31 Years of Hell a hell of a read

I found history challenging when I was at school but discovered its importance as I started at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and throughout my 26 + year military career where I was extremely privileged to have studied many historical events where they happened.

Not only have I been to many of the battle fields across Europe and other continents but I have been extremely lucky to have historical guides such as the late Professor Richard Homes, who brought battles back to life in his BBC War Walks series, General Mungo Melvin who is a renowned expert on the revered World War 2 German Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt and many others.

I have walked the 1st and 2nd World War battlefields in Verdun, the Somme, Normandy, Brittany, the Ardennes, the Balkans, the invasions of Sicily and Crete and many others across Europe. I have taken a train following the Japanese route they took thorough Malaysia to invade Singapore and walked the defence of Singapore.

I have followed the path of the Blitz in Belfast and other cities, flown down the Mohnesee lake in Germany at the height and along the route the Dam Busters took and stood in some of the factories flooded in the towns below where the flood mark is still obvious today.  I thought, with good reason, I had a good understanding of this period of history.

The reality is I missed the glue that put it all together – the thread that let me put all of the battles, decisions, personalities into a truly strategic context in an easily understandable way.  Eamonn Ashe has done this in an exceptionally clear way in his book 31 Years of Hell! 1914-1945.  Brilliantly researched and clearly written, expertly edited it is a must for anyone who want to understand this critical period of our collective global history.

His style is unique and makes understanding complex geopolitical manoeuvring and military decision making easily understandable.  For a factually based history book it reads as easily as a good novel.  It is simply an enjoyable and informative read.

This book should be on the reading list for all military Staff Colleges and a pre-reader for any battlefield tours.  If only I had this at school I may not have started my journey into historical analysis challenged!  His motivation to write it was his Grandfather, CSM Joseph Phillips, Connaught Rangers who died in the fields of France on 21st March 1918, he would be justifiably proud of his grandson’s work. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, there is no better time to improve your understanding of this horrific period of history. Highly recommended!

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