Doomed From The Start Volume 2

Doomed From The Start Volume 2

Niall Cherry
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
Doomed Before The Start is a two-volume series that looks at the Norwegian Campaign in 1940 and is well-named. The author, Niall Cherry, makes a strong case that the Allied intervention in Norway could not have succeeded, no matter how well the troops fought. Unfortunately, only one volume was offered for review: Volume 2 – Evacuation and Further Naval Operations. This was a shame as there are frequent references to operations that are described in Volume 1; Cherry provides a brief précis of Volume 1 at the beginning of this volume but it would have been good to read both books!

The author knows his stuff when it comes to the campaign. This volume covers the evacuation of Allied troops from Norway and the subsequent naval operations, including the sinking of the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and her escorts. A fantastic amount of detail is provided, and much of this is sensibly placed in Annexes (which run from A to X) so as not to disrupt the narrative. That said, Cherry frequently places large amounts of detail into the main text itself: this sometimes adds significant value such as why deployment was difficult (each soldier being issued three kitbags of winter equipment didn’t help), the confusion in the War Office as to the aims of the operation, possible reasons as to why Glorious was not supported in her final action and the difficulties in liaison between British, French and Norwegian troops. Unfortunately, the detail sometimes breaks the accounts up and disrupts the flow somewhat which can be somewhat frustrating.

My knowledge of Norwegian geography is sadly lacking and I am the only one to blame for this. The author more than makes up for this, especially in his detailed descriptions of the various operations conducted by the Allies. The great shame is that this was crying out for detailed maps; some maps are included but these are of historical interest, often being taken from contemporaneous Water Diaries or Official Reports immediately after the fighting. These are fascinating but often lack geographical detail and thus don’t bring the narrative to life as well as they could. The fact that the map from the German report into the sinking of the Glorious adds significant colour to the story; the fact that it has not been translated reduces its value.

This book definitely filled gaps in my knowledge; the Norwegian Campaign is often overshadowed by the subsequent, and perhaps more dramatic and closer-to-home, Battle of France. Cherry does a good job of bringing the fighting to life and this book is definitely better for those wanting a deeper dive into the campaign and adding detail to existing knowledge. For that alone, I can recommend it to readers but my strong advice is to read Volumes 1 and 2, the way the author meant them to be read.
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