Monty's Northern Legions

Monty's Northern Legions

ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Patrick Delaforce is the author of 47 non-fiction books: biographies, travel, wine, and more recently, military history. They have been published in 9 countries; his books on Churchill and Hitler in Russia. A World War 2 veteran, he served with the Honourable Artillery Company; was wounded twice and was awarded two individual Mentions in Despatched. He was a Port wine shipper in Portugal, lived in France where he wrote travel books, headed an advertising company in the USA and now lived in Brighton until his death last year at the age of 94. Each year about 5 of his books are re-printed by Pen and Sword. Among his works are:
Monty's Highlanders - The 51st Highland Division
The Black Bull - 79th Armoured Division
The Polar Bears - 49th Infantry Division
Marching to the sound of Gunfire.
The fighting Wessex Wyverns - 43rd Wessex Division
Red Crown and Dragon - 53rd Welsh Division.

Delaforce was a soldier and he writes as one, using first-hand knowledge and that gleaned from former comrades and enemy alike. His style is similar to that of a field officer at a briefing. He gives the objective, the forces available and the start time and location.

This excellent book tells of the strengths and weaknesses of one of the most experienced Divisions (50th) and the blooding of one of the so-called "Virgin" formations (15th).

Divided into two halves, part one deals with 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, also known as the Tyne Tees Division, from it's Divisional insignia of two overlayed red T's on a black square. The division proudly claims to have been the last to leave Dunkirk and was selected by Montgomery to be one of the first units to land on D-Day. In between, the 50th saw action in the Desert, culminating in success at El-Alamein; then proceeding north to Sicily as part of Operation Husky.

Part two of the book covers the "Steel Division", 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. This was a division that had served well during WW1, it was a TA division at the start of WWII and remained in England for the first four years of WWII, first as "Higher Establishment" but then downgraded to "Lower Establishment" once the threat of invasion had passed. The division was bled dry of it's Officers and men, being used to provide battle replacements. This changed in April when once again the division was upgraded to "Higher Establishment" in preparation for the invasion of Europe.

15 Division fought in all the major operations of D-Day and beyond. From Epsom, to Jupiter and Green line in July 1944. From there, they participated in operation Bluecoat, suffering over 1500 killed! After rest and re-inforcement, the Division was again at the fore in Northern France and Belgium, the Gheel bridgehead and the assaults on the Escault and Junction canals. After much needed rest, the Division moved into Holland, fighting bitter battles with the SS Hitler Youth and remnants of other SS Panzer units. The fighting was brutal, often hand-to-hand, or fought against fanatical snipers. When 15 Division finally stopped, they had marched from Normandy, through Belgium and Holland before crossing the Rhine and the Elbe and finally stopping at the Baltic. Other unit commanders nicknamed 15 Division "The Crossing Sweepers" due to the amount of river and canal crossings they successfully assaulted. They left over 11,000 of their comrades on European soil but distinguished themselves to the extent that statues to their bravery were erected in seven French and Belgian towns. The 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was disbanded in 1946.

Delaforce leaves nothing out and this really is a warts and all story of two of Britain's finest infantry divisions. Both of their stories are gripping, heroic and tragic and more deserves to be told about these and other WWII Divisions.

Excellent history with some equally good eye-witness accounts from fellow-soldiers on the spot.

Highly recommended to any historian, with good maps and photos for the modeller.

Rating: A very good 4 out of 5

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