This book is most definitely a military history and, I think, assumes that most readers will be reasonably familiar with tank regiments, their equipment and the way they function. Whilst I’m interested in WW2 and the progress of the various fronts I’m not particularly interested the equipment more in the people. It made this book a bit of a challenge although there is a lot about people in it too.
Hastings describes the movements of Das Reich as it moved from the Eastern Front via Vichy France to the Falaise and onto the Normandy battles. There is plenty of information about the terrible state of the Das Reich’s equipment and the challenges of having the travel by road because there were not enough trains to move them from place to place.
The most interesting bits for me were about the key players in Das Reich, in the various parts of the French resistance who came up against them and some of the SOE and SAS people who were parachuted in to support the resistance.
I enjoyed finding out more about what was happening in other parts of France in the run up to and during the D-Day landings. It isn’t something I know much about and this book filled a few of the gaps in my knowledge.
It was also interesting to know more about the French resistance. I knew, from various other sources, about the lack of cooperation between the various factions within the resistance but I hadn’t realised just how animosity there was between them. Or how much SOE and SAS fooled themselves over what could be achieved by them behind the German lines in support of the D-Day landings.
The most harrowing parts of the book deal with the reprisals meted out by Das Reich towards the civilian population for actions carried out by the resistance. There is a lot of detail about the atrocities carried out in Oradour and Tulle.
If I’d properly read the blurb on the back cover of this book I would probably never have bought it or read it. It has added to my knowledge of WW2 and also confirmed to me that I’m not really interested in the history of military action or weaponry.
N.B. The picture at the top of this review is of Oradour sur Glane, which has been preserved as a monument to what happened there.