Always a Little Further: Relfections From Late In The Day


An Edinburgh Diary 1793-1798


Feldpost: The War Letters of Friedrich Reiner Niemann - A German Soldier on the Eastern Front


Wine, Women and Song: A Spitfire Pilot's Story


Tales from the Control Tower


A Tank Gunner's Story: CPL Gruntz of the 712th Tank Battalion


Gwennie’s Diary: A Young Kiwi in England at the Outbreak of War


Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night Fighter Pilot


A Birmingham Boyhood 1923 - 40


Slouching in the Undergrowth: The Long Life of a Gunner Officer


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Always a Little Further: Relfections From Late In The Day

Product no.: 978-1-78155-583-5
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For the past three years, since he finished writing his children’s book The Nine Lives Of Bella Simkins, Jack Swaab has carried round a battered leather notebook. In it, he has recorded the thoughts, memories, reflections and insights that the world around him bring to this remarkable author.

It is a broad canvas that attracts his urbane and witty mind’s eye—covering everything from footballers to birdsong, churchyards to ancient cricketers, boy scouts to Brexit. Some of what he writes is funny; other parts are tinged with melancholy. At times, banality, brutality or injustice, stir him to the edge of anger. Everything he writes, though, comes with the warmth, wisdom and generosity of spirit that the past 98 years have bestowed on him.

It is a very different world in which he now lives, and seeing that world through the vivid lens of so many years and so rich a life brings it to life for us too in unexpected and rewarding ways.

THE AUTHOR

The First World War was in its final year when Jack Swaab was born. The intervening 98 years have been well spent. He was sent down from Oxford, briefly a journalist, decorated fighting in the Second World War, and after the war followed successive careers in everything from advertising to online racing tips. Along the way came several engagements, one marriage, a family and now an insightful, contemplative retirement.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: paperback
Extent: 96 pages
Illustrations: 17 colour photographs

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An Edinburgh Diary 1793-1798

Product no.: 978-1-78155-484-5
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  • The first detailed study on Witts’ life, drawing on her detailed diaries and musings
  • An innovative and theoretical approach to the relationship between author and reader
  • Handsomely illustrated with previously unpublished illustrations


In 1793, the Witts family arrived in Edinburgh. A previously well-to-do Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire family, they were brought to near bankruptcy by the failure of Edward Witts’ woollen cloth trading business. Apart from the stigma of insolvency, their easy style of living came crashing down to a mere few hundred pounds annually. Within a few months, Edward and Agnes had built a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Edinburgh society where Agnes’ magnetic personality worked its magic.

Agnes was a remarkable woman with a great zest for life. She required constant amusement and bored easily; her favourite pastimes were cards and stimulating conversation; her social circle was wide and well-connected; and Agnes’ attachment to her faith consistent and strong. In a remarkable series of sixty-two diaries covering the years 1793-1798, Agnes recorded her life in a structured and unvarying manner. She noted the weather, the doings of the day and letters received and written. A day without a letter was a dark day in her life.

She loved to maintain a wide correspondence amongst a large circle of family, friends and acquaintances. Gaps in the diary are very few and usually occur only during times of serious illness.

These remarkable diaries provide a snapshot of Edinburgh society at a time of remarkable change when the city was rising to prominence as the ‘Athens of the North’. Edinburgh was a dynamic place, a growing city that was looking forwards to a prosperous future. It was the new middle classes that were at the forefront of the enlightenment and Agnes’ diaries provide a fascinating glimpse into the social fabric at the time.

THE AUTHOR

Agnes Witts (1747-1828) was a remarkable woman with great zest for life. Witt’s favourite pastimes were cards and stimulating conversation, her social circle was wide and well-connected; and her attachment to her faith was consistent and strong. She came from a well-to-do family whose considerable income had come from a successful business in linen drapery with a genealogical tree hung around with a viscount or two, a duke and the odd lord and Knights of the Realm. In 1775, she married Edward Witts who had inherited the family wool-stapling business in Chipping Norton and shared his love of travel to the detriment of his attendance to their financial affairs, although he carried out his social responsibilities as a country gentleman and civic duties as a justice of the peace, a deputy lieutenant for Oxfordshire and, in 1779, high sheriff of the county.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 248 x 172 mm
Binding: hardback
Extent: 416 pages
Illustrations: 30 colour and 50 black-and-white illustrations

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Feldpost: The War Letters of Friedrich Reiner Niemann - A German Soldier on the Eastern Front

Product no.: 978-1-62545-015-9
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  • Lavishly illustrated with many rare and unpublished photographs
  • Compulsive and historical reading
  • Written by a leading authority of the German military

Friedrich Reiner Niemann was a German soldier serving in the 6th Infantry Division from 1941 to 1945. A well-educated youth from a good family in Westphalia, he was sent to the brutal Russian front four times. He wrote his final two letters home on 12 January 1945, before disappearing during the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive.

With the assistance of Reiner’s extensive correspondence with his family, which has been obtained by the authors, Feldpost documents his life and front-line experiences over this period. Throughout the war, evocative and moving messages were passed between Reiner, on the Eastern Front, and his family, who, by the end of the war, would be scattered throughout Germany.

Reiner describes the fighting at Rzhev from 1942–43 and how he survived the destruction of his division during the Soviet summer offensive in 1944. His is a rare view of battles that annihilated entire German divisions and armies. After the Second World War, the Niemann family preserved Reiner’s letters and photographs and shipped them to New Orleans, where Reiner’s sister, Liselotte Andersson, had emigrated.

Neglected in an attic for over fifty years, the documents surfaced only after Hurricane Katrina flooded the family house. Andersson’s daughter-inlaw, author Whitney Stewart, discovered the letters in 2012 and contacted Denis Havel to translate them. Together, Havel and Stewart uncovered historical details that enabled them to follow Reiner’s trail and finally tell his story.

THE AUTHORS

Denis Havel graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in psychology and has taught at high school and college level. An independent historian, Havel has studied German history, language and literature, and the Prussian-German military. He is currently active in German-American organisations, notably the Germania Mannerchor, which preserve German language and traditions.

Whitney Stewart grew up in New England and graduated from Brown University. She is a prolific author of children’s books, adult non-fiction, and travel writing. In the course of her work, Stewart has trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal and interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi. She currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Wine, Women and Song: A Spitfire Pilot's Story

Product no.: 978-1-78155-035-9
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This frank account of New Zealand Spitfire pilot Doug Brown traces his training and action experienced in the RAF and social activities during the war. From ‘signing up’ as a young 20 year old when World War II broke out in 1939, he ventured to Canada on the Awatea with 200 trainees and then on to England.

The first solo in a Spitfire was almost his last and he crashed on his first operation with 485 Squadron. It was a life of contrasts: the thrill of flying; the loss of fellow airmen; anticipation of combat; the boredom of ‘readiness’; indulgent mess banquets; rough conditions; pranks and comradeship; and the unrelenting toil of war. None would deny the effect the intensive active service would have on the mental and physical state of pilots and all servicemen. Boys quickly became men and survivors would claim they were the best years of their lives.

THE AUTHOR

Hamish Brown was born in Auckland in 1954. He spent 13 years at King’s School and King’s College and graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor in Commerce.

Following a stint as a structural engineer, Brown joined the family business. Hobbies include family stuff, DIY, small boat close-to-shore fishing and the golf driving range. Wine, Women and Song is about Hamish’s father, Doug Brown’s war experiences based on his letters and reminiscences, and stories told over the years. Brown is married to Alison and have two children, Sam and Ellie.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 248 x 172 mm
Binding: hardback
Pages: 368
Illustrations: 200 b/w photographs

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Tales from the Control Tower

Product no.: 978-1-78155-041-0
Cover price £14.99
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Tales From The Control Tower is based on the author’s personal experiences of the Royal Air Force. It starts in 1968 with anecdotes about Basic Training at Swinderby where recruits learned drill, marching and given an introduction to service life. From there the Tales move on to Gaydon, a ‘V’ Bomber station where Joe experienced the RAF at its best and its worst, being billeted in a hut with twenty rough necks from the RAF Regiment. At the Air Traffic School at Shawbury Joe was trained in air traffic procedures. During his time there both the piston-engine Provost and the D. H. Vampire were in the final months of service with the RAF. The station was also a storage facility and give details of the many different types of aircraft that were being housed there, awaiting scraping or repair...

Having passed out of Shawbury the story moves on to Manston, where there are various anecdotes about working in the control tower, the foam landings, diversions and one particular incident involving the Red Arrows, that could have lead them to being disbanded.

There are anecdotes about the life style of airmen, the drinking, the women and the strange humour! This period was interesting because it was the ‘Twilight Years’ of the veterans of WWII and of also of piston-engine type aircraft such as the such as the Beverley, Hastings and the DC4.

Joe Bamford has produced an amusing ‘easy read’ about air force life that is very different to the usual ‘Gung Ho’ type story.

THE AUTHOR

Joe Bamford served for six years in Royal Air Force (1968-74) as an assistant air traffic controller. He served at Manston and Akrotiri in Cyprus. Joe has a B.A. Honours in Sociology from Warwick University.

He is the author of The Salford Lancaster, Eyes of The Night and Devotion To A Calling.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: paperback
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 35 b/w photographs

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A Tank Gunner's Story: CPL Gruntz of the 712th Tank Battalion

Product no.: 978-1-62545-023-4
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A 712th Tank Battalion veteran of Patton’s Third Army returned home after the Second World War, but for over fifty years rarely speaks of his wartime experiences. His son grows to manhood with only a perception of combat gleaned from the movies of his youth and knowing little of his father’s wartime ordeals. During a difficult time in his son’s life, the father breaks his silence as they travel across Europe along the battle route of the 712th Tank Battalion from the hedgerows of Normandy, across France to Metz, and through Luxembourg and Germany.

This is not only a story of the father’s wartime experiences, but also of the father and son’s journey, the bond that developed between them as well as the son’s change in perception of combat. A Tank Gunner's Story: CPL Gruntz of the 712th Tank Battalion tells the gripping yet emotional account of his father’s firsthand experiences while standing on the sites where he battled, was wounded, saw friends killed in Normandy and during the Battle of the Bulge, and where he earned the Bronze Star in bloody combat. An exhaustive and essential account of the horrors of war where Gruntz took on the might of the Third Reich and Tiger panzers in his Sherman, A Tank Gunner's Story: CPL Gruntz of the 712th Tank Battalion is also lavishly illustrated with previously unpublished period photographs.

THE AUTHOR

Louis G. Gruntz, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tulane University and a Juris Doctor with Law Review Honors from Loyola University. He entered public service serving as Deputy Parish Attorney for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana for over thirty years before retiring in 2011. He has served as a liaison between Jefferson Parish and the Louisiana Legislature drafting legislation that impacted local government and has successfully argued cases before the Louisiana Supreme Court. 

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: paperback
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 100 b/w photographs

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Gwennie’s Diary: A Young Kiwi in England at the Outbreak of War

Product no.: 978-1-78155-268-1
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In 2003, a heavy parcel posted from New Zealand arrived at a bungalow in Rawmarsh, Near Rotherham,Yorkshire. The parcel consisted of a huge, typewritten diary produced by Gwennie Peacock, a young woman from Auckland, while completing a journey around the world and visiting her family in Britain.

This extraordinary account, which covers the period between February 1939 and August 1940, vividly brings to life the approach of war and its first few months. Gwennie’s journey crosses five continents – particularly Europe and North America – and is described in fascinating detail by someone with a zest for life. She survives her camel running amok in Egypt and listens to Mussolini haranguing a crowd in Rome. She is warned in Germany not to go to England and threatened that soon all English people will speak German.

Gwennie settles with her family in a Yorkshire mining village and visits every corner of the British Isles. Her return journey via America is dangerous, but she still ‘lives it up’ in New York and Hollywood. Gwennie finally returns home having explored the world and discovered herself. She writes of herself, ‘Laugh at her faults, forgive her indiscretions and live with her on her trip which is going to be fun all the way.’

THE AUTHOR

Anthony Dodsworth is a retired geography and history teacher from Rotherham, Yorkshire. Born in London and a graduate of Birmingham University, he spent most of his career teaching in South Yorkshire. He helped to set up a local history group in Rawmarsh and Parkgate over ten years ago and has produced old photo books on Rawmarsh and Greasbrough as well as an oral history book on Rawmarsh. Dodsworth is a keen visitor of old churches and cake-serving tea shops. He gives history talks to local community groups in his home area.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: hardback
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 28 b/w photographs

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Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night Fighter Pilot

Product no.: 978-1-78155-345-9
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Bryan Wild joined the RAF in 1940, a raw recruit not long out of school. Over the next five years, he flew fourteen different types of aircraft and saw action over Britain, North Africa, the Mediterranean and Germany. His memoirs capture the daily life of an ordinary RAF pilot: the thrill of flying and experiencing a new aircraft for the first time; the frisson of night flying in the early days when planes were not equipped with inboard radar; the tedium of hanging around with nothing to do; the stark contrast felt with the intensity and urgency of action; the camaraderie of young men at war together; and the devastating loss of friends in combat.

Wild started the war with nine lives and ended up with just the one. He had close shaves with death in action, but also freak accidents such as radio breakdown in fog over the Welsh mountains, an undercarriage stick that broke off in his hand, goggles that caught on a Spitfire cockpit hood during flight causing a near-fatal spin at 1,000 feet, and a runway collision with an errant cook wagon. Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night Fighter Pilot portrays the full flavour of wartime RAF life and one pilot’s journey from boyhood to manhood.

THE AUTHORS

Elizabeth Halls, Bryan Wild’s daughter, assisted her father with transcribing his wartime diaries. Since his death, she has collated and assembled his material and undertaken further background research for this book. She lives with her husband in rural Herefordshire.

Joe Bamford is the author of five books concerning military aviation during both World Wars. Bryan was of much assistance when Joe was researching and writing his book Eyes of the Night, and they became good friends. Joe Bamford has previously written Tales from the Control Tower for Fonthill.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: hardback
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 92 b/w photographs


 

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A Birmingham Boyhood 1923 - 40

Product no.: 978-1-78155-317-6
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Through the prism of advanced years, Eric Armstrong looks back at his A Birmingham Childhood 1923 - 40. Incidents, thoughts and emotions are carefully surveyed although the earlier memories derive from the age of the flapper and the sights and sounds of "the Charleston" and "Bye Bye Blackbird". The last memory recorded is that of an ex-evacuee receiving a lingering kiss from a sweetheart. The in-between years comprise a journey of self discovery and a steadily expanding world that ignited with the outbreak of the Second World War. The many changes have been set in a variety of overlapping contexts particularly an extended family in the Black Country; countrywide events such as the general strike of 1926 and disturbing events in Europe, notably in Germany.

Alongside friends and colleagues, the author marvelled at the achievements of Amy Johnson, Charles Lindbergh and Malcolm Campbell. He revelled in cinematic delights such as King Kong and the dancing of Fred and Ginger. He listened avidly to "Children’s Hour" and "Band Wagon" on the BBC. However, throughout A Birmingham Boyhood 1923-40 runs a thread of references to the manners, mores and morals of the day and as such constitutes a piece of important social history on Birmingham. Complemented by 200 rare and unpublished photographs, this is a fascinating snapshot of local history and an innocent childhood in changing times.

THE AUTHOR

Eric Armstrong was born in 1923 and raised and educated in Birmingham at Handsworth Grammar School. Having served in the Army from 1942-1947, he graduated from Birmingham University in 1950 and worked at Cadbury for six years in the industrial relations field. Armstrong commenced an academic career at the University of Aston and later became a professor at Manchester Business School. Awarded the OBE in 1988 for services to industrial relations and arbitration, Armstrong has had fifteen books published on the social history of Birmingham.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: paperback
Extent: 192 pages
Illustrations: 166 black-and-white photographs

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Slouching in the Undergrowth: The Long Life of a Gunner Officer

Product no.: 978-1-78155-009-0
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At the age of 94, Jack Swaab decided to place on record his recollections of a long and richly textured life. The result, ‘Slouching in the Undergrowth’ is a perceptive, engaging and sometimes alarmingly frank record of a life welllived.

The early chapters of the book open a window on a childhood passed in a very different world of trams, boarding schools and seaside holidays in the twenties and thirties.

Jack was sent down (rather messily) from Oxford in 1938, and spent the years before the outbreak of the Second World War living the louche life of an ‘off Fleet Street’ reporter. After a faltering start in the ranks, Jack’s war service was distinguished. Now reflecting on those times some sixty years on, he captures in vivid detail not only his own thoughts and feelings, but the life-changing experiences of many.

War ended, Jack made a career in the pioneering years of advertising. As a sharp-suited executive, he travelled much of the world, leading to some bizarre adventures and meetings with the rich, the famous and the simply eccentric.

Jack had married someone he describes as his ‘unique Canadian’ in 1948. At the millennium, his wife developed dementia and he became her principal carer until her death nine years later, having himself survived malaria, TB, angina and cancer.

By turns witty, unflinching and fascinating, Slouching in the Undergrowth is a marvellous overview of times both familiar and unknown, seen through the lens of an urbane and accomplished raconteur.

THE AUTHOR

Jack Swaab was born on the Ides of March some 94 years ago. Raised in South-East London, he has travelled the world in wartime and peace, while his work-life has taken him from journalism to advertising, bookselling and dispensing racing tips – not to mention six distinguished years of service as a gunner officer with the 51st Highland Division.

FORMAT
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Binding: paperback
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 55 b/w photographs

For the last sixty years, home has been a small house in Wimbledon which he has shared with his family and a succession of cats.

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