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The Battle For Norway 1940 – 1942

The Battle For Norway 1940 – 1942

John Grehan & Martin Mace
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
‘The unabridged official despatches from Admirals William Boyle and John Tovey.
Military operations in northern Norway under Lt. Gen. H.R.S. Massy. Detailed reports on the first and second battles of Narvik. Accounts of the raids upon Vaagso Island and the Lofoten Islands’.

Firstly, let me say that this isn’t a book written by a historian, more it’s a book published for people who wish to delve into history and read the first-hand despatches from leaders sent to the War Office and the Admiralty.

There is the occasional minutiae – mainly in the Naval despatches, which are a fascinating read, some almost reading like a novel. The land forces despatches are almost exclusively relating to thoughts, plans, scenarios (and in the case of Lt.Gen. Massy’s despatch from 1946, includes a thorough potted timeline of events together with ‘lessons learned’) and covers the change in disposition due to the German invasion of France & the Low Countries all the way through to the successful withdrawal of all allied forces (approx. 24,000) once it became clear that Massy’s prophesy that the campaign was doomed without air superiority was coming to fruition.

One of the things that struck me was how markedly different the despatches are between services, where inter-service operations are mounted, there is careful mention of the cooperation, understanding & respect between them – it maybe a generational thing but I suspect more due to the different cultures and traditions of each service.

With the exception of the above mentioned despatch from Lt. Gen. Massy, all the other despatches are from Naval officers, with the land force reports as appendices – even those from Lt. Gen. Auchinleck. I must admit it caused a smile to see his ‘shopping list’ of land forces required - which of course was severely curtailed by events in the Low Countries.

There are sixteen photo’s and illustrations, I think there could have been a few maps added to aid the understanding of the area of operations – particularly around the Narvik area, I found it helpful to have the disposition and movement images from open on my laptop whilst reading the engagement reports.

With a book such as this – relatively slim at 170 pages for such a ‘busy’ time, there must have been a temptation to include some ‘lower level’ battle reports etc. I’m pleased there isn’t in a way, as interesting as they would be, I feel it would have muddied the narrative. Overall, I feel that I learned more about the allied priorities, approach to war and the inter-service cooperation than I did about the Battle For Norway. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of detail there about it, far from it, but reading the despatches gives a broader understanding of how the war in general was prosecuted.

A very informative book, one that I will continue to refer to in the years ahead, only the lack of maps of the operational areas prevents a higher score – 4.0 out of 5.0 mushroom heads.


The book is part of the ‘Despatches from the front’ series published by Pen & Sword

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