Battle Zone Normandy
by Lloyd Clark, Ken Ford, Stephan
Badsey and Tim Bean
Battle Zone Normandy 1: Orne Bridgehead. By: Lloyd Clark.
Hard covers, 9.5 x 6.25-inches, 192 pages, 61 B&W photos, 67 color
photos, 13 maps, three charts, index and bibliography. MBI order number
137546AE. Price: $19.95 USD.
Battle Zone Normandy 2: Sword Beach. By: Ken Ford. Hard
covers, 9.5 x 6.25-inches, 192 pages, 58 B&W photos, 54 color photos,
15 maps, four charts, index and bibliography. MBI order number 137545AE.
Price: $19.95 USD.
Battle Zone Normandy 5: Omaha Beach. By: Stephan Badsey
and Tim Bean. Hard covers, 9.5 x 6.25-inches, 192 pages, 71 B&W photos,
46 color photos, 12 maps, seven charts, index and bibliography. MBI order
number 137554AE. Price: $19.95 USD.
Since these books are identical on layout and presentation, it will save
much repetition if I treat them in a single review. It may also mean that
I would appear not to give them their due as individual works, but that
is not my intention.
The entire Normandy campaign is covered in this well-balanced series,
with a total of 14 titles. This covers the battle from the D-Day landings
(six books), through the Falaise battle and on to Operation Cobra, the
eventual beginning of the end in Normandy. In between, such events as
the legendary encounter at Villers Bocage, Operation Epsom and the Battles
for Caen and Cherbourg are also detailed.
The unique approach of this series makes them especially valuable for
those who plan to tour the battlefields, since the first part of each
title covers the battles in question, while the second section of each
book gives detailed information relevant to touring the areas in question.
The text supports this approach by first giving a general, albeit well-detailed
account of a particular battle, in the section of the book under the heading
“History”. Then, within the section of the book entitled “Battlefield
Tours”, many of the individual incidents are described in greater
detail, along with hints and tips related to touring the actual areas
where these took place. The books also provide information related to
the locations of local museums and their operating hours. The final segment
of each book, entitled “On Your Return”, presents a select
bibliography, which suggests books that either deal with the entire Normandy
campaign in a general fashion, or in a more specific fashion.
Tailored to a reader based in the UK, the authors also list museums
and the pertinent records sections in government archives, along with
select US resource sites.
All of this is supported by a very fine selection of contemporary photographs,
as well as color photos of the areas as they appear today. The contemporary
photographs depict men and equipment, including various AFVs, aircraft,
troops, locales and fortifications and, overall should prove of use to
modelers. There are also quite a few maps within the covers, although
the authors of each book generally recommend that the reader procure various
other maps, if they wish to tour the areas. There are a few sidebars as
well. Some concern themselves with the orders-of-battle of the opposing
armies, while others detail such things as command structures and casualties.
Some sidebars also highlight certain items of equipment.
Book One, Orne Bridgehead, covers the operations of
the British 6th Airborne Division and its fabled conquest of the various
Caen Canal and Orne River bridges, which secured the invasion’s
left flank. But it does not stop there. The division served through the
end of August, and on the way fought many a hard-won action, including
the D-Day capture of the Merville Battery, the battle for the town of
Breville and the Dives River crossing. As the unit is most famously associated
with “Pegasus Bridge”, it is refreshing to learn more about
these other actions. One is also struck by the fact that, time and time
again, the British “Paras” were improperly scattered about
the areas of their objectives. Nonetheless, superbly trained, motivated
and led, they continued on with greatly depleted forces in an attempt
to accomplish their missions, almost always to a successful conclusion.
Charts within this book present orders-of-battle for the 6th Airborne
Division, the German 21st Panzer Division and the German 346th, 711th
and 716th Infantry Divisions. Other charts list technical details of transport
aircraft and glider tug aircraft, Radar Homing Devices used for the landings,
the Horsa and Hamilcar gliders and the German-manned Merville battery.
A final chart details casualties suffered by the 6th Airborne Division.
This book certainly does a worthy job of recounting those efforts, and
in great detail. And, there are certainly enough clear photographs of
men and machines, which should give modelers quite a few ideas for a D-Day-related
Book Two, Sword Beach, details the British 3rd Infantry
Division’s assault, which was accompanied by elements of the 79th
Armoured Division, the 27th Armoured Brigade, the 1st and 4th Special
Service Brigades and the Royal Marines, plus various other support formations.
This force was detailed to secure the West flank of the invasion by linking
up with the previously dropped 6th Airborne Division and then capturing
the city of Caen. Although the main goal of securing the invasion’s
flank was accomplished, the overly optimistic notion of seizing Caen on
D-Day, would have to wait some weeks, casting a cloud of controversy upon
Montgomery’s so-called “Master Plan”.
The text first details the overall objectives of the opposing forces,
as well as their command structure and unit compositions. The text then
goes on to describe the beach assault and the various related actions
such as the battles for Ouistreham, and the “Hillman” fortifications,
as well as the failed attempts to drive towards Caen in the immediate
aftermath of the invasion. The various side-bars detail such things as
the order-of-battle for the 3rd Infantry Division and its attached support
units, as well as a separate OOB for the 27th Armoured Brigade. Other
side-bars provide the names of the ships tasked with the bombardment of
specific points during the invasion, as well as a casualty list for the
3rd Infantry Division.
Again, the contemporary photos and maps are well chosen and informatively
captioned. There are photos of men and AFVs, (including specialist types
such as Sherman Flails and DDs, as well as Churchill AVREs) plus various
landing craft, many of which will prove useful to modelers. There is even
the occasional aircraft. The full-color photos of the territory as it
appears today will put things into perspective, as well as aid the potential
Book Five, Omaha Beach, recounts the costly and near-disastrous
US assault against “Bloody Omaha”, as well as the US Ranger’s
attack on the potentially dangerous guns that were thought to occupy the
Pointe du Hoc. Again, the text in the first section of the book gives
a well-balanced general account of these actions, while the final section
of the book details the actions as they relate to the areas the potential
tourist may visit.
The charts give OOB information for the German LXXXIV Corps, the US V
Corps to include the Provisional Ranger Brigade Group, the 1st and 29th
Infantry Divisions, and the Engineer and Anti-Aircraft units. The German
and American command structure is also listed as are the ships of the
various allied naval task groups, including the landing and bombardment
The contemporary photographs are well balanced between the familiar and
the new, and are quite competently captioned. The photographs of the battlefield
as it appears today are a bit more interesting, especially those that
depict the still apparent damage that took place on the Pointe du Hoc,
due to allied air and sea bombardment.
I hate to repeat myself, but it cannot be helped; what ever will I be
able to say about the other books in this series that will be new? Simply
stated, this book is full of good stuff, especially for diorama modelers.
Frank De Sisto
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