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The Cruel Victory [Hardcover]

Paddy Ashdown
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jun 2014

From the bestselling and prize-winning author of ‘A Brilliant Little Operation’ comes the long neglected D-Day story of the largest action by the French Resistance during WWII, published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

In early 1941, three separate groups of plotters – one military, one political, one intellectual – began to organise and plan on and around the forbidding mountainous plateau near Grenoble – the Vercors. The aims of the groups were the same: to hasten the departure of the German occupiers; to restore the pride of France after its fall and the humiliations of the puppet Vichy government which followed; and to build a new France. The overwhelming desire to get rid of the Germans would unite them. Their different views of the France they hoped for in the future would divide them.

Over the next three years these sparks of resistance would grow to challenge the might of the hated German occupiers. As the Allied troops stormed the D-Day beaches, the Vercors rose up to fight the Nazis in a planned rearguard action. It was to prove not only the largest Resistance action of the entire war but also, in the severity of the German response, the most brutal crushing of resistance forces in Western Europe.

For the men and women of Vercors, aided and abetted by the Free French forces of General de Gaulle and SOE operatives from London, the events on the Vercors took them on a journey from early idealism through hope, misjudgement, folly, despair, sacrifice and slaughter to a kind of cruel victory. The tragedy drew the attention of those at the highest level of the Allied war effort and placed the Vercors deep into the heart of the history of modern France in a way which resonates still in the country’s daily life and politics.

Long overlooked by English language histories, this magnificent book sets the story in the context of D-Day, the muddle of politics and many misjudgements of D-Day planners in both London and Algiers, and – most importantly – it gives voice to the many Maquisards fighters who fought to gain a voice in their country’s future.

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The Cruel Victory + A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War 2 + A Fortunate Life: The Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: William Collins (5 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007520808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007520800
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Excellent in showing how men across France mobilised. For Ashdown, Vercors is the “hidden story of D-Day” and he tells it with panache and great attention to detail.’ Sunday Express

‘A powerful account of an extraordinary story.’ The Times

‘A fine account.’ 5*, Daily Telegraph

‘Paddy Ashdown has produced not only the most thorough history to date of the Resistance in the Vercors, but also the startling new contention that, ‘The Germans did not win on the Vercors. They lost.’ Written with pace, the detail is fine… and Ashdown is well-placed to write this book, which requires an understanding of military strategy, diplomacy and political shenanigans, as well as old fashioned story telling skill.’ Spectator

Praise for A Brilliant Little Operation:

‘The story of Operation Frankton is an extreme example of a plan brilliantly conceived and badly botched. The ten commandos who made a secret canoe raid in 1942 on German merchant ships have become icons of British wartime derring-do.’ The Times

‘No doubt many more books will be written about the war, but I hope this becomes a model for them since, though the heroism of our boys is stirring stuff, history only makes real sense if you can see it from all sides.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Paddy Ashdown has sifted the facts from the myths to write a fascinating and very personal account.’ Independent

‘It moves at the pace of a thriller and it’s real’ Nick Ferrari, Sunday Express

‘Ashdown’s insights and his extensive research in an impressive range of archives will ensure that yet another work on the subject will not be required in the foreseeable future.’ Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

After service as a Royal Marine Commando Officer and a commander of a Special Boat Service unit in the Far East, Paddy Ashdown served as a diplomat in the Foreign Office before, in due course, being elected as the Member of Parliament for Yeovil, serving in that capacity from 1983 to 2001. In 1988 he became leader of the Liberal Democrats, standing aside after eleven years of leading his Party. Later he was appointed as the international community’s High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving from 2002 to 2006. He is the author of many books, including A Brilliant Little Operation which won the British Army Military History prize for 2013.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Mags
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A story that needed to be told, it intertwines the personal experiences of the French resistance fighters in the Vercors with the largely inept and frequently shameful actions (or should I say inactions) of the allied politicians and service chiefs. As with other books I have read recently, it shows de Gaulle in particular in a very poor light, concerned more with his political ambitions than the fate of his countrymen.

It is a tough read due to the subject matter but also due to the writing, which I found frankly quite turgid and often confusing, as there are so many characters involved. Despite the list of dramatis personae at the beginning it is quite hard to keep track and the maps, while useful, do not work well on the Kindle. I also began to be annoyed by the number of typographical errors throughout the book.

To sum up, it is a story well worth reading but I might wish that a better author had written it, hence only four stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not for light reading 22 Jun 2014
By Richie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly researched account of a tragic mistake caused by unforgivable confusion and indecision in London and Algiers and to a degree by pig-headedness among the Maquisards themselves. It is a very detailed narrative especially in relation to the people involved and the geography of the Vercors which I found worked best for me if I did not try to retain all of the detail but just let the 'story' flow. I do feel that too long was spent on the political and military comings and goings prior to D-day and that these could have been given in more succinct form without any loss of understanding of what led to the tragedy that was the Vercors.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Missing Story in the Liberation of France. 31 July 2014
I received this book as a birthday present; its content has been a revelation for me.
I live in South West France, in an region that was a hotbed of Maquis activity and a few kilometres from a martyred village yet I had never heard of the Battle of Vercors and its contribution to the liberation of France before I red this book.
It is painstakingly researched and if biased in any direction it is towards those who fought and died and those who fought and survived the Battle of the Vercors. The story of the Vercors painfully illustrates the 'seat of the pants' planning and decision making by those controlling the forthcoming invasions of France- North and South. That the Vercors should rise to occupy German forces, drawing them away from the landing beaches is a most laudable and sensible policy. That it should be bungled by those in charge bears testimony to the egocentric agendas of the leaders of the time. This book should rightly become the definitive history of the Vercors in WW2. Before that it needs to go through a rather 'fine mesh' editing process. There are typographical errors that should not be present in a book of this quality. Proof reader and executive editor take five hundred lines - I must do better!. Lord Ashdown's prose is not conducive to an easy, flowing read. He writes as he thinks and his mercurial mind can deal with more than one topic at a time and this shows in the book by combining separate, but related ideas in parenthesis within a sentence occupyig the reader's mind with something else. It is jarring. Same 500 lines for you copy editor and make it a round thousand for the executive editor.
This is a major work in spite of the publishing errors and deserves to be widely read. It sets out to fill the gap in the history of D-Day and the liberation of France.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Futility of war 20 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent...well written. It showed accurately the misery of war and the incredible bravery of ordinary people in their fight from tyranny
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good read apparently 21 Aug 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought for my 70 yr old dad who loves books like this. Had to laugh when I heard him & a friend in deep conversation about it they both really enjoyed it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent and sometimes harrowing 4 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A well named, excellent and sometimes harrowing, tale of the French resistances' fight against the occupying German forces.
It shows human nature in all its heroism and frailties.

Good factual account of how things were in those days.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Tribute 26 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Yet again a good read of the incredible work carried out by rag tag and bobtail laymen and woman in their bold fight against tyrrany and freedom
There loss was our gain and we must be ever grateful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 11 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
an excellently written and researched history of a beautiful part of France. Very readable and worth every penny
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, but needs a lot of editing
Has moments of high drama, but also longueurs where it reads rather like a regimental history
Published 23 days ago by Richard Bass
5.0 out of 5 stars I have been to the area but now I wish ...
I have been to the area but now I wish I had read this book first. Very interesting book but I wonder how we managed to win with so many different instructions.
Published 29 days ago by d.p.smith
5.0 out of 5 stars informative but readable
Very formative but readable. Not an era if history I know much about.
Published 1 month ago by Anne Ashley-Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Another triumph in storytelling by Paddy Ashdown
Well researched book reveling a hitherto story of bravery and sacrifice. Highly recommended.
Published 1 month ago by Orchard Barn05
5.0 out of 5 stars Stronghold Hell.
Covers the details of this appalling episode in the French resistance to Nazi agression in a clear well wtitten narrative.
Published 1 month ago by Border Para
5.0 out of 5 stars Paddy is not only a distinguished and unusually effective statesman...
Paddy is not only a distinguished and unusually effective statesman but an entertaining writer with a command of his subjects.
Published 1 month ago by Wendy L. Potter
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Added a completely new dimension to my already extensive .knowledge of the Resistance in the Vercors
Published 1 month ago by john quinby
1.0 out of 5 stars No items received. Please urge delivery. I think payment has been...
I have never received this item on to my Kindle Fire device. Nor have I received the other book about the Normandy Landings.

Please urge their delivery to my device. Read more
Published 2 months ago by andrew cuthbert
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