A photographic History of Infantry Warfare 1939-1945

A photographic History of Infantry Warfare 1939-1945

Simon and Jonathan Forty
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Right, second attempt at posting this review after the first one was ‘disappeared’ by Arrse gremlins on posting…

This is quite an ambitious book covering the experience of the PBI in WW2 across the major combatant nations. It’s a well thought out and well put together hardback, reminiscent of the ‘Images of War’ series and the authors are Simon and Jonathon Forty, sons of the esteemed George who wrote many books on (mainly) armoured warfare in the 70s and 80s. Broken into 7 chapters with detailed appendices, the book covers mechanisation, environmental extremes, amphibiosity (is that even a word?), casualties, a comparison between the Eastern and Western Fronts and a final endpiece on ‘life in the infantry’. The appendices are useful looking at specific weapons or tactics and my favourite is a page that details how ammunition loads varied between nations – a British 10 man section carried 400rds of .303” and 9mm for personal weapons and 750rds for the section Bren but only a grenade per man. The Germans, in their smaller 9 man sections carried twice as many grenades, 1150rds of 7.92mm for their faster firing MG42s plus 60 rds of 7.92mm per rifleman and 400 rds of 9mm for MP40s and pistols. Remarkably similar loads for 1944 with perhaps the Germans more optimised for the defence.

Although many of the photos are clearly staged there are still some gems – my favourite is one of 8th Army troops in Sicily injecting oranges with gin (!) Other factoids include the startling fact that the British and Canadians suffered a higher daily casualty rate in Normandy than they had at Passchendaele and that the Russian DP-27 LMG was known as a ‘proigryvatel’ or record player due to its distinctive flat pan magazine. The written content is thoughtful and analytical throughout and the book is worth the price for its analysis of the US Army’s appalling combat casualty replacement system alone with some dreadful tales from the Hurtgen Forest.

Overall, an excellent book for either the casual reader of serious student and fully deserving of 5 mushroom heads.

Bravo to George Forty’s boys!

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