- Dr Stephen Hart and Dr Russell Hart
- ARRSE Rating
- 4 Mushroom Heads
As the editors (for some reason that is not explained they chose not to refer to themselves as authors) are at pains to state, the term “Blitzkrieg” is one invented by the British Press, not the German Wehrmacht. It therefore is meaningless and, in particular, does not refer to a military technique. They then describe the astonishing period from 1939 to 1940, in which the Germans conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
The narrative is chronological, largely describing the military evolutions at divisional level and above. They make the relevant points clearly; few of the German tanks were the mark III or (even fewer) the mark IV, French tanks were generally more capable and certainly more numerous, the Germans had no more than ten panzer divisions – most of their army marched. The allies performed poorly at pretty much every level, albeit with some well led companies and battalions standing firm.
At times they draw attention to the sheer brilliance of German Staff work – the switch from the drive west to the English Channel to driving south and southeast to conquer (not occupy) the rest of France while simultaneously reorganizing the armour – draws praise. They make the point that the Norway campaign effectively destroyed the Kriegsmarine as a credible surface fighting force, suggesting that in itself rendered an invasion of the UK almost impossible. They comment on the improving integration of the Luftwaffe with ground forces and highlight the losses that the German airborne operations in Holland, Denmark and Norway took, particularly in the numbers of Ju52 aircraft destroyed.
The book is lavishly illustrated with excellent mapping. It has some photos, although not all of quality and – a novelty to me – some artists near photo real recreations of parts of actions. I still don’t know how effective these are, or indeed how accurate, but they’re definitely worth a couple of hundred words.
The disappointment is the lack of analysis; how did the Wehrmacht (in particular) manage to perform so well. How did it consistently deliver shock action, despite being out gunned and often outnumbered? How did the British manage to perform so badly, so often? If the Kriegsmarine could not invade the UK why did we have an invasion panic (particularly after we sank the French fleet)?
Maybe I’m being greedy, but the editors are both professors of military history, one at Sandhurst. They could have done so much more.