Archive for April, 2015

Hitler’s Last Witness

Posted: April 16, 2015 in Books, World War II

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After being seriously wounded in the 1939 Polish campaign, Rochus Misch was invited to join Hitler’s SS-bodyguard. There he served until the war’s end as Hitler’s bodyguard, courier, orderly and finally as Chief of Communications.

On the Berghof terrace he watched Eva Braun organize parties; observed Heinrich Himmler and Albert Speer; and monitored telephone conversations from Berlin to the East Prussian FHQ on 20 July 1944 after the attempt on Hitler’s life. Towards the end Misch was drawn into the Fuhrerbunker with the last of the ‘faithful’. As defeat approached, he remained in charge of the bunker switchboard as his duty required, even after Hitler committed suicide.

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Misch knew Hitler as the private man and his position was one of unconditional loyalty. His memoirs offer an intimate view of life in close attendance to Hitler and of the endless hours deep inside the bunker; and provide new insights into military events such as Hitler’s initial feelings that the 6th Army should pull out of Stalingrad.

Hitler’s Last Witness is a one of a kind book – very few people can claim to have been as close to Hitler as Misch was, and even fewer survived to write a book about their experiences.  What is especially admirable about Misch’s book is how objective and apolitical it manages to be.  There is no glorification, and there is no condemnation either.  Misch is able to be completely neutral – acknowledging the faults of Hitler and the party, whilst also readily praising their positive aspects.

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Unfortunately, the weak point is frequently Misch himself.  He regularly makes references to how insignificant he considers himself to be, and doesn’t really understand why people would be interested in reading about his experiences.  While this may award him several thousand points for humility, it’s not exactly what a reader want to hear!  We want to be interested and engaged.  Telling us that what we’re reading isn’t very important isn’t exactly motivating!

Of course, Misch’s concerns are completely unfounded.  This is a great book, showcasing a very intimate part of history, and presented very well.  Well worth checking out for anyone into Hitler’s personal life, or the internal workings of the Third Reich.

Tank Battles of World War I

Posted: April 10, 2015 in Books, Tanks, World War I

A new writer joins our ranks this week, as we welcome Spike Direction, offering us the low down on Bryan Cooper’s “Tank Battles of World War I”

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According to the back cover of this book, it’s been out of print for thirty years and is highly sought after.  Well, little dust jacket, I’ll have to take your word for it on the second part, but a quick examination of the inside confirms this book was first written in 1974 and reprinted last year by Pen & Sword, presumably in time for the 100th anniversary.

This book deals with the development of the tank before and during World War I and the key battles of the Tank Brigade (brilliantly code-named The Heavy Section in the early days), as well as the struggles against the absolute indifference of certain figures in the British Army and government, who were holding out for the chance to win the war with a glorious cavalry charge, and failed to see the potential of this new machine to save soldier’s lives.

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Tank Battles of World War I is brief at eighty-four pages of text, though since the subject area in question is very specific I feel it covers all relevant information sufficiently.  Value is added by a bumload of photo pages, covering the prototype models ‘Little Willie’ and ‘Big Willie’, through to the Mark VII and Whippet tanks in action against the German A7V with it’s preposterous crew of 18, as well as appendices with schematics and vital statistics for all the British Tanks and maps of the battlefields tanks fought over.

As a history enthusiast with a basic working knowledge of the period I found this book very interesting and informative, particularly striking to me was the weird juxtaposition of the birth of modern mechanised warfare with the primitive, Flintstones-level technology being used (the cover shows this marvellously with the fellow releasing a carrier pigeon through a hole in a tank’s armour like something from Dad’s Army, also notable is the fact that the poor souls crewing the tanks often ended battles passed out on the deck with carbon monoxide poisoning!).  Also illuminating was the difference between ‘male’ and ‘female’ tanks, a description I was aware of but have only now learned the significance of.

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All in all this is well worth reading for anyone interested in WWI, and can be polished off in a day should you fancy filling your afternoon with tales of daring, very gradual, CO poisoned charges across no-man’s land, wearing chainmail masks.