We last saw these authors with their extremely likable guide to D-Day and the beginnings of the Normandy campaign. I obviously wasn’t paying sufficient attention because I had not expected the arrival of this latest book that picks up the story and takes us all the way from Normandy to the gates of the Reich.
This book follows the previous formula with a nice blend of history and battlefield tour guidance supported by archive photography and a range of superb aerial photos of sites along the campaign route.
As I said last time round, there are a lot of battlefield guides and they all provide a service of sorts and it really is up to the beholder to give an eye to beauty. I really like the concept the authors have hit on and this book fulfills several needs for my battlefield touring urges.
Unlike the D-Day book this one takes me beyond the range of my many visits to the battlefields and I really appreciate this. I suppose I could equate it to the first time I got the Holt’s D-Day book in 2003 or the perennially wonderful Before Endeavours Fade (I have more than one edition of both). I enjoyed seeing familiar sites I have visited, but much more importantly I am happy to see the authors perspectives of places I haven’t got to yet. I showed the book to my mates, Jack Beckett calls them the Nunsfor reasons I shall gloss over, and they were interested in fortifications around Ostend we haven’t clambered over yet.
Once the book takes us beyond the route of Market-Garden I find myself in totally unfamiliar territory. The effect on me is to lose focus a little, but it is restored by a growing sense that there are more places I really need to visit. The problem there is my list is endless.
This is good history well packaged within the confines of a strong and accessible concept. I can find nothing to dislike here and really do like the aerial landscapes and details. There is a snap of the bridge at Son and I can see the bit of fence I leaned against while snapping Joris Nieuwint’s Dodge and my mates, nuns or otherwise; on a glorious Sunday two years ago. Other pages show the beaches of the Dunkirk evacuation and these are much-loved stamping grounds of recent times for our gang. The mix of the familiar and the new is engrossing as it is refreshing after months of little battlefield tour activity.
I like a book that inspires and this one meets my expectations. I will be interested to see if there is a third volume covering the landscape of the final defeat of Hitler’s Reich. It seems to be a bit of a no brainer that there will be one.
A lot of work went into this book and the result is deceptively easy on the eye and brain but the effort to produce a book of this quality and complexity is not to be underestimated. Messrs Marriott and Forty somehow manage to make a book as complicated as this really simple. You have to admire them for it. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.
RACE TO THE RHINE
By Leo Marriott & Simon Forty