BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Maginot Line: History and Guide’

51. DSCF0680 (2)

BOOK REVIEW

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  The Maginot Line: History and Guide

Author:  J.E. Kaufmann, H.W. Kaufmann, Aleksander Jankovič-Potočnik and Patrice Lang

Total Number of Pages: 308

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

_______________________________

This volume narrates the story of the Maginot Line; a series of fortifications constructed along the Franco-German border after World War I. In concept, the ‘Line was well-thought-out and constructed. It was built on the premise that should hostilities ever resume between France and Germany recommence, the German invader would be contained by the supposedly-impregnable fortifications and would be unable to enter La Belle Francoise. Unfortunately for the French, when the Germans did eventually re-enter (during World War II), they did so through an area of the border which the French considered to be impenetrable and through which the ‘Line did not extend.  The much-vaunted and highly-expensive Maginot Line was thus neutralised and ineffective. Despite this, the Maginot Line did subsequently see combat, although this was between German and American forces and did not occur until the latter period of World War II,  The  Maginot Line continued to play an ever-decreasing  role in French defence plans, although it had been overtaken by technology (especially with the development of nuclear weapons). In 1968 it was deemed surplus to French military requirements, with such structures as remained being sold-off to non-military organisations and individuals. This well-written and researched book is the Maginot Line’s story, and is a reprint of a volume originally published in 2011.

A two page Contents section appears at the front of the volume. Unusually, this is followed by a single-sentence Dedication. Why this should be placed where it is, instead of in the more-usual front of the book (and ahead of the Contents pages) is not explained. An Acknowledgements page then thanks those who contributed to the volume. A Glossary of Terms section is next. It provides English-language interpretation for the numerous French-language terms that the book contains, The Glossary is followed by the eight Chapters which form the main part of the book. These are divided into two sections, The first (titled ‘Part I : the Maginot Line) consists of Chapters 1-5 and provides historical and technical ‘background. The second (titled Part II: The Maginot Line and Other Sites Today), consists of Chapters 6-8 and is intended as a ‘guide book’ for use by interested visitors. Where necessary, sub-headings appear within each chapter. Additional information is provided within each chapter by chapter-specific end-notes. These are arranged sequentially within each chapter; the citations being placed at chapter-end. To assist visitors to what remains of the Maginot defences, the second section (titled Part II: The Maginot Line and Other Sites Today) contains ‘… A list of sites that can be visited today and that we recommend’ [Author’s italics]. Associated with this is a star-based system that ‘… Indicates accessibility in the main tourist season’. Six Appendices are placed after Chapter 8. They information they contain supplements that appearing within the main part of the volume. A Bibliography then details the printed and electronic sources which were used when the volume was being written. A six-page Index completes the book. In addition to the above, this volume contains numerous Photographs, Half-tone drawings, Maps, Plans and Tables from a variety of sources. There is no mention of their existence on either the Contents pages or within the Index.

Military historians with a specific interest in either static fortifications or the Maginot Line itself, are likely to find this volume of interest. It may also appeal to both military and ‘civilian’ historians with a more generalist perspective. Readers interested in World War II’s European Theatre may also find it worthy of inspection Part II of the volume may also be useful to holiday-makers with an interest in the Maginot Line, while war-gamers and military modellers could find the volume’s diagrams and photographs of use.

This volume is impressively well-researched and full of information. As previously noted however, there is no mention of the existence of Photographs, Half-tone drawings, Maps, Plans and Tables on either the Contents pages or within the Index. This absence makes searching for specific information time-consuming, with no guarantee that the information being sought will even be found. Although this reviewer found such omissions frustrating, how important they are will depend on the individual reader.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume an 8.

_____________________________________

Advertisements
BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Maginot Line: History and Guide’

Book Review: ‘British Battlecruisers 1905-1920’

14-dscf7288-2

Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines)

Title:  British Battlecruisers 1905-1920

Author: John Roberts

Total Number of Pages: 128

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 6

____________________

Compromise can sometimes have unexpected consequences, with ‘theory’ not being supported by actual experience. So it proved with the ‘Battlecruiser-type’ warship. In theory a warship which was fast enough to overtake its opponents and (by being equipped with very heavy gun armament), be able to then destroy them, was an excellent idea. The reality was somewhat different, and as with many compromises, it was ultimately unsuccessful in its application.

This volume was originally published in 1997, and revised and reprinted in 2016. It covers the rise and fall of the battlecruiser-type warship within the Royal Navy.  Unlike many other works on such vessels, this book concentrates on the technical aspects of the type. Numerous Photographs, Tables, Drawings, Plans and Diagrams, contribute to the narrative. In addition, a set of Original Plans In Colour of HMS Invincible appear in the middle of the work. Looking suitably nostalgic by virtue of the colours employed, these include a fold-out section and are supplemented by an additional monochrome plan (that of HMS Queen Mary, 1913). This resides in a specially-designed pocket inside the back cover.

The volume consists of 16 un-numbered sections. A Preface to New Edition [sic] section is followed by one titled Abbreviations which is devoted to the abbreviations used throughout the work. An Introduction provides details of the World War I operational service of Royal Navy battlecruisers. Three other sections cover the history, development and construction of the battlecruiser-type vessel within the Royal Navy. Additional sections provide detailed analysis of the machinery, armament and armour that such vessels carried. A Summary of Service section details the naval service of most of the vessels referred-to within the volume, although HMS Hood is conspicuously absent.   A Sources section serves as a Bibliography. Within each chapter, sequentially-numbered endnote markers are used to provide additional source information. The relevant sources appear in a separate Notes section. An Index is provided. The existence of the previously-mentioned Photographs, Tables, Drawings and Diagrams is not mentioned within the Contents section, while the Index states only that ‘Page references in Italics denote photographs / diagrams’.

To this reviewer, this volume’s title implied a full history of the battlecruiser type of vessel. Such was not the case. He found instead a work that concentrated almost exclusively on the technical details of the type, and ignored all post-World War I service of its subjects.  He was especially surprised to find  no mention of HMS Hood  (the ultimate, and most famous British battlecruiser) in the volume’s Summary of Service section; this despite photographs and technical details of this vessel appearing within the work. As the loss of this ship forms a major part of Great Britain’s recent naval history, this is a major omission which reduces the volume’s authority.

This volume is likely to appeal to several groups. These could include those seeking technical information concerning Royal Navy battlecruisers per se’. Those interested in sea-going artillery and naval design and Historians with an interest in World War I or in naval, and military matters may find it worthy of inspection.   Warship modellers seeking details about specific vessels may also find it a useful source of information. Those seeking details of the post-World War I service of these vessels, and of HMS Hood in particular, are however, likely to be disappointed.

On a Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent), I give it a 6.


nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact nzcrownmines@gmail.com

Book Review: ‘British Battlecruisers 1905-1920’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘NAVIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY’

dscf6810-2

Reviewer:  NZ Crown Mines

Title: Navies in the 21st Century

Editor: Conrad Waters

No. of Pages: 256

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

________________

A ‘Compendium’ is defined as being ‘…A collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication’. Navies in the 21st Century, fits this definition well.

In the military world, it is always useful to know what the opposition is doing, and if one is unable to make personal acquaintance with the foe, a variety of alternative sources can provide at least a measure of information.  Navies in the 21st Century seeks to be one of these sources.

The volume consists of nine Chapters (termed ‘Sections’), and within each of these are a varying number of subsections covering specific topics.  As it is a compendium, these subsections have been contributed by a variety of authors (14 in total) who are evidently experts in their fields. The Editor also contributes various pieces and a Foreword.

The subjects covered are wide. They include a Strategic Overview; a Fleet Analysis; 21st Century Warship Design; Aircraft, and Personnel. The resultant work is both comprehensive and informed. Photographs (from a variety of sources, both civil and military), graphs, tables and well-executed line and half-tone drawings are also included.

In addition to the previously-noted Forward, the volume has nine Chapters (termed ‘Sections’), and 25 ‘Subsections’. The latter are chiefly concentrated in Section 4 (Fleet Analysis), where they provide well-researched and detailed information on both major and minor naval strengths and capabilities. A Glossary and List of Contributors are also included, together with an Index. Where additional information is necessary, notes are provided at the end of the individual chapters. These are keyed to sequentially-occurring-numbers within the text.

For this reviewer however, the work does have some limitations. Of these the most serious concerns the Index. During random searching, it was noticed that although an entry for New Zealand appeared within Section [Chapter] 4.3 (Asian Fleet Strengths -2015) on page 91, there was no reference to this entry (or indeed to ‘New Zealand’ per se’) within the Index.

As this was found during a random search, there is no way of knowing what other omissions exist. However, the discovery inevitably raises questions concerning the veracity and authority of the Index section and, by implication, the whole volume. In addition, no Bibliography exists, while the Contents section makes no reference to the photographs and drawings appearing within the book. The use of numbers (for example, 4.2.3) to delineate the subsections may also be initially-disconcerting for some readers.

These limitations notwithstanding, this reviewer believes that this volume provides a comprehensive coverage of the contemporary international naval scene. While doing-so, it easily earns the ‘Compendium’ appellation previously given. It is a relatively small and easily carried book and easy to refer-to (the previously-alluded-to Index ‘problem’ notwithstanding). As such it should find a ready home in wardrooms, airbase libraries and on military intelligence files. Defence specialists, and researchers in the geo-political field will also find this work of use, while students of 21st-Century warships and naval design could find it informative. The naval modeller may also find that this volume provides invaluable information in respect of both sea-going armaments and general naval technology. Those with a more general interest in naval and military matters, international relations, or ships in general, are also likely to find this work useful.

In precis, this is an excellent, comprehensive and well-written book. For this reviewer however, it was let down by small but important details, especially in respect of the Index, Had this not been the case, it would have received a higher rating.

On a rating scale of 1-10 where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I would give this volume a 7.

______________________________________________

nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact nzcrownmines@gmail.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘NAVIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY’