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Cracking Hitler's Wall: The 1st Assault Brigade Engineers on D-Day [Hardcover]

Richard C. Anderson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2009
Landing with the British and Canadians in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers, a specialised armoured unit tasked with removing obstacles and mines from Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. To support this mission, the engineers modified their tanks with ingenious innovations, such as replacing the main gun with a giant mortar or attaching a steamroller-like device to flatten a path in the sand. In the early hours of D-Day, the brigade landed under fire, took serious casualties in some areas, but achieved many of its key objectives and cleared the way for the infantry.

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Cracking Hitler's Wall: The 1st Assault Brigade Engineers on D-Day + Hobart's 79th Armoured Division at War: Invention, Innovation and Inspiration
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books (1 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811705897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811705899
  • Product Dimensions: 25.9 x 20.8 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 244,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This is a valuable addition to the literature on the 79th Armoured Division, `Hobo's Funnies'. The division had a range of exotic vehicles, which were intended to help the allies ashore and through the German defences on D-Day (and were to do sterling service in the remainder of the NW Europe campaign). The 79th had such vehicles as Sherman Crabs, to deal with mines, Churchill Crocodile flamethrowers and Sherman DD swimming tanks. Richard Anderson's book focuses on the engineer tank, the Churchill AVRE, which was looked after by the 1st Assault Brigade, Royal Engineers, of the book's title. This tank carried various devices like bridges and fascines for bridging gaps and climbing seawalls, carpets to lay on soft sand, and a large mortar that fired a 40lb bomb. The AVREs accompanied the leading waves of British and Canadian troops ashore around H-Hour on D-Day with the tasks of helping to clear exits from the beach, deal with enemy defences and help clear obstacles. This is the story Richard Anderson tells.

This is the first book devoted to the 1st Assault Brigade since the brigade's own history was published in 1945, and as such it is greatly welcomed. The book has a good overview of the development of the Brigade and a useful summary of the development of the AVRE and its equipment. The role of Canadian Lt Denovan is given suitable prominence in the AVRE's history. There is a good discussion of the Allied plans and the forces assigned to each beach. Anderson is particularly effective on how the proliferation of obstacles, under Rommel's orders, affected Allied planning. There is a good chapter on the German defences that would be faced along the Normandy coast.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A excellent book, but ? 10 Mar 2012
This book is an excellent addition to the literature on the subject of Hobart and his funnies. However, that said it follows on from all other American accounts of of this issue in that it seeks to minimise the effect of the funnies on the British and Canadian beaches and continues the policy of all the American writers I have read in putting forward the view that using them on Omaha beach would have made very little difference to the terrible blood price the American's paid in getting ashore and breaking through the coastal defences. Right from the US War Department Historical Division's survey of September 1945 through to Stephen Ambrose's D-Day book in 1995 (we now know that Ambrose falsified his Biography of Eisenhower)there is a history of damning with faint praise and censorship by omission. The reason for this I suggest is that the conclusions which might be arrived at are both painful and also damaging to the reputations of those who rejected the use of the British specialist armour (General Bradley) for the assault on the beaches. The US army engineers (on foot under machine gun fire) trying to clear the beach of mines, the DD Sherman's struggling in the shingle in front of the sea wall, the problems in surmounting the sea wall and or forcing open the metal gates to the beach, and silencing the bunkers which rained fire down on the defencless US infantry in the open on the beach...all these problems would have been overcome by the specialist AVREs (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers). Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and interesting 18 May 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sometimes a specialist publication like this can throw unexpected light on a topic that a larger more general history would bypass. While this may seem to be a unit history - it illuminates the Breaching of the Atlantic wall and the development/use of specialised Armour excellantly. Even the more statistical listings reward repeated reading - although I admit I treated that section as a buffet to be visited at several different occasions, rather than all in one go. If specialist armour, specialist units and D Day are of interest to you - buy it. But it is not,however, an exhaustive technical/photographic record of 'Hobarts Funnies'.
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By RogerWG
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When an American writes a book about D-Day, you fear it is going to be US-biased, and less than well informed. Or so I thought. But this book is just what I wanted: detailed chapters describing action on each beach and each sector of each beach, highlighting experience of the crews of the 'Funnies', with many quotations from their official reports from the National Archives of both the UK and the US. There are a few line drawings (I wish there were more!) of the specialist AVRE tanks, and many excellent illustrations. The author explains just about all the abbreviations and jargon and clearly understands the British and Commonwealth armies of the day. The proof-reader (if there was one) did not excel, but this is a small price to pay for a book I shall treasure. I am well pleased. Can Mr Anderson now look at the often ignored DUKW of the RASC and the US Army? Please?
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