Since it came out in 2000, Harlan Glenn’s book ‘For King and Country, British Airborne Uniforms, Insignia and Equipment in World War II has been feted as the go to book for all things British Airborne. Long out of print, prices have reached frankly silly levels and at present the only copy I can find online is in the USA and priced at £411! So with this reputation and price, is the book any good and should you be looking for a copy?
The book is published by Schiffer and is in full colour throughout with hundreds of photographs of both surviving items and re-enactors wearing and using them. The photographic quality is excellent and there are lots of helpful detail pictures to accompany the larger images. Topics covered range form the standard items of clothing and webbing, to specialist items such as parachutists’ helmets, parachutes and body armour. A sprinkling of original photographs are included alongside the modern images and the range of items covered is commendable. Accompanying the photographs is text that explains things in greater depth. This is still superficial compared to many other works, but does cover the basics. Far better are the sections of specialised information on units and accounts by those who served which are excellent.
Whilst the detail light text is forgivable, where the book falls apart are the many errors littered throughout. Photographic captions are frequently in error- a 62 set radio is identified as a 19 set, a post war 2″ mortar smoke bomb is shown as a wartime one, a clearly Canadian pouch is described as being British etc. Sadly these errors, both small and large, are spread across the book and for a reference book are annoying to those in the know and misleading for those starting out in the subject. There is also a trend towards ‘reenactorisms’ with some of the re-constructions. Items that were not commonplace appear too often because re-enactors think they look cool and wish they had been there, rather than being more representative; US parachute silk scarves, WS38 Mk III radios etc. Elaborate explanations are then included with some of the photographs to explain this, when it would be far better to just not include them.
So is the book worth the price? To be honest, no. If you can find it for under £50 then pick it up as it is a useful book to have on the shelf and not without merit, however do not shell out the £400+ that is being asked for it as since it was published twenty years ago better books have come out covering the specialist parachutist elements that would be better spending your money on such as the set of books covering insignia, headgear and uniforms from Military Mode Publishing.