Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

Published today, Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War follows the previously unknown stories of five survivors and their families, in the aftermath of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki.

On August 9th, 1945, the US dropped ‘Fat Man’ on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, only three days after a similar attack on Hiroshima.

“The five-ton plutonium bomb plunged toward the city at 614 miles per hour. Forty-seven seconds later, a powerful implosion forced its plutonium core to compress from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, generating a nearly instantaneous chain reaction of nuclear fission. With colossal force and energy, the bomb detonated a third of a mile of above the Urakami Valley and its thirty thousand residents and workers, a mile and a half north of the intended target.

At 11.02am, a superbrilliant flash lit up the sky – visible from as far away as Omura Naval Hospital more than ten miles over the mountains – followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of twenty-one thousand tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed.”

It killed a third of the population instantly, and the survivors, or hibakusha, would be affected by the life-altering medical conditions caused by the radiation for the rest of their lives. They were also marked with the stigma of their exposure to radiation, and fears of the consequences for their children.

Susan Southard spent ten years interviewing and researching the lives of the hibakusha, raw, emotive eye-witness accounts, which reconstruct the days, months and years after the bombing, the isolation of their hospitalisation and recovery, the difficulty of re-entering daily life and the enduring impact of life as the only people in history who have lived through a nuclear attack and its aftermath. Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War captures the full range of pain, fear, bravery and compassion unleashed by the destruction of a city.

“A year after the bombing, tens of thousands of survivors remained severely injured and ill from radiation exposure. Others, like Wada, had significantly recovered. Following his grandmother’s bidding, he had continued to drink her persimmon tea each day. Eventually his gums had stopped bleeding and he no longer observed blood in his urine. Still, overall weakness caused him to miss work sometimes – and his hair would not grow back. “I was nineteen years old, and I was embarrassed,” he said. At times he thought it might be better to die than to live through any more hardships.”

Published for the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, this is the first study to be based on eye-witness accounts of Nagasaki in the style of John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

Nagasaki cover

Praise for Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

“Politicians debating the nuclear deal with Iran would do well to spend some time with Southard’s ‘Nagasaki’. It does not tell us what to do. It only reminds us of the stakes.”
Washington Post

“Susan Southard’s remarkable book… This is indeed a topical but enduringly relevant testament and one that should be read as widely as possible.”
Jeremy Corbyn

“Our time to understand the survivors’ experience of nuclear war is running out. Only they can tell us what it was like and their lives are coming to an end.”
New York Times

“Does for Nagasaki what John Hersey did for Hiroshima… Takes us beneath the mushroom cloud with harrowing, damning, eloquent intimacy.”
John W. Dower, Pulitzer-winning author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII

“It is the personal accounts that speak loudest.”
The Economist

“Moving as an intimate chronicle of individual lives: like a good documentary film-maker, Southard allows her subjects, with all their attractive and quirky qualities, to speak for themselves.”
Financial Times

“Provides the material and personal stories of one of the darkest days in human history… One of the definitive histories of the end of World War II. Essential.”
Library Journal

Quotes taken from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard, now available in hardback (ISBN: 9780285643277) and eBook (ISBN: 9780285643284), £20.

Pogrom: An Editor’s Note

Does the 1938 Pogrom still matter?

“Most of us have heard of the November Pogrom of 1938, although I suspect that nearly all of us have a rather vague and unfocussed understanding of what it really was, why it actually happened and what its wider significance was. Even its name confuses rather than clarifies. We know it variously as Crystal Night, Night of Broken Glass, Kristallnacht and November Pogrom.

There is little consensus among scholars about what the point of it was. Was it the start of the Holocaust? Well, no, because no decision about the ‘Final Solution’ was taken this early. But did it mark a radicalisation of anti-Jewish policy with a much greater focus on violence? Not really, because much of the aftermath was about economic persecution, ‘Aryanisation’, ie property theft, and exclusion. So was it a policy wrong turn, one of many along a ‘twisted road to Auschwitz’? Or was it part of a turf war between agencies and political leaders? It is stubbornly and maddeningly unclear. Among the reasons for this is that little new archival research has been done on the Pogrom for many years. The basic facts and figures have never been revised: 7,500 shops and business destroyed and looted, 267 synagogues burned down, 30,000 Jewish men arrested and put into concentration camps. There is a likelihood that if someone combed through city and local archives around Germany and Austria, much would come to light. But scholars aren’t doing the work. Even a major scholar like Peter Longerich in his recent giant-sized biography of Goebbels (who was the driving force behind the Pogrom), made no effort to shed new light on things.

The outbreak of anti-Jewish violence organised by the Nazis across Germany in November 1938 remains poorly understood in terms of its significance for later developments. Was it the beginning of the Holocaust? Or did it have nothing to so with it? Was it the end of ‘wild’ assaults on Jews and the beginning of a ‘solution’ rooted in bureaucracy? Scholars have widely divergent views.

Are we even confident of the basic facts and figures? Or might a systematic investigation of city and regional archives change our understanding?

At the time, only one man thought to collect first-hand statements by those who were assaulted – Dr Alfred Wiener, the founder of The Wiener Library. The 350 testimonies he gathered have until now been inaccessible to all but German-speakers. Now they have been translated in to English and published – giving unprecedented access to these remarkable voices. Among the revelations is how frequently it was not the machinery of Nazism that attacked the victims but rather their immediate neighbours.

The publication of these unique witness and survivor statements marks a significant step towards gaining a fuller understanding of these complex, shocking and dreadful events.”

#Pogrom1938

Pogrom cover

Pogrom – November 1938: Testimonies from ‘Kristallnacht’, published in association with The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide is available in hardback (ISBN: 978-0285643079), £30.

‘The Monocled Mutineer’ – Getting The Story

Was Percy Toplis WW1’s most guarded secret, the ringleader of the Étaples Mutiny?

The Monocled Mutineer, by John Fairley and William Allison, unveils the events of the Étaples Mutiny and asks a host of unanswered questions about Toplis and his role, if any, in it.

Was Percy Toplis an anti-establishment hero? What made the monocled mutineer the most wanted man in Britain?

Monocled Mutineer cover

To celebrate its publication today, we’re posting John Fairley’s brand new introduction, ‘Getting the Story’, here on the blog.

Getting the Story’ by John Fairley

“The book and the subsequent television series The Monocled Mutineer caused so much controversy – the idea that British troops had mutinied in the First World War was anathema to the military establishment – that new readers are perhaps entitled to an account of how the book, and the story in it, came about.

History, the jibe runs, is something that did not happen, described by people who weren’t there.

When Bill Allison and I were researching The Monocled Mutineer we found a then untrodden path to uncovering the events at Étaples in 1917. We actually talked and corresponded with the participants. In 1976 these men were mainly in their seventies, their memories of desperate times consigned to irrelevancy by the intervention of a second war and relayed only to old comrades and the sporadic interest of grandchildren.

The principal official record of the Étaples mutiny which survives is the war diary of its most exalted victim, the Commandant, Brigadier-General Andrew Graham Thomson, Royal Engineers. Subjective as it is, it makes alarming enough reading: ‘Disturbance in Reinforcement Camp between military police and troops, Corporal Wood, 4th Gordons being accidentally shot …. a crowd of about 1000 gathered in Étaples town, and about 7.30 pm tried to break into the Sevigne cafe where two policemen were hiding.’

Thomson goes on to describe further riots and breakouts for four days, accompanied by increasingly desperate attempts to have troops sent back from the front to restore order. As an official document of an event which was effectively to end Thomson’s career, the diary is astonishingly frank. It could hardly, however, be expected to paint a full picture. We determined therefore to seek direct evidence. We suspected that many veterans would still be chary of speaking about what they regarded as an ignoble episode. Our letter to local newspapers was thus carefully worded:  Do any veterans of the First World War have recollections of the events at Étaples in September 1917?

This letter was published in newspapers in the areas where we knew that regiments which were involved were recruited – Dundee, Manchester, Glasgow, Yorkshire, the East Midlands – and in several newspapers and journals in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Nearly 60 years had elapsed. We had no notion of what to expect. But then, day after day, for three months or more, there arrived through my letter box from all over the world, sharp, bitter accounts of events long ago, but far from forgotten. Inevitably they were careful, handwritten stories in old men’s script, teased out without any other prompting than the brief query in their local paper.

Some were brief and to the point. M. Cordy wrote from Chaucer Gardens, Sutton, Surrey: ‘I was at the camp in 1917. It was like prison and the Red Caps were worse than bastards. Even the officers were scared of them. There was a provo sergeant. We called him Black Jack. The Aussies swore they would get him. They did. He was tied to the railway lines and that was his lot. When the trouble was over we were sent into the firing line at Passchendaele Ridge. It was hell let loose and half of us never came back.’ Cordy had been 15 when he joined up and was at Étaples on his way back from England, having ben gassed at Ypres.

Scores of letters described the dreadful conditions at Étaples which fuelled the mutiny. A. J. Notley wrote from New Costessey in Norwich: ‘My memories of the Étaples base are chiefly of the abuse which was heaped on the rank and file and even now, in my 80th year, I wonder at times what comradeship means.’

George Horn, a Highlander then living in Prescott on Merseyside wrote: ‘What I remember of “Etaps” was harshness, bullying, poor rations and intolerance, an unnecessary breaking in process to the pitch of human endurance.’

In the Imperial War Museum, the large-scale maps of the Étaples camp and the Bull Ring still survive. It is possible to trace the purgatorial obstacle course which our correspondents remembered, the trial gas chambers, the assault course, the bayonetting, and always and repeatedly, the sand. A Seaforth Highlander wrote from Bacup in Lancashire recalled seeing men wounded and killed on the assault course. Sergeant C.J. Jellie wrote from Takapuna, near Auckland in New Zealand, recalling seeing the Aussies cut down a Tommie who was bound to a wagon wheel doing field punishment.

But it was the detailed accounts of events during the mutiny, unprompted except by our newspaper letter, which fascinated most in that early correspondence. W. Breffit wrote from Cadboro Bay, British Columbia, that after the mutiny started ‘we all started to walk into town. The MP tried to stop us. He was rushed and thrown over the bridge.’

Several men recalled the shooting of Corporal Wood. Private A. Lumley, Royal Scots, wrote from Bramcote, Nottingham:  ‘I think I am the only living person who saw the start of the mutiny at Étaples in 1917. It started with the firing of the pistol of the Red Cap on the bridge. I stood near the bridge with Private Cairns of the Scottish Rifles when we noticed a Scottish soldier and an Anzac talking to a WAAC girl. We saw the Red Cap say something to them, and then he shot the Scot dead. My companion had no love for the English, and he simply went mad and raced through the Scots camp shouting “An English bastard has shot a Jock.”’ Several writers identified the Red Cap as Danny Reeve, a well-known ex-welterweight boxer.

Aubrey Aaronson, from Prestwich, Manchester, of the Border Regiment, said: ‘The troops ran into the Étaples village, chasing the WAACs out of their billets. Six military policemen were shot and buried outside Étaples with comical songs for their funeral. The troops in the Bull Ring downed their arms and went crazy and put sleepers on the railway track to stop them going up the line.’ The release of prisoners was described by Weber Todman from Wanganui, New Zealand; ‘We marched to the clink, which was half of the MP’s quarters, let the prisoners out, doused the place with kerosene, and set it on fire. This created a very dangerous situation as it was very near the ammunition dump.’

By now it was clear to Allison and myself that we were dealing with a much more dramatic array of events than Thomson’s war diary suggested. We wrote back to our correspondents, visited them, and solicited further letters from around the world.

We also paid a number of visits to Étaples itself. The square was unchanged, though the Hôtel des Voyageurs had seen better days. There is no sign of the great camp. But the war cemetery is reminder enough. Étaples seems the cruellest of cemeteries. There are more than 10,000 graves, the pitiful roll-call of those who lived long enough to endure the journey back from the front, but who could not hold on to life long enough to see England again. We found the grave of Corporal Wood.

Still in Étaples, too, were a number of people who recalled the violent events in Étaples town in September 1917. The town doctor, Pierre Durignieux, by then well into his eighties, told us: ‘I have seen myself the episode of that important English officer standing on his horse in front of the town hall and trying to compose with the screaming of hundreds of soldiers and who had the cheeks and mouth opened by the big knife of a soldier and of the consecutive fight of the soldiers with the military police.’

Monsieur F. Houigue, secretary of the Academic Society of Le Touquet drew our attention to accounts of the troops running amok. ‘Myself, I was 13 at the time, and I remember very well the troops (cortege bruyants is his phrase) in the streets of Le Touquet. I particularly remember a soldier at the head of one of the groups carrying a lance on which a cat was impaled.’

How many of the mutineers were executed? Aubrey Aaronson told us there were orderly-room notices recording that a number of executions had been carried out. Certainly troops had to be brought back from the line to restore order. Sergeant W. Harrop was with the 22nd Manchesters at Bullicourt in the Hindenburg Line: ‘We were suddenly moved to the nearest railhead in secret and entrained for Étaples. None of us knew where we were going. Only when we arrived were we told why we were there. By then all was quiet, but it must have created a great impression to see a full battalion arriving direct from the front.’ All this while the attack on Passchendaele was being prepared.

In these letters and conversations with veterans, the name of Percy Toplis was occasionally mentioned. Few thought of him as the main ringleader. Indeed few thought there was one ringleader. Rather there were a number of hardened soldiers who took advantage of the confused and riotous situation which was developing throughout the camp. But they remembered the name principally, 60 years on, because of the spectacular splash in the press which Percy Toplis enjoyed so soon after the end of the war. Ex-Gunner L. G. Charles from Weston-super-Mare wrote that the leaders were Percy and Black Jack, a six-foot black-bearded Australian from the bush. Private Musgrove, from Wallsend on Tyne, also thought Percy played a principal role, particularly during an incident when Thomson was confronted in his car. The General was surrounded by yelling troops. ‘Toplis demanded the Red Caps should be sent away from the IBD, which was granted.’

We knew something of Toplis from the memoirs of Edwin Woodhall, a noted Metropolitan policeman, seconded to the Secret Service, who described his capture of Toplis near Étaples in the aftermath of the mutiny, and then Toplis’s dramatic escape from the prisoners’ compound. Woodhall’s widow confirmed to me that he regarded Toplis as a key figure in the mutiny and that was why he had pursued him with such vigour. From further conversations with our correspondents emerged the characterful picture of his role in the mutiny which is detailed in the book.

We do know what sort of a fellow he was. There were, in 1975, a lot of people living around Blackwell and Mansfield in Nottinghamshire who remembered him well. The effrontery of Toplis, in officer’s uniform, drilling the local volunteers is exact. The story of his girl Dorothy and the baby is traceable through the records of Somerset House.

The mutiny at Étaples does not fit into the standard picture of the First World War. It is the story of common soldiers who rebelled against protracted insult and brutality, recorded in dozens of letters and personal memories.

Captain Jim Davis, the officer who had to abandon the Étaples bridge to the mutineers, appeared on a BBC television discussion in 1986 and confirmed that the picture of those events was accurate. ‘But,’ he said, ‘I would have paid more attention if I’d known that that they were going to make it into a TV series.’

With Toplis’s story once again making headlines, and the files on Toplis due to be released in 2017, perhaps it’s time for the BBC to air The Monocled Mutineer once again?

The Monocled Mutineer by John Fairley and William Allison is available now in paperback (ISBN: 9780285643109) and eBook (ISBN: 9780285643116), £10.

*Extract taken from the new Introduction to The Monocled Mutineer 2015

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Need some inspiration for Father’s Day this week? Fear not! SP are here to help with some of our favourite titles, so no matter what he’s into, we’ve got it covered.

For sports-mad dads…

The Golf Swing of the Future by Mindy Blake

Golf-Swing_PB

Does your dad still dream of being the next Rory McIlroy? Help him to perfect his swing with Mindy Blake’s Golf Swing of the Future. A bestseller all over the world on its first publication, Mindy Blake’s love of the game shines through as he offers a deeper understanding of what golf is about and how that can be used to improve any golfer’s game.

*we can’t guarantee that your dad will be a professional golfer.

“A revolutionary but completely convincing method… I highly recommend it to all serious students of the game.”
‘Financial Times’

Muhammad Ali: The Birth of a Legend by Flip Schulke and Matt Schudel

Muhammad Ali cover

A collector’s piece for all sporting dads, the photographs in Flip Schulke’s Muhammad Ali: The Birth of a Legend show Ali at the start of his journey. Flip Schulke was more than a silent observer, he was a witness to the transformation of Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali, and Schulke’s commentary on his photographs provide a penetrating insight into, arguably, the greatest athlete of the century.

“One of those great iconic photos, regardless of whether you’re interested in boxing or Muhammad Ali… One of the top three sporting photographs ever taken.
‘ShortList’

For music fans…

Bowie on Bowie by Sean Egan

Bowie on Bowie cover

In the closest thing to an autobiography that Bowie has come, Sean Egan has compiled Bowie’s most revealing interviews into a riveting commentary on 50 years of personas and styles, tracing each step from Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane to The Thin White Duke and into the elder statesman that Bowie has become.

“Here is the ultimate introduction to Rock’s most distinctive voice.”
Bowie Wonderworld

Meet The Beatles by Tony Barrow

Meet the Beatles front cover

The first book to be published with the Beatles own involvement, Meet The Beatles introduced the Beatles, in their own words, to the world. This special collector’s edition features rare photographs of the Beatles, many of which have not been reproduced elsewhere and was compiled by Tony Barrow, the man who coined the phrase ‘the Fab Four’. Guaranteed to make your dad think of ‘Yesterday’…

“A uniquely first-hand introduction to the Beatles as they were in 1963…A terrific book, crammed with facts and figures and brilliant photographs – nostalgia at its very finest.”
‘Books Monthly’

For Fiction lovers…

Bhowani Junction by John Masters

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Set in the wake of the partition of India, as the British prepare to withdraw from the newly independent country, Bhowani Junction captures the tensions and conflicts that accompanied the birth of modern India. In the last hectic days of the British Raj, Victoria has to choose between marrying a British Army officer or a Sikh, Ranjit, as she struggles to find her place in the new, independent India.

“One of the most unjustly neglected writers… a remarkable and accurate picture of the Empire and its aftermath, as well as magnificent storytelling.”
‘Evening Gazette’

The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero

neruda case

In 1970’s Chile, Pablo Neruda, the Nobel-prize winning poet, is close to death and he senses the end of an era in Chilean politics. But there is one final secret he must resolve. He recruits Cayetano Brulé, a young Cuban rogue, as his “own private Maigret” and lends Brulé the novels of Simenon as a crash course in the role of private detective. Brulé must travel across the world, through Neruda’s past and the political faiths he has espoused, retracing the poet’s life from Fidel Castro’s Cuba to Berlin, Mexico City to Bolivia….

A must have for any crime fiction fan.

 “Forget Poirot, Holmes or Marlowe…Ampuero gives his readers some fascinating glimpses of both Neruda and the world he lived in.”
‘The Spectator’

The Warriors by Sol Yurick

warriors

We can pretty much guarantee that your dad will have heard of the cult movie ‘The Warriors’, directed by Walter Hill and released in 1979 (go on, we dare you to ask!). Published in our Independent Voices collection, Sol Yurick’s The Warriors follows the Family, a New York gang who have to fight their way home after being accused of killing Cyrus, the leader of the city’s most powerful gang.

“The best novel of its kind I’ve read. An altogether perfect achievement. I’m sure that to many it will sound like sacrilege but I have to say that I think it a better novel than Lord of the Flies.”
Warren Miller

And finally, something to make him laugh…

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

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For anyone brought up on sexist, racist, sizeist and ethnocentrist reading matter, James Finn Garner’s stories have been purged of the influence of an insensitive cultural past to become fables for our times. From Snow White’s relationship with seven vertically challenged men, Little Red Riding Hood, her grandma and the cross-dressing wolf who set up an alternative household based on mutual respect and cooperation, to the Emperor who was not naked but was endorsing a clothing-optional lifestyle, at last, here is bedtime reading free from prejudice and discrimination to witches, giants, dwarves, goblins and fairies everywhere.

“Hillary and I have been enjoying (it)… it’s hilarious.”
Bill Clinton

Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth

Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth

And for those dads that enjoy toilet humour (there’s always one!), Richard Smyth’s Bum Fodder charts the absorbing history of the humble toilet roll. From its origins in Medieval China to the invention of the hi-tech Washlet, a combined cleansing and drying system that removes the need for paper altogether, Smyth has delved deep into the annals of literature to chart humanity’s pursuit of gentleness for the behind.

“The ultimate accessory for the loo: Richard Smyth’s fascinating tome about toilet paper that flushes out reams of intriguing facts.”
‘Saga’

Happy Father’s Day to all! For more ideas, visit our website at www.souvenirpress.co.uk.

“Stockings and Suspenders!”: Sepp Blatter in a ‘tight’ spot

He’s resigned from FIFA, so what is Sepp Blatter going to do with all that free time?

He could take up his old position as the president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders (who still have a Facebook page). With Mr Blatter at the helm, the all-male group lobbied for women to wear stockings and suspenders instead of tights.

In the meantime, Souvenir Press can provide some consolation to Mr Blatter on a subject that’s obviously dear to his heart; some illustrations from fashion historian Rosemary Hawthorne’s brilliantly entertaining Stockings and Suspenders (ISBN 9780285631434)

First, a portrait of the man in question.

henry

Only kidding.

They do have some things in common though, i.e a penchant for stockings…

“Since former times it was men – not women – who persistently revealed their hose-clad legs.”

“The prevailing fashionable ‘image’ for upper-crust men of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries was very macho: an important, puffed-up torso, slim waist and strong hips tapering down to his sleek legs with pronounced calves and neat ankles.”

We like to think that maybe, just maybe, Mr Blatter has a pair of these in his drawers *sorry*.

men

So what is it exactly that Mr Blatter wanted women to wear?

suspenders

Not tights, a.k.a THE ENEMY. 

“Footless tights and leggings (more defectors from the dance studios), worn with baggy tunics and often replacing jeans, have gained enormous popularity with women”, much to the dismay of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders.

boots and tights

Well, at least we know where we can find Mr Blatter…

can can

All illustrations and quotes taken from Stockings and Suspenders by Rosemary Hawthorne (ISBN 9780285631434).

To buy a copy of the book, click here.

VE Day: 70 Years On

This weekend, the UK will commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

On 8th May 1945 at 3pm (GMT), the end of the war in Europe was marked by Winston Churchill, as he addressed the nation and the Empire from the Treasury Balcony in Whitehall (quoted from The Telegraph):

“The German war is therefore at an end. After years of intense preparation Germany hurled herself on Poland at the beginning of September 1939 and, in pursuance of our guarantee to Poland, and in common action with the French Republic, Great Britain and the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations declared war against this foul aggression.

“After gallant France had been struck down we from this island and from our united Empire maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia and later by the overwhelming power and resources of the United States of America.

“Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evildoers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts.

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead.”

In celebration, pubs stayed open late, street parties lined once-empty roads and the public received their first weather forecast since the war began.

Though VE Day was the end of the war in Europe – it marked the final defeat of Hitler and the Nazis – it would take another three months before the Japanese surrendered and ended World War II.

Lest we forget. We will remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today.


Re-discover the historic events that led up to VE Day in 1945 with Alexander McKee’s Caen: Anvil of Victory.

Caen-Anvil-of-Victory

Today it is almost forgotten that the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 did not bring a single, isolated victory. As this masterly book reminds us, that first foothold on enemy shores was won at enormous cost, and for two months afterwards a fierce battle raged for the control of Caen. Using the personal accounts of those who took part in the fighting, both Allied and German, and of the French civilians caught up in the conflict, McKee brilliantly reconstructs the bitter struggle that ravaged Normandy throughout the summer of 1944 before the Allied position in Europe was finally secured.

“A minor classic of Second World War historiography.”
‘New Statesman’

“An excellent series of eye-witness accounts from both sides… an excellent ‘worm’s eye view’ of the fighting.”
‘Daily Telegraph’

To see the schedule of commemoration events, visit The Royal British Legion.

To buy a copy of Alexander McKee’s Caen: Anvil of Victory, click here.

To see other Alexander McKee books, click here.

The Devil’s Tinderbox: 70 Years Since the Dresden Bombings

It was the 70th anniversary of the Dresden bombings last week.

Controversy still rages about the Allied decision to bomb Dresden, as proven by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Justin Welby, when he was accused of ‘apologising’ for the attacks at the 70th anniversary commemoration last weekend (via Daily Mail).

Allied forces dropped 1,400 loads of explosives on the city, in attacks that lasted over two days. 90% of the city was destroyed and around 25,000 people died in the raids, which began on the eve of Friday 13th February 1945.

These incredible composite images from The Independent show how much work had to be done to re-build the city, by merging pictures of the past and present.

Souvenir Press publishes The Devil’s Tinderbox, the only book to present the personal descriptions of eye-witnesses, not only of the survivors in the city but the air-crews, both British and American, who flew on the bombing mission and observed the appalling impact of their attacks.

Alexander McKee carefully assesses the political and military decisions that led to the raids, drawn from official sources and archive material in the only oral history to be published. The Devil’s Tinderbox also includes contemporary photographs that bear witness to the devastating effect of an attack that reduced Dresden to rubble.

Meticulously researched and skilfully told, The Devil’s Tinderbox is gripping, shocking and deeply moving.

Devil's Tinderbox cover

“McKee has gathered a series of harrowing eyewitness accounts which give us a graphic picture of a wartime hell.”
‘Mail on Sunday’

“Alexander McKee specialises in a distinct and most valuable form of contemporary history…He is less concerned to name names than to reconstruct the mood in which the raid took place, to explain why the destruction and loss of life in Dresden was so heavy and to record the experience of those who survive… likely to linger for good in the memory.”
‘New Statesman’

(eBook only) Get a copy of The Devil’s Tinderbox here.