Second World War Books

The Dunkirk Perimeter and Evacuation

The Dunkirk Perimeter and Evacuation

Jerry Murland

The latest in a series of eight Battleground Europe books that deals with the British Expeditionary Force's campaign in France and Flanders in 1940, this book covers the fierce fighting around the Dunkirk Perimeter during May and June 1940 between the retreating BEF, its French allies and the advancing Germans. It covers the area that most people in Britain associate with the fighting in France in 1940, fighting that could have resulted in the destruction of the BEF. However, a catastrophic military disaster, which could have been much worse, was avoided by the evacuation and this grievous military setback was transformed into a morale boosting symbol of the resilience of the British against a Germany that had crushed so many nations in a matter of weeks.

With over 200 black and white photographs and fourteen maps, this book covers in some detail the actions that took place around Dunkirk and Nieuport and the desperate struggle to prevent the seemingly unstoppable advance of the German Army. The evacuation of the BEF from the beaches east of Dunkirk is covered in detail from the perspective of the Royal Navy and from the standpoint of the soldier on the beaches.

Within the book are three tours, 2 driving and one walking tour. The first of the driving tours covers the whole of the Dunkirk perimeter while the second covers the Ramsgate and Dover area. The walking tour is centred around De Panne and takes those following it along the beach that saw so much of the evacuation, and into the back areas of the town where the Germans left their mark when clearing up after the British had gone.

This is an excellent companion for anyone wishing to visit the Dunkirk area.


The Germans in Normandy

The Germans in Normandy

Richard Hargreaves

The Allied Invasion of Europe was the greatest seaborne invasion the world has ever known and is usually told from the perspective of the victors. In this book Richard Hargreaves looks at the D-Day Invasion and Battle of Normandy from the other side and provides an account from the German perspective.

It begins with the German military preparations for the invasion. While they knew an invasion was inevitable, they didn’t know where or when it would come. Those manning Hitler’s mighty Atlantic Wall may have felt secure in their bunkers but they had no idea about the scale or scope that the invasion would take and the ferocity of the fighting that would follow.

It discusses the initial landings and the confusion that surrounded the first hours of the invasion, when the Allied parachute divisions jumped into France and the seaborne forces came ashore on the beaches. The establishment of the Allied bridgehead and the stalemate followed. How the Germans fought with great courage hindered by lack of supplies and overwhelming Allied control of the air. Their final collapse as the Allies finally broke out from the beachhead with Patton’s Third Army in the west. The entrapment of the German Seventh Army between the pincers of the Americans advancing from the west and Montgomery’s forces advancing remorseless from the north against on the hard-pressed defenders. The closing of the Falaise Gap which became the graveyard of German men and equipment.

Many will have read accounts from the Allied perspective and seen movies like ‘The Longest Day’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’. In this book you can read the reactions of the Germans, in their own words, and not those that an author or a screenwriter ascribes to them to enhance their story.

This is an excellent read for anyone thinking about visiting the D-Day Beaches and Normandy area.


Telegraph - The D-Day Landings

The Telegraph
The D-Day Landings

Philip Warner

Seventy-five years have passed since that most mighty of armadas embarked across the English Channel. With hindsight, we know that Operation OVERLORD was a resounding triumph but, at the time, the risks and stakes were immense and the outcome far from a foregone conclusion. Set against the invading force was not only a ruthless enemy in formidable defensive positions but the uncertainties of the elements.

As Bill Deedes points out in his Foreword, it was the ‘ordinary man’ who turned this great undertaking into a reality and Philip Warner’s The D Day Landings reflects this by being a rich collection of personal accounts by just such individuals. We hear the experiences of RAF pilots who dropped the parachutists and towed the gliders; of sailors of the Royal Navy who had to negotiate minefields and other obstacles; and of a wide spectrum of soldiers. Some such as infantry, tank crews, gunners and sappers came face-to-face with the enemy while others, for example doctors and chaplains, provided vital support. Hostile fire does not distinguish between those roles any more than it does between high and junior rank. It is a fascinating privilege to share these widely diverse individuals’ experiences and emotions at such a defining moment both in their lives and in the history of the world.

Today no matter how hard we try, we cannot really know what was really going on through the minds of those thousands of men who so selflessly stepped into the unknown in the pursuit of freedom. But we are unlikely to come closer than by reading this evocative book so sympathetically compiled by a man who knew the fortunes of war better than most. Each section is introduced by clear explanation of the action concerned and the text is enhanced by maps and photographs.

This is an excellent read for anyone thinking about visiting the D-Day Beaches and Normandy area.


Arras Counter-Attack 1940

Arras Counter-Attack 1940

Tim Saunders

On 21 May 1940 during the ill-fated Dunkirk Campaign the British launched an operation spearheaded by two tank regiments to help secure the city of Arras. This was the only significant armoured operation mounted by the British during the campaign.

Poorly coordinated and starting badly the Matilda tanks ran into the flanks of Rommel's over extended 7th Panzer Division. With the German anti-tank guns, unable to penetrate the armour of the British tanks, Rommel's infantry fell into chaos as the Matildas plunged deep into their flank. The Germans were machinegunned and started to surrendered in large numbers but with the British infantry lagging well behind, fighting their own battles in the villages, there was no one to round them up.

Into this scene of chaos entered Rommel whose personal leadership and example started to steady his troops and organise an effective response, despite being spattered with the brains of his aide de camp. This was classic Rommel but in the aftermath, he claimed to have been attacked by five divisions.

The Arras counter-attack contributed to Hitler issuing the famous 'halt order' to his panzers that arguably did much to allow the British Army to withdraw to Dunkirk and escape total destruction.


Cover Up at Pointe Du Hoc

Allied Intelligence and the Cover Up at Pointe Du Hoc

Gary Sterne

Volume 1 of this two-part work puts the reader firmly into the footsteps of the 2nd and 5th Rangers as they arrive in England in 1943. It follows them during their intensive training with the Commandos and the Royal Navy as they head towards D-Day – including cliff climbing, assault landings and the Slapton Sands 'dress rehearsal'.

The orders given to the Rangers, along with dozens of aerial reconnaissance photographs of Omaha Beach, Pointe et Raz de la Percée, Pointe du Hoc and Maisy – as well as French Resistance reports – detail the information given to the Rangers' commander Lt. Col. Rudder. Shown in chronological order and in their original format, many of the documents are still marked TOP SECRET and were only recently released after nearly 70 years.

The author fills in the gaps that many have only guessed at concerning the Rangers' real missions on D-Day, and in Volume 2 he explains why a battalion commander was removed whilst onboard ship prior to the landings, why the individual Rangers were not briefed on all of their D-Day objectives – as well as the extraordinary role that Lt. Col. Rudder played at Pointe du Hoc.

Described by US historians as 'one of the most detailed works about the D-Day Rangers ever written', this work is the culmination of four years of detailed research within the US Archives and backed up by evidence uncovered in Normandy. It is a real historical game-changer that pulls no punches as it challenges conventional studies of one of the most iconic battles of WWII.


D-Day - Cover Up at Pointe du Hoc

D-Day - Cover Up at Pointe du Hoc

Gary Sterne

Gary Sterne, a keen collector of militaria and co-founder of The Armourer and Skirmish Magazines, has always been fascinated by the D-Day landings. In particular he was intrigued by the lack of precise information relating to the mystery of the 'missing guns' of Pointe du Hoc.

His research led to the finding of a map which indicated the position of an 'unknown' German gun position buried in the village of Maisy. The re-discovery of the Maisy Batteries made headline news around the world and his best-selling book Cover Up at Omaha Beach subsequently changed the history of the Omaha sector and made many start to question the Rangers' Pointe du Hoc mission. The Maisy site is now one of the major Normandy D-Day attractions.

For the first time ever this follow-up book now offers complete Rangers history for the seven months prior to D-Day and does so using period documents, many of which have only recently been released from TOP SECRET status in US Archives. The author fills in the gaps that many have only guessed at concerning the Rangers' real missions on D-Day, he explains why a battalion commander was removed hours before the landings, why the Rangers were not briefed on their actual D-Day missions and the extraordinary role that Lt. Col. Rudder played at Pointe du Hoc. This book is a historical game-changer that pulls no punches.


Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge
Hitler's Final Gamble

Patrick Delaforce

By late 1944 the Allies were poised to smash the Siegfried Line and break into Germany. Supply lines were shorter thanks to the port of Antwerp. Arnhem aside, there had been a long run of victories and there was no intelligence even from ULTRA to suggest a German counter-offensive.

So the major December attack through the mountainous Ardennes by massed Panzers and infantry took the Allies totally by surprise. Fog and low cloud negated the Allies' air supremacy, English-speaking German commandos in captured jeeps created panic and withdrawal of US forces became a near rout with morale all but broken. For ten days the situation worsened and Antwerp was seriously threatened and 21st Army Group in danger of being cut off. Clear skies for the Thunderbolts and coherent counter-attacks by rapidly deployed reinforcements turned the tide in the nick of time, so preventing a catastrophic defeat for the Allies.

All this and more is graphically narrated in this fine study of a pivotal battle, that so nearly changed the course of war.


The War in Italy

The War in Italy 1943 - 1944

John Greham & Martin Mace

Despatches in this volume include that on the Conquest of Sicily from 10 July 1942 to 17 August 1943 by Field-Marshall Viscount Alexander of Tunis; the despatch on the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew B. Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean; despatch on naval operations in connection with the landings in the Gulf of Salerno in September 1943, by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew B. Cunningham; and the despatch on operations of the Allied Armies between September 1943 and December 1944, by Field Marshal the Viscount Alexander of Tunis.

This unique collection of original documents will prove to be an invaluable resource for historians, students and all those interested in what was one of the most significant periods in British military history.


Hitler's Atlantic Wall

Hitler's Atlantic Wall

Paul Williams

This highly informative book begins with an examination of the background to Germany's primary military objectives in relation to the western end of their self-styled 'Fortress Europe' including the early foundation of shore defences in northern France.

In 1941, there was a switch in emphasis of the Atlantic Wall's role from attack to defence. Beach defences became more elaborate and the Nazi-controlled Todt Organisation began a massive building programme constructing new bunkers and reinforcing existing sites, using forced labour.

Hitler appointed Rommel to formulate Germany's anti-invasion plans in early 1944. At the same time the Allies were making extensive studies of the fortifications and preparing for the challenge of overcoming this most formidable of obstacles.

Using, in many cases, previously unpublished accounts of the soldiers on the ground this book follows Britain's 79th Armoured Division, Sir Percy Hobart's 'Funnies', as they utilised their unique weaponry in support of Allied efforts to ensure the success of the invasion. The author draws on British, American, Canadian and German sources.


Always A Soldier

Always a Soldier But Never G.I.
A World War II Soldier's Personal Journey

Emmett T. Lang

The year was 1942 and the country was united in the fight against Germany and Japan. On the home front, all industry was mobilized for war, and the draft boards were collecting young men to join the armed forces. Emmett Lang, a naive 20-year-old, wanted to be a soldier. But even after scoring a nearly perfect score in the Army General Classification Test, he was sent to infantry basic training. Despite this inauspicious beginning, Lang decided he would do his duty and take every opportunity to make his service career as rewarding and enjoyable as possible.

This is the story of Lang's Army career, an honest account that includes letters home, divisional and regimental histories, and after-action reports - with a generous dose of humorous anecdotes. Always a Soldier But Never G.I. contains stories of the action on the front lines in Europe and Battle of the Bulge, and gives an insider's personal view of the life of a World War II soldier-the hardships, adventures, and sometimes the horrors - yet Lang's story is told with wit, humor, and a love of life that cannot be suppressed.

It is a firsthand account of the action during World War II; one that I thoroughly recommend to all those interested in this conflict.


Page last updated: 9th January 2020