Looking Down On War – THE NORMANDY INVASION: JUNE 1944 review by Mark Barnes


Looking Down On War – THE NORMANDY INVASION: JUNE 1944
Imagery from WWII Intelligence files
By Colonel Roy M Stanley II, USAF (Ret.)
Published by Pen & Sword Military
ISBN: 978 1 78159 056 0
Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online

I was at the War & Peace Revival. It was the usual case of organised chaos, shock and awe. I’d met up with a welcome blend of good friends and the odd adversary. Most of my adversaries are pretty odd.  The old racecourse at Hythe, which they were calling Folkestone, was a dustbowl in the extreme. We were all getting used to not being at the Hop Farm at various wobbly paces of our own and buried in private confusions about the new venue for the world’s biggest military jamboree. My camera was suffering and would turn up it’s toes a fortnight later in New York City. But I am getting ahead of myself…I can’t remember which afternoon it was, they tend to merge into one dusty blob of sweaty lunacy as the week progresses; but I was sitting down with the editor of a well known military magazine and we drank tea on a scorching afternoon, as the English do, and our chat turned to books. He gets a lot more sent to him than I do. The publishing community remain loyal to their cousins in ink even though we sons of the ether reach many more eyes these days. Hint hint.

We narrowed our discussion down to the turnout of the particular stable this book emanates from and my tea time chum was scathing. We talked about the Images of War series – which I like, and he pulled it to pieces. We discussed some of their general narrative books and I had to agree some of them were a little shaky. But I think the difference between us is the vast majority of books I see come from this publisher. I don’t get sent all the big glossy books from many other houses. I don’t write quick one paragraph reviews based on press releases. I read the things from cover to cover.  I take his point about some books being not up to scratch while others go stratospheric for me. They really do it – some of them are new, but often they are reprints of classics. There are gems out there. If you are regular reader (my mum doesn’t read these so there might be one who actually found my page and liked it) you will know I often mark a book out as a masterpiece.

Some titles come along as a sort of Curate’s Egg as the saying goes – oddities which hit home in a strange way which I can’t quite put my finger on. These books have something about them that I like. It’s as simple as that – in a manner almost eccentric.

We had talked about that great evil – vanity publishing, and I dared to raise the thing’s ugly head some years ago when I mooted the idea of producing a photography book of my work on the military event circuit. My friend said “Who is it for?”  Worse still, he asked “Who on Earth would buy it?” He posed the same question over our tea break at W&P Revival in respect of titles such as this one I am reviewing today. For him this book is a piece of pointless vanity publishing.

So what do I think?

For me this is a prime example of the aforementioned Curate’s Egg. There have been so many D-Day or Normandy campaign books I am a little nonplussed to see where the need is for any more. But with the 70th anniversary virtually upon us, you can bet your life we will be drenched in the things. I’m not sure what the author really brings to the table because his analysis is sometimes a bit personal, or so it seems, and the hardened D-Day nut will be right up there with all this stuff. And yet I found this book to be very likeable and one of those casual dip affairs you can have a browse through over a cup of tea (other hot beverages are available) as and when it suits. The author has lifetime in photographic interpretation and brings his knowledge to bear. It’s a bit of fun. I just think it takes itself a tad too seriously. Maybe it’s me. I am not telling you to avoid it by any means – the book will fit snugly into your Overlord library, but it could be a bit of a luxury. If you are interested in photographic interpretation or want to see D-Day from a truly different perspective, then look no further. I love aerial photography, so it appealed to me on that level alone. I suspect I am sending you mixed messages here – but that is the effect this kind of book has and I have made my point.

Other books will call your hard earned wages first, but if you are free with your cash; then have a mooch at this one. You might not be disappointed. Books like this have been killed by the internet in real terms – but they have what your all singing all dancing switch on switch off ether doesn’t – warmth. End of.

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By Mark Barnes / Visit his amazing facebook page: For Your Tomorrow

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.