- William F. Buckingham
- ARRSE Rating
- 4 Mushroom Heads
Buckingham knows his business and given that he lectures in history at the University of Glasgow, I’d expect him to! He has retold the Arnhem story (which has been told many times and this is my third review on an Arnhem history) impressively, drawing together numerous sources from both sides of the battle which provide a fascinating depiction of the planning and the fighting. I’m not going to recount them here as the story itself has been told many times. The major elements of the story are clearly explained from the conceptual elements of why the British selected their drop zones so far from their objectives to the micro-tactical view of soldiers fighting in and around the bridges and surrounding actions.
He has explained the operation firstly in its context of the situation in 1944 and the number of cancelled airborne operations then moving into the planning and execution in a day-by-day manner. This approach works well and allows you to keep up with and compare the actions of the British ground forces, the Allied airborne forces and the German attempts to stop them. Buckingham is honest in his opinions and is certainly not a fan of the British airborne chain of command; it does get to the point where I was looking for any positive comment about them which became slightly frustrating.
I sense that the editor could have done a better job. There’s almost 500 pages of text (the book makes a pretty impressive thump if you drop it on a table) which was a bit imposing and the author’s style lends itself to big paragraphs which adds to the sense that this is a big book that will take time to get through. If you then throw in a small font that makes it physically hard to read (I thought my glasses were the wrong prescription when I first opened it up) and it can all be a little bit frustrating.
Additionally, given the level of detail that the author has provided bout the terrain, the maps are quite simplistic and don’t add as much value as they could. A simple timeline in an annex could have provided a clear picture of the timings that Buckingham provides (there is an impressive explanation of how fast the Americans were to clear their drop zones when compared to the British); unfortunately, most timings are buried in the text which makes it less clear to pick up.
This is a good book, make no mistake; it’s detailed, well-researched and well-written. It provides a comprehensive overview with some fascinating levels of detail within it. Despite my view that it has some flaws, it’s a good read and I do recommend it.