Saturday, 21 September 2013

Secondhand military books in Southeast England.

There have been several comments of reminiscences relating to times spent in the armed forces recently, with various commentators saying they will come to my bookshop in Ramsgate to look at the military books that I have in stock.

So army, navy or air force here are the pictures of the books, I don’t think there is much of a range of secondhand military books, priced to be cheaper than you could buy them on the internet, elsewhere in Southeast England.

I hope that pictures are of sufficient quality that when you click on them, and click on the expanded picture again, you will be able at least to read the titles and have a sort of armchair prebrowse.

The first few pictures are general shots of the military area in my bookshop, followed by close-ups of two or three shelves at a time.


  1. Thanks for this post, Michael. Anything by Tony Le Tissier within this lot?

    1. Don’t really know William, I have finished work until Monday and the pictures of the, what? Two – two and a half thousand books open fairly slowly on my mobile phone. You should be able to see them better on your computer.

    2. William, busy Monday morning, I did have a quick look through the military books physical, but couldn’t find any Le Tissier. Obviously we arrange military books by subject, which doesn’t help when trying to find ones by a particular author.

      I had a look on Amazon, abe, and Ebay, including sold and completed listings, to try and work out if the were easily and cheaply available and it seems the prices are all over the place, so I guess they would sell pretty quickly when we put them out on the shelves.

      I guess this is where you get the main difference between the internet secondhand bookselling databases and secondhand bookshops, while the internet is good for specific books, the secondhand bookshops offer a browse of what you didn’t know you wanted.

      Frankly if all our bookstock was easy to find remotely by using the internet, then I wouldn’t be much good for the people who visit the shop.

    3. Thanks again, Michael. My own findings exactly on the internet pricing of Le Tissier's books which, I am told, are very popular in the USA.

    4. William, there you have the crux of the problem, it seems as though if you wanted all of them and you had sufficient time to devote to checking the copies available online over the course of about a year you could pick them up, in reasonable condition, for around the price it would cost you for postage and packing.

      If you had them and wanted to sell them, you could easily end up out of pocket once you had paid the listing fees, although there is a reasonable chance that one or perhaps two would do quite well.

      From my own point of view I have approached this malaise, in the world of secondhand books, by dropping my on the shelf prices to about the level they were in the late 70s early 1980s, when new books were selling for about £5, the customers who sell me their books, have either spotted the situation online, or in some cases been through the business of trying to sell their books on Ebay or Amazon.

      I would say the majority of hardback books can be bought online from Amazon for 1p which equates to £2.81 to post one 2nd class signed for costs £3.70 and around £2.90 if they are not signed for, which leaves you open to the recipient saying the book didn’t turn up.

      The same book would sell in Waterstones for around £20 new and could probably be bought online new for about a tenner including post.

      When you have read it, in most cases Amazon will collect it from you and offer you a 25p credit.

      Pretty much everything that looks up like this I have priced at £2.50 on the shelf and am paying about £1 buying them in and giving a bit more as an exchange credit. This varies a bit , up or down, dependent on how quickly I expect the book to sell.

      Of course in the real world, once you have bought the books that you know you want online, browsed a few in Waterstones, found the one you want for £20 and bought it online for a tenner, you are left with a bit of headache from fighting with the internet, a bit of a sour feeling from the Waterstones experience, based on liking the idea of supporting bookshops, but not wishing to burn a tenner, you wind up in my bookshop.

  2. R V Jones and Jack Nissen(thal) are two good authors on WW2.

    I don't know if Margate Historical Society would contribute, for your reader interest, the Margate mystery of the Luftwaffe pilot and jet engine researcher Werner Bartells. I think they have various photos and magazine accounts of his 1940 Rudolf Hess style landing at Kingsgate. A Margate College Old Boy who appears, from photos, to have brought his old school blazer along on the sortie to quickly don when he exited the aircraft. Perhaps thinking it might help prevent a shot from the Thanet Home Guard ? A Thanet fireman appears to have taken possession of Bartell's pistol and to have got into hot water for it. Possibly because he took it home with him.

    There is a book of greatest wartime cockups. Rare as rocking horse manure as it disappeared from all libraries that held a copy. It includes radar mishaps of Bomber Command in WW2. And if you can get a copy don't sell it. Leave it safe for your grandchildren and when the PRO releases the files they can cash in.

    For William, the debate on education, if you can get a copy of the Jack Nissen book. Jewish refugee family escaping Polish pogroms. Found refuge in London. Jack was brought up as a cockney. But his dad said there is trouble coming this is the country you fight for young Jack. This is our country now. Jack became a pupil on a trial Inner London education initiative in the 1930s. By the age of 13/14 he was working weekends on the Suffolk coast with Watson Watt radar research.

    Jack became the RAF Flight sergeant radar expert who volunteered for the ill fated Dieppe raid.

    The Canadian raid came under such withering fire they could not get Jack into the German radar stations. So under fire he cut their telemetry cabling to force them on to radio inter-communication. Then observed, carefully timed and recorded their activity. He knew that back in UK the German radio telemetry would be recorded and if he got back alive he could correlate their signalling to the radar activity he had recorded.

    As the retreat to the beaches went on Jack was about to be left behind. He shouted out and heard the voice of a cockney sailor something like "There's one of our own back there" and the sailor turned the dinghy round and came back in and got Jack.

    Under fire. And the D day radar deceptions that enabled victory were thus secured.

    1. Thanks, Anon, some interesting stuff.

      I earlier mentioned Tony Le Tissier. Tony, a Channel Islander fluent in French and German as well as English, was an officer in the Royal Military Police who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. After leaving the army he became the last British governor of Spandau prison in which capacity he regularly talked with Rudolph Hess and many former German soldiers.

      Using the knowledge thus gleaned, he wrote a number of books on the final stages of WWII centred around Berlin. They are well written, very informative and describe events often from the German soldier's view point. Certainly worth a read.

    2. Anon 8:55 am

      Interesting and informative.

    3. As Anon 8:55 am tells us Watson Watt worked at Bawdsey.

      At the risk of lowering the tone of this debate I too served at RAF Bawdsey in 61/62, though not on radar research. For Bawdsey was by this time part of the GCI chain, in which Bawdsey was acknowledged to be the most efficient station. This was down entirely to its high level of morale unsurpassed anywhere in the RAF at that time. For example the Station Commander issued an order that no one was permitted to stay on camp during their leave; and believe it or not this was an unpopular order.

      So why was morale so high? Well for one thing RAF Bawdsey was built in the leafy grounds of Bawdsey Manor and even had its own private beach. The food was superb. But this does not explain the exceptionally high level of morale. This was down to the simple fact that the girls just about outnumbered the boys.

      We got on well together. On my first morning I was awoken by two scantily dressed girls who introduced themselves. They explained their presence saying that they often used our showers and did I mind? I thought about this for a nano second before reassuring them that they were welcome to use our showers any time, and was there any other way that I could be of assistance? I went on to enjoy similar experiences.

      We got on well together to the extent that RAF Bawdsey became known as the 'baby farm'. A badge earned by the fact that in one year the number of WRAF discharged pregnant was the highest recorded since the War. Well it was in the days before the pill. So why could nobody stop this boy girl fraternisation. The answer is that everybody was joining in the fun, Officers, SNCOs, RAFP, everybody. One hapless Duty Officer was surprised in compromising circumstances in a WRAF billet. The culmination of this ubiquitous and unbridled passion was in the discharge pregnant of the WRAF Families Officer. She had been disporting in the Officers Mess rose garden with an RAF Corporal. In fact in corporal matters rank was generally ignored.

      We got on well together. Yet clearly something had to done, but done without destroying morale and the station's efficiency. So a team was brought in from MOD to find out what was the cause and what could be the cure. Their report contained the following recommendations: Unisex TV rooms had to go and the North Wall of the Sergeants Mess was put out of bounds to all ranks.

      In fact the cure was to be the invention of the pill a few years layer.

      Some my happiest days were spent at Bawdsey. The morale was exceptionally high and as a result we were keen and deadly efficient; and we proved this during the Berlin Wall Nuclear alert.

      [GCI is Ground Controlled Intercept; RAFP is RAF Police; and WRAF is Women's Royal Air Force – just in case anyone was wondering]

    4. Perhaps the USAF and RCA took note of the above when they sited the Cobra Mist "Over the horizon radar" development offshore Suffolk in a less comfortable and appealing billet ?

      I think you or William introduced the subject of the postwar Attlee govt. In WW2 reading I suggest the role of Ian Fleming (James Bond author) with 5 Kings Regt and Commandos raiding ahead of the front line, after D Day, to acquire German scientific development information etc. Younger readers may have watched "X Files" Mulder and Scully. "Operation Paperclip" mentioned in that sci fi series was real. The race for Nazi science. Fleming was operating in advance of that.

      And of course the snikky Russian (Anton Turkul) who appears to have planted his people in the stream of useful Nazi scientists being smuggled back to UK to work at Farnborough, Aldermaston etc. And possibly at Bawdsey and Martlesham Heath ? Before your time John.

      Your Bawdsey time was ten years before UK expelled over 100 Soviet diplomats and congratulated itself it had broken Soviet spying capability in UK.

      I was just thinking, from your account, that a Soviet "Honey trap" targetted on Bawdsey RAF would have failed on the basis they were already too knackered in that department.

    5. Anon 2:18 pm,

      In my time at Bawdsey I was much too young and having too much of a good time to overworry about Soviet spies. Anyway, as you rightly suggest, we were too knackered. Several years later when I came to have regular access to the Nation's secrets I waited in breathless anticipation for the approach of a honey trap, but none came and in a way I felt insulted.

      I spent only a year on Bawdsey before I was whipped away to Akrotiri where there were just 50 single women between the ages of 16 and 50 to about 2,000 blokes. But I did meet my wife there. This was a honey trap of a different kind.

    6. It was a good trick in UK to make some secrets up. My infra red helicopter borne anti insurgent surveillance calibrated to discriminate to show humans only. That got me an interesting woman passenger in my old split screen morris minor traveller. So it wasn't long before I was telling her about Australian SAS being seconded to UK to evaluate the system by running with the hounds of a well known hunt. Then there was the studies being made into national service to replace sixth form education. ( I came across those on guard duties of a command building by the way intrigued by the Oxford University logo I at first thought it was something about a famine charity). But even with no BS spotting guidance from Mr Hamilton she soon spotted me for a BS merchant and that was the end of that. Until a few years later when my bro became special forces and I recognised her flattering him in a pub. Clearly the thing to do was to offer to spy on him and "relay" it to her. That didn't work. But it did finally bring my activity with her to the attention of authority ..... "You told her what ?"

      When next I saw her she was flattering the son of a well known Liberal MP. "No one drives like you darling". But there again he wasn't driving a split screen minor traveller. She was clearly moving upmarket.

    7. I should point out John that, by knowing my availability to "stand to" at the weekend, she was learning in advance the stand down status of my unit. She was always a step ahead.

      I gather that she had later gained employ in the MP's household. Then made a financial arrangement with the MP to become infatuated with his wayward son in the process of which she would "Persuade" the lad to actually go to university. I think the word is Frisson John. That part of the Cold War was anything but cold. And for someone deriving three incomes from one deployment I reckon her for the best capitalist I ever met.

      If I write a book perhaps Michael would stock it ?

    8. Anon 9:01 am,

      Interesting, seems like a plot outline for a good book or maybe a TV film.

  3. Isn't it interesting that the usual flock of commenters have avoided this thread ?

    Yet it represents an opportunity to pick up themes of education, welfare, economy, postwar Attlee Govt from recent threads.

    After WW2 this country emerged with a worthy dream. A welfare state, an NHS, free education. But with no plan to pay for it and to thus avoid the dream becoming an economic decaying, benefits dependent nightmare.

    The Robbins Inquiry of 1963 was mentioned. The recommendations of that were reflecting the post war strategic warnings of Airey Neave (MI9 later MI6) and Professor R V Jones (ex Scientific Intelligence). Yet locally Chatham House speech days would announce say one sixth form leaver, in accordance with Robbins, going to university to study science or engineering. What were the rest doing ? Not wealth creating subjects but dependency subjects like law.

    Airey Neave (Science and Technology Select Cttee and reserve SAS) was saying that the failure to educate enough engineers would see us lose or emerge disadvantaged from the Cold War.

    Underpinning the comments seems to an attitude that history is not a continuous effect. Anything more than nine years ago is deemed irrelevant to current affairs. So arguing that we live in an age shaped by Bill and Petition of Rights and Act of Settlement (Basic special forces Army and Nation stuff in my day) whooosh right over their heads.

    We emerged from WW2, went into a cold war and are now in a terrorist strategy of tension war. maybe don't look at History Books as one documentary. But rather as episodes of a never ending documentary ?

    1. Who would you include in your 'usual commentators' for, it would appear to me that several of our regulars have had an interesting chat here about books. Obviously the illiterate Aquifer man is absent, Peter C does not do military books, being of the love and peace generation, whilst the great swathe of Thanet protesters have little or nothing on this thread to protest about. One can hardly blame TDC for the books Michael chooses to display.

      All in all, I would say the exchanges on this item are a lot better than the nasty name calling or monotonous repetitive claims of unproven corruption that so often hijack every thread on Thanet's more popular blog sites, potentially spelling the demise of such sites that can provide stimulating debate, if only such morons would do the decent thing and top themselves. .

    2. Actually I'm not entirely disinterested, but what interest I do have is mostly confined to the local history aspect.

    3. Well, Peter, there is plenty of that with this little corner having been England's front line so often.

    4. Just got to this thread, I have to say that from my own experience I am very impressed with the way Chatham House teaches science now, the only one of my children to do his science A levels there reckons the science teaching there is excellent.

      He went on to get a first in his chemistry masters and is now doing a chemistry doctorate.

      I guess I got a bit tired of the military reminiscing when I was a child, mine was a fairly military orientated family historically, an ancestor was the admiral known as the dreadnaught and it sort of went on from there.

      On the book front however the same situation applies to books on other subjects, not so much the Kindle and the e-books as stuff read on a screen seem to water off a duck’s back, but the online selling of books for less than it costs to post them means 60s prices with 2013 overheads which is interesting.

    5. Michael there is military reminiscing and then there is the implication. Musashi "The enemy artisan is also his soldier think well on this". The problem with UK is that we think the lessons of war end with the bell (the armistice) but our enemies/trade rivals do not. I think it was William who mentioned the postwar Attlee govt on another thread. The approach taken by that govt exactly matches the approach taken by so many of your blog commenters. That the war is won, that books about the war are nothing but history and that the victorious nation can live its reward.

      1942 Hitler was planning for the post conflict stage when Germany would teach us how to work.

      By 1956 Germany was back ahead of us. In spite of the correct advice given by Professor R V Jones. And poor old Patrick Moore with his advice "Watch the Germans" would now be roundly condemned as a racist and a xenophobe.

      I was very proud in the 60s when a German lady, ex German Intelligence, told me how she had been involved in planning to get as many of Berlins women to the sector that would fall to the British. The Army who shows mercy in victory. Yet she told me "East and West Germany will re-unite. And we will once again be the great power of Europe". She still venerated Hitler even though she worked for the British Army of the Rhine.

  4. I think the point is, Michael, that Chatham House had to be "Guided" to the present situation you are pleased with ?

  5. All schools are very good at presenting a public face. It is unlikely that a member of the public who is unfamiliar with the education system could spot a school that was heading into serious trouble; although they could easily spot the signs that a school was already failing. Chatham House has undergone radical change in the last few years. It remains to be seen whether the outcome of those changes is an improved school.

    1. One thing is for certain, Anon, that it will never be the same or enjoy that special loyalty that seems strangely unique to traditional boys schools in England. Nonetheless, change was virtually inevitable in our modern world, where even some of the more famous boy's public schools have gone unisex, so we can but hope that this amalgamation retains much of the best of what the two former single sex grammar schools offered.

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