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Mr. Vl Hughes "230CC" (Rochester, Kent United Kingdom)

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War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942
War without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-1942
by Robert Kershaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

98 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Addition To The East Front Experience, 8 Dec 2008
How do I start this review ?
I guess the first thing would be the recommendation to buy it. The read is easy and flowing. Easy, in that it is gripping and holds you, flowing in that as a history piece, it never becomes stodgy or bogged down.I would also say that I found this book to be tremendous value at the price as well. 580 pages for a few pounds in paperback.

The book provides an account of the opening months of Barborossa and does not, unlike other books on 'Barborossa' then file off to the years after. This book sticks with the opening operation, and the German attempt to knock out the Soviet Union quickly and in a series of co-ordinated hammer blows. Where the book or Mr Kershaw differs from other titles is that, not only is there the strategic overview, but we also get accounts of selected tactical encounters (rather than the strategic), and many letters and diary entries from soldiers serving. Most of these eye witness accounts are German, but Soviet offerings are included as well. Mr Kershaw does not then fall into the trap of "Well Corporal so and so who was there said this, so this must be true". He keeps these entries purely as embellishment, and as colouring of the subject he is trying to impart.

Despite having read many books on the subject matter, this was the first I have seen to concentrate on one of the first German obstacles, Brest-Litovsk. I was surprised to find out just how tough a nut this was to crack. But the main thrust of the book for me was the highlighting of the German Army's massive and quite frankly, unprecedented victories that kept bleeding themselves dry, or as Mr Kershaw put it from the translated German "Victoring itself to death".

and this seemed to be the main problem. Despite inflicting 2.1 million irretrievable casualties on the Red Army over 6-8 months, German losses, though nowhere near as high were simply not replaceable in military terms. Tanks, soldiers, experienced officers as well as other equipments too, could simply not got to the Front quickly enough or in quantity enough, especially as the front got further and further away from the Western border.

Memorable highlights of the book for me would be:
The unimaginable tenacity required to keep fighting in the bitterest cold of -40 degrees at times !
Some of the indecision of the German High Command as to where the main schwerpunkt (point of concentration) should be.
The Russian command's regular ineptitude and lack of care of losses taken.
The pure violence exhibited by both sides on the enemy and civilians (yes both sides on civilians).
This truly was the Ali v Frazier contest of all wars.... nothing could ever be comparable, and though I hate to say it, puts the Western effort very much as a sideshow (read "Europe At War - Norman Davies).

If I had anything to say against the book, I would post two arguments. First, I would take issue with solely blaming Hitler for the things that went militarily wrong in the first year. I think the German High Command made a few indecisive mistakes before he intervened, and Alan Clark in his 'Barborossa' makes a good case as to where Hitler could actually be credited with helping to save the Wehrmacht in the winter of 41/42 by keeping it standing despite the winter rather than a suicidal retreat with millions of Soviets on their tails.
To be fair, I think Mr Kershaw swings on both sides of the coin on this one, and for me did not come down on one side or the other TOO obviously.

The other point I would make is that this book is for me, really an accompanament to perhaps a more 'clinical' history on the subject. What I mean by this is that there are other books that give a much more sterile miliary overview of the battles, and leave you in no doubt as to where each division and corps were. 'War Without Garlands' does not entirely attempt that because it enters other spheres of importance that come into the story, including the 'Human interest' stories that so enrich this tome. That being the case, I would have to say that this is not a completely purist Military overview of the campaign...... it has other depth to it that you will not read in other offerings.

A fantastic read ! The first I've read of Robert Kershaw's, and have now been moved to buy other books by him. Thanks Robert ;-)
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 7, 2012 6:12 PM GMT

How the First World War Began: The Triple Entente and the Coming of the Great War, 1914-18
How the First World War Began: The Triple Entente and the Coming of the Great War, 1914-18
by Edward E. McCullough
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last a view from the German Side Written in English, 25 April 2003
I will open by stating that this book will smash, if not change most reader's views of why the Great War began and just who was responsible.
As an Englishman, I have always been at odds with the idea that Imperial Germany of the late 19th century was a sabre rattling threat to the world when given the facts that her Empire was but a 10th in size to Britain, her navy a sight smaller despite her having the 2nd largest maritime trading fleet and the fact that Britain and France had.... since 1903 practised and planned military operations for an Anglo-French entente.
Mr McCullogh lays bare many truths and myths as to the origins of this mighty struggle and will no doubt make many readers raise an eyebrow at his assertions. However, that eyebrow will drop again when given the facts and sources of his assertions and leave the reader wanting more and scrambling to the bibliography.
Here, the reader will see how France and Britain's interests (economic) were threatened by the modernist industry of Germany and it's forward thinking as to the treatment of workers, pensions and conditions etc led Germany to a huge surge in economic power.
Read how the Entente ensured that Germany would be vastly outnumbered in any military struggle by the threading of useful alliances and deemed Germany unworthy to take part in the race for overseas possessions highlighted by the Morroccan crisis. Here we see how it was OK for France to send 10,000 plus troops for protection of her interests in North Africa, but over-bearing of Germany to send a cruiser to sail off shore for the same reason. It rather reminded me of Blackadder Goes Forth when he comments that the Germans were allowed no more than a tinned sausage factory in Tanganika.
Another point of note was the fact that if Germany was a sabre rattling , bloodthirsty warmonger, then how strange it was that she had taken no part in War since 1870, yet Britain, France and Russia had fought many (I think Britain was 20 plus !!).
Without giving away too much of the book content i heartily recommend this book to any person that studies the war and it's build up. But be prepared. If you are making ready an essay for an exam, this book may blow away all your prepared material !!

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