If Putin comes, the Poles are waiting - a report from Nato's new frontline

4 July 2015

Late last month, on a windswept plain near the Polish town of Zagan, the defence ministers of Poland, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands joined the Nato secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, to… Read more


Without Scotland, England will be a weedy laughing stock

5 July 2014

On 19 September, people over all Britain could wake up in a diminished country, one that doesn’t bestride the world stage but hobbles instead. If Scotland votes to leave the… Read more


The one good thing we're leaving in Afghanistan

2 November 2013

 Kabul A strange new institution is rising from the dust in the mountains west of Kabul. The foreigners here call it the Sandhurst in the Sand. Those who work at… Read more

A patrol of allied forces in Northern Burma in 1944. Image: Getty

Griff Rhys Jones

2 March 2013

Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army, with Griff Rhys Jones, is on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday, 7th July. I have spent a week with old, old men, interviewing… Read more

The enemy within

3 September 2011
Inside the Pakistan Army Carey Schofield

Biteback, pp.240, 19.99

The most telling figure in Carey Schofield’s book on the Pakistan army is Faisal Alavi, a major general who was murdered in November 2008. The most telling figure in Carey… Read more

Patience v. panache

18 June 2011
Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives Peter Caddick-Adams

Preface, pp.618, 20

Forgotten Voices: Desert Victory Julian Thompson

Ebury Press, pp.384, 16.99

The square jaw and steely gaze are deceptive. In reality, next to a prima donna on the slide, no one is more vain and temperamental than a general on the… Read more


At war with the Greeks

8 January 2011

America’s love of the ancient republics has had military consequences in the present If you’re 40 or older and I ask you to think back to the worst moments of… Read more

Bearing the brunt

6 November 2010
Wojtek the Bear: Polish War Hero Aileen Orr, with an epilogue by Neil Ascherson

Birlinn, pp.200, 9.99

Ostensibly this small book is a jolly and true story (illustrated with some charming black-and-white snapshots) about the military experiences of Wojtek (pronounced Voycheck), the bear who, bought as a… Read more


Mud, blood and jungle rot

31 July 2010
Matterhorn Karl Malantes

Corvus, pp.598, 16.99

The Matterhorn, at 14,679 feet in the Alps, is said to be very difficult to climb. It is an apt military designation for a (fictional) jungle peak that United States… Read more


Might and wrong

30 June 2010
Moral Combat: A History of World War II Michael Burleigh

Harper Press, pp.650, 30

‘Was all this the realisation of our war aims?’, Malcolm Muggeridge asked as he surveyed the desolation of Berlin in May 1945. ‘Was all this the realisation of our war… Read more


Aces high

23 June 2010
The Battle of Britain James Holland

Bantam, pp.592, 25

Gun Button to Fire Tom Neill

Amberley, pp.320, 20

Last of the Few Dilip Sarkar

Amberley, pp.240, 20

Seventy years after the RAF repelled the Luftwaffe, the Battle of Britain continues to have a powerful resonance. The conflict not only decided Britain’s very survival as an independent nation,… Read more


The map turns red

21 April 2010
The Atlantic and its Enemies Norman Stone

Allen Lane, pp.599, 30

Norman Stone forsook the chair of modern history at Oxford university for Ankara after realising that the ‘conversation at high tables would generally have made the exchanges in the bus-… Read more


Progress at a price

7 April 2010
Vietnam: Rising Dragon Bill Hayton

Yale, pp.272, 20

I was sitting recently with a former US marine by one of the huge open windows on the top floor of the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. Our drinks were being… Read more


Triumph of the will

7 April 2010
The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East Alistair Urquhart

Little, Brown, pp.312, 18.99

Alistair Urquhart describes himself as ‘a lucky man as well as an angry man’. Alistair Urquhart describes himself as ‘a lucky man as well as an angry man’. No one… Read more


Annals of war

24 March 2010
The Iraq Papers John Ehrenberg, J. Patrice McSherry, José Ram

OUP, pp.528, 15.99

‘I was not an enthusiast about getting US forces and going into Iraq,’ Dick Cheney said in 1997, looking back on the First Gulf War. ‘I was not an enthusiast… Read more


The stuff of legend

10 March 2010
Did You Really Shoot the Television? Max Hastings

HarperPress, pp.278, 20

This book could have been a classic. It starts as an account of the author’s family, no better, no worse than many such; but then, amongst the grandparents and the… Read more


A dangerous fellow

10 February 2010
Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual Michael Scammell

Faber, pp.689, 20

Do we need another huge life of Arthur Koestler? He wrote a great deal about himself, including three autobiographical works: Spanish Testament (1937), describing his experience as a death-row prisoner… Read more


A society celebrating itself

27 January 2010
Empires of the Imagination Holger Hoock

Profile Books, pp.514, 30

The years between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, argues Holger Hoock, ‘saw Britain evolve from a substantial international power yet relative artistic… Read more


Macabre success story

20 January 2010
Operation Mincemeat Ben Macintyre

Bloomsbury, pp.402, 16.99

Any bright schoolchild could tell, from a glance at his or her atlas, where the Allies were going to land next, after they had conquered Tunis in 1943: it would… Read more


Elder, but no better

20 January 2010
Pitt the Elder: Man of War Edward Pearce

The Bodley Head, pp.372, 25

William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham was hailed by Victorian schoolboys as the man who made England great. He was the patriot leader, the minister who steered the country… Read more

Poisonous relations

30 December 2009
England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy, 1940-1942 Colin Smith

Weidenfeld, pp.490, 25

‘The Axis powers and France,’ declared Marshall Pétain and Hitler at Montoire in October 1940, ‘have a common interest in the defeat of England as soon as possible.’ Why this… Read more

Sideshow on the lake

14 December 2009
A Matter of Time Alex Capus

Haus, pp.252, 12.99,

During the night of 9 February 1916, two men were sitting on opposing shores of Lake Tanganyika. The longest lake in the world, it at that time divided German East… Read more

When words were scarce

11 November 2009
Where the Hell Have You Been? Tom Carver

Short Books, pp.246, 16.99

Most of us are brought up not badly, but wrongly. Trained to the tenets of Mrs DoAsYou-WouldBeDoneBy, we are easily trampled underfoot by students of the Master DoItMyWay-OrBeDoneOver school. Consider… Read more

Model of resilience

21 October 2009
The Making of the British Army Allan Mallinson

Bantam, pp.550, 20

At a time when the British Army is going through something of a crisis — plucked from the frying pan of Iraq only to be plunged into the fire of… Read more