Author
John Russell
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
The forgotten battles of the British Second Army and Armeegruppe Blumentritt April 1945

Unless you are a Student of History, or perhaps have served in one of the Regiments named in this book, then the vast majority of people tend to think of the Liberation of Europe starting with the D Day landings in Europe, the Fierce fighting in the Falaise Gap, the total annihilation of Caen to clear the hardened pockets of troops, followed by a steady push northwards, with the failures of Market Garden, and the Freezing Winter months of Bastogne to delay the end , after this a race to Germany

But for many of the fighting men the battles were about to become worse, far worse, in spite of Monty's assurances to his men, that they would encounter nothing more than boys, old men, and wet nurses, the troops soon found otherwise, they had to fight for every inch of the land, so where did this tough resilient and well armed German fighting force appear from? John Russell takes the reader through the entire campaign, and from much diligent research, he illustrates how the Germans brought back young Naval officers and men, whose ships and submarines were either damaged or unfinished, stripping them of their weapons, and forming them in very short time into a disciplined cohesive fighting force, along with soldiers who had lost their units, recovered from injuries, and young boys, keen to avenge the attacks on their homeland, the sheer amount of weapons supplied, even at a time when the war was near its end, took our Army by surprise, issued with a seemingly endless supply of Panzerfausts, and with snipers to delay the troops, the toll on armoured and soft skin vehicles was immense, whereas in most cases our troops firing the PIAT at German armour merely scratched the paint, and as the author shows, German tank crews baled out, only to find minimal damage and returned to their tanks and harried our armoured columns once again. Also recorded by the author are the suicide missions flown by young pilots against the American bomber stream, using the Jet aircraft to harry the fighter escort, while the piston engined planes attempted to shear off wings and control surfaces; our high command knew of this via Enigma, but to prevent a fall in morale it was wisely hushed up.

By far the worst problem our troops faced was the boggy ground, forests where the German troops could vanish, and rivers, with bridges easily blown, along with home made roadside bombs

There were so many individual actions over a wide area, that the author has sensibly broken each battle down into separate chapters, and takes you through it from the point of view of both sides; his experience gained while serving in the area, along with the hundreds of high quality images he took back then, combined with period images and official reports, and highly accurate maps allow the reader to clearly understand the progress and the sheer doggedness of the German fighting men.

For those who have served in Germany, they will recognise many of these places, and it will bring to life the bravery of their ancestors in tearing a path through a hardened well disciplined and well armed opposition, a great many of whom now lay in their own soil

This superb, informative and well researched volume runs to some 500 pages, and will reward anybody purchasing it by the immense amount of knowledge, personal histories and oral histories there recounted.

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Joshua Slocum
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