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5.0 out of 5 stars
Breaking the Panzers
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 31 July 2011
Baverstock presents the story of the 1st Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch) during the Battle of Rauray, a German counterattack on 1st July 1944 aimed at pushing the British back from their gains made during Operation Epsom. Baverstock's work is well researched, based on his enthusiasm to present the facts of what happened that day due to his father's involvement in the battle, while also building upon the work of Major John Samson (of the 1st Tyneside) who started to collect personal accounts of the battle aimed at providing an authentic account of the battle.

The book opens with the raising of the battalion, their training, and their eventual arrival in Normandy before moving onto the main subject of the work: the battle. This is presented in twelve stages supported by a weight of personal testimony from men of the battalion, supplemented by information from the German point of view from the 9th SS Panzer Division's divisional history. Baverstock is able to present the battle without bias while at the same time highlighting the efforts made by the British infantry, artillery, and armour in defending their lines throughout the day and counterattacking. In addition, while focusing on the Tyneside Scottish, Baverstock ensures that the supporting role of the Durham Light Infantry and King's Own Scottish Borderers on the flanks, as well as the anti-tank, artillery, and tank units are also mentioned; that the story of the Battle of Rauray is one of the entire British front near the town, coming under a sustained and aggressive day long German attack. The book provides a graphic insight into the tactical nature of fighting in Normandy as well as its gruesome reality. The work is concluded with the battalion's role in the rest of the campaign and its eventual disbanding due to British infantry casualties.

Throughout the book there is a wealth of photos and maps that support the work, the maps are the best I have seen in any historical work to date and really aid the understanding of the battle; they are simply superb. The book also provides a wealth of personal testimony from men of the Tyneside Scottish that adds to the oral history of the Normandy campaign that really pushes the story along and gives the impression in places of the men themselves telling the story rather than the author; while on the whole they help, in places it does feel like they are just padding out sections but I only felt like this in a few places. Additionally the work is wrote in the present tense rather than the past tense, an oddity for a historical work: the book is wrote as if the battle is currently happening, which does not work for me. Also while the book is clearly well researched, and its sources listed at the end, at no point are page numbers given for the various quotes taken from the books cited; a problem for follow-up work.

On the whole however, this book is well worth the price, and presents the graphic story of what happened that day. It presents a story of brave German soldiers and tankers advancing under hellish conditions to complete their objectives, and the brave efforts made by these British soldiers, and tankers, in holding their positions and counterattacking. If you are interested in Operation Epsom and the German counterattacks, the Tyneside Scottish or the 9th SS, this book provides an invaluable insight into that days fighting on both sides and how it affected the end of the operation. An excellent work.
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on 5 June 2010
I had the honour of meeting the author in, of all places, Caen in Normandy, in the run up to the D-Day commemorations of 2010. He was on a book tour with Ian Daglish, I was on a battlefield tour with The Calgary Highlanders. If I had absolutely nothing good to say about this book, I suppose I might have included all that as filler; I mention it because he was kind enough to take time from an incredibly busy schedule to talk to someone interested in his work. His enthusiasm in the subject matter was apparent in person, and if you are wondering if it translates to the printed page, I have no reason to believe you would be disappointed.

If anyone is familiar with J. Allan Snowie's book BLOODY BURON, which is an hour-by-hour account of that battle by the HLI of Canada during Operation CHARNWOOD, this book follows a similar format, though it takes advantage of the graphical advantages of the intervening years. The author's personal attachment to the subject material - his father's presence at the one day battle - is an obvious advantage, as it gives not a bias, but an impetus to telling the story correctly, and from both viewpoints, Axis and Allied.

Multiple, primary, sources have been consulted, and the book is laid out logically, hour by hour. Direct quotes from participants in the battle give an immediacy to the text, and situational awareness is highlighted by a series of excellent full-colour maps and diagrams.

Whether your interest is in this particular battle, the units involved, or battalion-level operations in general, this is an excellent insight into the British Army in Normandy. One might think that there is a deluge of "British Army in Normandy" books in recent years, but this one is truly unique for the personal approach to the subject, the short timeline of the subject matter, and frankly, the quality of the presentation. If tactical studies are your interest, this book deserves pride of place on your bookshelf.
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on 6 January 2016
Provides a decent history of Tyneside Scottish in WW2 and excellent detail of that pivotal day on 1st July 1944. The maps and schematics provide good detail of what happened and when. Other accounts (15th Scottish, 8th Armoured Brigade etc) all fit in with the events outlined in this book but there had been rigorous research to ensure accuracy (no Tigers involved yet frequently other accounts mention Tiger tanks). As with the book on Operation Bluecoat, worth reading once an overall appreciation of the events gained (I usually read divisional then personal accounts to get the full picture).
Is it worth buying and reading - YES - and the only one so far where I did not need to get my maps out for!!
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on 31 January 2015
Unlike many recently written histories of the second world war, this book does not seek to revise what has been written before but to describe in convincing detail detail events which have not previously been recorded. The author thus has the advantage of being able to tell a story for the first time without having to resort to ‘revising the received wisdom’ approach that is the lot of journalist-historians.

The book is based largely on field reports and personal reminiscence. This gives it an on-the-spot clarity in which the actions and feelings of men in battle can be seen vividly.
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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2009
Normandy 1944: once again the Brits will be bumbling through an attack on the much-vaunted Germans? Well no, this time the Germans have launched a tactical action and face the British on defence, notably the author's dad and his mates. By reversing the typical image of the campaign, and by considering it in great detail Baverstock brings a lot that is fresh to my understanding. Maps and diaries have been plundered to give you a feel of a local battalion under attack from some experienced formations; will it hold? How can it hold?

A useful specific to histories that cover the higher level where this battle might be a glorious footnote.
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on 13 December 2013
Breaking the Panzers excellently describes a battalion action hour by hour. The use of a new situation map for each hour period helps to clarify the battle and follow the progress throughout the day. The personal anecdotes provide snippets of information not usually available in books with a higher perspective on the war.
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on 6 December 2008
This is a really first class book, well researched, excellent photos and maps. Kevin Baverstock really knows his stuff, I hope he will be producing more books along the same lines about the British Army in NW Europe, 1944-45.
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on 3 June 2006
This book shows all the signs of thorough and punctilious research. The presentation is also of the highest standard and shows modern book designers, cartographers and typesetters (do they still exist?) a thing or two. Everything is clear and easy to follow and worth buying on several levels for those who appreciate high quality.
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