295. Inside the Soviet Army
by Viktor Suvorov
Part polemic, part memoir, part insight, this relic of the Cold War first appeared in 1982. The question is how much does the Russian Army of today still resemble the Soviet Red Army of the late 1960s and early 1970s when Victor Suvorov, a pseudonym adopted by an military intelligence officer who defected to the West, served in its ranks? There are indications that the basic culture has not changed. The book warns that the Soviet Union can never be trusted, is hiding its true military capacity and will use nuclear weapons from the start of a conflict with NATO. Even when the book first came out, readers were warned by western commentators to take some of the content with a pinch of salt. Respected former general and military historian John Hackett wrote in the forward: "Though I know him personally rather well, Viktor Suvorov is aware that I cannot go all the way with him in some of his arguments and I am sometimes bound to wonder whether his is always interpreting the evidence correctly". Nevertheless, Hackett recommended the book. It is perhaps a view of the Red Army as seen through a cracked glass but it did, and to an extent still does, give an insider's view of one of the greatest military machines the World has ever seen. There were things in 1982 that the West could have learned from the Red Army and the same may still be true today.
294. Forgotten Voices of the Secret War
by Roderick Bailey
Despite the gimmicky title and a wobbly start, this proved to be an interesting and worthwhile book. Roderick Bailey and his team delved into the audio archives of the Imperial War Museum to have a look at the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Bailey ranged widely in this compilation to include several of the lesser known aspects of the sabotage network's activities. The SOE is best known for its work with the fledgling French resistance and indeed there is much in the book about that. But he also takes in the lesser known fighting in Italy, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Norway and Greece. Yugoslavia also features prominently. Bailey also cast his net wide when it came to personnel. The recollections come from resistance leaders, clerks, air crew, sailors, wireless operators, administrators and training officers. The stars of the book are the ones who chose to be the most honest. The SOE's work involved making some heart wrenching decisions which all too often decided who lived and who died. There are several tales of prisoners executed in cold blood. Lice also feature. An often fascinating look at a very diverse bunch of people.
293. 1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign
by Richard K Riehn
American writer Richard Riehn argues, pretty convincingly, that Napoleon Bonaparte was his own worst enemy during his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. He points out that Napoleon gambled the lives of his half-million strong army on the Russians coming at him head-on and being decisively defeated; followed by a quick capitulation. Otherwise the campaign was doomed. The Russians muddled through, kept their field armies intact and did not surrender, even when Napoleon occupied Moscow. Time and space were both on the Russian's side. Napoleon seldom showed the skill that had made him the terror and vanquisher of Continental Europe. His leadership style depended on bickering and divided subordinates. They, perhaps not surprisingly, often let him, their colleagues and even themselves down. The French and their, sometimes reluctant, allies decided to live off the land but chose a desolate route to Russia's heart. Riehn makes a good case for General Winter playing far less of a part in Napoleon's defeat than his admirers often claim.
The latest edition of Canada's Dorchester Review features not one but two articles from Paul - Churchill in the Trenches and Drug Store Commandos. The first link takes you to an extended version of the article which appeared in the DR about Winston Churchill's time in command of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on Western Front while the second is an article about the Lovat Scouts training in the Canadian Rockies as mountain warfare specialists.
Canadian Connection with With Wellington in the Peninsula?
The British Canadian newspaper ran an article in its May edition about a possible connection between one of the soldiers in my new book With Wellington in the Peninsula and a disastrous government scheme to settle ex-soldiers in Canada while depriving them of their pensions.
Irish Terrorism in Canada
In between working on a major project, I wrote another article for the Dorchester Review here in Canada. The attempt by terrorists to destroy a Canadian canal lock in 1900 is often dismissed as being the work of bunglers. But a closer look reveals a tale of murder and links successful bombing of the House of Commons more than a decade earlier. Few seem to know that one of the gang was found dead with a bullet through his heart. Attempts by US politicians, including President William Taft, to persuade the Canadian authorities to release the terrorists is better known. Dynamite Dillon
Also see - Dorchester Review
The Dorchester Review, based in Ottawa, Canada, recently published an article I wrote about one of the more eccentric of the British regiments - Victoria's Royal Canadians. Most Canadian historians seem unaware of that a regiment was raised in Canada to fight in the Indian Mutiny.
The Winter Issue of the Scottish American Military Society's magazine The Patriot contains a two page interview with yours truly. I thought the least I could do in return was give them a plug. At a later date, I'll see about either linking to the article or posting a version of the interview on the SMD site.
It’s been a busy few weeks. Last Saturday (Nove. 3) the Scottish Daily Mail published a two page spread under my byline about the 2/10th Royal Scots campaign against the Bolsheviks in northern Russia 1918-1919 titled "The Tsar's Fighting Invalids". I’ve found a link to a site which carries the article but before I post it I want to make sure I’m not sending you somewhere you might regret going. The Daily Mail article let the cat out of the bag when it comes to the fact that I’m working on a new book – working title, Jock and Rorie – Tales of Scottish Soldiers. Read about the Forgotten War
In the News Again
I happened to be checking out the closing-down sale at one of the last remaining locally owned bookshops in Edmonton recently when a newspaper reporter pounced on me as I left and asked me comment on the closure. As a former reporter, I know what a pain grabbing random people on the streets for quotes can be; so I was only too pleased to help. Imagine my delight when the story appeared and I found my quote printed in large type. It made me look like a big deal. There were some genuine big deal Edmonton writers quoted in the story but whoever was designing the page must have just grabbed the first quote they found for the break-out - and luckily for me....
Sadly, the break-out does not appear in the online version of the story but if you're interested Edmonton Journal
In the News
The Scotsman newspaper invited me to put in my tuppence-ha'penny when it published an article about the controversy surrounding the 400th anniversary celebrations in Norway of Battle of Kringen - Scotsman Article
The battle and subsequent massacre of Scottish prisoners in 1612 featured in Scottish Military Disasters.
A new Canadian history magazine The Dorchester Review published a tongue-in-cheek go at the spate of books about How the Scots Created/Invented the country in its launch issue. In an article called How the English Invented the Scots Dr. Chis Champion argued, well, that the Scots are an English invention. Paul’s equally tongue-in-cheek rebuttal can be seen in the second issue of the magazine which is now out. The article, which also includes essays by Canadian columnist John Ivison and London-based writer Hugo Rifkind, is available on line at
Scottish Military Disasters has been launched as an e-book. And it’s now improved.
Preparing the book in e-book format offered the chance to correct some minor errors.
“I wouldn’t say it’s worth someone who has the print version going out and buying the e-book,” said author Paul Cowan.
“But in preparing the e-book we’ve corrected a couple of little irritating misprints and one mistake that probably only annoys me and a couple of my relatives.”
The book is one of the first from the Neil Wilson Publishing catalogue to be released as an e-book.
“Neil’s stable of authors includes such giants as Nigel Tranter, so this is a real honour for me,” said Cowan.
“This will make the book far more accessible to readers in Scotland and around the World – and also in certain countries far more affordable.
“I’ve found where it is reasonably priced overseas, it’s been selling like hotcakes.”
Glasgow-based Neil Wilson said the move into e-books was as a result of public demand.
Wilson teamed up with the respected e-book team at the Faber Factory for the conversion to the new format which will make Scottish Military Disasters available on a variety of devices, including most e-readers and mobile phones.
“We will also go online with Apple soon,” he added.
For details of how to buy the e-book version –
The debate over whether Scotland produces some of the finest fighting men in the World could go on for ever. What is certain is that pride in the military is woven into the Scottish psyche and that that pride has been ruthlessly exploited by the British Establishment.
In the popular imagination the Scottish soldier is a kilted infantryman. The infantry are the men who go through the meat grinder in almost every war and Scotland has provided the British Empire with more than its fair share of infantry. In the fighting after D-Day in 1944 a British study suggested that although the infantry made up only 25% of the troops involved; they suffered 71% of the casualties.
(While I can’t put my hand on my heart and say my research for Scottish Military Disasters points to the Scots having the worse military record in Europe, for most of recorded history it hasn’t been very spectacular. People remember Bannockburn because it is one of the few battles against the English that the Scots won. Even when the English were heavily outnumbered, at battles such as Flodden in 1513 and Dunbar in 1650, they still managed to win. Many English, and Irish and Welsh soldiers for that matter, regard their Scots counterparts as a bunch of blowhards who write cheques with their mouths that their battlefield performance fails to honour. The counter-argument goes that the Scots go that extra mile to back up their boasting.)
But where does this Scottish martial pride which encouraged so many young Scots into the infantry during two world wars come from?