This week’s brand new releases and most popular titles

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Ladies of Lascaris

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Ladies of Lascaris – Christina Ratcliffe and The Forgotten Heroes of Malta’s War by Paul McDonald.

The world premiere of the musical stage play Star of Strait Street took place in Valletta on 4 April 2017. It celebrates the life of Christina Ratcliffe, an English singer and dancer who became an aircraft plotter in Malta in the Second World War. She worked in the underground Royal Air Force operational headquarters beneath Lascaris Bastion in Valletta.

This is Christina’s story and that of other British and Maltese girls employed by the RAF. It is also the story of Philip Glassborow’s hit musical Star of Strait Street.

In June 1942 fifty-three female civilian plotters worked at Lascaris, some as young as fourteen. Six including Christina were decorated for gallantry. What they did, how they lived and how some of them died is told in part using their own words. Their descriptions of life beneath the most intensive, prolonged bombing the world has ever seen are extraordinary and rare: female perspectives at the heart of military conflict.

Described in the Times of Malta in 1942 as ‘Christina of George Cross Island’, she herself said Malta ‘is carved on my heart’. For years after the Second World War in small corner cafés and bars that are such a feature of Malta’s towns and villages, people talked about a remarkable RAF photo-recce pilot called Warby and his stunning companion Christina, a true heroine, they said. Yet she died alone and unnoticed and was buried in a shared grave.

Now the memory of what she and the Ladies of Lascaris achieved has been brought back to life for a well-deserved encore in writing and on the stage.

More titles by Paul McDonald:

Malta’s Greater Siege Winged Warriors

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The Napoleonic Wars

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The Napoleonic Wars – As Illustrated by J J Jenkins.

Originally published as Martial Achievements of Great Britain and Her Allies From 1799 to 1815, this is one of the most magnificent of all period art books to have been produced. The text is pure British propaganda but is overshadowed by the rarity of the art work. Includes 54 stunning colour plates including a great Wellington portrait, his coat of arms and a list of subscribers to the Martial Achievements.

This is one of the finest books of its type ever produced and an absolute must for the collector of British or Napoleonic military art and literature.

Belgium in the Great War

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Belgium in the Great War by Jean-Michel Veranneman.

In August 1914, the German Empire invaded neutral Belgium in order to outflank the defences of the French army. Unexpectedly, the Belgian army resisted and fought on, holding a small part of unoccupied Belgian territory north of Ypres, alongside the British and French armies, until the Armistice of 1918. Because of their heroic defence, Belgium and its King, Albert I enjoyed enormous international prestige after the war. Its colonial army conquered part of German East Africa out of the Congo.

Occupied Belgium suffered executions of civilians, severe destruction and was widely stripped of its industrial infrastructure, which was one of the most developed in the world. It was saved from starvation by food shipments from the United States which came in via neutral Holland.

Belgium emerged from four and a half years of complete turmoil a different country and the experiences would have a lasting impact of its politics. Universal suffrage was introduced and the Flemish question was exacerbated. The war resulted in the abandonment of the country’s neutrality policy and her claims for reparation and territory, only very partially met, were to have serious foreign policy implications.

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Belgium in the Second World War by Jean-Michel Veranneman.

When the Nazis invaded neutral Belgium in May 1940, defeat and occupation were inevitable but Belgian armed forces held out against a vastly superior enemy for 18 days. The elected Government went into exile in London but King Leopold III controversially remained with his people as a prisoner.

As described in this authoritative book, Belgians continued the fight both outside and inside their country. There were eventually two complete Belgian RAF squadrons. The Colonial Army defeated the Italians in East Africa and the Belgian Brigade fought from Normandy to Germany.

The Belgian Resistance organized escape routes, sabotaged their occupiers’ activities and spied for the Allies. 17,000 died or were executed and a further 27,000 survived detention. Meanwhile others collaborated and fought for the Nazis and large numbers were tried post-war for war crimes and treason.

About half the Jews in Belgium in 1940 died in the Holocaust and there are many stirring stories of courage, as well as tragic ones. This is an overdue and honest account of one Nation’s very varied experiences during five years of Nazi occupation and oppression.

Fallen Idols – A Century of Screen Sex Scandals

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RRP: £15.99

Images of the Past: Fallen Idols – A Century of Screen Sex Scandals by Nigel Blundell.

It’s a scandal! How often we use that phrase and what a catalogue of sins it covers. That’s what this book is all about. It is literally a catalogue of sins – committed by some of the most celebrated names on the planet.

Within these covers are startling stories of scandals during a century when screen idols seemed to vie with each other in outraging public decency. It was an age when fan fever was at its height and an endless supply of shocking revelations emerged to fuel the frenzy.

Because of the perpetrators’ superstar status, the shame of exposure was often heightened, not only wrecking reputations but often harming careers and, at least, ensuring very public humiliation.

The lessons learned from these cases of celebrity scandal (though often, it seems, not by the celebrities themselves) is that the bigger the star, the harder the fall … and that deceit and intrigue so often turn hard-won fame into instant infamy.

More titles from the Images of the Past series

Images of the Past: The Miners’ Strike The District Nurse Images of the Past: The British Seaside Images of the Past – Coalminers

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RRP: £12.99
Dickens and Christmas

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RRP: £19.99

Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Hawksley.

Dickens and Christmas is an exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today – and of the writer who changed, forever, the ways in which it is celebrated. Charles Dickens was born in an age of great social change. He survived childhood poverty to become the most adored and influential man of his time. Throughout his life, he campaigned tirelessly for better social conditions, including by his most famous work, A Christmas Carol. He wrote this novella specifically to “strike a sledgehammer blow on behalf of the poor man’s child”, and it began the Victorians’ obsession with Christmas.

This new book, written by one of his direct descendants, explores not only Dickens’s most famous work, but also his all-too-often overlooked other Christmas novellas. It takes the readers through the seasonal short stories he wrote, for both adults and children, includes much-loved festive excerpts from his novels, uses contemporary newspaper clippings, and looks at Christmas writings by Dickens’ contemporaries. To give an even more personal insight, readers can discover how the Dickens family itself celebrated Christmas, through the eyes of Dickens’s unfinished autobiography, family letters, and his children’s memoirs.

In Victorian Britain, the celebration of Christmas lasted for 12 days, ending on 6 January, or Twelfth Night. Through Dickens and Christmas, readers will come to know what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in 1812, the year in which Dickens was born. They will journey through the Christmases Dickens enjoyed as a child and a young adult, through to the ways in which he and his family celebrated the festive season at the height of his fame. It also explores the ways in which his works have gone on to influence how the festive season is celebrated around the globe.

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Nile Wilson: Raising the Bar Before the Battlecruiser Yearbook of Astronomy 2019 Pits & Pitmen of Barnsley

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Armies of the Late Roman Empire AD 284 to 476 Henry Harwood Stanier Allied Coastal Forces of World War II

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£32.00
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£32.00
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With The Royal Navy in War and Peace Rebuilding The Welsh Highland Railway 1918

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£11.99
RRP: £14.99

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