German Infantryman vs British Infantryman – Review by Phil Hodges

These titles confuse me sometimes. Not in an overpowering historical way but in a “are they necessary?” sort of way. The title sounds like a football match. This could be the sequel to Escape to Victory and NOBODY wants a sequel to THAT! It’s part of Osprey’s Combat series and while I’ll sing Osprey’s praises till the cows come home I just don’t see the need for these titles. OK, that’s as bad a review as Osprey will get from me, so what of the actual book and what does it offer?

Well, it’s the usual explosion of colour straight from the off that you’d expect from Osprey from the moment you look at the cover through to turning the first page and beyond. The plates are real  ‘boys own’ artwork and it all adds to the overall effect of the book. Now, this isn’t a criticism at all; far from it, but the book appears to be aimed at the younger audience rather than the hardened military historian. The whole layout, artwork, writing and presentation give it a kind of ‘Warlord’ or ‘Victor Book for Boys’ annual feel. Intentionally, or not, it works and if this book gets the younger of our budding historians involved then that can’t be a bad thing.

Like I said the book itself isn’t really one for the diehards , that said its not to be overlooked. It covers the usual suspects: Uniform, weapons, tactics and equipment. Of note here are the two opposite sides of the coin, as it were. The Germans, whilst basically wearing WW1 webbing, uniforms and equipment and carrying a rifle whose heritage goes back even further, devoured Europe by their use of masterful and lightning strike tactics upon an unprepared enemy. The British, on the other hand, were newly equipped with webbing and equipment that although resembling that of their fathers in the trenches of the Somme and Ypres was, at this time, cutting edge! The rifle remained the same but the rest was barely out of the factories. Alas the tactics were mainly that of cavalry officers, a poor choice in modern warfare.

It’s also interesting to read of the actual encounters between the Germans and the BEF in France during 1940. We all know the eventual outcome but the Germans didn’t have it all their own way despite their steamroller approach. Dunkirk, of course, features heavily in this title as you would expect, but also of note are the other two major French ports in the area at Calais and Boulogne.  These saw heavy fighting throughout 1940 and some heroic, if not well documented, actions took place here.

Despite this somewhat basic offering it is a fantastic entry level book and is sure to have anyone hooked on history. I get the feeling here that once this book is called for on the Christmas list there will be many a more Osprey title requested in the future. As Santa might say: “Donner und Blitzen.”

Reviewed by Phil Hodges for War History Online.



France 1940
By David Greentree
Osprey Publishing
ISBN 978-1-4728-1240-7

Phil Hodges

Phil Hodges is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE