Arras Counter Attack 1940...
...from Pen and Sword
Title: Arras Counter Attack 1940
Author: Tim Saunders
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Arras is a town in the Pas de Calais which found itself in the heart of the action in WW1, and a few short years later, embroiled in another war with Germany, as they launched their Blitzkrieg in 1940. It held a vital position as a major hub for the road network in the region.
The book starts providing the background, including the failure of the French armoured attack led by De Gaulle. It also introduces a number of the commanders on all sides and a selection of maps which illustrate the plans and situations. Then we get the details of the new plan and the units which would be involved with the different elements of it. The armoured units were to advance in two columns around the North of Arras, from East to West. What they were unsure of was exactly how far the German units had advanced, and they bumped into the flank of the advancing German units. Tanks such as the Mk VI Light Tank were vulnerable while the Matilda I, though only armed with a machine gun, and the Matilda II with its' 2pdr were heavily armoured and the standard German 37mm anti-tank rounds bounced off. The German units, nervous of being cut-off, needed to be rallied and we see how Rommel managed to do that by being there, on the ground, plus the infamous Halt Order. The British units were beaten back and the story is rounded off with the results of the combat and of course leading to the evacuation. What is really interesting, amidst the detail of what happened, are the large number of personal accounts that are included throughout the book, all adding 'life' to the story, along with the archive photos and maps which illustrate the whole book. At the end of the book it includes a detailed Battlefield Tour, with navigation information and detail of what to look for, and where. Everything is then rounded off with 4 Appendices: First Army Tank Brigade Operation Order No6: The 7th Panzer Division Order of Battle: Analysis of the Operation: and The 'Arras Counter Attack' and the Halt Order.
In recent years that has been much published on the Arras area thanks to the WW1 centenary, and this gives a useful reminder that important events in WW2 occurred in the same area. With so much to see from both conflicts, the region has lots to offer the Battlefield visitor, and it is an easy car journey from the UK thanks to the Channel Tunnel. A very readable book as well as a good tour guide from Tim Saunders.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.