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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


The Normandy Battlefields

D Day & the Bridgehead

Leo Marriott & Simon Forty           Casemate, Summer 2014

I had high hopes of this volume. A topical subject, with its publication timed to coincide with the surge in interest around the 70th anniversary of the landings. But it is a crowded topic, with guides such as After the Battle doing the admittedly interesting trick of juxtaposing contemporary and modern photos of Normandy battlefield scenes – usually beaches, village squares, or half-timbered buildings.


The main issue I have with this book is that it has clearly been developed with more than half an eye on the US market. Possibly a sound commercial decision, but one which diminishes the book’s appeal to a British reader. The production values, font, and paper, do not quite ring quite true for a reader this side of the pond. The spelling of ‘defense’ grates, when the authors are very clearly English. Perhaps more important is the editorial bias. This is a volume where photos are integral to the whole, and the selection frequently covers US involvement generously whilst underplaying that of the Brits (& Canadians). A chapter on the airborne forces features 22 pages on the Americans for example, against only 12 for the UK and Canada.  The book moves on to describe events and locations, beach by beach. The US beaches of Utah and Omaha take 18 and 24 pages respectively.  This compares with 18 for Gold, 18 for Juno and only 16 for Sword.


Some opinions are cast in the reader’s face as facts: “the Marauder was the best medium bomber in the ETO” – which I presume means European Theatre (or should that be theater?!) of Operations. A contentious view, I should have thought. Spellings of place names falter – e.g. Le Mesrul for Le Mesnil. In the initial chapters outlining the planning for Overlord, the authors fail to mention the big advantage held by the Allies due to their superior weather observation facilities.


Some of the contemporary colour photos are very evocative, and are far from commonplace images. In the ‘then and now’ theme, the authors include modern aerial shots that they have taken. Marriott is a pilot and photographer – all I can say is he must have been flying at an “interestingly” low level! Some of these town views would have been improved had they been taken from the same angle as the wartime images.


So overall, more likely to appeal to Peoria than Paignton.

US on D Day
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