Pen & Sword: Armoured Warfare and the Fall of France 1940

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Images of War Series

Author: Anthony Tucker-Jones, ISBN 184884639-8

MSRP: UK 14.99 GBP/US $24.95

Introduction

The early ‘Blitzkrieg’ campaigns of 1940 always hold interest due to just how fast events developed after months of the ‘Phoney War’ produced little after the fall of Poland in 1939. The western countries fell in rapid succession beginning with Denmark and Norway, followed by Belgium and the Netherlands, and finally France in 1940, leaving Great Britain standing alone against the Nazi threat. As part of these campaigns, the introduction of a new kind of armored warfare made its presence felt and the focus of this latest edition by Pen & Sword is on telling that story through a collection of rare photographs dealing with the different stages of the 1940 campaigns.

Review

Overall the book is organized well and is an easy read with the chapters being devoted mostly to photos as opposed to text. Each chapter does include a few pages of text as outlined below to go with each section to provide a narrative framework of the campaign to go with the provided photos and their captions.

Chapter 1: Finest Tanks in Europe: This chapter covers 16 pages (5 text, 11 photos) and provides an overview of the state of French armor and its development up to 1940 as a prelude to the campaign and the events that unfolded.

Chapter 2: Shield But No Sword: This chapter covers 10 pages (3 text, 7 photos) dealing with the Maginot Line and its fortifications as well as a discussion of its place in the overall French strategy for war.

Chapter 3: The British Expeditionary Force’s Matildas: This chapter covers 12 pages (3 text, 9 photos) outlining the state of the BEF, Belgian, and Dutch forces in Europe prior to the 1940 campaign including a breakdown of the types of armored vehicles (or lack thereof) available to each nation’s armed forces.

Chapter 4: Guderian’s Panzerwaffe: This chapter covers 16 pages (3 text, 13 photos) and does the same for the German forces as the previous chapter did for the Allied forces.

Chapter 5: Codeword Danzig –Netherlands and Belgium: This chapter covers 16 pages (4 text, 12 photos) and deals with the German invasions of Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Chapter 6: Blitzkrieg-Across the Meuse: This chapter covers 14 pages (3 text, 13 photos) and deals with the initial German invasion across the Meuse that began the Battle of France campaign.

Chapter 7: Desperate Situation-Counterattack!: This chapter covers 10 pages (3 text, 7 photos) and serves as a prelude to the following chapter dealing with the movements of both French and British units leading up to the Battle of Arras.

Chapter 8: Arras-Rommel’s Bloody Nose: This chapter covers 14 pages (4 text, 12 photos) and deals with the events of the ultimately
unsuccessful armored counter-attack at Arras by the BEF and French forces.

Chapter 9: Dunkirk-Churchill’s Miracle: This chapter covers 10 pages (4 text, 6 photos) and deals with the events following Arras and the eventual BEF’s evacuation from Dunkirk.

Chapter 10: The Fall of Paris: This chapter covers 14 pages (3 text, 11 photos) and details the final events that led to the French collapse and capitulation that ended the Battle of France in June 1940.

Conclusion

I found the book easy to read and follow and it has a nice balance between the text and photos in terms of content. While some of the photos are smaller than others due to the page size restrictions, they are all valuable in terms of reference for features on many French vehicles in particular such as the S35, H35/39, R35, and Char B1 bis as well as other prominent British vehicles like the Matilda Mk.II and Mk.VIB. The text descriptions in each of the chapters are well written and informative and the captions that go with the photos provide additional details and information on the vehicles/events depicted. As the book’s title suggests, the main value for this volume is in the photos and the variety of photos presented across the different chapters makes this a nice reference to add to the shelf.

Special thanks to Pen & Sword for providing the review sample!

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