A personal note

Things on this blog will slow down a bit following the birth of my daughter Frida. It means I will have to divide time between my day-job, my family, the book projects, and this. Nevertheless, I will try to keep this place interesting for those of you who follow it.

Happy New 2012!


Progress on Books

We think after three years it might be time for an update, also because the project has changed considerably in the course of researching it.

1) Change of Scope

There is a slight change of scope, in that it has now been extended to provide the most extensive cover yet of the Operations of Oasis Force under Brigadier Reid. This will be a stand-alone book, co-authored by me, Andreas, Kuno Gross (co-author of ‘Incident at Jebel Sherif’, ‘The Occupation of Kufra’, and author of ‘The Bagnold Sun Compass’), and Roberto Chiarvetto, who co-authored the former two books with Kuno. This is a book we are very excited about. It’ll be a self-publishing venture, and we hope to have it out by early 2012. More on that in a few weeks.

Nevertheless, the project is still focused on Operation CRUSADER, and nothing else.

2) Change of Approach

The initial intent was to publish a very simple, one-volume history of CRUSADER from the German perspective. In the course of developing this, it became clear that there is no satisfactory treatment of this very important operation from the Commonwealth side. In the conceptualisation of this, it became clear that it will not be possible to fit this into one volume. We have undertaken very considerable archival research at Kew, the UK’s National Archives, to lift a lot of the original unit records, messages, reports, etc., and have by now probably the foremost library on this matter outside the archive.

We will also be giving a much higher importance to the air battle than originally planned. For this we will lean on Michele Palermo’s ‘Le Battaglie Aeree in Africa Settentrionale’ (The Air Battles over North Africa), which covers November and December (see for this link for a preview, and this link to order. As well as Michele’s and Ludovico Slongo’s earlier ‘Ali d’Africa’, the history of 1st Italian Fighter Wing (see this link for preview, and this link to order). Both books are bilingual, and a very important addition to our knowledge. Especially Michele’s Battaglie supercedes Shores and Ring’s prior standard work.

Michele has confirmed that he is interested to work with me on Vol. III, which will cover a period he has not yet addressed in detail.

3) Outputs

First, obviously the book on Oasis Force.

For the main opus, we are now looking at a 3-volume edition, with the first edition to be published in January 2013 (if all goes well). The order will be somewhat off, being Vol. III (El-Agheila and the Counteroffensive), Vol. I (Sidi Rezegh, Tobruk), Vol.II (Pursuit, Gazala, Agedabia, siege and occupation of Bardia and Halfaya). This will follow the way the Germans split the battle into phases. It will also ensure that each volume will have sufficient amounts of things going on to be of interest in its own right.

We are in detailed discussions about a publishing contract for Vol. III, and would presume that the same publisher will go with all three volumes.

We welcome comments on this.

The new war in Libya

This entry is not about Operation CRUSADER, but rather what is currently going on in the country, and it is going to be a bit of a rant.

It is weird that the places one comes across so often in historical studies are suddenly news items relating to another war. Little seems to have changed, and the key to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica is still Marsa el Brega, and Ajdabiya.  Also many of the other places that have played such a prominent role in CRUSADER – Tubruq, Benghazi, the airport at Benina. The pictures of burnt-out vehicles along the coastal road seem like flashbacks into the past of 70 years ago. Then Morris trucks, Lancia Ros and Opel Blitz – today Toyota pick-ups.

It has been infuriating to see the limp-wristed response of the west to the brutal way in which the Libyan regime has tried (and is likely to succeed) with the crushing of the uprising. What is now being tried is in my view likely to be too late, and will carry far more risks. I hope not, but I am pessimistic. Over the last few days, while the news from Japan buried the news from Libya, my heart has been sinking.

As far as the UK goes, I wonder what went on at the Cabinet meeting that just closed. Did anyone raise the point of good it would have been to not have decommissioned HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier squadrons? What a stupid decision that now looks to be. And no vote in parliament until Monday… Unbelievable.

One thing to hope for is that this will change the way people look at the French. I think at present the French Armee de l’Air is a major part of the only hope the rebels have, since they will be able to engage quickly, and I hope they do.

As for my own country, Germany, they can of course always be relied on to make grandiose statements and let other nations do the fighting. I wish Westerwelle would just put a sock in it. Another wish that is likely to be disappointed.

Good luck to the rebels, they will need it. I still have a lingering hope that maybe next year I will be able to visit a democratic Libya to finally see the places I have read about so much.

’We will never surrender. We will either gain victory or die!’ Sheilkh Omar al Mukhtar, murdered by the Italian regime after leading the resistance of Libya against Italian occupation in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Omar Mukthar (1862 - 1931), Leader of the Libyan Resistance against Italy


Happy 100th Birthday Royal Navy Aviation!

Well I am very pleased to congratulate the Royal Navy on this achievement.  I just witnessed a spectacular fireworks display from my balcony in Greenwich, and in the morning got treated to the helicopters returning to HMS Illustrious, currently moored here.  The Royal Navy certainly does know how to celebrate in style.

The 100th anniversary is dated back to when the first funding request for a naval airship was granted in 1909. 

A longer post on the Fleet Air Arm during CRUSADER can be found at this link. More specific to HMS Illustrious, during CRUSADER, the squadrons disembarked from HMS Illustrious served as fighters, airborne escort, target illuminators, and night bombers. Illustrious herself was out of service because of damage received in successive attacks from January to May 1941.

Click here for the Flight Global article on the centenary with some nice illustrations.

Click here for the Fleet Air Arm Archive page on HMS Illustrious in WW2.

Click here for the Fleet Air Arm Archive page on No. 815 Squadron FAA.

And some pictures, courtesy of my wife Livia.

HMS Illustrious at her moorings just north the old Naval College

HMS Illustrious (R06) at her moorings on the Thames at Greenwich, just north-west of the old Naval College, now the University of Greenwich


The Flypast from our 6th floor balcony close to the river

The Flypast turning over a construction site
The Flypast turning over a construction site
Giving a good idea of the size of this relatively small carrier

Giving a good idea of the size of this relatively small carrier

The 1940s HMS Illustrious (R87) sailing in the Indian Ocean in 1944.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The 1940s HMS Illustrious (R87) sailing in the Indian Ocean in 1944. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

HMS Illustrious under Axis bomber attack in the Mediterranean, probably early 1941. Courtesy of Wikipedia

HMS Illustrious under Axis bomber attack in the Mediterranean, probably early 1941. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Crusader Project (What it is all about)

We are working on what will probably be the first single-volume, complete and focused history of the winter battle in North Africa 1941/42 from 18 November 41 to 6 February 42, known under the British operational name “Crusader”. The project is based on German and Commonwealth records, a wealth of secondary works, including the British operational and intelligence, South African, New Zealand, and Italian official histories, unit histories, historical reports written post-war by German officers, and analysis of the war in desert by authors such as Field Marshal Michael Carver.

The book will cover the day-by-day progress of the battle on land and sea, and discuss the strategic setting, with a particular focus on the convoy battles between the Royal Navy and the Regia Marina and the intelligence situation for both sides.

Throughout the project, we will inform anyone interested here. We will also make files and information available that are unlikely to end up in the book, but will still be of interest to the general reader.

Andreas & Rich