Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/July 2011/Book reviews

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The Blocking of Zeebrugge - Stephen Prince[edit]

The bow of HMS Vindictive at Ostend

3/5 stars
The Blocking of Zeebrugge is the seventh book in Osprey Publishing's 'Raid' series, and provides a short (64 page) summary of the Zeebrugge Raid, First Ostend Raid and Second Ostend Raid which took place in April and May 1918 during World War I. Stephen Prince is a historian in the Royal Navy's Naval Historical Branch, and the book is focused on the experiences of the British forces in these operations.

Overall, The Blocking of Zeebrugge provides a useful account of the three raids. Price's description of the British plans for operations against the Belgian coast in the war's first years are interesting, and he provides a detailed description of the situation which led to the 1918 raids gaining approval. The account of the planning process for the raids is also interesting, though a bit over-detailed given the book's short length. While the book is well illustrated with photos and maps, some of the maps are a bit unclear and the two 2-page paintings of British forces during the raids are sub-standard and add little to the narrative (I don't know why Osprey bothers with these). The analysis of the attacks is solid, and Price provides a good explanation of their limited tactical results but significant propaganda and morale benefits to the British. The book also includes an excellent annotated bibliography.

Curiously, the book's coverage of the raids it is focused on is rather brief. The attack on Zeebrugge gets about nine pages, and the two raids on Ostend are accorded only four pages. The narrative of the attacks is fairly 'flat', and is at times difficult to follow. An order of battle for the British and German forces would have made it much easier to understand the forces involved in the raids and who was doing what, but unfortunately wasn't included. The book is also rather short, and would have benefited from an extra 20 pages or so. As a result, The Blocking of Zeebrugge will be of most use in describing the background to the raids, but editors will need to look elsewhere for a good account of what took place during the attacks themselves. Nick-D (talk) 01:42, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan - Gregory Feifer[edit]

A Soviet Spetsnaz team prepares for a mission in Afghanistan during 1988

3/5 stars
This book by American journalist Gregory Feifer provides a general account of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and is aimed at a non-specialist audience. It is focused on the experiences of the Soviet Union's military, and draws on interviews with veterans and the English and Russian-language literature on the war.

The Great Gamble is written more as a journalistic account of the war rather than a formal history. As a result, it is focused on only the key events of the war and doesn't provide a great deal of background. The book's greatest strength is the way in which Feifer captures the misery and confusion in which most Soviet personnel in Afghanistan seem to have spent their war. From the personal accounts he provides, it is clear that this war was mismanaged on every level and the Soviet forces never had a realistic hope of achieving their (vague) goals. Feifer also provides some shocking personal narratives of war crimes Soviet soldiers took part in and witnessed, though it is unclear whether these reports were corroborated and if any of them led to prosecutions. The book is well illustrated with maps and well chosen photos.

The book is disappointing from a military history perspective, however. Feifer doesn't appear to have much of a background in writing on military matters, and regularly mixes up unit names and types (for instance, terms like 'division', 'company', 'brigade' and 'regiment' seem to have been used fairly casually, and often seem to be inaccurate). The accounts of battles are simplistic and sometimes confusing and the narrative jumps around at times. The book's 'aftermath' and 'epilogue' chapters are also rather long-winded and don't really succeed in their goal of linking the Soviet war to the American-led war which began in 2001.

As a result, while the Great Gamble is an interesting read and provides a good account of what Soviet soldiers and airmen went through, it isn't really very useful as a reference. Nick-D (talk) 00:19, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Articles this book will be useful for: Soviet war in Afghanistan and sub-articles
  • Publishing details: Feifer, Gregory (2009). The Great Gamble : The Soviet War in Afghanistan. New York: Harper. ISBN 9780061143182. 

Recent external military history book reviews[edit]

  • Figes, Orlando (2010). The Crimean War : A History. New York: Metropolitan Books. ISBN 0805074600. 
  • Taylor, Frederick (2011). Exorcising Hitler : The Occupation and Denazification of Germany. New York: Bloomsbury Press. ISBN 1596915366.