Spyplanes, The Luger, And The Royal Field Artillery – Three book reviews by Mark Barnes

I had been receiving a steady stream of books from this publisher and its stable-mates and then things just dried up. This volume does exactly what it says on the cover by offering a look at the spy-planes built by Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the United States. Safe to say the longest list of aircraft emanate from the USA. The book takes the form of a straightforward directory with descriptions of featured aircraft allied to photographs and diagrams.

It opens with an explanation of key terms and continues with a history of spy-plane operations that helps to set the remainder of the book into context. The authors take time to look at aircraft that made it into service and a number that didn’t get that far. It is obviously one for serious military aircraft nuts but it has enough to entertain the general reader. I would say this one takes the form of a conventional guide and lacks some of the visual oomph of previous titles. But don’t let that put you off.

The Illustrated Guide to Manned Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft From World War I to Today.
By Norman Polmar and John F Bessette
Voyageur Press
ISBN: 978 0 7603 5031 7


Ask anyone to name a well-known military pistol and most people will name the legendary Luger.  There have been a number of books about the famous gun and the author acknowledges this in the way he draws on the studious efforts of firearm historians down the years. I have to say many books of this sort that pass my in-tray have often been a bit on the deep and dry side. Happily for us Mr Walter writes with style and a keen eye on entertaining his readers. I could say a lot about the gun that would lengthen this review but it would all be superfluous. I have only ever held a Luger once and never shot with one, so I have nothing to add to the debate.

This book is all about education and the attention to detail is immense without ever being suffocating. Being the superficial sort I didn’t expect to get drawn in too heavily, but, actually, this book does keep the reader well and truly hooked.

Hugo Borchardt and Georg Luger come across as a genuinely interesting characters and the legend of their handiwork lives on.  If you are interested in the history of pistol design and development this book is definitely one for you.

The Story of the World’s Most Famous Handgun
By John Walter
The History Press
ISBN: 978 0 7509 6627


I am writing this on the 101st anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the explosion of books and material that occurred at the start of the centennial events for the Great War in 2014 has barely abated.  Apologies to David Hutchison for taking so long over his book that came to me earlier in 2017 just as I was having some personal stuff to resolve. His book tells the story of family members who served with the British Army during the conflict and includes extracts from letters and journals written by the chief protagonists.

The author takes pains to interpret the events going on around them and other details of army life.  The workings of the artillery are important to the story while mixing contemporary impressions with a good deal of facts and information helps set the story in context. The book has been written with passion and a good deal of pride in the author’s ancestors – genuinely impressive individuals to whom we owe a debt of thanks.  I have read a lot of Great War books and while this one has no pretensions on becoming a classic, it is a very useful volume that helps fill in the detail of the Western Front through the eyes of people who were there and a descendant who really cares. Good stuff.

The Royal Field Artillery in the Great War
By David Hutchison
ISBN: 978 1785893 230

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.