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The Second World War Illustrated (Paperback)

The Second Year - Archive and Colour Photographs of WW2

Colour Books Military Photographic Books WWII

By Jack Holroyd
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: The Second World War Illustrated
Pages: 280
Illustrations: 1000 colour & black and white
ISBN: 9781526757944
Published: 18th August 2020



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This second volume begins with the account of Mussolini attempting to mirror Hitler in acts of aggression by thrusting towards Egypt and capturing the important artery of the British Empire; the Suex Canal. The Italian initiative failed and when its army was driven back with heavy losses, Mussolini asked for help and Hitler sent Rommel.

Beginning in the spring of 1941, Axis forces, under a dynamic General Rommel, pushed the British back to Egypt. In the meantime, Mussolini decided on another easy target to spread his new 'Roman Empire' and invaded Greece. Once again, his superior numbers were repelled and the Greeks sent his army back to its starting point in Albania.

Hitler came to the aid of his Axis ally and Churchill sent the British to help Greece, but in doing so, depleted his forces in North Africa. During the Battle of Greece, Greek and British forces in the north of the country were overwhelmed by a rapid German advance. The British embarked for Crete and the Germans promptly captured the island with their much-vaunted Fallschirmjager.

Matters were disheartening for the British people following these defeats in North Africa and Greece. However, a morale boost came with the sinking of the Bismarck and the defection of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, in an amazing flight to Scotland. Then it came: in June, the German Führer took on his greatest military challenge; the invasion of Soviet Russia. By the end of the second year of the war, the Axis forces were deep into Stalin’s territory. Britain now had a major ally at last.

Featured in WWII History

WWII History

An impressive photographic archive.

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Miniaturas JM

There is much for modellers to savour, whether it's for a specific tank, aircraft or ship, but it is arguably diorama builders who will find the combat scenes most useful.

Airfix Model World, March 2021

...a wonderful selection of photos...

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The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

There are lots of images in here to interest the historian, and equally of interest to modellers who will appreciate the detail of uniforms and equipment from the specific year of the war, and offers a good variety of potential diorama inspiration as well. Nicely done.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

You'll find images from all sides of the conflict, giving a good photographic history of the events in the book.

Click here to read the full review


The second volume of the Series and just as good as the first. The author uses good quality text with some excellent photos taken as it happened. In fact in some of the photos, the reality is a little bit more than close for comfort. The centre of the book carries a good selection of colourised pictures as well as coloured photos of the war in action, the main protagonists and equipment used. There is good indication of units in each action and an explanation of each of those units and their purpose is included.

Following the foreword and bibliography, the author has sensibly divided his book into ten major chapters in chronological order. A good sized index is situated at the rear of the book. Overall, I was very impressed with this volume. The author has not pulled any punches and told it how it was. This, for me is a definite selling point. I would recommend this book to any historian, model maker or military researcher. Although a stand alone volume, it works well with it's preceding book.

I will definitely give this an excellent five out of five.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

The book and the year that follows step by step with the excellent photos is a year of great events, after a 1940 known for the first months with the famous "Drole de Guerre" or Phoney War in which no one took the first step. In 1941 large operations in Africa, Greece, Crete, Malta and then perhaps one of the decisive steps towards Hitler's final defeat (but 4 years distant), that is Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. In the background, air combat, naval battles, and the debut of the Commandos in Norway with the operations of the Lofoten Islands and Vaagso. Each chapter of the 10 of the book is extremely interesting with photos of the protagonists (often not even available in dedicated books) and the book ends with the meeting between the British and Soviet troops in Iran. There is no doubt that the next volume will also live up to its predecessors.

A special mention goes to the central part of the book which is edited by Jon Wilkinson, who takes care of the beautiful book covers of the Pen & Sword house, and who makes the most iconic photos of the period in color.

Another great book in a series that can't miss on the shelves of WWII fans!

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On The Old Barbed Wire

Now I really enjoyed this book, partly because it made a break from all the reading I do, it was a very good book packed with excellent photos from both sides of the war. In the middle of the book there is a number of pages where all the photos have been colourised, now I’m not sure if I prefer the photographs colourised or not but that is up to the reader. The book is obviously predominantly photograph heavy, but the book contains maps, charts and text to explain the photographs and the course of the war. While this might not be one for the historian, it’s still an excellent book that would happily sit on anyone’s bookshelf.


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UK Historian

About Jack Holroyd

The author has been employed in printing and publishing for fifty years. His works include five fictional titles, two books on aviation topics, five further titles on the First World War and one covering the actions of the SS Totenkopf Division in the invasion of France in May 1940.

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