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on 18 July 2005
Brian Reid's book is a superb study of the genesis and execution of Operation TOTALIZE, Canadian general Guy Simonds' master-stroke in attempting to break the German hold on the high ground south of Calais. Even those who have studied Operation TOTALIZE and the Normandy campaign in detail will be able to learn something new from this book.
Brian Reid is starting from a review of the history of the Canadian army command and the Canadian army between the wars, to address the capabilities of the men who were in charge of the Canadian formations, and to understand the limitations that were placed on the ability of Canada to field large-scale formations capably of undertaking complex operations.
He then proceeds to discuss in detail the strategic background and the operational planning of TOTALIZE, including a detailed review of the air and artillery plans (the latter probably a first), and the battle plans for the individual divisions. The second half of the book is devoted to the narrative of the battle itself, while the appendix is covering such interesting issues as the use of airpower in support of ground operations, a discussion of comparative tank capabilities of the two sides, a new take on who really killed Michael Wittmann (Reid maintains it was not Trooper Ekins, without taking anything away from him), and a short article by John Grodzinski on the history of 1st Polish Armoured Division.
The narrative is superbly supported by excellent maps, photos, detailed vehicle drawings with a wealth of information, drawings of the columns used in the approach march during the night operation, and schematic drawings and tables outlining complex military items such as TO&Es, or the artillery fireplan.
For the battle narrative, he relies on witnesses through direct or written testimony, as well as primary and secondary sources. The only item of criticism here is that it would have been nice to see more original sources on the German side of things. This is made up for to some degree by the use of Canadian army documents referencing captured German records, but a spell in the archives with the German record would have taken this book from `superb' to `stunning'. Within the confines of wanting to provide a record of the operation from the Canadian perspective, this omission can be excused, however.
Reid's style is direct, no-nonsense. He dishes out criticism and praise in equal measure, whether it relates to historians, or soldiers on either side. His writing is certainly coloured by being a member of the Canadian Army in the 1950s and 60s, but only in that it appears to make him more blunt in his criticism of this very army. For example, he refers to Brigadier Booth's performance in TOTALIZE as `professionally inadequate and personally disgraceful.'.
Highly recommended, and his promised book on TRACTABLE is looking to be another `must-buy'. Based on this and Donald Graves' book, I would unhesitatingly part with my cash to buy any book from Robin Brass Studios that covers a topic of interest to me. They cannot be praised highly enough.
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on 10 August 2007
This is indeed an excellently written and researched book. Its worth the cost just for the chapter on Wittmann's last battle alone.
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on 31 July 2007
I can only echo the review above. This is an excellent book of military history and, I would say, essential reading for anyone interested in WWII in NW Europe.
The Appendix analysing the demise of Michael Wittmann is by itself almost worth the asking price...I too await subsequent books from this author and the publisher with keen anticipation !
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on 6 January 2012
For an unbiased and fair review of Operation Totalize, there is no better work than this.

Reid sets everything out in a linear fashion - the background, planing, lead up, Phase 1, Phase 2, analysis and comment. Just as it should be.

He seams to understand (as does Copp) just how hard the Allies had it against an opponent who had learned everything they needed to in order to ensure a successful outcome to operations.

There is little more to say that hasn't already been said by the others. This should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the Normandy campaign.

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on 4 June 2008
I can only agree with the above reviewers, this is an excellent book on the subject and is superbly written. I hope that his planned book on Operation Tractable is of the same quality.
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on 24 June 2010
This book is an in-depth examination of OPERATION TOTALIZE, one of many operations launched by the Canadian Army in Normandy, this one in the second week of August 1944. TOTALIZE, like many other operations (Spring, Atlantic, et al) has been much written about, and subject to much controversy. Reid takes a very fresh approach to the subject and dissects the planning and execution of this action very skillfully.

Reid starts at the beginning - with an impressive look at the training and employment of staff officers in the Canadian Army (following on in Granatstein's footsteps, who first broached the subject for public consumption with THE GENERALS), a look at how the Canadian Army developed in peace, and in war. It may seem to be an apologist approach, but I think it is necessary to appreciate the capabilities of the Canadian Army in Normandy, and adds to fuller understanding.

Every chapter is rich in detail - from identifying who drove the first Kangaroo APCs to a detailed analysis of Simond's written appreciation and outline plan, as submitted to General Crerar.

TOTALIZE was unique in that it was a large armoured attack launched at night (not common in doctrine at that time, though not untried, either), with the first use of a fully tracked and armoured APC to move the troops forward, as well as heavy bombing used tactically. Reid looks at all this in detail.

The maps in this volume are among the best ever published in support of an operational history. Chris Johnson has once again also worked his magic with many line drawings of the armour and vehicles used in the campaign, both Canadian and German. Many good photos also complement the text.

There is even a well developed chapter about "who got Wittman" - with not just a map, but a topographical map showing elevations. Great fodder for tactical game scenario designers. Other appendices include a complete history of 1 Polish Armoured Division (with order of battle and even rank structure) as well as a treatise on airpower and a breakdown of German and Allied order of battle.

Overall one of the best operational studies yet written about the Canadian Army in Normandy. May have benefitted from aerial photography, but hard to fault the book in any other way. Can't recommend this highly enough not just for an understanding of TOTALIZE, but for anyone interested in the debate about just how good the Canadian Army was in the Second World War
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on 14 April 2010
Like the Canadian performance in TOTALIZE this is a superlative history of that operation. Reid has researched the planning and execution of the operation with great diligence and analyses it clearly and without favour. His writing style is clear and flows well and the book is a joy to read. As with other reviewers, I found the appendix on 'Who killed Michael Wittmann?' a masterpiece in itself. If the various accounts of Wittmann's death were to be examined by a judge and jury in a UK court then I would have no doubt that Reid's account would be the accepted version.
The book is enhanced by crisp line drawings as well as an interesting selection of photographs, interspersed with the text, and excellent maps. The Robin Brass Studio has set a very high standard in production and further works from this source will be looked forward to by many.
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on 11 December 2010
anybody interested in the Tiger versus Anglo-American armour story in Normandy, the belated attempts to close the Falaise gap after the failure of Goodwood , the innovative tactics of night usage of tanks and the deployment of infantry in improvised armoured personnel carriers? Then this is a very well researched and thoughtful work that is worth buying. Given that Totalize was a Canadian operation , it is written - appropriately- from that perspective. Not everybody will be convinced about the analysis of Wittman's demise - but that is an intrinsically unresolvable question.
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on 25 July 2015
Very good in general but suspect in relation to the action that saw Wittmann killed.
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