Books about PPA, other Special Forces and related subjects


BOOKS ABOUT POPSKI'S PRIVATE ARMY

The original title of Popski's book:
The original title of Popski's book: "The Oryx and the Astrolabe"

Five primary books have been published about Popski’s Private Army, in various editions and languages, all listed here, with most known to be out of print. There are also several unpublished typescripts in the foPPA Archives, some embargoed for the time being.

This page is for the general reader and so does not attempt to provide a comprehensive bibliography of PPA references. There are many books and articles about Special Forces that refer to the Popski story but they generally only reproduce sections of Popski’s book without new material and sometimes introduce errors. For background context foPPA recommends reading any and all of the books by Long Range Desert Group personnel, as well as, of course, Lawrence and Doughty. All books are in English unless indicated otherwise.


PUBLISHED BOOKS

Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff DSO MC

Only some editions have the original fold-out colour maps, photographs and index, while some others also have small illustrations and different photographs.

  • Private Army (1950). Jonathan Cape. Hardback. This was the original best-seller.
  • Private Army (1950). Thomas Crowell. Hardback.
  • Private Army (1951). Jonathan Cape. Hardback. Second edition with foreword by General Sir John Hackett and a few small revisions after comments from participants.
  • Popskis Privatarmé (1951). Natur Och Kultur. Hardback. In Swedish.
  • Geisterarmee (1951). Paul List. Paperback. In German.
  • Corsari In Jeep (1951). Garzanti. Paperback. In Italian.
  • Mon Armée Privée (1953). Librairie Gallimard. Paperback. In French.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1953). Reprint Society. Hardback.
  • Tseva’oh Ha-perati shel Popski (1954). Ma’arachot. Hardback. In Hebrew.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1955). Ayma SL Editories. In Spanish. [it's not known if this edition was actually published: no copies have ever surfaced]
  • Popski’s Private Army (1957). Yugoslav publisher unknown. In Serbo-Croat. [it's not known if this edition was actually published: no copies have ever surfaced]
  • Popski’s Private Army (1957). Pan Books. Paperback.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1965). Corgi. Paperback.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1975). Mayflower. ISBN 0583123821. Paperback.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1980). Bantam. ISBN 0553271709. Paperback.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1980). Nelson Doubleday. Hardback.
  • Tseva’oh Ha-perati shel Popski (1986). Ma’arachot. Reprint in Hebrew.
  • Popski’s Private Army (1991). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192852388. Paperback. With index.
  • Popski’s Private Army (2002). Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 0304361437. With new foreword by Captain John Campbell.
  • Corsari In Jeep (2005). Danilo Montanari Editore. ISBN-13 9788887440065. In Italian. Reprint of Garzanti edition with pictures of Partisans.

The book was originally going to be called "The Oryx and the Astrolabe" until Jonathan Cape persuaded Popski to go for the simple and obvious. The original manuscript is in Popski's private papers (now in IWM), with a copy in the foPPA Archives. Two annotated proof copies of the first edition are known to exist: one is in IWM whilst the other is in the foPPA Archives.


Captain Robert Park Yunnie MC

Captain Yunnie was Popski’s original 2nd in command and skipper of ‘B’ Patrol.

  • Warriors on Wheels (1959). Hutchinson. Hardback.
  • Warriors on Wheels (1961). Arrow Books. Paperback.
  • Fighting with Popski’s Private Army (2002). Greenhill Military Paperbacks. ISBN 1853675008. This is Warriors on Wheels but reissued and retitled, and with an Appreciation by Ben Owen and an Epilogue by Yunnie’s son, Don, regarding Bob’s death in the Congo in 1961.

A proof copy of the first edition is in the foPPA Archives.

Corporal Ben Owen

Corporal Owen was Captain Yunnie’s gunner.

  • With Popski’s Private Army (1993). Janus Publishing. Paperback.
  • With Popski’s Private Army (1996). Astrolabe Publishing. Hardback. Privately published by Ben.
  • With Popski’s Private Army (2007). Astrolabe Military Paperbacks. Paperback. Additional chapter about ‘Trooper X’. This edition was produced by foPPA after taking over Ben Owen’s Astrolabe imprint. Buy it now from the foPPA Shop.
  • With Popski’s Private Army (2009). Janus Publishing. Paperback. Unauthorised reprint of 1993 edition.

Much original material for Ben's books is in the foPPA Archives, as foPPA is now the publisher.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Willett

This is Popski’s biography by his friend Lieutenant-Colonel John Willett, an Eighth Army Intelligence Officer. It gives a view of his life before and after PPA.

  • Popski: A life of Lt Col. Vladimir Peniakoff (1954). MacGibbon and Kee. Hardback.
Signalman Les White

Signalman White was a signaller in Lieutenant Reeve-Walker’s ‘S’ Patrol.

  • From the Workhouse to Vienna. Posthumously published privately by his daughter-in-law. It's a British 20th Century social and miltary history that tells us about Les's coming-of-age in service, how he joined the Army and about his wartime service in PPA. Buy it now from the foPPA Shop.
Captain Ricky Rickwood

Captain Rickwood was skipper of ‘R’ Patrol.

  • The Khaki Sheep. FoPPA understands that only 100 copies were ever printed in Germany, publisher unknown, just after the war, and knows of only one copy in a private collection. In 2010 we discovered Ricky's daughter and son, who have the original typescripts, but we haven't seen those yet. They differ in one or two chapters.

UNPUBLISHED BOOKS

Captain John Campbell CVO CBE MC and Bar

Captain Campbell was the last of the “big four” officers of PPA and skipper of ‘S’ Patrol after Lieutenant Reeve-Walker. He went on to a successful career as a diplomat in Italy and Canada, and is the chairman of foPPA, overseeing the creation of the PPA Memorial.

  • Snakes and Ladders. This typescript was thought lost in the 1970’s but was rediscovered in 2005. John has done much work to revise it since, but may now (2015) be too frail to complete it to his satisfaction. The original typescript and a transcribed digital copy are in the foPPA Archives.

SOURCES

Most of these books can be found now only secondhand on the Internet. FoPPA suggests looking at :-

Ben Owen's and Les White's book are available from the foPPA Shop now


BOOKS ABOUT OTHER SPECIAL FORCES AND RELATED SUBJECTS

xxx Operation Salam: László Almásy's Most Daring Mission in the Desert War
Kuno Gross, Michael Rolke and András Zboray


Hardback. Belleville, January 2013

This large, very detailed book tells the tale of Count László Almásy's (see "The English Patient") operation to infiltrate German agents into Cairo via the Western Desert, in a complete reversal of LRDG operations across the same vast desert wastes. It is written by three experienced desert explorers who mounted an expedition to follow exactly in Almásy's footsteps, taking photographs to match the original wartime ones, and finding artefacts from his operation.
xxx Tales from the Special Forces Club
Sean Rayment


Hardback. Collins, February 2013

This great book includes a chapter on foPPA Chairman Major John Campbell, Skipper of 'S' Patrol.
Light Car Patrols 1916-19: War and Exploration in Egypt and Libya with the Model T Ford
Russell McGuirk and Captain Claude H Williams


Paperback. Silphium Press, July 2013
A thorough story of the Light Car Patrols of the Great War - the first time this has been told. Read more...
xxx Special Operations in World War II: British and American Irregular Warfare
Andrew Hargreaves


Hardback. University of Oklahoma Press, October 2013

A comprehensive analysis of British and American WWII Special Forces.

Copyright © 2015 foPPA
15 Jan 2015

Further information
Context: 

List of Context Codes, regardless of edition (see About this website)

  • VP = Vladimir Peniakoff: Popski's Private Army
  • RPY = Robert Park Yunnie: Fighting with Popski's Private Army (Warriors on Wheels)
  • BO = Ben Owen: With Popski's Private Army
Notes: 
  1. ^ The latest edition of Ben's book is only available from foPPA, and all revenue goes to the PPA Memorial Fund