by Robert Harvey
This is a version of the life of one of Scotland's greatest fighting sailors - Thomas Cochrane. Sadly, the outspoken but impovrished nobleman was his own worst enemy. While very successful against the French and Spanish during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars, Cochrane's jousts with the British Establishment, and in particular the Admirality, were less satisfying. He was one of the last people in Britain to be humiliated in the stocks. That was after he was convicted of a stock market scam involving boosting the price of a certain stock by planting false news that Napoleon had been killed by Russian cossacks. Robert Harvey seems convinced Cochrane was completely innocent and may even have been framed by some of his many enemies with the British ruling class. Cochrane's uncle was certainly involved and the visit of the man who brought the false news to London to Cochrane's home shortly after his arrival takes some explaining. Harvey also suggests that but for his feuds with the Establishment Cochrane would be as famous and well regarded as Horatio Nelson. But then he also tells how Cochrane was at his best acting as a lone wolf, a sea wolf no less. His attempts at fleet actions as a mercenary admiral fighting for Chilean, Brazilian and Greek independence were not entirely successful. Cochrane, also an MP and inventor, comes across in this readable book as a complex and flawed man. I came away from this book not quite the fan of Cochrane that Harvey became as he researched the book.
271. Stalin's General
by Geoffrey Roberts
I paid more for this book than I usually do these days - and I was disappointed. Georgy Zhukov was involved in most of the decisive Red Army battles against the Germans during the Second World War. I was hoping this book would explain just how Zhukov managed to defeat the much vaunted German war machine. But this book proved superficial on almost every front and I finished it not much more the wiser. Nor did I feel I knew much more about Zhukov as a human being. Roberts appears to rely heavily on Stalin's office diary to establish whether Zhukov could really have met the Soviet dictator on such and such a day and discussed so and so. The diary shows that Zhukov's memory was sometimes a little faulty and he may on occasion have exaggerated his part in the decision making process. Zhukov made enemies amongst his fellow Soviet generals who felt he was too keen to take credit for their work. Zhukov would have been almost unique amongst military commanders if that did not happen. How many people on the street can name Montgomery's two Army Commanders, 1st Canadian and 2nd British, in 1945 or a senior subordinate of Patton's? I had concerns about Roberts's grasp on the history of the Second World War. The Afrika Korps was not air-lifted out of North Africa following the Anglo-American landings in 1942. And everything else I that have read about the 1945 Potsdam Conference states that US President Harry Truman did not spell out to Stalin that the new very powerful bomb that had just been tested was a nuclear weapon. Either Roberts got it wrong or almost all recent histories of the war did.
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?