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Antony Beevor
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
This is (another) history of Operation Market Garden, the failed (and, as the author explains, doomed) attempt to cross the Rhine in late 1944. Antony Beevor goes into great depth and breadth to bring the story alive.

Much as I am a fan of Beevor, I have to say that this book did not add much more to the history of the fighting in Arnhem and the wider Market Garden area. He does a good job of telling the story and bringing alive, from every angle, the savagery, bravery, occasional chivalry, sometime dark humour and the difficulties encountered by both sides but other books, such as Cornelius Ryan’s classic A Bridge Too Far (despite the now-known errors) and Martin Middlebrook’s Arnhem 1944, are just as good at this, if not better. More maps would have helped as well; the ones that are provided are good but some areas of the narrative, especially the descriptions of the fighting in Nijmegen, needed a map to make to clearer to this simple reader.
Where the book does very well is in what might be called the beginning and the end of the operation: the planning and decision-making prior to the start and the effect on the Dutch people after the end. No-one at Corps-level and above comes out well from the description of the planning, be they American or British. Beevor pulls apart the logic behind the operation and makes it readily apparent that it is only when it gets to Divisional-level that planners, be they American, British or Polish, start to expose the flaws. With regards to the impact on the Dutch, who had seen the Allies as liberators and tried to help where they could, the destruction of the towns and villages coupled with the return of the Germans leads to forced evacuations and starvation. The author can only skim the surface of this topic, which deserves a book of its own by him, but he exposes the horrors and tragedies all too well.

Another area that is well covered is the treatment of Maj Gen Sosabowski, the commander of the Independent Polish Parachute Brigade. Experienced, intelligent and frequently right, he opposed the operation from the first and the perhaps needless sacrifice of his troops and others in subsequent operations to cross the Rhine. Other authors have described it and Beevor has added rich layer to this event, bringing home how poorly a brave, dedicated man was treated by his British chain of command for their own mistakes.

I do recommend for this book for more than just the beginning and the end! It’s quite possible that, having read a number of Beevor’s books before, that my expectations were too high but, with the exceptions note above, he just doesn’t add much more to the well-known story of Operation Market Garden. That said, this is a good book for people coming to the story for the first time and adds much to the initiation and impact so it does add value for those who are more familiar with the story.

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