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The Thames at War (Hardback)

Saving London From the Blitz

WWII London The Blitz Military

By Gustav Milne
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 200 black and white
ISBN: 9781526768025
Published: 5th March 2020

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Between 1940 and 1945 London suffered 101 daylight and 253 night-time air raids from the Luftwaffe and V1 and V2’s. There were 80,000 fatalities or serious injuries and appalling devastation. Well documented as these horrific events are, there was another major threat – the all too real possibility of widespread flooding whenever the Nazi onslaught breached the Thames’ river defences.

This superbly researched and illustrated book describes the vital role and unsung achievements of the London County Council emergency repair teams ably led by Chief Engineer Thomas Peirson Frank. Three rapid response units were formed and, in the event, undertook repairs to over 100 breaches of the flood defences, thus saving the Capital from drowning.

We also learn of the fate of London’s docks and bridges and of the ships, boats and barges lost in the estuary and tideway.

This fascinating account has been compiled by the Thames Discovery Programme team and, 80 years on, pays tribute to the non-combatants who kept the major port running and saved London.

A detailed and comprehencive account by Gustav Milne of the Thames at war.

Books Monthly

The meticulously researched book, as one would expect from an archaeologist, has many contemporary evocative photographs of the damage caused during the raids and of consequences and repairs.

Robert Bartlett

As a fan of London history I have found this book brilliant and an excellent read, the information and text is very detailed and well written, some might say too much. I think though in this particular book the images and photographs are almost as good as what you learn from the text. They really are brilliant photographs and do tell the tale of England’s capital city. While all the photographs are black and white, the only thing that could improve it is to have some modern day photos in colour thrown in. Like a ‘look how things have improved’ kind of thing. This book is wholeheartedly a 5 out of 5 stars, an excellent read.

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UK Historian

During the war the work of Thames Flood was kept quiet, not only so Londoners didn't get over-frightened but so we didn't give the Luftwaffe any idea of what even more serious damage they might have done. I learnt a lot about the Blitz on London which I hadn't considered before. My one wish is that I could have had this book just three years ago so I could have shared it with my mother before she passed away at the age of 101, and who had lived and worked in London throughout the war. Definitely recommended.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

This book sheds light on what until now has been an almost unknown but important aspect of London’s survival during the Second World War. It explains the vital work of the Thames-Flood unit, adding archaeological evidence to earlier records held at the London Metropolitan Archives. It makes an excellent companion to the earlier The Thames on Fire by Lieutenant Commander L.M. Bates (Terence Dalton Ltd., Lavenham, Suffolk, 1985), which gives a broader account of the war effort on the Thames during the Second World War. As would be expected of Gustav Milne (who has written or contributed to several books on early London history), this is a scholarly yet easily readable account. It contains much detailed information, together with extensive contemporary and modern photographs from many sources that illuminate the text.

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The History of London

This is a well-written, profusely illustrated and meticulously researched book and I have no hesitation in commending it to you, whether you are a guide like me, or have a more general interest in London's wartime history.

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BLITZWALKERS

Gustav Milne has written an amazingly well-researched book covering the little known, various London defences during the time of the blitz. He writes in particular, about the Thames-Flood emergency teams (TF) who were responsible for repairing breaches in the flood defences of the Thames These previously unknown heroes, by necessity, worked throughout the height of the air raids in some very dangerous situations.
This book will appeal to scholars and historians as well as those who just love London history. The prodigious amount of references somewhat distracts from the overall read. However, the photographs add a more engaging aspect to the book. Interestingly I even have some identical photos hanging on the wall of my office!

NetGalley, Peter Coxall

About Gustav Milne

Gustav Milne is an archaeologist, author and university lecturer. He began his career excavating with the Guildhall Museum in 1973 and was a founder member of the Museum of London’s Department of Urban Archaeology, excavating and publishing reports on many Roman, Saxon and Medieval riverfront sites. He subsequently taught for twenty years at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London where he set up the Thames Archaeological Survey and later The Thames Discovery Programme, the award winning community based project surveying archaeological sites exposed on the open foreshore. He also founded the Gresham Ship Project, the Evolutionary Determinants of Health programme and CITIZAN, a national, community based coastal survey, featured in the TV series Britain at Low Tide.

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