BOOK REVIEW: ‘Air Battle of Malta: Aircraft Crashes and Crash Sites 1940-1942’

61. DSCF9117 (2)

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  Air Battle of Malta: Aircraft Crashes and Crash Sites 1940-1942

Author: Anthony Rogers

Total Number of Printed Pages: 220

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 8

________________________

Before the advent of nuclear weapons negated its importance and relevance, the small Mediterranean island of Malta was of vital military importance to whomever would exercise military control over the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  Because whomever controlled Malta controlled the region, it was frequently fought-over by prevailing and would-be empires. The last (and arguably the most fierce) of these conflicts occurred during World War II. Within that conflict Malta was the centre of concerted attacks between Italian and German forces. These attacks were almost exclusively from the air, and Great Britain, Malta’s ‘owner’ responded in kind. The results were aerial combats between the opposing forces; combats which invariably resulted in the destruction of the aircraft involved. Many of these landed or crash-landed on Malta itself or in the sea nearby. This volume records the locations of such sites (where known) and the combats in which they were involved.

The main part of this book consists of 10 Chapters. Each of these records the air combats that occurred over a specific period. Although some of these are for a single month, the majority cover a time frame of between two and eight months. Within the volume the author ‘…Describes the circumstances of some 200 final sorties flown during 1940-42 by those who served in and with the Royal Air Force and also by their opponents…’. The result is an impressive list which is both well-researched and readable.. A two page Contents section is followed in turn by an Illustrations section which is also two pages in length. This reproduces the captions of the images which appear within a 16-page photographic section placed in the centre of the book. Curiously, the Illustrations section is actually titled List of Illustrations on the Contents page, An Acknowledgements section then thanks those who contributed to the book and is in turn followed by the Introduction. While this section provides an overview to the volume’s content it also details both the author’s relationship with Malta and the current (2017) state of aviation-related preservation efforts on the island. The 10 Chapters which comprise the main body of the book then follow. Five Appendices appear behind the Chapters. These cover such topics as aircraft losses (in which the losses are presented in a Table format numerically-keyed to maps placed at the front of that Appendix); the abbreviations used within the book and the equivalent ranks of the combatant air arms.

Within each Chapter, the individual dates on which combat occurred appear as highlighted subsections. These contain details relating to that day’s events and their outcomes. Endnotes are used to provide additional information. These are numeric in format and sequential within each chapter. The appropriate citations appear in a separate Notes section following the Appendices. A Bibliography then lists the resources which contributed to the volume. The final section of the book consists of two Indexes. These are titled an Index of Personnel and an Index of Places respectively and relate directly to Malta itself. There is however no ‘General’ Index to cover such things as convoys, warships, army units etc. As a result, readers seeking such information are forced to search through the volume with no certainty of finding what they are seeking. The lack of such a section limits the volume’s usefulness to a wider audience. Within the volume itself, an apparent printing fault has meant that the page numbers between pages 133 and 191 of have been omitted, while page 211 suffers the same fate. Curiously however, the ‘omitted’ numbers appear alongside entries in both the Index of Personnel and the Index of Places. Five Maps are provided, but instead of being listed on the Contents page, they have been placed within and under the Illustrations section. A ‘technical’ section providing the specifications of the aircraft involved would have been useful to enable comparisons to be made between the equipment used by each combatant air arm.

As already noted, this is a well-researched and readable volume. It is likely to appeal to those with a general interest in WW II and those with a particular interest in military operations in the Mediterranean section theatre of that conflict. Aviation enthusiasts with a particular interest in the Battle of Malta are likely to find it of interest, while the photographs could be useful to aero-modellers.

This reviewer found this volume is a pleasure to read, It is a credit to the author’s penmanship, and it will probably become an ‘authoritative’ text on its subject. However, the absence of a ‘General’ Index and the small ‘detail’ errors concerning page numbers etc. have served to both reduce its value and limit its potential audience.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given it an 8. It should have been higher.

———————————————–

 

Advertisements
BOOK REVIEW: ‘Air Battle of Malta: Aircraft Crashes and Crash Sites 1940-1942’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West’

60. DSCF2123 (2)

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West

Author: Paul Moorcraft

No. of Pages: 181

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 7

___________________________

If this reviewer was asked to recommend one book as a basic resource for the 2017 international geopolitical scene, Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West would be it. According to the author, the volume ‘…Traces the growth of the Islamic threat and offers some domestic and international solutions by working with potential allies in Europe and the Middle East’. He concludes ‘My conclusion is positive – many of the current problems can be solved’. The result is well-written, well-researched, eminently readable and objective. It is the ideal ‘go-to’ volume for anyone with an interest in international affairs.

By way of introduction, a single page titled About the Author is placed ahead of the Contents page. This details the author’s academic and personal background, while also listing his previously- published books.  The Contents page follows. A List of Maps placed immediately after the Contents page contains eight maps relative to the volume’s narrative. It is in turn followed by a section titled List of Illustrations which replicates the captions of the 31 images that appear within the volume’s 16-pag Photographic section. An Introduction (Subtitled Saving the West) summarises what is to come in the eight Chapters that follow and which form the major part of the volume. Within these the author presents his assessment of the current international situation, while also providing solutions which could be used to neutralise the threats that he defines. Where relevant to the narrative, subsections within the individual Chapters provide additional information relative to their specific topic.  A Conclusion follows. This summarises the narrative, while tendering further thoughts about what the future might hold. The volume makes limited use of sequential and Chapter-specific Endnotes to provide additional information.  Where used, the relevant citations appear in a designated Endnotes section placed after the Conclusion. A Select Bibliography follows. In it the author lists the printed resources he used when creating the book. An Index completes the work. As previously-noted the volume contains eight Maps and 31 Images, the Maps being placed immediately after the Contents page. The Images appear in a 16-page section placed in the centre of the volume. Some are sourced, some not.  Despite the use of numerous acronyms, there is no Glossary to explain their meanings.

Although as a ‘Work of Reference’ this volume is extremely impressive, it is not without fault. For this reviewer, the Index in particular, is a matter of concern. While reviewing this volume, this reviewer randomly searched the Index for additional references to Sri Lanka, Colombia and Angola (all mentioned on page 29). Despite appearing on the aforementioned page, the Index contained no references to these locations. Believing that the omission could have been the result of an ‘Indexing’ error, when subsequently reading Chapter Four (Where did the Islamic State come from?), this reviewer again sought Index references for such words as ‘Zionists’ (page 57), ‘Jews’ (page 59), ‘Muckhabarat’  (page 60)  and Umma (page 62). Again he found nothing, and can only conclude that there are other, similar, omissions within the Index. There is, of course, no way to know what these might be.

While omitting Index-references to three words on a single page may well have been accidental, omitting four different words in four different locations is a cause for concern.  The authority of the Index may well be compromised. As if this in itself was not enough (and also on page 29), the author stated that ‘Earlier in the book I looked at 2016 as the annus horribilus’. Wishing to learn why that that specific year had been so honoured (and believing the author’s statement to be correct), this reviewer subsequently looked for mentions of annus horribilus in the Index and Chapters One and Two of the volume. He looked in vain. In addition (and when presenting his argument), the author uses numerous quotations to reinforce his point. Some of these have been given citations (that on page 27 being one such example). However, the majority have not, with those on pages 7, 85, and 153 being only randomly-chosen examples of many such omissions. In the absence of verifying citations, are these ‘imagined’ / ‘invented’ statements? The reader cannot know. The omission of capital letters for proper nouns (‘pope’ being but one example), was also noted, as were minor errors of punctuation. Although to this reviewer the omissions detailed-above are significant, whether-or-not they are of importance will depend-upon the reader.

As previously-noted (and despite the ‘problem areas’ listed above), for this reviewer, this is the ideal ‘go-to’ volume for anyone with an interest in international affairs. By providing ‘chapter and verse’ on its subject, it is likely to be useful to all and any reader interested in an objective assessment of events currently occurring around the globe. It could well become a standard reference work on the field of contemporary international relations.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

___________________________________

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’

59. DSCF2114 (2)

Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: Joseph of Arimathea

Editor: Glyn S. Lewis

No. of Pages: 120

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 5

__________________________

On page xii of this volume, the author makes the following comment: ‘Joseph of Arimathea is…perhaps someone of whom people know only fragments of his life and the traditions that surround him. The aim of this book is to bring these fragments together in order to provide as full as is possible a biography of Joseph of Arimathea’. It is an accurate summation.

The result? A work based on an unsubstantiated (but well-held) hypothesis. This states that  Joseph of Arimathea (He who donated the tomb in which Jesus Christ was placed after his crucifixion), subsequently fled from Palestine / Israel  and, after landing in Europe, came to Great Britain,  resided there and was eventually buried in a (perhaps conveniently?) unmarked grave. In this reviewer’s opinion, what has resulted could at best be described as a work of ‘Faction’ (defined as ‘Facts combined with Fiction’) where very limited ‘actual’ facts and large amounts of legend, tradition, circumstantial evidence and imagination have been combined. The story that results is one that could have been, might have been, but which equally may not have been. It is neither fish nor fowl; an idea looking for a home; dressed up as fact and presented as the same. It is an unusual and most-curious little volume.

A List of Illustrations appears immediately behind the Contents page. That section’s title is however misleading. and rather than referring to ‘pictures’ actually refers to the two maps, a pen and ink illustration and a church plan which appear at various places within the volume. The expected images are instead listed under a subsection on the same page. Titled Unnumbered Gallery Following page 56, the list replicates the captions appearing within the eight pages which comprise that section.  An Introduction follows. Within it, the author, by using scene–setting methods more-usually found in works of fiction, introduces the reader to his subject. That such methods have been used is perhaps prescient for what is to follow. The author then proceeds to create what he terms as ‘…As full as is possible a biography of Joseph of Arimathea’. This is done by means of five sections which function as Chapters. Within each section, subheadings provide additional information relevant to the section’s narrative. A single–page Bibliography placed after the last section lists books accessed while writing this volume, and is in turn followed by the Index, the volume’s final section. As previously-noted, the volume contains two maps (one of the reputed location of ‘Arimathea’ in Roman Palestine and the other of ‘Lake villages with respect to the flooded area of Somerset, and the Mendips’). There is however no large-area map of either the Roman Empire at the time of Christ (to show the journey that ultimately led Joseph of Arimathea to Britain), or a modern Ordinance Survey map of Great Britain to show where the various locations within the narrative are placed. Where (for instance) is Glastonbury (or even Somerset) in modern Britain?  Without such a map, the reader (especially those living outside Great Britain) is ‘flying blind’, and if wishing to visit the sites mentioned in the narrative, may have no idea where to look. Foreign readers / visitors especially, may find this problematical. Numerous quotes appear within the volume. They are however without citations as proof of their authenticity, and as a result, could possibly be imaginary. There is no way to know. The authority of the Bibliography is also questionable. Titles are mentioned in the text (that by Émile Mâle on page 77 being but one such example), yet the Bibliography carries no reference to either the author or the work. The example quoted is but one of several found by this reviewer. If such details are missing from the Bibliography, what else may also be missing, and from where; an entry in the Index perhaps? Again, there is no way of knowing.

This volume bases itself on legends, traditions, circumstantial evidence and hypothesis to reach a foregone conclusion, namely that, according to the author ‘…We owe Joseph of Arimathea a great debt of gratitude’. As previously-noted, for this reviewer, it is a work of ‘Faction’, a view that he retains.

This volume ultimately asks its reader to believe; to believe that the legends and traditions and imagined conversations that exist about Joseph of Arimathea (and, inter alia the ‘Arthurian/Avalon’ narratives, as they are intertwined), actually occurred. If these are held to be ‘true’, then the reader is likely to find this volume of considerable interest. If considered to be merely ‘myths’, then this volume is, at best, a rather-long fairy story.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given this volume a 5.

______________________________

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’

A Mining Tale…

Whether the events that follow actually occured is for the reader to decide…

Tuesday, 31 May, 1921, and outside the No. 2 Crosscut, 500 ft. in from the adit portal, the last shift of all, ever, was about to commence. The Kereru Gold Mining Co. Ltd., owner of the mine, had gone into liquidation, left its London offices and was in the process of dissolving.  The battery and cyanide plant were being removed; although built for £3 million (in 2017, valued at $256 million) their scrap metal value now only £200,000 ($17 million).

Only the mine remained to be ‘mothballed’; a euphemism for the removal of everything saleable, and as a result three men now stood at the No.2 Crosscut entrance, awaiting the start of the shift and to receive instructions from the Shift Boss.

The three – Fred Shaw, Oscar Levokjwix (‘Lev’, to his mates) and Charlie James, had worked  as Contract Miners for years – indeed, it had been for so long that none of them had any idea exactly when they had paired up. It was certainly before ‘The War’ (the Great War of recent memory), but before that?  No-one could recall, although if asked, they were definite that it was before Waihi and the infamous events of 1912.  Of that they were all certain.  As professional miners, they were renowned for their abilities and skills. Now, they waited, the flames from their hat-mounted carbide lamps the sole illumination. Invisible air currents made the flames gutter, placing dancing shadows on the surrounding walls, while in the silence, distant water echoed as it dripped from roofs in abandoned tunnels.

Albert Benton, the Shift Boss, arrived – eventually. He was a careful and experienced man, well-regarded by all in the mine, knowing his job and always cheerful. He was however ‘Company’ and as such, suspect.  He could never, despite any effort he might make, be equal with those who were waiting, a point understood by all and never discussed as a result.

Benton had certainly been a contract miner at one time, but with promotion came distance and the gap could never be bridged – at least, not in the present circumstances.  Another time, another place?  Perhaps,but just not now.

With Benton’s arrival came instructions, and the men were soon  at work uplifting rails, dismantling air and water lines, removing timber and tidying-up the area.  They all knew what they had to do and did it quickly and efficiently.  There was however a slight problem; the disposal of the four sticks of Nobel’s Dynamite (known universally as ‘Jelly’) and its associated roll of fuse cord. These essential tools of the gold-miners’ trade, as always, carefully placed to one side, albeit separately, would in other times have been combined together, inserted into the gold-bearing reef in specially-drilled holes, and the fuse lit. The explosion that resulted when flame met explosives would break the gold-bearing white quartz rock into pieces.   When loaded into wagons the ore was then taken away for processing.

At their morning crib (‘Smoko’ / meal break) Fred had looked at Albert Benton and asked “What about the Jelly and the cord?”  “Flaming Heck”, was the response, “I dunno’ – I can’t see the Company wanting it, and we can’t leave it here”.  A contemplative silence followed, until Lev spoke. “If we can’t leave ‘em, why don’t we blow ‘em’; problem solved?”   The others looked at him as if he was crazy, yet, the more they thought about it, the more sense it made.

But, where to carry-out the deed?   More discussion followed, until finally a conclusion was reached; the adjacent (and unfinished) No. 5 Drive would be ideal. The No. 2 Crosscut where the men were standing had been driven onto the Toi Toi Reef, and had produced some high-grade ore. However, the size of the reef was unknown, and to determine this, the Company had put exploratory tunnels into the area where it thought the reef might be.

The No.5 was one of these.  It had found nothing and had been abandoned.  As a place suitable to detonate unwanted explosives, it was ideal.

As Shift Boss, Albert Benton bore the final responsibility for any work being carried-out within his area, so ultimately, the decision was his.  Charlie James (who fancied himself a scholar) summarised it well: “To blow, or not to blow’ that is indeed the question”.  And so it was.  Time passed, and after due thought and consideration, Benton gave his assent, detailing Fred and Lev to “Do the necessary, do it quickly, and for heaven’s sake, do it safely!!”. “Yes sir”, came the reply and the two men quickly disappeared into the darkness, the flames from their helmet-mounted lamps making shadows on the walls as they went.   Denton and Charlie carried on, lifting, stacking, removing, as they waited for the others to return.

An hour passed, then suddenly lights appeared in the distance; Fred and Lev returning. They were moving rapidly and on their arrival, knowing what was to come, the group moved into the crosscut to wait.  A minute passed, then two, until finally a loud rumbling indicated that the explosives had ignited.  Mentally they all counted; ‘One’; ‘Two’; ‘Three’; Four’, and after the fourth explosion, they relaxed, thankful that the ‘disposal’ problem had been resolved.

Time passed and the work came to an end; everything cleaned-up, removed and the cross cut ready to be abandoned to whatever fate might befall it. With the passing of time, the fumes from the explosives would also have dissipated.  ‘Are you going back to have a look Mister Benton?’ Charlie asked.  “No, not today; no need; every sticks gone off, No.5 will be closed, and besides, once we’re out of here no-one will care.  No point”.  “Fair enough’, came Charlie’s response, ‘But can I go and have a look anyway, for old times’ sake.  We’ve all worked here and I can’t see us ever coming back again”. “Oh, very well, but don’t be long.  We’re finished here and I want to go home – and so do the others”.  Grunts of assent came from Fred and Lev

Charlie left the group, carefully making his way towards the entrance of No.5 Drive. From practice, he walked carefully, subconsciously noting every detail of the tunnel as he walked.   After five minutes he arrived at the entrance to the No.5 Drive, to find broken rock scattered everywhere.  The roof of the working had collapsed, the supporting timbers splintered and distorted, and everywhere, desolation.  This was to be expected. However, what was not expected was the sight of a thin yellow line at a point half-way along the right-hand side of the working; a thin yellow line in the white quartz rock, and also evident in a piece of quartz which he idly kicked with his boot as he entered.  Gold??? Surely not, and yet?  Quickly Charlie ran his thumbnail along the line.  Gold is soft and his nail left a mark on the line, so perhaps, just perhaps?  But, what to do?

He picked up and pocketed several small pieces of quartz, including three containing the mysterious yellow line.  The latter he put in his hatband, concealing them behind the lamp. This done, he started back to find the others; the journey seeming just a little shorter.

On his return, the usual questions followed: ‘What did it look like?’, ‘Did everything come down?’; ‘Did you find anything?’(this last from Benton).  He replied to them all, and, pulling the rocks from his pocket, showed them (especially Benton), what he had found. He did not mention the rocks in his hat band.

With that done and assurances given, the men walked back out to the adit portal, to daylight and an uncertain future. Mr. Benton told the Mine Manager that No.2 Crosscut was cleared of all machinery, rails and pipework, and that worthy in turn contacted the Company’s Attorney in Auckland to appraise him of the fact, the Attorney subsequently advising the Chairman of the Board (in London) of the situation. As a result, on 14 November 1921 the Chairman issued a statement to the effect that the Kereru Gold Mining Co. Ltd. had abandoned its mine.

There is not much more to tell. On 2 January 1922, the New Kereru Gold Mining Co. Ltd. was formed; the Principle Shareholders being Messers. Frederick Shaw, Oscar Levokjwix and Charles James.  According to its Prospectus, the  new entity’s purpose was ‘To explore and evaluate the site of the former Kereru Gold Mining Co. Ltd. and surrounding areas with a view to exploiting such resources as may be found within that area’.  The new organisation was subsequently granted a lease over 750 acres of the former company’s ground and curiously, quickly found extremely rich gold- bearing ore in the vicinity of the No. 2 Crosscut. The ore was especially rich within the former No.5 Drive, the deposit there-in being subsequently christened the Alton Patch by the Principle Shareholders. Oddly, none of these (subsequently knighted) gentlemen would ever divulge the origins of the name.

Of Albert Benton, nothing more was ever heard…

—————————————–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mining Tale…

Book Review: ‘The Spitfire: An Icon of the Skies’

58. DSCF2122 (2)

Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: The Spitfire: An Icon of the Skies

Editor: Philip Kaplan

No. of Pages: 234

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 7

_____________________________

According to its author, this volume: ‘…Looks at both the magnificent restoration of a AR213 [A specific aircraft], and at the Spitfire generally. It considers the mystique and charisma associated with the type, its principle designer R.J. Mitchell, the Spitfires of the pre-war years, the Spitfire in the battle of Britain, flying the aeroplane, the roles of the Spitfire in the Second World War, the amazing career of Alex Henshaw as Chief Test Pilot…the famous Rolls Royce Merlin engine…some of the motion picture and television performances of the Spitfire, and the phenomenal evolution of the warbird movement’. It is an excellent precis.

The volume consists of 12 Chapters. These cover the subjects described above and are accompanied by numerous monochrome and colour photographs. These are of both aircraft and individuals; all are relevant to the narrative. However, the image sources are not included with the images, but are instead listed in a separate Picture Credits section placed at the back of the book (of which more anon). Art works, along with images from both print media and philately, also appear, together with numerous personal reminiscences.

Regrettably, for this reviewer, this volume has several significant faults. Of these (and the most curious and serious; at least for this reviewer),  concerns the Contents page. On it there is a complete absence of reference to the volume’s ‘support services’. That the Acknowledgements. Bibliography, Picture Credits and Index sections appear within the book is easily verifiable, yet the Contents page contains no reference to their existence. Why this is so is unknown. In addition, an un-named (but two-page) section has been placed immediately after the Contents page. Exactly what it is, and why it has been placed where it is, is unexplained. To this reviewer, that section appears to be a ‘grab-bag’ of the material that will later appear within the body of the volume, but in the absence of a title, its function is uncertain. Regrettably, the authority of the Index is also doubtful, with a random search for ‘Park, Keith within it indicating that an entry to Park Keith would be found on page 99. No such entry was found. Have other, similar, omissions occurred? There is no way to know. As previously-noted, this book contains numerous personal reminiscences and quotes from those personally involved with the aircraft. Regrettably, little effort has been made to indicate when one individual’s quotes end and another’s starts, or of their sources (whether published, personal documents, or conversations). Page 35 is but one example, with the absence of quotation marks and citations making it initially difficult for this reviewer to determine where the ‘Beurling’ section ended and the ‘Lacy’ one commenced. Similar examples appear elsewhere. Readers seeking further information about the origins of such quotes will also have no idea where to look as no citations are provided to indicate their sources. The author certainly uses the Acknowledgements section to thank those who helped him by providing ‘…Quoted and other material’.

However, this is a ‘blanket’ thanks and in the absence of specific sources for specific quotes it likely to be of little use to a researcher.  A list of the abbreviations used throughout the volume would also have been useful. No maps appear within the volume.

The volume can be considered a ‘Potted History’ of the Spitfire and its military and civilian service, with particular emphasis being placed on the restoration of AR213. On that basis it will probably appeal to Spitfire aficionados in particular and to aviation and war-bird enthusiasts in general. Aviation historians may find it worthy of their perusal, while ‘generalist’ military historians may also find it of interest. Pilots and ‘Aviation buffs’ of all persuasions may also find it worth a look. Aeromodellers specifically interested in the Spitfire (especially the early marks as exemplified by AR213) are also likely to find the colour images useful.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent: I have given this volume a 7.

_____________________________

 

 

Book Review: ‘The Spitfire: An Icon of the Skies’

‘Dragons'(A ‘Different’ Christmas morning)

Out of the taxi, quickly, there be ‘Dragons’ about; the driver refusing to take me further. I walk onto the railway station platform. Hello Christmas morning!! A celebratory church bell tolls distantly. My trek begins. No ‘Dragons’ of course; just the addicts lurking in the shadows. Demanding handouts, they sometimes emerge, becoming abusive, threatening, when I decline! Human Dragons! My Signalbox workplace looms distantly; so near, so far. I walk-on quickly; my footsteps echoing. Alert, listening, shadows threatening, I count my steps. Two hundred, one hundred, fifty; at the Signalbox door; inside, Safe!!  My Christmas Morning for seven consecutive years.

——————————————-

‘Dragons'(A ‘Different’ Christmas morning)

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Escorting the Monarch: The Story of the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Special Escort Group’’.

57. DSCF2116 (2)

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Escorting the Monarch: The Story of the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Special Escort Group

Author: Chris Jagger

No. of Pages: 156

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 8

_____________________

In his in introduction to this volume the author writes the following: ‘The Special Escort Group (SEG) has been honing its skills for over six decades. Developing an unequivocal team culture dedicated to absolute precision, it has a reputation for excellence amongst its peers, of delivering its passengers (and cargo) on time, safely, in a  great deal of style, and without fuss or mishap…From queens, kings, presidents and emperors, to priceless works of art, terrorists and high-risk prisoners, SEG escorts them all. The skill required to protect them demands a world-class team’. This is that team’s story. It is a fair summation of the volume.

The Contents section is three pages in length and is followed by an Acknowledgements section in which all those who assisted the author are thanked. This is in turn followed by a Preface which details the reasons for the volume’s existence. An Introduction by the longest- serving Chief of SEG follows that section and is in turn followed by a Forward by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. An Introduction from the Author then talks the reader on an imaginary (but typical) journey on a typical SEG mission. The main part of the volume consists of   five Chapters. Titled sequentially (The 1950s. The 1960s etc.), these cover events in their respective decades and illustrate the development of the SEG through the 1952-199 period. Within each chapter, subheadings relate SEG-related events that occurred in that specific decade.  They make for fascinating reading. Regrettably, the volume does not cover SEG operations in the Twenty-first Century. A final chapter (The Future) is largely a multi-page (but imagined) advertisement for recruits for the SEG. However, it also contains the texts of two SEG-related letters, a list of SEG Chiefs and a list of SEG Motorcycles (approximate dates deployed to the SEG), the contents of these latter sections being self-evident from their titles. A five-page Index completes the volume. The volume is illustrated in a variety of media. Pencil sketches appear in various locations, as do pen and ink images of the various motorcycles that have been used by SEG over the years. Curiously (and although the volume does not itself cover the majority of the period), one drawing (BMW R1100RS (1997-2012) is of a motorcycle used from 1997-2012. Why this should be so, is not recorded. A sixteen page Plates’ section in the volume’s centre contains descriptively-captioned images of motorcycles, personnel, correspondence and cartoons relevant to the larger narrative. Although the sources of some of these are given, the origins of the majority are unknown. There is no mention of the section’s existence on either the Contents pages or in the Index. within the individual Chapters, Footnotes are used to provide additional information. However, their use is somewhat piecemeal and does not extend to the numerous personal quotes that appear within the chapters. Boxes containing additional quotes also appear within the Chapters. While providing extra information helpful to the narrative, for unexplained reasons their sources are not cited. It is also not known why these particular quotes have been displayed in this specific manner.  The volume also contains two untitled and uncaptioned maps, evidently related to the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, although this is not stated, together with a half-tone rendition of the official SEG Coat of Arms.

The author’s style is readable and it is evident that he knows his subject. As a result, this volume may appeal to the general reader who is seeking an undemanding tale that gives a ‘Once over lightly’ introduction to a hitherto unknown organisation.  Because of its subject, this book is likely to also appeal to both Motorcycle and Police ‘enthusiasts’. The descriptions within this volume might also be of interest to both political and social historians researching Post-WWII Great Britain.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given this book an 8.

————————————

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Escorting the Monarch: The Story of the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Special Escort Group’’.