The Battle for the Maginot Line 1940...


...from Pen and Sword


Title: The Battle for the Maginot Line 1940

Author: Clayton Donnell

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47387-728-3

The Maginot Line is perhaps one of the most famous defence lines in military history, and largely for being so quickly defeated in the German Blitzkrieg in 1940.  I have had an interest in it for many years.  I think I'd be fair in saying the Maginot has a general reputation for being a failure but of course there is a lot more to the story than that, and that story is well told in this new book.

The book consists of 23 chapters, and these are divided across 6 sections to tell the story.  Part I looks at the Development and Initial Deployment, 1919 to May 1940 which includes a description of the various sectors of the line as they were in 1940.  Part II details the Initial German Attacks, 10 May to 12 June 1940, dealing with how the Germans faced the line, the collapse of parts and the battles they had.  Part III is Abandonment and Breakthrough, 12-16 June 1940.  This is contrasted with section IV, The Alps - French Victory, 10-25 June 1940, when attacks by Mussolini's Italian forces were repelled in the southern sector.  Section V deals with The Final Battles, 17-25 June 1940.  It is rounded off by section VI, the Aftermath and Conclusions, July 1940 to Present.

It does include descriptions of the structure of the line, the economics of cost etc.  When it was put to the test in 1940 the combat experience varied from one site to another while tactics also played a part.  Forces were deployed in front of the line and when forced back were not strong enough to actually man the defences and slow communications brought confusion to events.  It tells us how it felt to be inside the fortifications compared to how it felt to be the attacker.  Devastation on the exterior surface was countered by interiors that remained largely untouched, which came as a shock to the German attackers when they finally saw the inside.

Towards the end of the war the German army could use some parts of it to hold up the Allied advance into Germany, though it wasn't really orientated to face attacks from the West.  Even after the war, the French military continued to use parts of it within NATO, and beyond that many parts have been restored and opened up as museums/visitor attractions, as there remains a fascination for this famous defence line.

Lots of detail in here, not just of the physical nature of the defences, but particularly of the combat history of the line and the experiences of both the French and German opponents.  If you have an interest in the Maginot Line, I'd rate this as a book you will want to read.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.