3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
No new insights or penetrating analysis,
This review is from: Arnhem: Jumping the Rhine 1944 & 1945 (Paperback)
For another book to appear about Arnhem in 2008 after the veritable cornucopia that have been published on this subject over the years there has to be something special to make it stand out for the reader. To this end, the author compares and contrasts the airborne attacks at Arnhem in September 1944 with crossing the Rhine in March 1945, although the second attack is almost an appendix.
However, in total, the book as a great disappointment. Firstly he appears to be an apologist for Montgomery and further, skates over the substantial failings of the various British Army commanders.
He also toes the party line in reiterating that operation Market Garden "was a risk worth taking" If the objective was too obtain a bridgehead as a threat to later envelop the Ruhr as Eisenhower wanted then, yes, the operation had merit. However, Montgomery had the view that having a one road corridor up to Arnhem would be a (relatively) quick springboard towards Berlin. This was totally unrealistic as:
a) the substantial German Fifteenth was still located to the west of the Market Garden salient and had to be neutralised before anything else otherwise the flanks were continually exposed (apart from other German troops in the northern Netherlands),
b) the port of Antwerp had yet to be brought into service as a first priority because logistics to the forward armies were at breaking point,
c) to go from Arnhem to Berlin would mean crossing a further three major river systems, the Ems, Weser and Elbe. Additionally there were numerous small rivers flowing south to north across the North German Plain which would have slowed progress,
d) linked to this, the ground in the North German Plain had a high water table. Progress for tanks after October 1944 with winter rains would also have been very slow at best,
e) in September 1944 there were still a good number of German tanks available for defence east of the Rhine. This would not, of course, be the case after the Ardennes offensive
f) the many thousands of 88mm dual purpose artillery pieces located in the Ruhr and major conurbations en route to Berlin could have been rapidly switched from anti aircraft to anti tank duties. The 88 mm piece was a very effective tank destroyer.
However the real villain of the piece in Arnhem is General Browning. Lloyd Clark alludes to this on pp 112-113 where General Ridgway cautions General Gavin against the "machinations and scheming of General Browning". However nothing more was mentioned. The best comparison of Browning to previous British military commanders are the buffoons Raglan and Cardigan in the Crimean War. Browning owed his position to Churchill, basically because Browning was a Guards officer (Guards could do no wrong in Churchill's book) and a fellow alcohol abuser. Browning required 38 craft (taken away from the initial Arnhem allocation) to transport his headquarters to Nimwegen where he ensconsed himself in a palatial residence and effectively did nothing else.
Browning had a duty to the people under his charge to pass on adverse intelligence reports so that tactics on the ground at Arnhem could be amended to counter this threat. This he deliberately failed to do - he was more interested in garnering glory for himself. General Gale of 6th Airborne also warned Browning that not landing very near the Arnhem bridges could lead to disaster, but Browning just requested Gale to keep silent on the matter.
Worst of all, Major General Sosobowski, commander of the Polish Paratroop Brigade was made a scapegoat by Generals Thomas, Horroocks, Adair and Browning after the Valburg conference at as a result of the shambles of Market Garden, as his prognosis that unrealistically poor planning would lead to failure was right on the nail. The main instigator of this kangaroo court was Browning, and shows senior British Army commanders to be moral cowards of the first order - reminiscent of the Generals blaming subalterns in the First World War. This is not mentioned at all by Lloyd Clark, but as he is a lecturer at Sandhurst, perhaps this is not unexpected. "Never bite the hand that feeds you" is always a good motto in the British military establishment.
To reinforce the intellectual feebleness of British Army Generals, Lloyd Clark quotes Sir Neil Ritchie (pp 288-289) stating that 1 Commando Brigade would be "the first British troops to cross the Rhine, not even Marlborough attempted it" There was the caveat that Ritchie thought his military history was a little rusty - I suppose Ritchie imagined that Marlborough's army travelled from Koblenz to Blindheim (near Ulm) by magic carpet and never crossed a river.
There is also evidence of sloppiness in the book. On p 73 is stated that paratroopers as part of their training were expected to run 200 yards in full battle gear in 16 seconds, an amazing feat as the current world record is 10.1 seconds for 100 yards.
On the plus side, the maps are clear and helpful which would assist the reader understand the military action.
In short, as a surface description of the military action (plus Chapter 3 on paratrooper training) the book is adequate. If you are looking for more detailed and real penetrating analysis then you have to look elsewhere.