Well the subtitle pretty much sums it up, this is a history of the 51st Highland Division from 1939 to 1945.
- Patrick Delaforce
There are various Scottish Divisions, but the most famous it undoubtedly the 51st with their distinctive HD logo which earned them the nick name Highway Decorators due to it's frequency of application during various advances. Other Scottish Divisions have existed, the 9th Scottish, the 15th Scottish, the 52nd Lowland as well as various Brigades over the years but this book goes some way to explaining how the 51st cemented its claim to be the prime Scottish Division during World War 2.
The 51st started the war as part of the BEF and rather than being evacuated at Dunkirk were captured pretty much en masse at St. Valery. The author ignores any of the controversy that has surrounded that event by sticking to the facts of the various deployments of the individual units.
This is a theme through the book as the text follows the rebuilding of the division and then its subsequent deployments, firstly to North Africa, then Sicily before makings its way to Germany by way of France, Holland and Belgium. After their success during the battle of El Alamein, they became a favourite of Montgomery. It was due to Monty's liking of the 51st that led them to being in the forefront of many of his subsequent campaigns. As such, their fame was assured as there were often in the headlines as they were seen as an aggressive hard fighting division.
The author does every unit of the Division justice in his text, not just concentrating upon the infantry battalions but giving equal emphasis to the Gunners and Sappers as well as the various armoured units who worked within the Division. I would have perhaps like to see a wee bit more on the Field Ambulances but that's probably just my own personal bias.
Overall it is a very detailed book but has it has a lot to cover both in terms of personnel and the time frame. It is well illustrated throughout with plenty of contemporary photos within the text. The maps however are few and far between and to me don't always coincide directly with the accompanying writing.
This book will appeal to anybody with an interest in either World War 2 or Scottish military history. It is a comprehensive account of one Division's travels throughout the war and what a journey it was!
I give it 4 Mr Mushroomheads.
This is a re-release of a book originally published in 1997 and whilst the Sword and Pen Paperback comes in at £12.99, you can buy it on Kindle for £0.95, a bargain at that price.