This is the first in a new Osprey series that looks at direct clashes between some of histories most iconic soldiers. We start with a study of the first major clashes between British and German paratroops, which took place in North Africa and on Sicily in 1942-43. At this stage the two forces were in a very different point in their history. The Fallschirmjäger had fought with distinction since 1939, had seen great success during the campaigns in the west in 1940 and had suffered heavy losses on Crete. The British paratroops were a new unit, with very limited combat experience and no clear idea of their idea role.
As a result all three of these clashes ended as a German victory, although in one case a short-lived one. In each case we thus get an examination of the strengths of the German forces and the potential strengths of the British Paratroops, who generally performed well despite being outnumbered or involved in an ill-thought out attack.
The text is supported by the usual good selection of contemporary photos and modern artwork, along with a set of good annotated maps showing the progress of each engagement and the nature of the terrain. One new feature is a double-page artwork showing a particular moment in one of the battles from both sides. In this case I'm not sure its entirely successful, as it shows two groups of similarly equipped modern soldiers operating in the dark, but I can see that it has a great deal of potential on other situations.
There are also some useful extracts from eyewitness accounts and memoirs - this is an ideal subject for this sort of approach, as members of both forces produced numerous autobiographies and have been the subject of many later studies, so Greentree has been able to present both sides of the battle.
This is a strong start to a new series, benefiting from its tight focus on an seven month period in 1942-43 when the two forces were at very different stages of development, and on small scale encounters where the paratroops were just about the only forces engaged.
The Opposing Sides
Pont du Fahs, Depienne and Oudna, 29 November-4 December 1942
Green Hill, 5 January 1943
Primosole Bridge, 13-17 July 1943
Analysis and Conclusion
Author: David Greentree