Top critical review
32 people found this helpful
Okay-ish - I guess
on 10 April 2010
Loyd Clark's 'Arnhem' is the book currently holding prime position as the 'set text' on the famous (infamous?) Operation Market Garden and it's not bad, but - as someone who's read an awful lot of books on this battle - it's not that good either.
Clark relies on very familiar sources - Stephen Ambrose's 'Band of Brothers' and Roy Urquhart's 'Arnhem' - and, though he quotes from the late Robin Neillands' fascinating 'The Battle for the Rhine 1944', he does not appear to have read it. Clark does not even discuss Neillands' central contention - that the critical full stop of Market Garden was at Nijmegen due to a failure by the US forces to grab the bridge necessitating XXX Corps having to stop and help them - which is disappointing. Worse, Clark chooses to print - unchallenged - the view that the Brits - effectively - sat down for a cup of darjeeling after the Nijmegen Bridge was taken instead of pressing on to Arnhem to relieve the hard-pressed Ist Airborne Division. Neillands argues that the tank forces were spread all over the town helping the US 82nd Aiborne when the bridge was finally seized by British Shermans, which explains the pause; unquestioned by the Americans until post-war memoirs. Neillands might be wrong, but, from this book, you would not even know there was a debate.
Clark also indulges in rather tired Monty bashing. Yes, Montgomery was a difficult man, but he undoubtedly knew what he was about. Clark quotes - rightly - from Charles B McDonald, Official US Army historian and junior officer in 1944, stating that the infantrymen didn't care who was in charge, just that the war was over and they got home, but fails to recognise that Montgomery's insistence on the Ruhr as the key to German capitulation was correct. Monty was a pain - 'detestable' as Neillands, quoted in this book, says - but so what? If he had been fully backed with proper supplies and troops,then the war could have been ended quicker, which matters considering how many Jews were sent to death camps in the last few months of the Nazi regime. Eisenhower, for all his post-war glow, allowed vital supplies to head towards Patton, who was not breaking into such a vital area. For that, the supreme commander has a lot to answer for.
The book is lucid and an easy read, but - if you know anything about the strategic situation in September 1944 - curiously one-dimensional for a lecturer from Sandhurst. He concludes the air plan for Arnhem was at fault which is so obvious that it comes across as stale.
I have no doubt there will be a better, more comprehensive book on Arnhem out before too long, but - as things stand - this is about the best around if you can't face the broad-sweep inaccuracies of Cornelius Ryan's 'A Bridge Too Far' or the slightly anoraky, painfully detailed 'Arnhem 1944' by Martin Middlebrook. I was a bit disappointed, though, and would recommend the Neillands book to everyone. It's not all about Arnhem, but the chapters dealing with Market Garden are the freshest words on the battle written in decades.