Illustrated First & Second World War anniversary editions: Potent weapons in the war against the e-book

 

It is perhaps appropriate that the important military anniversaries that fall this year should be marked by the publication of volumes that themselves represent potent weapons in the battle between the ebook and traditional publishing. Some are almost as substantial as the Cenotaph; all are spirited affirmations of the delights of print.

In particular, we have the re-issue in lavish form of two classics on the Normandy landings, on their 70th anniversary: Stephen Ambrose's D-Day (Simon & Schuster, £25) and The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (André Deutsch, £50). In price, ambition and above all in their tactile qualities these are about as far away from reading text off a tablet as it is possible to get. The Longest Day presents Ryan's unequalled text in magazine-style format, additionally armed with envelopes of enthralling facsimile documents – the official translations of, say, Rommel's diaries of the time (as Hitler's commander on the Atlantic seaboard) or the handwritten note by Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower, dated 5 June 1944, taking full responsibility in the event the invasion failed. There is also a CD with interviews Ryan conducted in the 1950s, when memories were still fresh enough to make eye-witness accounts of conversations with Churchill or the terror of the beach landings fluent and immediate. Ryan, who died in 1974, was a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and was there on D-Day; hence the sense of authenticity. It made his work a 30 million seller in 30 languages.

Ambrose is also honoured with a new illustrated edition of his gripping narrative of Operation Overlord – and punctuated by his hallmark forthright insights, as seen in his verdict on Hitler's entirely unprovoked decision to declare war on America after Pearl Harbor: "It was the looniest of all his crazy decisions." Ambrose also chose anecdotes well, as in this testimony from a Private Carl Weast on his commander, Captain George Whittington: "He was a hell of a man… He led people. I recall the time a week or so after D-Day when we shot a cow and cut off some beef and were cooking it over a fire on sticks. Whittington came up and threw a German boot next to the fire and said, 'I'll bet some son of a bitch misses that.' We looked at the boot. The German's leg was still inside of it. I'll bet by God he did miss it."

Such remarks prove that the Second World War could be as gruesome as the First. In Tommy's War (Bloomsbury £25), Richard van Emden, who has become almost a posthumous advocate for the poor bloody infantry (he wrote The Last Fighting Tommy: the Life of Harry Patch), draws on the vast quantity of written and photographic material available on the Great War – some of it prosaic, some almost pornographic. It was, after all, the first conflict to be photographed to any great extent by the participants, and Kodak avidly marketed battlefield-ready cameras – the iPhones of their day. As ever, Emden makes the most of these original statements and images.

The First World War Remembered (André Deutsch £50), compiled by Gary Sheffield, is my favourite of this crop, for no better reason than I would have relished it when I was at school. It has a Look and Learn feel, plus you get a DVD of interviews with ex-Tommies, with a period silent movie in, and a wealth of large facsimile posters and maps. If I thought I could get away with it, I would pin these up with Blu Tack on the bedroom wall; you can't do that with an e-reader.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week