throws a harsh and revealing—but ultimately invaluable—light on two fundamental truths which the Western world is only now painfully relearning: individual, personal responsibility and the consequences of actions. The First World War destroyed an entire generation because specific individuals made decisions that led directly to it—knowing all the while that was where their choices would lead. Read it to learn what can result both from rash action and inaction alike.

Who are your favorite authors, fiction and non-fiction, and why?

My favorite non-fiction authors are Winston Churchill, Walter Lord, and William Manchester, because all of them possessed a mastery of the English language which allowed them to present their subjects with an unparalleled immediacy. When you read them, you are THERE, in whatever place and time about which they are writing.

Fiction? I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I would have to say that J. R. R. Tolkein has to be one of my favorite fiction authors, again for his mastery of the language. “Middle Earth” is a real place because of it. Alistair MacLean was always a favorite of mine—he had a genuine knack for turning a phrase, and books like “HMS Ulysses,” “The Guns of Navarone,” “Where Eagles Dare,” and “Ice Station Zebra” have rarely been equaled and never surpassed. In my not-so-humble opinion, of course.

Have you read anything lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

No, not really. I do so much reading for research that I rarely find myself reading for pleasure these days.

How do you relax? Do you have any hobbies or interests?

“Relax”? What’s that? Seriously, I have three hobbies on which I spend far too much time and money, but they’re mine to spend, so no one can gainsay me. First is woodworking, especially building furniture—there is something profoundly satisfying about creating something beautiful and useful out of wood. Second is a passion for building model ships, though in the past few years I’ve cut back on that—I’m running out of room to put the finished ones! And lastly, my 1972 Triumph Spitfire, on which I’m constantly tinkering—but once you get little British two-seaters in your blood, you’re hooked for life!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a biography of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, titled “The Field Marshal;” and then a narrative of the 1815 Waterloo campaign, “Waterloo: The Last Field of Glory.” Hopefully they will be seeing the light of day in the next year or two!

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Wednesdays With Authors: Darren Ware

Welcome to our first Wednesdays With Authors Q&A. This week, Darren Ware’s new book A Rendezvous with the Enemy: My Brother’s Life and Death with the Coldstream Guards in Northern Ireland has been published, so we have taken a few minutes of Police Officer Darren’s precious time to ask him a bit more about the book and his writing.

The book itself will introduce you to the life of a professional soldier; Darren’s brother Simon Ware, who was tragically killed during a massive unpredicted terrorist attack by the IRA in Northern Ireland, 1991. It reveals the operational experience of life as a soldier during the Troubles of the 1980s and 1990s – a bitter war between the British Army and the Provisional IRA.

Darren Ware

Here is Darren’s story:

When did you first realise that you wanted to become a writer?

When my brother was killed in 1991 I created a large scrap book with all the info I had gathered. This included newspaper articles, statements from the soldiers, photos, coroner’s report, police reports and much much more. Every year on the anniversary of his death I would go through the scrap book as a reminder. In 2004, I thought that I could do better and take it a stage further and put his story into a book. And that’s when it all began.

What is it about writing that appealed to you?

I spent many hours over the years on and off, writing my story. I felt that during my writing I was telling a story in my own words with information I knew and information I had gathered through many sources. Though it was emotionally hard at times, I enjoyed putting pen to paper and telling my personal story.

Do you have any advice for budding military history authors wanting to get published?

I never sought any writing advice from any author as I wanted it to be my story in my words and written the way that I wanted to put it across. I
had generally been good at school with writing and I enjoy telling what I know. However I did have a lot of encouragement from two particular authors whom I like to class as friends. Ken Wharton, the author of A Long Long War, Bullets Bombs and Cups of Tea and Bloody Belfast. These three books are an oral story of the Northern Ireland troubles. Steve McLaughlin, the author of Squaddie both gave me encouragement to tell my story and not to give in every time a publisher refused to take me on. Both Ken and Steve have given me a lot of faith in what I have achieved. So my advice would be not to give in if you get refused from one publisher. Keep at it and you will find one eventually.

How much research did you do for the book? Can you give us some tips on this?

A lot of my early months and in fact maybe a year and a half was spent researching. I was also serving in Northern Ireland when Simon was killed and a few months after, I visited Bessbrook Mill where he was based to find out what I could and to see the area. This formed the foundation for the scrap book. Then in 2004 I managed, through the use of internet military websites, to make contact with more than 60 soldiers who had knowledge of the incident and I expanded from there. I was invited back to Northern Ireland by Simon’s regiment and I did a lot more research. It was during this visit that I gleaned a lot more info and actually visited the scene of the explosion and stood in the crater where he was killed.

What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book? Have you always been interested in history?

I have always been military minded and wanted to join the army from a young age. I was at school during the Falklands War in 1982 and the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980 and was very interested in that. Having served in the army in the late 80s for ten years the main deployment was Northern Ireland. I did two tours (1989 and 1991) and always paid a very keen interest in the British Army’s deployment to Northern Ireland. I have read many many books on the history of the troubles and there are not many that depict one story of any individual soldier’s life and that’s what I wanted to do.

Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?

I wanted to tell my story of my brother’s death in Northern Ireland at the hands of the IRA. I wanted to let the reader know how violent his death was, how hurtful it was to me, my family and friends and to let people know what happened.

How long did it take you to write it?

I started with a lot of research at the beginning of 2004 which took several months. I then wrote the basic skeleton of each of the 15 chapters and continued to re read them and add more meat to the bones. As people were answering my research questions and interviews I would then add that information. All my time spent on it was done around my full time job and bringing up three children and there were times where I did not do any work on it for some months. I guess if I added all this up, it may have taken me 2-3 years to get it finished.

What do you feel is the most important bit of your book? Why should we read it?

The part I feel is most important is Chapter 5 – Contact. This tells the story of the explosion and how the soldiers from Simon’s patrol reacted to it. And also Chapter 9 – The Investigation begins, this tells the story of how the post incident was dealt with and how the bomb was used. I feel that the book should be read with an open mind, I want to tell the story of how my brother was killed. It will also help the reader to understand how the families of all those killed during the troubles may have been affected. This is my personal story of Simon’s death but many similar ones have also occurred.

Where and when do you usually write?

Most of my writing was done in a quiet study and dining room. The initial chapter was written during some lunch breaks at work!

Who are your favourite authors, fiction and non-fiction, and why?

I don’t have a particular favourite author but I do like reading military history books that have been written by soldiers who have been in action and who tell a good truthful story about their experiences. I feel their story is written from the heart and is truthful.

How do you relax? Do you have any hobbies or interests?

This has always been one of my week spots. I don’t often relax as I feel I always have to do things! My partner, Joanna insists that occasionally I should relax for once and do nothing. I do enjoy the time I spend with my children and watching the things they do. I like to keep myself fit by running, cycling and gym work. I like to socialise with my friends too.

Have you read anything lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

I have just finished reading Go! Go! Go! The Definitive Inside Story of the Iranian Embassy Siege by Rusty Firmen and Will Pearson. A fantastic book that tells the inside story of the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980 by those who were part of the SAS and the hostages who were held. A fantastic book that I could not put down. I would also recommend A Long Long War, Bullets, Bombs and Cups of Tea and Bloody Belfast: all written and compiled by Ken Wharton. They consist of hundreds of stories of soldiers’ experiences during the troubles in Northern Ireland from 1969–2007.

What are you working on at the moment?

Book wise, I’m not working an anything and have no plans at this moment. A Rendezvous with the Enemy has kept me busy. I have just completed a 3-month helicopter air observer course on the police helicopter so that has kept me very busy too.

I just want to finish by saying that this book is about true fact. I have not exaggerated anything and I have told the story from my point and from many others as we all saw it. I don’t propose to come across as a person who wants to write a good brave war story.I am just telling the story of my brother’s death and how it happened. There is also a little part of the book with a chapter of my experiences too.

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Historicon 2010 – a good move

Once again Casemate headed off to spend four days in the company of a very enthusiast historical wargaming crowd at Historicon 2010 on 8–11 July at the Valley Forge Convention Center. However, with non-stop gaming, a vast exhibitor hall, painting and game demos, flea market, over 70 seminars by the leading lights from military history with the show’s “War College”, competitions and giveaways, this is a show for all history fans.

Moving for the first time to historic site Valley Forge, from Lancaster was bold, and controversial, but in our opinion it paid off. It was very easy to get to from Philadelphia airport, there was more space for exhibitors, and has the opportunity for further growth, so hopefully no exhibitor will have to be turned away like in previous shows, the air con worked – something not to be taken lightly when it gets as hot as it did this July! There were also more games, with a huge area devoted to the many wonderful battles, campaigns and skirmishes being recreated, far bigger and busier than before, and the atmosphere was electric!

We were joined, as Tara has mentioned, by some of our authors who both presented seminars and attended signings of their books at our stand; Mike Guardia, who wrote American Guerrilla, the inside story on the man who paved the way for modern special forces warfare, Bruce Bassett-Powell, publisher of the acclaimed Uniformology books, and author of our forthcoming illustrated history Armies of Bismarck’s Wars, and Phillip Tucker, author of controversial Exodus from the Alamo. We were also joined by RZM Publishing author Douglas Nash who signed copies of his bestselling and critically acclaimed Hell’s Gate, as well as returning visitor, Jack Gill, author of magisterial study “1809: Thunder on the Danube”, who gave a seminar presentation and signed copies of his recent third volume release. We also caught up with David Glantz, leading Eastern Front expert, who confirmed his new book Barbarossa Derailed, volumes 1 and 2, were nearly complete and therefore out soon!
We gave away various prizes, talked to our customers, talked military history, discussed new book ideas, previewed the beautiful new Napoleon’s Army, covering the complete works by one of the greats, artist Lucien Rousselot, as well as admired other artists’ works by leading artists such as Keith Rocco, Mark Churms and Peter Dennis (leading Osprey Publishing artist), amongst others, who were all attending and exhibiting in the “Artist’s Aisle”.
It was a great show, we sold many books, which always makes the boss happy!, met many more great people, and we look forward to seeing what bigger and better things await us next year.
Here are some photos taken at the show:

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Helion publisher takes us through his leading collection of 19th Century militaria

Duncan Rogers, owner and publisher of Helion & Company, one of our distribution clients, has been surrounded by military history ever since he was born. Forever doodling pictures of soldiers and making lists of battles from a very early age, he developed this interest through his teens, undertook a degree in Modern European History from the University of Warwick, and set up publishing house Helion & Company in 1996. Since then, his interest has focused on European campaigns of the C19th, notably the Prussian and Austrian armies. His collection focuses on the 1860s, and encompasses books, especially regimental histories, original paintings, prints, manuscript diaries and letters, and several thousand original photographs from the period.

So what first got you interested in military history and this particular period of warfare?

My dad has been interested in soldiers and military history since he was a dot – he was born in 1939 and spent most of the 1940s playing with toy soldiers in the garden of his home in Birmingham – where some of them are still probably lying buried! He continued this interest through his later years, and was wargaming by the 1960s. I was born into a house full of military history, maybe a family, too – a great-great-grandfather served in the Royal Warwicks in the late C19th, a great-grandfather at Gallipoli and Palestine in World War I, and a grandfather with the Worcesters in NW Europe 1944-45.

Why this period of warfare? Because I’m obtuse, and always like exploring the byways of military history rather than its highways! I remember reading about the Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 when I was about ten and thinking it had the battles, uniforms and ‘off the beaten path’ appeal. I have continued in that vein ever since.

What interests you most about it?

I like C19th aesthetics generally – the ‘look’ and feel of the period; its art, architecture, literature. The army fits neatly into that, too. I think I enjoy most of all the challenge of researching a period that is all ‘there’ – the personalities, the battles, the uniforms, the esprit-de-corps and traditions of the regiments – but still waiting to be discovered by a generation (or two) of military buffs.

Which key battles and protagonists most interest you and why?

The Campaign of 1866 in Bohemia, fought between Prussia and Austria (with the Saxons allies of the latter). As a campaign it has that ‘nearly could have been different’ appeal that I like – although the Austrians lost all but one engagement they put up a tremendous showing in all. The Battle of Königgrätz – the climax of the campaign – was the largest battle in history at that point, with over half-a-million combatants – and remained so until World War I. The period has high drama – almost like an opera at times, too. I also feel the soldiers of the time, the rank and file, deserve to be rescued from oblivion for their suffering and sacrifice on the battlefields – for their actions to be known more widely.

How did your collection get started? Tell us a bit more about it…

My collection started when I was a dot, but began focusing on C19th campaigns around 1998. Like all collections it began with ‘just another book’, then into ‘I have to have that!’ and then snowballed. It’s actually at the stage now where I have most things I set out to look for, and I’m adding only bits and pieces to it – mostly specific regimental histories I’m looking for. Rather worryingly, the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War section of my library has begun to expand rapidly in the last few months!

What are your favourite books/pieces?

The very personal and unique items, all from 1866 – the handwritten pocket diary of a soldier of the Prussian Guard Jäger; a letter written in pencil by a Prussian cuirassier officer the day after Königgrätz to his sister, telling her that “Yesterday we had a great battle, God be thanked I got through it safely!”; a few photo albums, particularly that compiled by an officer of the Prussian Guard Artillery in Schleswig-Holstein 1864, and some battlefield finds – coins and personal items from the Königgrätz battlefield.

How do you add to your collection – please can you give budding collectors some hints and tips on how to start/progress?

All the rarest items I find either on eBay or at auction in Austria or Germany. eBay is best for really rare items. I’d suggest that if one wants to build a good collection, focus on what you really want. At times, I made the error of getting waylaid because something was ‘sort of’ related – and ended up with a fair amount of stuff I didn’t really need. I’ve also settled for the idea that somewhere someone else will always have the rare items I want, and I need to accept I just can’t have everything!

What are you looking for at the moment, if anything in particular and you are willing to tell us?!

The principal items I buy now are regimental histories – Austrian and Prussian. In particular, I’m trying to obtain the Prussian regimentals published shortly after the War of 1866, focusing entirely on a particular unit’s participation in the Campaign.

Which other periods of history you are interested in?

History generally interests me, but particularly the Reformation of the C16th, the War of Spanish Succession-era, and aspects of the two World Wars, as well as modern US political history, particularly the 1960s.

What got you interested in publishing and made you decide to start up your own publishing company?

I had a lot of books around me from an early age, and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak – I used to buy and sell records and music memorabilia in my teens. I decided to marry the love of books with a desire to be my own boss, and in 1990 actually published my first book – 100 copies no less! It was about the Franco-Prussian War. In 1996 I couldn’t face an office job – or so I thought, so set up Helion. And then proceeded to spend the next 14 years behind a desk 7 days a week 12 hours a day!

Finally, what can we look forward to from Helion, bookswise over the next 12 months? Any new directions?

I am seeking to develop our core areas – Second World War and C19th, through fresh angles. I am working with a number of Central and East European authors to bring more of that region’s military history to an English-speaking audience. So, expect to see material from Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Turkish experts, for instance. I’m also putting out some military aviation titles, again in specialist areas, such as the Hungarian-Slovak border conflict of 1939.

For more information on Helion, and the new books they have coming up, visit our website – US/Outside US. Now for some photos of Duncan’s impressive collection.

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MAFVA Nationals, Duxford and lots of tanks

This last weekend Casemate UK attended the MAFVA Nationals Model Show at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. As well as being held at Europe’s finest aviation museum (do let me know if you believe there are better contenders so they can be added to my places to visit), there is also a Military Vehicle Show and the (secondhand) Military Book Fair in the American Air Museum Hall going on at the same time, so you get three shows to see for your entrance fee as well as all the exhibits!
It was a great day had by all, with our favourite tea and cake stall, the chance to ride a tank, watch flyovers by Spitfires and Mustangs, talk to veterans, re-enactors, see some of the best military models in the country and root around for a military history classic or three.
We met customers, profiled our new books, gave you the chance to win £250-worth of books, and discussed new book ideas with our retailers who also exhibit at the show and sell a wide range of ours and other publishers’ military history books – Aviation Book Centre, Avid Reader and Paul Meekins.
We also had chance to tell them our big news (watch this space, we have lots of great new developments to share with you, and promise to tell you as soon as we can :-) we know you’re going to enjoy it too!) and catch up on what else is new in the world of military history.
And now, as we all know, I am a confirmed tank fiend, so here are some photos from the Land Warfare exhibit at Duxford, including the replica of a Tiger Tank used in both Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.
Now it’s time to get looking forward to Tankfest at the Tank Museum, Bovington later this month. We won’t be exhibiting, but Wendy and ABC will be, and I’ll be there in the crowds with the rest of you!

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Filed under Books, Military History, Shows, Tanks

Cold Wars Day 1

We are set up and rolling at Cold Wars. Come by and see the best collection of World War II books at the show.

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Filed under Books, Shows, World War II