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The Second World War Illustrated (Paperback)

The Fifth Year


By Jack Holroyd
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 700 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399063043
Published: 5th May 2023



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The Second World War Illustrated: 1944 follows the author's visual tour of the war by means of painstakingly researched and digitally restored pictures from the period of the key battlefields and events of the period from September 1943 to the late summer of 1944. This year marked a defining change in the balance of the war; by its end the Axis powers were in serious trouble on all their fronts.

The book begins with a visual history of the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno and the subsequent slow progress made in Italy, including the battle for Monte Cassino, the landings at Anzio and the liberation of Rome. The focus then shifts to the planning for the Normandy landings: we are reminded of the magnitude of the task facing the Allies, with an analysis of the formidable defences of Hitler's Atlantic Wall and the beach defences along the French coast. There are fascinating pictures of preparations by the Allies during Operation Tiger and detailed maps that explain the build-up and execution of the invasion beaches. There is detailed coverage of the D Day landings and the fierce fighting involved in the breakthrough of the German defences in Normandy to the liberation of Paris, as well as the often neglected Allied landings in the south of France.

The author provides a fascinating photographic history of Operation Valkyrie, the plot to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944, including key players, the planning and the aftermath of the failed attempt on the Führer's life.

There is a chapter on Hitler's new terror weapon – the V2 rocket, including the men and women who designed them and the Allied attempts to disrupt their development with the Peenemünde raid; a separate chapter looks at the growing air offensive against Germany. Although overshadowed by events in the west, there is chapter on the increasingly evident collapse of the German army on the Eastern Front, which included the loss of his Army Group Centre.

Latter chapters turn our attention to the war in the east. The American advance continued in the South Pacific, involving bloody battles to take what appear to be insignificant islands and island groups, bringing the Allies ever closer to the Japanese mainland. The British and Indian armies continued to be threatened by the Japanese army’s push to India via Burma, which was finally halted at Kohima and Imphal.

With over 1,000 original photographs, this is a true labour of love and an ideal purchase for anyone interested in the history of the Second World War in a more accessible form.

As featured on World War II Today

WW2 Today

“Although you've likely seen many of them before in other books and publications, the sheer number means you'll be overwhelmed with new material."

Historical Miniature Gaming Society

Review as featured in

The Armourer

Another volume in the series offers a cornucopia of photos from May 1943 to August 1944. How many? The book says over 1,000 illustrations... Ummm.. Close enough.
I counted 926 black and white photos, 34 black and white maps, and 17 black and white illustrations, or 977 in total. That said, I may have missed a few trying to juggle the three numbers (photos, maps, and illustrations) in my head as I turned page after page.
Although you've likely seen many of them before in other books and publications, the sheer number means you'll be overwhelmed with new material.

The photos are generally good quality. Some photos (especially commander head shots) are postage-stamp sized or smaller, yet quite clear.
I wish the font size for the vast, vast majority of the captions would be larger. My eyesight is about typical for grognard-aged history buffs, but this seems as if an 8.5x11-inch book was shrunk to a smaller form factor. As this was likely done on a computer, the layout folks at FactionPress (sez the credits) need a primer on doing a test print in actual size and a focus group on font sizing.
I know paper and printing costs are up, but if you can offer this book for $34.95 retail, how about charging $5 more (1/7 of the price) $39.95 and adding 45 pages (1/7 of 320 pages)? More pages would hold the same number of photos, but an extra point of font size goes a long way. Grognard eyes will thank you.
Nonetheless, enjoyed it.

Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, September 2023

The breadth of subjects within this one makes for some interesting context, and the modeller in me feels there is plenty of inspiration in here for modellers looking for extra detail and some potential diorama ideas.

Read the Full Review Here

Military Model Scene

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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