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Normandy: Hill 112: The Battle of the Odon (Battleground Europe) Kindle Edition
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About the Author
- ASIN : B00D2C551M
- Publisher : Pen & Sword Military (June 17, 2008)
- Publication date : June 17, 2008
- Language : English
- File size : 14720 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 399 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #749,750 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The opening chapter of this work feels like a complete rehash of Major How's `Hill 112: Cornerstone of the Normandy Campaign'. While there may not be infinite ways to describe military actions or an endless supply of personal testimony to draw upon, this chapter does feel like a reproduction of an earlier work down to the way the text is worded, photographs used, and quotes employed.
However, the book comes into its own from chapter two onwards. The main weight of the book focuses is on the two-day long Operation Jupiter. Detailed information is provided supported by maps showing the various battalion positions and their movements. The narrative moves in a logical fashion presenting the various phases of the battle and the back and forth fighting resulting in stalemate across the front both sides having exhausted themselves, but at the same time a British strategic success. Saunders does not show any bias, presenting information from both sides although the text does seem weighted towards the British. Plenty of personal testimony is on offer that enriches the text and provides first-hand accounts to the horror of war. During this Saunders provides his own critique of the assessment in the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division's divisional history against one of the battalions in action but also tosses in, an out of place and poorly formed opinion on Operation Goodwood. At one point Saunders states that the Wessex's commander decided to launch a renewed assault to take the hill towards the end of the operation, then attempts to balance the issue with the words of the armoured brigade commander who refused to launch his armour over the top of the hill without the reverse position being in the hands of the British infantry; Saunders then tells the reader they should form their own opinion on whether or not the commanding officer had issued the correct order for the infantry to attack. At the end of the day the reader should always form their own opinion on what has been read, but since Saunders is the historian (and an ex-military officer) he should make his opinion fully known and not produce a cop-out such as this.
The penultimate chapter deals in brief with the fighting that followed Jupiter. These operations take us to the peaceful chapter of the hill when it finally lost its strategic significance. The final chapter, along with the opening pages, provide useful battlefield touring information, where to purchase maps, how to get to Normandy from the UK, and what to expect once in Normandy.
Throughout the section on Operation Jupiter the same problem remains as noted at the beginning of this review: so many of the quotes used, feel like they have been seen before in their entirety. Surely there is other personal testimony to use or other ways of presenting it? Maps, while of excellent quality, appear to be period intelligence maps with thrust lines and other information added on top by the author/publisher, they are overloaded with information and no keys are provided; at points they can be as frustrating as much as they are helpful. Another niggling flaw in the work is the continued accusation by Saunders that the British hand held anti-tank weapon, the PIAT, was unreliable and useless, yet he provides numerous quotes of the exact opposite nature of British infantrymen using the weapon to drive off German armoured attacks and to knock out tanks. I have read numerous other accounts, and books, that put Saunders accusations into doubt as well. A major problem throughout the entire work is that no footnotes are provided, the source of quotes is not given, the source of information is not provided, nor is the source for even the photographs (bar a flimsy acknowledgement at the beginning of the book to "other sources"); for a historical work this is a serious critical omission, it loses credibility somewhat as readers or other historians cannot check for themselves the information provided nor find the sources used for their own reference. As with older works, this book first being published in 2001, the author was unable to engage or reap the benefits of works such as John Buckley's `British Armour in Normandy', thus some of the comments pointed towards the tanks of both sides feels a little off. Due to these points, I cannot rate the work as high as the other reviewers.
To summarise, there is a lot of detail here on Operation Jupiter however I feel that Major How's work on Hill 112 outshines Saunders'. However Saunders does provide more information on what happened after Jupiter, in this sense both works complement one another but I prefer the former over the latter as the guide to the fighting on the hill due to the writing style.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a review of the book “Hill 112 Battles of the Odon-1944” by Tim saunders. It is part of the Battleground Europe series published by Pen and Sword in 2000.
Hill 112 is a low hill almost imperceptibly standing above the open arable land around the city of Caen. Far less well known than the D-day landings or the more, perhaps, glamorous airbourne operations, the ferocious and bloody battles around Caen were hugely important in terms of the overall allied invasion strategy. They also arguably represent the last time the SS fought in such strength (the Germans being completely and exhausted by the time of the Ardennes offensive). The June and July battles around Tilly Sur Seulles, Carpiquet, Hill 112, Rots, etc are rapidly falling from both living and cultural memory and it is scant testimony to the appalling losses that so few books are written on this aspect of the liberation of Europe. That you are reading this review suggests that unless you have a family connection to the battle, you have more than just a general interest in the battle of Normandy. However Tim Saunders is good enough of a writer that the book will be a vivid and compelling read even for the general reader.
Tim Saunders sets the battles in their strategic and tactical context well, and places them in the general time frame of the Normandy campaign. He also does a fine job of demonstrating the effect of the battle on both the German and British ability to fight and the strategic outcomes of the battles.
The book is arranged chronographically with sections on travel to the France and directions for a battlefield tour bookmarking the description of the battle. The book is clearly and concisely written and does a fine job presenting personal accounts while not getting overwhelmed by military details. The battles themselves were absolutely ferocious... people getting set on fire, battalions being destroyed....entire companies being cut off and wiped out....heading up into tiger tanks and getting destroyed.... officers with walking sticks..... limbless men being evacuated in wheelbarrows ….ceaseless SS counter attacks.... an officer nearly decapitated with an MG42. In the midst of this carnage was a hugely impressive level of professionalism and tactical excellence by both the British and German forces. Neither side missed a beat and with the full range of modern weaponry at their disposal losses were of course dreadful. One is humbled by the understated bravery of the British tanker going forward to face the deadly and German Tiger and Panther tanks, or the German SS Mann facing down such overwhelming material superiority. The book features an impressive collection of photos and period maps. The photos are also mostly relevant to the action which is a rarity in WW2 books.
My copy is about an A5 size, while this works fine for the text it makes maps quite hard to use, and though the author has used period maps I would have welcomed the addition or a modern map or two to orient myself on the ground. I would also have liked more detail on the included maps. That said the use of aerial photographs, period and contemporary pictures will be of huge benefit to the modern reader/visitor. I would also have appreciated pauses in the narrative to reorientate myself, I would have also liked graphic depictions of troop positions, losses and so on at the end of significant periods, 5th Dorset's retreat from Maltot for example. A bibliography or “further reading” section would also be useful.
This is a fine well balanced piece of military history which neatly strikes a balance between drama and detail. I highly recommend the book to those interested in WW2 and the Normandy Battles. I have visited the site in Normandy and it is a large and poorly signed area especially compared to the D and J day sites, this book would have greatly enriched the experience and in fact I would say it is invaluable to getting the most out of one's stay.
I will certainly look to buy more books in this series.
1. Too much focus on naming every unit in long lists that no one will remember, put it in the notes and keep the flow.
2. This was about a long battle with huge resources thrown at it, yet it felt like it was over in a matter of a couple of days in little more than a sideshow.
3. Having read the books D-day through German eyes, the perception of overwhelming and terrifying force through combined naval, army and air force is clear and there is no doubt about the victory of the allies. This book focuses too much on purely the army angle and misses the impact of combined operations.
4. Too heavily sanitised. Misses the horror and brutality that the above books communicate very clearly.
5. In the kindle version, many photographs are not in sequence and so not related to the particular events (especially at the beginning). Photos of people who were not that noteworthy, too many pictures of generic soldiers walking through corn fields.
6. Travel advice on how to get there which presumably was largely out of date as soon as it was printed.
As a conclusion, too much focus on being comprehensive at the cost of being very boring.