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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely outstanding assessment of British armor in 1944
The revisionist view of Allied armored operations in Normandy in 1944 is one of weakness -- the Allies had inferior armor, inferior doctrine, and less-highly motivated soldiers than the Germans -- counterbalanced by tremendous material superiority and overwhelming artillery and airpower. In particular the British are taken to task for failing to seize Caen right after the...
Published on 16 April 2012 by Koba

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11 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A revisionist appraisal of British armour in Normandy
This is a revisionist appraisal of British armour in the Normandy campaign during World War Two. The author attempts to defend the relatively poor performance of the British and Canadians after the initial Normandy landings, stating that the equipment wasn't as bad as all that (try telling that to the veterans who fought in those battles!), but that the nature of the...
Published on 31 Oct 2008 by X93250617


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely outstanding assessment of British armor in 1944, 16 April 2012
By 
Koba (Reston, VA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy) (Paperback)
The revisionist view of Allied armored operations in Normandy in 1944 is one of weakness -- the Allies had inferior armor, inferior doctrine, and less-highly motivated soldiers than the Germans -- counterbalanced by tremendous material superiority and overwhelming artillery and airpower. In particular the British are taken to task for failing to seize Caen right after the initial landings, and for failing to achieve a strategic breakout despite repeated, costly attacks. This criticism is found in B.H. Liddell Hart, Carlo D'Este, Max Hastings, and others. In this book, John Buckley provides a deeper analysis, and shows that revisionist views are incomplete, distorted, and based on the view that the British Army should have fought like the Germans despite the obvious fact that the British were not Germans.

Buckley shows that the Germans fought a different type of war from what the British expected them to fight. The British expected the Germans to fall back on prepared defenses with mobile reserves in support. However, the Germans tried to pin the Allies into the beachhead, and fed troops in piecemeal, forcing the Allies to batter their way through difficult terrain. The Allies adapted to this, in Buckley's view, successfully. Buckley also notes that even the Germans had great difficulty attacking in Normandy.

With regard to technical shortcomings, Buckley notes that most German tanks in Normandy were not much better than the Allied tanks facing them. The main British shortcoming was not lack of armored protection, but lack of firepower. However, even a tank with a highly effective gun would not necessarily have fared well on the offense against concealed, dug-in opponents; again, the Germans suffered heavy armored losses when they attacked in Normandy, even though their tanks had highly effective anti-tank weapons.

Buckley does not consider that British troops lacked morale and fortitude. In particular, the armored units had a lower level of battle exhaustion casualties than the infantry units. Furthermore, he shows that there is no convincing evidence that veteran formations had lower morale than inexperienced units. The 7th armored division performed poorly, but other veteran units performed well.

On the whole, this is an excellent book. He covers all the issues: doctrine, leadership, morale, and technical capability. In addition the book is a pleasure to read and is well-supported with factual evidence.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buckley's deep academic study results in a serious re-assessment of British armour in Normandy, 26 Mar 2011
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The Guardian (UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is an absolutely first class detailed academic study of the performance of British and Canadian armour in the summer 1944 campaign against the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS units who faced them in Normandy. Using rigorous analysis of the military, industrial, political, doctrinal and operational background which shaped the philosophy and performance of 21st Army Group, the author reveals a deep understanding of often overlooked elements of the campaign and effectively explodes the widespread myth that allied armour `failed' in Normandy. He shows us that predicated on the governing principles of low casualties, boosting morale and ultimate resource superiority, the armour of 21st Army Group proved eventually to be the equal of the Wehrmacht and SS formations in most essential areas and, despite setbacks, became progressively more effective; achieved victory by learning from early mistakes and by playing to their own strengths and to the weaknesses of their opponents in what was to prove a difficult environment for all attacking forces.

The author lays out his arguments logically chapter by chapter. He explores the political and industrial environment governing British tank design in the mid-war years: quantity over quality was paramount in 1941-42, as most of the Army's equipment had been lost in France in 1940, and it was only with the A27 Cromwell and A22 Churchill projects that tanks finally became reliable. The strengths of the German `big cats' were well known prior to `Overlord', but it was also correctly predicted that only about one third of German tanks were of this superior class and that they too were vulnerable to both the British 17-pounder anti-tank gun and the smaller HV 6-pounder with SABOT ammunition (a clever British development of an original French concept, still used in armour-piercing firepower to this day), and in the case of the Panther to the dual-purpose but otherwise inadequate allied 75mm gun from the flanks. The failure of the A27 Cromwell Tank design to accept the AP 17-pounder gun led to the Sherman Firefly project as a stop-gap, which was successful in addressing the shortfall in armour-piercing firepower in 21st AG as were a number of other innovations. That the shortcomings of allied AP firepower were only fully put right by the deployment of the Comet Tank in late 1944 and by the Centurion prototypes ready by summer 1945 proved the British tank design and production system did ultimately work well, though results were delayed; nevertheless in Normandy in 1944, the armoured contest was not in truth as one-sided as is often claimed.

Planning for the campaign had not anticipated that German formations would attempt to bottle-up the allied armies in their bridgehead and so prevent breakout into the open country to the south of Normandy much more suitable for a campaign of rapid armoured manoeuvre, as 7th AD in particular had been able to do in North Africa. This meant that the armoured formations of 21st AG had to be used as battering rams to break into the strengthened German defences in depth in close-hedged country, a role for which they were not intended and were ill-suited. However the lack of rigid doctrinal dogma in the RAC meant that commanders rapidly learned and adapted to this unforeseen combat environment, which 11th Armoured Division and the Guards Armoured Division in particular did to great effect in combining close-co-operation between armour, artillery and supporting infantry. Buckley demonstrates that all armies in Normandy - whether British, Canadian, American and Polish, or Wehrmacht and Waffen SS - suffered heavily when attacking in this combat environment and that British units eventually became quite effective in this difficult and unforeseen role. He also demonstrates that the strategic decision of the German command to fight in this way inhibited effective deployment of their own forces as much as the allies and contributed significantly to the scale of the eventual German defeat.

The author also explores issues of morale (with tables of statistics for combat fatigue and AWOL numbers by unit) and reveals that in fact morale held up well in the British armoured forces, more so with inexperienced than with veteran units. One of the governing precepts of the allied command was that, if possible, victory should be won without allied soldiers being brutalised in the process and that the NW European campaign was generally successful in this regard.

Overall this is an excellent study, extremely thoughtful and well written by an intelligent and informed academic mind which might make you think about the Normandy campaign from new perspectives. It is in no way superficial or lightweight, but might appeal to the serious-minded reader who seeks a deeper understanding of the issues behind this vitally important historic campaign.

`British Armour in the Normandy Campaign' is a print-on-demand title, well edited and produced with a good photo section, comprehensive notes and a huge bibliography. The hardcover is expensive, possibly due to its small target audience of academics and serious students of the campaign. However if you are interested in this subject it's definitely worth the asking price and you are unlikely to regret buying this excellent book.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Class Analysis, 21 Oct 2005
Like most of us I thought that British armoured forces in the Second World War underperformed, largely because of poor equipment and old fashioned tactics. John Buckley in this thoroughly researched and groundbreaking study convincingly demonstrates that they actually did quite a good job in Normandy in 1944. He shows that although the Shermans and Cromwells were outgunned by some German tanks (but only about a third), they were adequate for most tasks. In any case the real difficulties in Normandy were caused by terrain and the onus of having to attack all the time. Interestingly, he argues that the Germans hit the same operating problems when attacking as did the British.
A fascinating and thought provoking book only hindered by the price tag. I hope the publishers decide to issue a cheaper paperback as this should be read by all interested parties.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing study of the 1944 British tank arm, 14 Jun 2010
By 
Carl (U.K. & U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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In this work John Buckley assaults the issue put forth via various historians that the British armour arm failed during the 1944 Second World War Normandy campaign, while at the same time building upon Stephen Ashley Hart's and David French's work that the British Army adapted and fought the war in its own unique successful way.

The key issue Buckley highlights is that the apparent failure of the British armour is based on the erroneously perceived vision of how armoured warfare should be conducted based off the likes of the France 1940 campaign "Blitzkrieg"; an event that had been superseded by newly developed weapons and tactics. Additionally while the initial Overlord plan had called for deep penetrations into Normandy by armour; terrain, logistical issues, and German opposition made this not possible and thus the armoured divisions fought a battle that they had not trained nor prepared for - to be used in an attritional battle as battering rams. Likewise as the campaign progressed German tactics altered to combat the Anglo-Canadian attacks, leading to in-depth defences while they concentrated the majority of their armoured forces, and better quality divisions committed to Normandy, to halt the progress of the British and Canadian forces.

Buckley looks into the doctrine and the issues of how the divisions and independent brigades were suppose to fight; he highlights the lack of common doctrine and the problems this entailed but also of how this presented the various units with flexibility and actually, after some problems, allowed them to learn how to fight in an effective manner. The overarching point made is that the British armoured forces fought in a different way to the German Heer or Waffen SS Panzer arm and cannot be straight up compared to the idealised view of what armoured warfare was based off the misconception of what happened in France 1940 etc; the British approach was different, it had its problems, but in the end was successful - the British armour did not fail in Normandy.

Buckley highlights that contrary to popular perception the vast majority of armour committed to Normandy, by the German armed forces, was comparable or even outclassed by British tanks and anti-tank weaponry. While the "big cats" posed a real problem to British armour, they too were vulnerable; that at the end of the day the battle was not so one sided in the tank realm. On the other hand he does note that all allied tanks (in part due to the below issues) were vulnerable to German anti-tank weapons - including the most heavily armoured Churchill model.

Buckley also looks at the design and production of British tanks; the reliability issue facing the initial models, how this and the need to re-equip the expanding army following the Fall of France, experience in the desert, rushed production, and various legislation, not relaxed until mid-war, held up design work and influenced development. This coupled with the acceptance of the M4 Sherman and medium velocity 75mm gun, which was a compromise to have tanks equipped with a weapon that could successfully knock out soft skinned vehicles and anti-tank guns, saw that by the time Overlord was planned it was too late to stop current production/supply and introduce new tank models - these models then only becoming available later in 1944. With that said he also discusses the Firefly project, showing that while tank design had been poor during the early war period, it had improved while research, development, and innovation of new anti-tank guns and ways of using them was top class.

To sum up, in this excellent study Buckley shows the pros and cons of the British armoured force of 1944 and how they adopted what they had to fight their own unique and ultimately successful campaign.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, 20 Jan 2013
By 
Kobiangelus (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Anyone interested in the application and doctrines of British/Canadian armour should not avoid this insightful book.
A book for the passionate enthusiast and the amateur historian.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, enjoyable and insightful defence of British Armour in Normandy., 21 July 2014
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This review is from: British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy) (Paperback)
I had the pleasure of having John as one of my lecturers for War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. Aside from being a dab hand at a war game, he can write a mean book.

As others have said, this is a revisionist account, mainly concerning itself with countering the prevailing notion that British armour performed poorly in Normandy. This book is not one filled with soldiers individual accounts, it is an examination of British armour (and to some extent the Army as a whole) - why they fought the way they did, both in Normandy and throughout the war, and why some of the interpretations of the campaign about the British are incorrect, or at least misleading.

The book is very thorough, examined tactics and doctrine, morale, design, planning and production, and 'the tank gap' (comparison to opposing German tanks). There is repetition (unsurprising and unavoidable), and while noticeable, it is not irritating - and can indeed be quite beneficial if you are not reading the book in a short period.

I would thoroughly recommend this as essential literature to anyone with an interest in the Normandy Campaign or the British Army during World War II, or anyone with an interest in military doctrine and the way it shapes performance. It is well written and researched, and it was both enjoyable and useful to read.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 5 Oct 2008
This review is from: British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy) (Paperback)
British Armour has received much criticism over its performance during the battles in Normandy, largely shaped by the results of operations "Perch" and "Goodwood" and critical comparisons with German operations in other theatres.

Buckley has taken a hard look at this performance within the contexts of operational and tactical doctrine, equipment and morale and convincingly argues that much of this criticism is misplaced. He shows that, from an awkward start, British armour did quickly and sucessfully adapt to the difficult and unanticipated demands of offensive combat in Normandy.

I found this a very thought provoking book, The authors suggestion that the Germans would (and did) do worse in similar circumstances is worthy of a study in its own right.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for students of the Normandy campaign., 4 Dec 2013
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This review is from: British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy) (Paperback)
No serious library of the Normandy campaign is complete without this book.

You don't have to agree with the author's conclusions but the value of his contribution to the historical understanding of the campaign is beyond doubt.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Revisionist Perspective, 23 Feb 2014
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This review is from: British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy) (Paperback)
This is an excellent revisionist perspective on the issue of why British armour apparently failed to perform in the Normandy campaign. There has been a persistent glorification of German military efficiency which often has failed to stand up to proper scrutiny, and I am delighted that in recent years it has been challenged, as it has done a great disservice to past generations of British soldiers. The author covers everything from tank production to morale via British doctrine in a comprehensive fashion, and I will not repeat what the other book reviewers have covered in much more detail. One factor which is covered but remains the elephant in the room, is the question of how good British leadership was at the formation level. There are two main issues from my individual perspective: Why did the so much lauded German army lose and allow the British and Canadians to effectively destroy the bulk of the German armoured formations in the West? Was British morale dangerously low and impacting on operational efficiency? Both these questions the author addresses and I think that it is appropriate that this year, the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the centenary of the start of the First World War, we remember the courage, resilience and innovation of the citizen soldiers who beat the Spartans of their day.
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11 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A revisionist appraisal of British armour in Normandy, 31 Oct 2008
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This is a revisionist appraisal of British armour in the Normandy campaign during World War Two. The author attempts to defend the relatively poor performance of the British and Canadians after the initial Normandy landings, stating that the equipment wasn't as bad as all that (try telling that to the veterans who fought in those battles!), but that the nature of the campaign was at fault.

The Allies expected the Germans to pull-back further inland if they failed to throw the Allied troops off the beaches, rather than bottle them up near the coast in terrain well suited to the defence (this Allied intelligence blunder was probably the biggest failing of the campaign). The terrain was unsuited to the deployment of large armoured formations, so why did the Allies insist on using them? Montgomery was also at fault for being cautious and relying on quantitative material superiority, rather than using a bit of skill.

Buckley dismisses accounts of the campaign from authors such as Max Hastings, Liddell Hart, and "limited contemporary sources of questionable worth", without actually stating why those accounts and sources are questionable. Statements like this are worthless and only show the authors inability to string together a convincing argument.

Useful for the reference section at the back, but as for a convincing argument in defence of British and Canadian performance in Normandy, it leaves a lot to be desired.
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