- Rob Lofthouse
Preceding the Foreword is the D Day Statement of General Dwight D Eisenhower issued, as the Order of the Day, to all troops taking part in the invasion of Normandy on Tuesday 6th June, 1944 and the Foreword itself by Major Justin Featherstone MC briefly introduces both the author and what was happening at that time. The book itself is written as seen and experienced by a young soldier, Robbie Stokes, who only enlisted a short while before and this is to be the first time he has seen action.
In the Prologue Robbie and those of his platoon are introduced, together with a description of the equipment they have with them in the glider before being dropped close to Benouville in order to capture and hold the bridges across the Caen Canal and the Orne, both of which lie between Benouville and Ranville. Having provided this information, chapter one involves a flashback to the briefing, preparation, flight and landing (very close to the bridge across the canal).
The Operation to take, and hold, the bridges has been written about many times and has even been portrayed in film but this account of Robbie Stokes is that of a fairly raw recruit who, although keen and motivated, still needs to be told what to do at times. Robbie is a Bren gunner and from the outset, immediately after the landing, is involved in the effort to capture the bridge from the enemy. Once the bridge is secured and with the knowledge that the bridge over the Orne is also in our hands, preparations are made to repel any counter attack by the Germans to retake the bridges. While waiting, he was relatively surprised to see one of the wounded enemy being treated in the same manner as the attention given to his own comrades, something which triggers memories of his own brother. He is suddenly brought back to his senses as the counter attack starts and finds himself fighting alongside some of the paratroops who were dropped earlier.
The attack, which includes armour (tanks), is beaten off and much of the rest of the time is spent in pushing forward to the east through Ranville toward Herouvillette, preventing any further attacks until such time as the invasion forces arrive and finally relieve them. All this is described in detail from Robbie’s own point of view as a participant in the battle to hold the two bridges until relieved.
This is followed by a brief note explaining the part played by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry immediately after being relieved, together with an indication of the next book in this series. The final chapter is an overview of the invasion of Normandy, and the effect it had on Axis forces in Europe. It is possible this could have well been placed at the beginning of the book in order to highlight the personal experiences of one soldier as portrayed by the author.
The story as experienced by Robbie Stokes gives a good indication of warfare as experienced by one man during those times. It is fairly easy to read though there is a tendency to read the next bit to see what happens, before putting it down. As an e-book it was easy to read on a Kindle, and transferred well to a pdf document. However, transfer to a Word document left the whole thing with several font issues which took time to sort out. Definitely one for the Kindle.
I found the only thing to mar this book was the modern tendency to rewrite history, something which seems to happen a lot in books produced recently. Whether it is because of potential readers who have grown up under the influence of American media or attempts to appeal only to those who would approve, I feel it is wrong to introduce modern terms in books concerning the past. History, right or wrong, happened in the way it did and we should accept and learn from it rather than try to change it. For most, this might be of no consequence but, for me, it spoilt the flow of a good book.