Normandy 1944, The Battle of the Hedgerows...
...more Images of War from Pen and Sword
Title: Normandy 1944, The Battle of the Hedgerows
Author: Simon Forty
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Another addition to the Images of War series from author Simon Forty. This one tackles the topic of the Battle of the Hedgerows, which is largely about the fighting of the American forces on the Western side of the Normandy battlefields, and just one small section looking at the British forces and their experience of engagements amidst the Bocage. With a subject such as the Battle of Normandy in 1944 it is a struggle to find more new photos. So, there are a number of pictures that will be familiar to many who have read other works on the period, but still a high percentage of the images featured in the book were new to me.
It does well in the aim of indicating what life was like for the combat soldier in Normandy. The confined countryside led to combat at close quarters, and the French villages that were so often devastated by the fighting. Despite heavy casualties on D-Day in the subsequent weeks of fighting, the US troops did learn to adapt to the conditions they found themselves in. A good example was the field modification of adding the so-called Cullin Hedgerow device, prongs welded to the front of a tank to dig into the banks of the hedges, letting the weight of the tank 'push' through it, rather than riding up over the top and thereby exposing the thinly armoured bottom plate to enemy anti-tank weapons.
Following an Introduction, the photos are split onto 7 chapters, each with some explanatory text, maps and well informed captions for the pictures themselves. The chapters cover The Bocage; The Opposing Forces (which includes the US Order of Battle); Advance from Omaha; The Cotentin; The July Offensive; The Battle of St. Lo; while the final chapter looks at British Actions in the Bocage, which does include the famous action in Villers Bocage that involved Michael Wittman. The photos featured in the book cover a good range of different things, from the basic countryside, the troops in the front line and rear areas as well as the various tanks, artillery, and weaponry used by both sides along with the towns and villages and the extensive damage they suffered. The German army managed to delay the allies for many weeks, and proved very able to use the countryside to their best advantage and to inflict heavy casualties, although ultimately they suffered hugely themselves before they had to fall back.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.