The popular perception of the performance of British armour in the Normandy campaign of 1944 is one of failure and frustration. Despite overwhelming superiority in numbers, Montgomery's repeated efforts to employ his armour in an offensive manner ended in a disappointing stalemate. Explanation of these and other humiliating failures has centred predominantly on the shortcomings of the tanks employed by British formations. This new study by John Buckley challenges the standard view of Normandy as a failure for British armour by analysing the reality and level of the supposed failure and the causes behind it.
About the Author
John Buckley is Senior Lecturer in War Studies and History at the University of Wolverhampton. He is the author of The RAF and Trade Defence 1919-1945: Constant Endeavour (1995) and Air Power in the Age of Total War (1998).
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. Fighting the Campaign 3. Operational Technique 4. Fighting the Battle 5. The Tank Gap 6. Design and Planning 7. Production and Supply 8. Morale and Motivation 9. Conclusion
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Buckley's book on British armour is a through and compelling investigation of why the British fought their armour the way they did; what motivated them, how and why they were equipped, how they thought their armour could and should be fought, and so on. In the process he fully addresses and overturns many standard interpretations of the campaign, some of which have been in place for 50 years or more. Two key points I took away from this book: 1) *Everyone* suffered heavy losses in men and machines when they attacked in Normandy. The British, Canadians, Poles, Americans, German Army, and the SS, everyone. By 1944 the halcyon Blitzkreig days of 1939-1941 were long gone, and armour could no longer awe with it's mere presence. 2) It is pointless to criticise the British for not fighting like the Germans because a) they aren't the Germans, and b) unlike the Germans the British won, and did so at an acceptable pace and with bearable losses. There are no tales of derring-do to be found here, this simply isn't that kind of book. Nevertheless, it is far from boring or tedious, and I read it from cover to cover within a week. Also, because Buckley so thoroughly examines the question, and from so many angles, there is some noticeable overlap between the thematically organised chapters. This means there is some probably unavoidable repetition which is noticeable, but not annoying. The pictures are well chosen, and the map, although limited, is sufficient for the purposes of this book. Overall, this is a very worthy addition to the library of anyone with a deep interest in the Normandy campaign.
A really excellent monograph that examines in detail the myth of British mediocrity during the Normandy campaign. The key conclusion is that the prime determinant of how the campaign played out is Hitler's refusal to countenance an elastic defense, thus condemning both sides to a grinding slug-fest.To be more specific. Buckley finds an armored force that while it had issues with doctrine, experience, and technology, it also had adaptability and overcame the issues facing it. If there was a key error, it was that the British had a bad habit of resting on their laurels when they had a reasonably good tank gun. This happened with letting the 2-pounder solder on too long, and it happened when nearly making the bet that the American medium-velocity 75mm weapon would be sufficient to get to the end of the war; it was fortunate that the 17-pounder gun was available.As for the issue of morale, Buckley is skeptical that there was that much of a morale issue with the typical British tank crewman; the British infantryman is another issue. He is rather more critical of Montgomery's lack of candor to be forthright when the campaign did not play out as expected, which probably undid the field marshal's exercises in attitude management. As for whether formations such as the 7th Armored and 51st Highland were burned out when they entered the field, that issue is a little more murky. Buckley suspects that the real problem here was a failure to unlearn lessons from the North African battles. Matters of doctrine are of great relevance to Buckley in terms of explaining the failures of British war-making in Normandy.