VIVE LA FRANCE! Reviewed by Mark Barnes

Stunning books dealing with uniforms, equipment and weaponry have been coming out of France for quite some time and I am never disappointed by the style and skill with using archive photography that all these books tend to show.

These three are a case in point.


By Jonathan Gawne, it is a thing of beauty encompassing the genuinely pleasing mix of archive, modern photography and artwork we have come to admire from Histoire & Collections.  In this huge fourth edition of this book Mr Gawne looks at a blizzard of elements of the American invasion forces – Rangers, combat engineers, naval units, armour, truck companies, shipping, Seabees – the lot. It is a stunning piece of work.  The use of models wearing the uniforms of such a variety of units is impressive and I have to say the overall visual impact is compelling. The text is informative and put together with such passion I am in no position to make any negative criticism.

Happily for me this is ideal pick up and go back to stuff. Longstanding sufferers of my reviews will know I love books I can dip in and out of armed with a cup of tea and a bit of background music. This one fits the bill perfectly. I really enjoyed this author’s Ghosts of the ETO last year and look forward to more from him. If you have a serious interest in American units in Normandy or are in to living history or collecting kit and caboodle then this book is an absolute essential. Must have. Go get.

American Special Units in Normandy
By Jonathan Gawne
Histoire & Collections
ISBN:978 2 35250 201 2


Orep Editions bring us this fascinating look at the place of St Mere Eglise in the history of D-Day and the wider context of the village in terms of the location of temporary American cemeteries before the permanent cemetery we know so well was made.

Once again the mixture of archive and modern photography is all on the button and the translation of Antonin Dehays’ original text by John Bro works well.  There is a lot going on in this book and it is a must for enthusiasts of the story of Operation Overlord and all it represents. There is a particularly touching section regarding the repatriation of American dead back to the USA and it shows the immense care that was taken with the job. Mr Dehays really knows his stuff and he obviously cares a great deal about his subject. This book is definitely worth having.

An American Sanctuary In Normandy 1944-1948
By Antonin Dehays
Orep Editions
ISBN: 978 2 8151 0252 0


Much less easy for me to review but important nonetheless is this immense piece of work by Charles Trang. I left school in 1975 with a fairly meaningless qualification in French which with a bit of life experience still gets me by in cafes, petrol stations and at toll booths. I am unable to review the text in this huge book but my limited understanding of the language comes in handy for the picture captions and it is as an archive album that the thing is primarily aimed at. The photography is out of this world.

The book covers the history of the Wiking Division of the Waffen SS from December 1940 to April 1942. I have to be honest and say I always feel a little uncomfortable with books about the SS but the quality of this publication is so high it diminishes my reservations.

This book is essential for living historians and re-enactors because there are so many tableaux to recreate and perfect here I came away recalling snaps of the groups I have photographed on the circuit down the years.  The fact it is all in French will not stop your enjoyment of this book if you do not speak the language, In any case you can always use translation tools if it is that important to you. Perhaps Heimdal will make an English edition at some point. In the mean time enjoy this first volume as it is.

The second volume in the set was published only recently and I hope I get to see it.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

Volume 1
Décembre 1940-Avril 1942
By Charles Trang
Editions Heimdal
ISBN: 978 2 84048 346 5

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.