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…

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…

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…

Arracourt Sherman Tank

The Battle of Arracourt in September 1944 is something of a forgotten battle of WW2. Arracourt is a village in eastern France where the US Army had been advancing since the liberation of Paris in the summer of 1944. While Operation Market Garden was taking place in Holland, to the Allies surprise the Germans proved…

U Boat Pens, Saint Nazaire

The German U-Boat fleet which fought in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War operated out of a number of bases on the French coast which included Saint Nazaire. Immortalised in the film Das Boot, casualties among the Kriegsmarine who operated the U-Boats were high: a staggering 3 in 4 of the…

Pegasus Bridge

It is always good to have time to visit the original Pegasus Bridge, now in the grounds of the Memorial Pegasus Museum in Normandy. I first walked across the bridge, when it was still in its original location, in 1979 and was on it for the 40th anniversary in 1984. In the 1990s the Caen…

Book Review: Osprey Combat – France 1940

Osprey Combat 14: German Infantryman versus British Infantryman France 1940 By David Greenacre (Osprey 2015, ISBN 9781472812407, 80pp, illustrated, softback, £11.99) Until this title appeared in Osprey’s Twitter feed, I had no come across the Combat series before. They are a new one looking at different armies facing each other on a particular battlefield. This example…