Book Review: Escaut 1940

I have reviewed one of Jerry Murland’s 1940 books here previously, and it is good to see that he is writing some more on the often neglected 1940 campaign in France and Flanders. This latest title from Pen & Sword books is in the Battleground Europe series of battlefield guidebooks and looks at the fighting on…

Nine Days at Arnhem

It is that time of year again when our thoughts turn to the narrow corridor running from the Belgian border up through the southern Netherlands towards the city of Arnhem; the ground where Operation Market Garden took place. Montgomery’s bold plan from the autumn of 1944 would take ground troops from XXX Corps up that…

Book Review – Retreat & Rearguard: Dunkirk 1940

Retreat & Rearguard: Dunkirk 1940 by Jerry Murland (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 366 2, 257pp, hardback, illustrated, £25.00) Compared to battlefield sites like Arnhem, Bastogne or Normandy, the fields of battle in Belgium and France where the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) fought in May-June 1940 are rarely visited, except perhaps Dunkirk…

Maginot Line: Villy la Ferte

The Maginot Line was a huge screen wall developed in the 1930s to protect France from future German invasion. While many believe it was military technology that failed and the Germans simply went round it, few realise that in several locations the German Army attempted to breach it during the Blitzkrieg in May 1940 and…

Visiting Peenemünde

Peenemünde is a peninsula in northern Germany on the Baltic coast. It was here from 1936 that the Nazi regime opened the Peenemünde Army Research Centre and under Wernher von Braun it was where the development of the first rockets took place: the V1 ‘Doodlebug’ and latterly the V2 rocket. The site was heavily bombed once the Allies realised…

Battle Damage: Munich

When you explore Second World War sites across Europe you look at the landscape differently from other visitors: you always have one eye out for visible traces of conflict. In cities this means looking for buildings damaged and repaired or which still bear the scars of war: battle damage. Munich was at the spiritual heartland…

Exploring Walcheren Island

The Walcheren Island in the Netherlands is located close to the port of Antwerp just across the border in Belgium and overlooking the Scheldt river estuary to the south. By autumn 1944 the port was in Allied hands but the estuary area from Walcheren across to Breskens was in German hands. This meant that shipping…

WW2 75: Tobruk January 1941

Seventy-fives years ago the name of a North African port began to become part of the British and Commonwealth consciousness of the Second World War: Tobruk. Since the launch of Operation Compass in December 1940, British and Commonwealth forces had been pushing the Italian forces back in Egypt and Libya reaching to the point exactly…

Montfaucon Sherman Tank

The battlefields of the First and Second World War criss-cross in many places and while out visiting the Verdun area today we came across this M4 Sherman in the main square at Montfaucon d’Argonne, a village that was on the line of the American advance in 1918 and also in 1944 a generation later in…

Hürtgenwald Museum, Germany

The Hürtgenwald was a forested area beyond the Siegfried Line, or Westwall, in Germany close to the city of Aachen. It was fought over in November 1944 as American troops fought their way through the area. Ernest Hemingway, who reported on the battle, called it “Passchendaele with tree-bursts”. The Hürtgenwald Museum is a private museum…

Remagen Bridge

The story of Remagen Bridge is one of the iconic moments of the last months of the Second World War. By March 1945 the German Army was in full retreat with American and British forces pushing from the West and Russian troops advancing in the East. As the final advance on the river Rhine began…

For Freedom Museum, Belgium

The For Freedom Museum at Knocke-Heist in the Flemish region of Belgium is a private museum started by two brothers whose father served with the British Army in the Second World War and settled in Belgium, marrying a local girl here in 1947. The museum is housed in the old school house of the village…

Buffalo LVT Memorial

The ‘Water Buffalo’ LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) was used by the British and Commonwealth forces in North-West Europe in 1944/45 both in seaborne landings, in flooded areas of Holland and Germany and river crossings like the Rhine in March 1945. The Buffalos were normally operated by units in the 79th (Armoured) Division. It could hold…

Casa Berardi: Italy VC Action 1943

The Casa Barardi was a huge stonewalled farmhouse on the western approaches to the coastal town of Ortona. In December 1943 the Eighth Army had crossed the Sangro River and were advancing on Ortona with the 1st Canadian Division leading the way. The Canadians had one assault following the coastal road and another swinging in…

Maisy Battery, Normandy

The Maisy Battery is a privately owned museum in Normandy located between Omaha and Utah beaches in the American D-Day sector. It was a substantial gun battery site equipped with howitzers which could fire onto both beaches and posed a serious threat in the early days of the Normandy invasion. It was bombed from the…

Escoublac-la-Baule War Cemetery

I visited this cemetery as part of a recent recce trip to Saint Nazaire as this is where the Commandos who died in Operation Chariot are buried. It is located near to the Escoublac airfield in what is now the middle of a housing estate, but as with all Commonwealth war cemeteries it is a…