6 June 2018

Allied Armor in Normandy

Throughout the summer of 1944, the Allied forces readily employed tanks and armored vehicles to gain ground in the bloody campaign of Normandy. Heavily armed, they provided a kind of support which no number of infantrymen could offer, battling their way through enemy lines with their guns blazing. From the US 2nd Armored Division named ‘Hell on Wheels’ to the British ‘Achilles’ tank, the encounters they had in battle were explosive.

This volume of the Casemate Illustrated series explores the Normandy invasion from the perspective of the Allied Armored divisions, looking at how armored vehicles played a central role in the many battles that took place. It includes over 40 profiles of tanks and armored vehicles, from the American Sherman and Stuart tanks to the bulldozers and amphibious vehicles designed for the beach.

With detailed diagrams and many photos illustrating the composition of the Allied armored divisions and tank regiments present at Normandy, this volume explains the crucial part played by tanks in gaining a foothold in Normandy after the D-Day landings, as well as the significance of many other types of armored vehicles.

Table of Contents
  • Timeline of Events
  • Allied Armored Divisions in Normandy
  • American Armored Divisions
  • British Armored Units
  • Allied Tanks in June
  • Initial British Offensives
  • Caen: From Stalemate to Breakthrough 
Originally published in French as one of the Militaria Magazine Hors-Serie, this title provides a good all-round introduction to Allied armored vehicles and units that participated in the Battle of Normandy. Those who already have knowledge of the topic may not find a lot of new information here, however if you want to learn more about the subject or want to gain a broad understanding of the use of armored units in Normandy, this is a good introduction.
 Available from:

Panzer Ace - The Memories of an Iron Cross Panzer Commander from Barbarossa to Normandy

Richard Freiherr von Rosen began the Second World War as a gunlayer on a Pz.Mk.III, rising to become a highly decorated senior Lieutenant on a King Tiger. Von Rosen's memoirs are based on his wartime diary and field post letters, and are illustrated with more than 400 contemporary photographs.

He fought in many key confrontations of the war, including the Eastern Front where he was involved in action during Barbarossa, at Kursk, and later in Hungary where he commanded a battle group (12 King Tigers and a flak Company). On the Western Front, he also participated in the Battle of Normandy, where he led a company of King Tigers.

This is not a simple account of German tank action in the Second World War. This is a personal account that brings to life the success, discomfort, frustrations, and enjoyment of simple pleasures in the daily routines of a Panzer company.

Originally published in German by Flechsig Verlag, this is a welcome addition to the rather limited number of English language memoirs of German Panzer crew. It is a substantial book - nearly 400 pages long - and is recommended to anyone with an interest in the Panzerwaffe in the Second World War.

Available from:
Greenhill Books

Sword Beach - British 3rd Infantry Division / 27th Armoured Brigade

In this addition to the Battleground Europe series, Major (retired) Tim Kilvert-Jones focuses on the action by 3rd British Infantry Division and attached units at Sword Beach from D-Day 6th June 1944 to the fall of Caen in July 1944. Following the structure of his previous work in the series Omaha Beach, the author draws on both memoirs and extensive interviews with veterans to create a dynamic guide to book this fascinating story of undaunted courage, and dashed hopes.

Caen was the pivotal main objective for General Montgomery's invasion plan.The 3rd Division's failure to capture the city on 6th June lead to major recriminations during and after the war as former allied commanders and other vested interests argued the causes of failure. The truth is as always simpler than the arguments and recriminations.

While still struggling to establish a secure beachhead on D-Day. The division was attached by powerful elements of 21st Panzer division. This was the only effective armoured counterattack mounted by the Germans during the invasion phase. The result was a devastating defeat for the Panzers under the combined arms guns of the 3rd Division, but vital hours had been lost and the Germans were given the time to defend the City.

With the multitude of books relating to the broad story of D Day, titles which focus in depth on the specific beaches - and specifically the British and Canadian beaches - are welcome. If you have an interest in the landings at Sword Beach on 6th June 1944, and are planning a visit to the area to see where the actions took place, then this book is certainly worth obtaining.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

4 June 2018

The Dunkirk Evacuation in 100 Objects - The Story Behind Operation Dynamo in 1940

At 18.57 hours on Sunday, 26 May 1940, the Admiralty issued the directive which instigated the start of Operation Dynamo. This was the order to rescue the British Expeditionary Force from the French port of Dunkirk and the beaches surrounding it. The Admiralty believed that it would only be able to rescue 45,000 men over the course of the following two days, ‘at the end of which’, read the signal to Admiral Ramsey at Dover, ‘it was probable that evacuation would be terminated by enemy action’. The Admiralty, however, was wrong.

Between 26 May and 4 June 1940, when Dynamo officially ended, an armada of ships, big and small, naval and civilian achieved what had been considered impossible. In fact, in this period a total of 338,682 men had been disembarked at British ports. Such a figure has exceeded the expectations of most. Little wonder, therefore, that an editorial in The New York Times at the beginning of June declared, ‘So long as the English tongue survives, the word Dunkirk will be spoken with reverence’.

Through 100 objects, from the wreck of a ship through to a dug-up rifle, and individual photographs to large memorials, all of which represent a moving snapshot of the past, the author sets out to tell the story of what came to be known as The Miracle of Dunkirk. The full-colour photographs of each 100 items are accompanied by detailed explanations of the object and the people and events which make them so special or relevant.

While similar in concept to Roger Moorehouse's The Third Reich in 100 Objects, this book provides a different approach. Not just another re-telling of the Dunkirk story, Martin Mace's book highlights many facets of the evacuation, which creates a rich narrative about the wider story of Dunkirk. Details of individual Little Ships, the Wormhout Massacre, the story behind some of the famous photos of the evacuation, experiences of RAF pilots through log-books, and how Dunkirk was featured in wartime books and paintings are all woven together to explain the story in great detail. If you have any interest in Dunkirk, I would seriously consider adding this book to your collection.

Available from:
Pen and Sword