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Monty's Men

Monty's Men: The British Army and the Liberation of Europe

John Buckley
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Monty's Men
    Book Description:

    Historian John Buckley offers a radical reappraisal of Great Britain's fighting forces during World War Two, challenging the common belief that the British Army was no match for the forces of Hitler's Germany. Following Britain's military commanders and troops across the battlefields of Europe, from D-Day to VE-Day, from the Normandy beaches to Arnhem and the Rhine, and, ultimately, to the Baltic, Buckley's provocative history demonstrates that the British Army was more than a match for the vaunted Nazi war machine.

    This fascinating revisionist study of the campaign to liberate Northern Europe in the war's final years features a large cast of colorful unknowns and grand historical personages alike, including Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery and the prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill. By integrating detailed military history with personal accounts, it evokes the vivid reality of men at war while putting long-held misconceptions finally to rest.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16035-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Plates
    (pp. None)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
    John Buckley
  6. Maps
    (pp. x-xiv)
  7. 1 INTRODUCTION The Test of Time
    (pp. 1-18)

    At 8 a.m. on Saturday 5 May 1945 the British Army won its greatest victory of the Second World War, for on that day all the forces of the Third Reich confronting it in Northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark surrendered. In the space of a little less than a year, since 6 June 1944, the British and their Allies had driven the much feared and lauded German Army back from the beaches of Normandy, across France, through the Low Countries and into Germany itself. By May 1945 the British had reached the Baltic and captured Hamburg, the largest port...

  8. 2 PREPARATION The Road to D-Day
    (pp. 19-46)

    In Southern England in early June 1944 the British Army finalised its preparations for the greatest challenge it would face in The Second World War, a direct face-to-face confrontation with its nemesis of 1940, theWehrmacht. Four years before as theblitzkriegswept across Europe, the British Army had been unceremoniously driven from the continent, shorn of its equipment and confidence. Now rebuilt and underpinned by two years of successful campaigning in the Mediterranean, the British Army, in conjunction with powerful Allies and backed with vast resources, was ready. Although many soldiers had not seen actual combat, most had received...

  9. 3 BRIDGEHEAD The First Step to Liberation
    (pp. 47-71)

    In the history of the Second World War, indeed of all warfare, the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 hold iconic status. The story, retold many times and immortalised in films such asThe Longest DayandSaving Private Ryan, and in the television seriesBand of Brothers, stands as perhaps the greatest Allied endeavour of the war to liberate Europe from the Third Reich. There is no doubt that the scale and the enormity of the task confronting the Allies in 1944 was an immense challenge. It called upon great skills in cooperative planning across and within services, institutions...

  10. 4 CAEN The Cauldron
    (pp. 72-112)

    On the night of 18–19 June 1944 the so-called Great Storm swept through the English Channel, battering Allied forces at sea and on land; 30-knot winds peaked at gale force, causing six- to eight-foot waves. Poor weather in the English Channel had been lingering since before D-Day and it slowed the rate of Allied reinforcements and supplies arriving in Normandy, but the storm which whipped up on 19 June lasted three days and caused immense damage to the Allied landing facilities. The scenes were indeed disturbing for those in situ, as Squadron Leader A.E.L. Hill of Balloon Command recalled:...

  11. 5 STALEMATE? Frustration in Normandy
    (pp. 113-145)

    In the days after Operation GOODWOOD, the realities of combat in Northwest Europe against a resourceful and obdurate foe were beginning to impact on the British Army in a forceful and uncompromising manner. The wave of optimism that had swept through the Allied troops after D-Day began to dissipate by the end of June and the experience of EPSOM, the brutal fighting for Caen and the dramatic actions to the east of the city from 18 July onwards further highlighted the harsh truths behind the British Army’s experiences since the beginning of the campaign to liberate Europe. Frustration at their...

  12. 6 BREAKOUT Victory in Normandy
    (pp. 146-183)

    In the aftermath of Operation GOODWOOD the British armoured divisions licked their wounds, began re-equipping, and absorbed replacements. Such new blood was technically well trained in how to operate tanks, but was tactically naïve and unversed in the realities of battle. Whilst some infantry formations continued to hold the line, the poor weather that set in on 20 July, as well as the need to recover, precluded much more. Some formations enjoyed the luxury of being rotated out of the line to recover their senses, enjoy hot baths, entertainment, fresh clothes and better food. Rations issued to troops in the...

  13. 7 PURSUIT The Race to the Frontier
    (pp. 184-207)

    As spectacular as the success had been in crushing the German forces in Normandy, the task of defeating the Third Reich was far from over in August 1944. Even as the Allied forces were pummelling the fleeing German forces in and around the Falaise Pocket, it was still imperative that the impetus be maintained and every advantage be taken from the chaos inflicted upon the enemy. To that end on 20 August Montgomery ordered 21st Army Group to race to the Seine as quickly as possible. First Canadian Army, which included John Crocker’s I Corps, was then to cross the...

  14. 8 ARNHEM Conceptual Failure
    (pp. 208-231)

    The attempt by Second British Army and the First Allied Airborne Army to cross the Rhine at Arnhem in mid-September 1944 is, after D-Day, perhaps the most iconic event of the whole campaign to liberate Western Europe. Encapsulated so effectively in the phrase ‘A Bridge Too Far’ – a throwaway remark supposedly first uttered by Lieutenant General Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning who commanded the airborne elements of the operation, and which later spawned Cornelius Ryan’s very popular book of 1974 and the film three years later – Operation MARKET GARDEN has everything: a bold plan with so many individual tales of...

  15. 9 WINTER Frustration and Anxiety
    (pp. 232-264)

    With the failure of MARKET GARDEN the likelihood of the war continuing into the autumn and winter of 1944–5 became a stark reality for the British Army in September 1944. The rapid victory that some, though not all, had been imagining to be probable following the race to Antwerp and Brussels now became a distant prospect, and 21st Army Group had to reconcile itself to putting its house in order. The issue of the Scheldt estuary remained to be resolved, and the Arnhem gamble had rendered as most unlikely the prospects of opening up Antwerp speedily to ease the...

  16. 10 VICTORY The Rhine to the Baltic
    (pp. 265-295)

    January 1945, though bitterly cold, brought the prospect of the Allied armies beginning the final push across the Rhine into Germany itself, and with it the near certainty of victory. German resources had all but been expended in the ultimately futile Ardennes offensive, and though the Allies had suffered embarrassment and some not inconsiderable dismay at being caught out by an enemy they had begun to dismiss as beaten, the battle had ultimately made their job of driving across the Rhine and finally breaking the Third Reich that much easier.

    The principal aim of 21st Army Group in 1945 was...

    (pp. 296-303)

    In the period leading up to the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, Churchill had, directly or indirectly, set out two principal goals for Montgomery’s forces in the forthcoming Northwest European campaign. First, they needed to make a significant enough contribution to the defeat of the Third Reich to warrant a seat at the post-war conferences. If the British Army evaded its responsibilities in battling against the German armed forces, hiding behind the might of the USA, the position of the British in shaping the post-war settlement would be seriously weakened. How could the Americans and the Soviets take seriously...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 304-337)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 338-352)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 353-370)