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D Day: What we haven’t told you

Philippe Bauduin and Jean-Charles Stasi
Philippe Bauduin is of an age to have known what WW2 was like and, although he works at the Large Heavy Ion National Accelerator, his interest in the Allied landings in Normandy has led him to write a considerable number of books concerning the invasion and the equipment used by both sides. His co-author, Jean-Charles Stasi has also written a considerable number of books concerning WW2. Together they have now produced a book which is subdivided into short articles concerning different aspects of what happened in Normandy during 1944.

The Contents are to be found at the end of the book, on page 126, just before the Bibliography and Acknowledgements though the photographic sources are displayed and enumerated before anything else. Unusually, before the main Introduction, there is a Publisher’s Introduction at the beginning which points out that the real history was unlike that seen in a film of that period. It also questions as to whether the Germans really knew that the invasion would take place on 6th June and provides a couple of pages of anecdotes to suggest this together with references. The Introduction of the authors describes the invasion as both fascinating to many now and courageous to the participants then but points out that there are many aspects not really known to the general public. It is some of these lesser known facts the book intends to explain or attempt to provide an answer for.

There are some thirty nine articles of which approximately six are more about people such as Lily (Nathalie) Sergueiew who spied for both the Germans and the Allies as a double agent, Lionel (Buster) Crabb the diver, and the efforts of Alan Turing a mathematician whose work enabled enemy codes to be broken. There is also a one page snippet about the British Prime Minister’s flight in a German aircraft, one which had been previously captured by the Allies. Although the authors tend to give the impression that the information is detail which has not been previously discovered, several items were already known and their description of the code talkers somewhat masks the fact that such troops had already been used in the Great War of 1914-1918.

Most of the articles deal with items concerning the actual D-day invasion and events leading up to it, including the Allied disaster during Exercise Tiger off Slapton Sands when a rehearsal was attacked by German E-boats in early 1944. Another article describes the deployment of Force R, the troops who were dedicated to hoodwinking the Germans as far as Allied deployments were concerned. At times the authors present material in such a way they can ask if it really was true or are there other explanations and leaving certain instances and occurrences as questions.

Some articles give an insight into how troops of both sides fared, introducing information on the games played, music listened to (Lili Marleen popular with both sides), tins of self heating food and “instant” coffee and tea. There are even short items about things such as how mail (and sometimes beer) was transported by aircraft from UK, and the mystery of how some ten million fuel jerricans disappeared.

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Many, many other things are included and although some might find this book has a little too much showmanship about it, there are a lot of relatively obscure details concerning the invasion of Normandy. Such details can all be found in other books or on the internet but it is a good, interesting (and easy to read) book for those who do not know much of the invasion and just how much was involved. For younger, interested, readers it would certainly be worth putting it in a stocking or under a tree in a month or so.
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