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The Lighthouse of Stalingrad

On sale

28th July 2022

Price: £12.99

Military History Matters Book of the Year Award, 2023

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Selected: ebook / ISBN-13: 9781472135223

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‘Stunning. History at its very best: a blend of impeccably researched scholarship, genuinely revelatory primary sources, and a beautifully written narrative’ – James Holland

‘The sheer brutal intimacy of his descriptions of the fighting are extraordinary’ – Frederick Taylor

A wonderful and important and timely book’ – Alexander Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Bedford Boys and First Wave

‘An authoritative and unforgettable insight into the decisive days of that most terrible struggle on the banks of the Volga’ – Jonathan Dimbleby

‘An utterly gripping read’ – James Holland

‘MacGregor writes with great fluency and narrative drive . . . compellingly terse’ – William Boyd

‘Magisterial’ – Dan Snow

The sacrifices that enabled the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-45 are sacrosanct. The foundation of their eventual victory was laid during the battle for the city of Stalingrad, resting on the banks of the river Volga. For Germany, the catastrophic defeat was the beginning of their eventual demise that would see the Red Army two years later flying their flag of victory above the Reichstag. Stalingrad is seen as the pivotal battle of the Second World War, with over two million civilians and combatants either killed, wounded or captured during the bitter winter of September 1942. Both sides endured terrible conditions in brutal house-to-house fighting reminiscent of the Great War.

Within this life-and-death struggle for the heart of the city and situated on the frontline was a key strategic building, codenamed: ‘The Lighthouse’. Here, a small garrison of Red Army guardsmen withstood German aerial bombardments and fought off daily assaults of infantry and armour. Red Army newspaper reports at the time would be seized upon by the Moscow media needing to place a positive spin on the fighting that had at one point looked beyond salvation. By the end of the war, the story of this building would gather further momentum to inspire Russians to rebuild their destroyed towns and cities until it became the legend it is today, renamed after the simple sergeant who had supposedly led the defence – ‘Pavlov’s House’.

In time for the eightieth anniversary, The Lighthouse of Stalingrad will shed fresh insight on this iconic battle through the prism of the men who fought one another over five months and the officers who commanded them. A riveting narrative, informed by both German and Russian archives to unearth unpublished memoirs and eyewitness testimonies from veterans and civilians alike, this book will celebrate the real heroes and provide a truer picture of how this mighty battle finally ended.


History Today, *Books of the Year 2022*
Peeling back the layers of myth surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad is a tall order. In The Lighthouse of Stalingrad Iain MacGregor brilliantly dissects the story of Pavlov's House, the building supposedly defended by a small group of Soviet men against overwhelming odds.
Sunday Times
MacGregor retells [this story] with impressive skill and relish . . . closely researched and enormously engaging
James Holland
Stunning. History at its very best: a blend of impeccably researched scholarship, genuinely revelatory primary sources, and a beautifully written narrative. The grim brutality of the conditions in which the men of both sides fought - and died - is brought back to life with immense clarity; one can almost smell the smoke and stench of death. Iain MacGregor's superb book is the most compellingly readable account yet written of this iconic, notorious battle.
MacGregor takes us right into the war on and below the ground . . . A gripping and knowledgeable account
Jonathan Dimbleby
If you thought you knew all about the Battle of Stalingrad, Iain Macgregor' s gripping account will put you right. Drawing on a remarkable range of diaries, letters and memoirs, many of which have never been published before, he provides an illuminating, authoritative and unforgettable insight into the decisive days of that most terrible struggle on the banks of the Volga.
William Boyd, New Statesman
MacGregor writes with great fluency and narrative drive, and his account of the context to the battle and the complexity of its fraught swings of fortune and misfortune is compellingly terse
We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast
A very vivid picture . . . Personal testimonies nobody has seen before. A fast-paced, compelling read'
The best and richest book yet written about the battle for Stalingrad and what it means today
Dan Snow
i Paper
Historian Iain MacGregor brings [Stalingrad's] graphic horror to life through his own storytelling and eyewitness accounts of soldiers on both sides of a conflict during which the dead were left frozen where they had fallen. It is almost as if you are there in the trenches.
Saul David, Telegraph
Closely researched and engagingly written, MacGregor's wonderful book shines important new light on the most horrific, and arguably the most important, battle of the 20th century. It is a story of 'backs to the wall' defence of the Motherland that modern Russians, with the boot now on the other foot, would do well to study.
Tom Holland
An utterly gripping read
David M. Glantz
A fascinating, well-researched, superbly-organized and well-written account of a complex struggle, within the context of a war of annihilation. It adds a human face to the conflict and conveys the immensity of human suffering involved.
Publisher's Weekly
Meticulous yet action-packed, this will thrill WWII buffs
Alexander Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Bedford Boys and First Wave
The Lighthouse of Stalingrad is the finest of military history, utterly riveting, based on revelatory and superb research, and a heart-rending account of arguably the most impactful battle to defeat Nazism in WW2. A wonderful and important and timely book.
William Taubman, Pulitzer prize-winning author
In the midst of Moscow's bloody war on Ukraine, with Putin invoking 'glorious victories' of World War II to inspire his country, Iain MacGregor's vivid, dramatic, day-by-day account reminds us that the awful reality of Stalingrad for soldiers on both sides was: 'The lucky ones bled, froze or starved to death in temporary field hospitals in bunkers or cellars.'
Mike Jones, author of Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed
A superb evocation: MacGregor strips away the layers of myth - using a powerful array of sources - and takes us to the brutal heart of this pivotal battle
Wall Street Journal
Carefully researched . . . This valuable addition to the body of work about Stalingrad goes a long way toward righting the balance between myth and reality
Frederick Taylor, bestselling author of Dresden
If you believe there is nothing fresh to be written about the most decisive battle of the Second World War, Iain MacGregor's The Lighthouse of Stalingrad will be something of a revelation. The author has a talent for choosing an iconic location and working out from that to create new insights into a world-historical event . . . he builds on the legend of the 'Pavlov House' (codename 'Lighthouse'), a key building on the northern edge of the narrow strip of territory still held by the Red Army in Stalingrad in the late summer of 1942, whose commanding position allowed the Soviets to hold back, survey and devastate the hitherto all-conquering German forces. It was a turning point. The courageous Soviet sergeant, Jakov Pavlov, whose 'storm group' took and held the building, became a propaganda star for Stalin's regime at a time when the Soviet (and overall Allied) war effort desperately needed one. The often devious story of how the legend was created is fascinating, but equally so is MacGregor's consequent contribution to the Stalingrad narrative. Beginning with this example, he details how the city was taken back, street by street, house by house, room by room, by the Soviet forces, at tremendous cost. The sheer brutal intimacy of his descriptions of this fighting are extraordinary. MacGregor has combed Soviet archives and publications, interviewed family members of Red Army soldiers and senior officers, as well as gaining unique access to previously unpublished German memoirs of the battle. This is a chilling, vivid account that helps to explain not just the Third Reich's defeat at Stalingrad but also the myths that persist in Russia to this day - for better and, most recently, for worse.
Country Life
As well as being . . . a fine narrative history of the titanic battle it is about the complicated relationship between reality, legend and myth in war