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The Second World War Explained (Hardback)

Military WWII > Churchill WWII > Hitler & the Third Reich

By Michael O'Kelly
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 201
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781526737434
Published: 3rd August 2018



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Over seventy years on the terrible events and outcome of the Second World War remains hugely relevant and important. Far from diminishing interest in this truly global conflict is increasing. The internet has enabled detailed research into ancestors’ war records to an extent unimaginable a decade or so ago.

There have been countless books on all aspects of the Second world War but Michael O'Kelly has identified the need for a concise summary covering the main events and personalities. The result is a compelling, highly readable and informing book which allows an understanding of this most dramatic yet tragic period of history. Will appeal to all age groups.

This book is very good at providing a flowing story of the varied angles and important events that took place during the war, such as the cheering by people as they saw German bombers come down in smoke during the Battle of Britain, the sinking of the Hood, and subsequent hunt for the Bismarck, or the St Nazaire Raid.
Also incorporated is a timeline of meetings of the Great Power leaders, and also a wider detailed timeline of the whole war. Overall, this is both a great book to read from start to finish, but also a very useful wider reference book on World War Two.

Jon Sandison

Here’s an excellent book explaining World War 2 in an overview fashion. Excellent for those who have never really looked into this part of history, excellent for younger readers too. Looking at the many 10’s of thousands of titles on this bit of our history their is enough to read for a person’s lifetime.
This book, with its large print, helps you get the main facts and events shown and explained in a mere day or two.

The book follows events in a mostly chronological fashion, and covers ALL fronts, not only west or east. It also provides some background to what started this dark page in men’s history.

There are maps (yay !) at the beginning of the book, photos in the middle and interesting appendices at the back. Appendix 1 : Meetings of Great Power Leaders. Appendix 2: Second World War Timeline.

Although I am a very seasoned WW2 reader, I can still recommend this book to many, for all the reasons mentioned above.

Read the full review here

Flyin' and Ridin' Blog

There have been countless books on all aspects of the Second World War but Michael O'Kelly has identified the need for a concise summary covering the main events and personalities. The result is a compelling, highly readable and informing book which allows an understanding of this most dramatic yet tragic period of time. This book will appeal to all age groups.

West Surrey FHS

A compelling, highly readable and informative book which encourages an understanding of this most tumultuous, yet tragic, period of history. This is a book that will appeal to all age groups.

Guards Magazine, The Journal of the Household Division

The book has a set of very clear maps at the front, some well chosen photographs in the middle and starts with a chapter on the background to war before taking the reader through methodically to 1945, generally with a paragraph on a given issue, though certain sections do reach further than their designated time block where necessary to make a continuity-based point. The result is a clear and easy read which is very fluent. Michael O'Kelly's style is easy on the eye and he unashamedly views the various goings on from a British perspective, with our chaps being gallant more often than not.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

He printed for his family a memoir, The Unforgiving Minute, and followed it with The Second World War Explained, for a new generation. A man of great integrity, O’Kelly certainly filled the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run.

The Telegraph 23/6/19

This book provides a starting point to understanding what happened, why, and how it continues to influence life today.

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This is something I would have found enthralling back in the 1950s when I was starting my grammar school education, but the history books had yet to be written about WWII back then. Michael’s book puts everything into perspective in a scholarly and engaging way. So much I didn’t know… if you don’t know where to start in your thirst for knowledge about WWII, Michael’s your man!

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Books Monthly

A book that also makes use of an excellent series of maps and a sufficiently detailed chronology. And also in the appendix we find an interesting scheme that lists all the meetings between the main allied leaders.
A book that I would recommend to those who want to start learning about the Second World War and then get passionate about a more specific theme, be it a battle or a theater of war.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

If you want to get a broad view or you know of a youngster whose school history did not get beyond the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and the First World War this with all its limitations will make a very acceptable present.

Robert Bartlett

This is a remarkable book in which the author provides an admirable, if necessarily rather breathless and simplistic, précis of the Second World War through every theatre of War and from the Arctic Convoys to the Atom Bomb. It is a highly readable, concise summary of the main events and key personalities of the War with just sufficient detail to add interest to the narrative. In a book of this type there is inevitably ample scope for over-simplification but in general a good balance is maintained throughout despite there being a degree of devil in the detail. Recommended for the general or younger reader.

Military Historical Society

Article: '91-year-old Michael offers his explanation of WWII' as featured by

Chichester Observer, 1st November 2018

Article: 'Teenagers questions led to Second World War book' as featured by

Petersfield Post, 12th September 2018

About Michael O'Kelly

Michael O’Kelly served in the Royal Navy for 34 years. He saw action in the Korean War and became an Anti-Submarine Warfare specialist. After retiring as a Captain he took up an executive position with Whitberad Plc. He was a West Sussex County Councillor for eight years. With a particular interest in education, he has been Chairman of the Governors of a large Comprehensive School and remains as a Governor today. A keen sportsman, he is a member of the MCC and used to coach.

He and his wife have been married for 60 years and have four sons and twelve grandchildren. He lives near Petersfield, Hampshire where one of his sons runs an award winning independent bookshop.

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