The Ten Military History Books they Tried to Ban…

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Knowledge is power…but what happens when you give knowledge to the world which those in power really don’t want you or I to have? It seems that the literary world is riddled with books they tried to ban, censor or boycott and that the more they have done it, the more the public have lapped it up. We the people love being told we cannot know something – it makes us the more determined to find out what we are not supposed to know and why and, whilst the world of military history is not alone in this (fiction titles have been castigated for centuries) yet it is the truth that some people fear the most. Let’s take a look at ten of the most important military history books they tried to ban and why:

1) All Quiet on the Western Front

Billed as “The greatest war novel of all time” war veteran Erich Maria Remarque’s account of the First World War from the German perspective is gritty, unforgiving and pulls no punches in portraying the true cost of war. Banned by the Nazis in 1933 for its portrayal of the German forces, the book was to remain so until after 1945. It has now been republished in many editions and in many languages and two feature films and remains one of the greatest wartime fiction novels to this day.

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2) A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 semi-autobiographical and gripping tale of love and war during the First World War in Italy was banned in Boston USA for its ‘Vulgar content’ and especially in Italy where Hemingway’s depiction of the Italian rout after the battle of Caporetto was seen as derogatory to their forces – however accurate. Hemingway’s later book “For whom the Bell tolls” set in the Spanish Civil War was also banned – despite this, he seemingly did incredibly well out of them!

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3) Mein Kampf

Adolf Hitler’s autobiography has remained one of the most controversial books of all time and yet one of the greatest insights into the man himself. The book sold millions of copied in Nazi Germany where it was treated with a semi-reverence until banned in 1945 “Out of a responsibility and respect for the victims of the Holocaust.” Finally released in 2015 when the copyright of the Bavarian State Government expired, Mein Kampf  was available in limited quantities and with limited distribution but was banned in Poland until 1992. In 2016 all restrictions for import, printing, sale and distribution in the UK was lifted, whilst it is still banned from print, sale or import in Argentina to this day. The book has sold countless millions of copies since its full release in 2015.

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4) Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

The tragic and heartfelt diary of a young Jewish teenager under Nazi occupation and her subsequent capture and removal to Bergen-Belsen death camp is a book which has left its mark upon generations of people since its posthumous publication in 1952. The book has seen censure from a number of organisations in the USA including the Alabama State Textbook Committee whilst it remains banned in Lebanon for depicting Jews favourably. Despite this, the book has gone on to sell over 30,000,000 copies worldwide in over 60 languages.

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5) Schindler’s Ark

More famously known by its movie title Schindler’s List, by Thomas Keneally tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member and unlikely hero who saves 1,200 Jews from the Nazi concentration camps in world war two. Despite being one of the most popular books on wartime Germany and winning the Booker Prize, the book has been banned and heavily censored in the Middle East.

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6) Bravo two Zero

The government tried to ban it, the SAS had a gagging order put on it, yet Andy McNab’s story of the Gulf War patrol, abandoned, lost and fighting its way to freedom has sold over 2,000,000 copies worldwide and sparked a feature film and innumerate first-person accounts from soldiers – particularly special forces soldiers, since its publication. Other members of the same patrol have published books such as “The one that got away” and “Soldier Five” – the government has moved to seize profits from the books (particularly the last one) with legal bills running into the millions of pounds and has, since 1996, made servicemen sign confidentiality contracts which effectively marks the end of military memoirs as a genre. But it all began with Bravo Two Zero.

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7) Berlin: The Downfall

Veteran Military Historian Antony Beevor’s 2002 account of the fall of Berlin was quickly withdrawn from all teaching establishments in Russia for its depiction of brutal rape and murder in the final days of the war. Decried by the Russian Ambassador Grigori Karasin as “Lies, slander and blasphemy against the Red Army” Beevor’s book received a torrent of ironic congratulations from the Military History community and has gone on to self many thousands of copies.

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8) Operation Dark Heart

U.S Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer’s depiction of the war in Afghanistan as part of the US defence Intelligence Agency has become legendary for the degrees to which the Department of Defense went to have the book banned. Released in 2010 the first print run of 10,000 books was immediately bought up by the Pentagon and destroyed to preserve what it deemed to be sensitive information. Finally, due to leaks of information on social media sites Twitter and Reddit, the Pentagon gave in to the inevitable and allowed the publication of the book. Their attempts to have it silenced only added to the clamour of people wanting to read it.

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9) British Generals in Blair’s Wars

One of the most banned and censored books in British Military History; “British Generals in Blair’s Wars” contained no less than 26 chapters or essays written by senior British military personnel, of which the MOD successfully suppressed no less than six, including one by General Sir Richard Shirreff, banned from commenting upon the ‘Sinbad’ operations in Basra 2007-7 and one by the new Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Houghton – the loss of which almost scuppered the book entirely. Despite four-star Amazon reviews and a captive audience, the book has done surprisingly well, although the authors remain incensed that it was not all that it could have been. Tony Blair, of course, gets off scot free again…..

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10) The First Casualty – The Untold Story of the Falklands War

The story of a battle which has been denied to this day by both the governments of the UK and Argentina, “The First Casualty” has come in for censorship of epic proportions even before it has hit the printing press – for which it is due in early 2017. In a tale almost a strange as that told by the book itself, the attempts to ban, stop and censor the book have seen death threats, Argentine spies, a campaign of cyber-attacks and threatening by Argentina in the UK against printers, publishers and editors and a growing campaign to boycott the book in Argentina – and all before publication. The true story of a battle which both governments say did not happen, told in graphic detail by the men of the Royal Marines, the Argentine Special Forces and the people of Stanley reveals the Rorke’s Drift of the South Atlantic, a battle denied for 35 years and secrets the UK intended to keep silent until 2072 – all of which are combining to make this the most eagerly anticipated and highly controversial book of 2017. If it ever makes it to print.

Remember…any book worth banning is a book worth reading…..


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The Falklands War and ‘The dog that didn’t bark’…..

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Dear readers, it is time again to put thoughts to paper on my new project “The First Casualty – The untold story of the Falklands War” and answer a few of the questions i have been getting of late. Recently I have been doing the lecture circuit and most recently to a group of assembled Army Officers – mostly Majors and Colonels – to talk about the new book and sample the response – which is, as always, incredible. I like to think it isn’t just to me, who presents like a man possessed, but the story and, in particular, the men themselves, who make this story what it is…but perhaps the biggest question I get asked is, “How did you get all of this?”

There are long, dull answers about checking sources, comparing photographs, conducting countless interviews and more, but generally when turning to finding out the truth, nobody is better at finding the right analogy than Sherlock Holmes – or, more specifically, Edinburgh’s own Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and hence we come to that analogy of “The dog that didn’t bark” or to use a phrase more popular in literary culture; “The curious incident of the dog in the night time.” – Let me explain…You see, it’s an analogy; no evidence is evidence.

Let’s take April 2nd 1982, the day the Falklands were invaded by Argentina. Look at Wikipedia; as I always say it’s ‘Only Wikipedia’ but it is also the world’s most widely available resource for history, and the figures in it reflect any other book on the subject. It is the story of a walk-over. Of a handful of Royal Marines against a few hundred Argentines, of a few shots in the air, of but one Argentine killed and three wounded and then of a somewhat shameful and embarrassing surrender…nothing to see, nothing to study, nothing to amuse, certainly….a big black hole. It just so happens I like black holes when it comes to history!

So why did I start to look at this…and how do you see a black hole? – Well actually you can’t. That’s a fact. The only way to see a real black hole is to look at what’s around it. To see what is missing. History works the same way. A black hole is another case of the dog that didn’t bark, yet someone saw them and now we study them. No evidence isn’t a bad starting point when it comes to finding stuff out! – See this is expert stuff today!! I think you can handle it….In Holmes’ case, the dog didn’t bark when it should have, because it knew the thief! The lack of primary evidence thus gave a deeper layer of secondary evidence. Hence a dog that didn’t bark can give it all away.

In writing “The First Casualty” it became quickly apparent that we had only one side of the story; the Argentine side and indeed, one to which there was no counter, no ‘other version’ to be reconciled (as there always is) – nothing indeed other than the story which is accepted today as absolute fact. yet the more I looked, the more I realised that absolutely none of it was true. The men of the Royal Marines who were there that night have maintained – and have always maintained, that they put up the fight of their lives, that they killed and wounded a lot more than just four men but that they took down dozens of Argentines, that they sank a landing craft, that they destroyed an Amtrack APC with anti-tank rockets…all facts which the Argentine veterans and historians (and also the British historians) either ignore, ridicule or refer to as a ‘myth’. In short, Fido ain’t barking.

Let me tell you something….it’s all true.

Now that isn’t opinion – I even determined that the story of the landing craft was a myth. Wrongly as it turns out – and first from interviews with the combatants, those who saw t afterwards and then physical evidence and indeed ABSOLUTE PROOF have managed to discover – as is shown in the book, that both the LCVP landing craft and LVTP-7 Amtrack were destroyed – both fully loaded, about 68 men in total. Oh yes…I’ve got the photos! The battle of Stanley itself (which has NEVER been called a battle in all of history although it indeed was) was little short of ‘Rorke’s Drift 2’ – it even had the low wall around Government House, all we needed was a rendition of ‘Men of Harlech‘ and we’d be away!

So why was this battle – a battle which should rightfully stand alongside Rorke’s Drift, the Alamo and other great, last ditch defences against the odds, simply forgotten? Abandoned even? Ah…now there’s a mystery! And of course, I have the answers to that too. Now for the first time, the combatants of BOTH sides; the Royal Marines and the Argentine Marines tell the true story of a battle YOU weren’t supposed to know about, with the people of Stanley telling their own story as the action unfolded around them.

“The First Casualty” is an action story, first and foremost…the characters are great guys – whatever their nationality, and have all been great fun to work with. We get to know them, we laugh with them and we fear and even cry with them in what is the world’s first dual-sided first person narrative history (and indeed three-sided if we count the civilians, which of course we must) – what transpires between several hundred people all telling the same story is a story we were not supposed to know; the story of the Rorke’s Drift of the South Atlantic, of a roaring battle, an epic defence, of friendship, bravery, loyalty and camaraderie and of non-stop action. Already being talked about as the most eagerly anticipated book of 2017, “The First Casualty – The untold story of the Falklands War” is going to shake the very pillars of history.

Be sure to catch it…’s coming Spring 2017 and history is going to change for ever.

Thanks Sherlock 😉