During the Second World War the Royal Artillery was considered to be the best part of the British Army, and one of the most effective forces to be fielded by any army. Major Peter Pettit was a Territorial officer who served with the Artillery from 1939, but didn't enter combat until the fighting in Tunisia at the start of 1943. From then on he was almost constantly in action, fighting on Sicily, in Normandy and during the advance across France and Belgium and the invasion of Germany.
This book is made up of two intertwining texts. The first made up of large extracts from Pettit's own diaries, mainly focusing on the more active parts of his career. The second is provided by Jones, and combines a brief history of Pettit's various commands with an explanation of how the artillery was organised, the history of Pettit's various units and other useful notes.
Pettit began the war as a battery commander, but by the start of 1943 he was second in command of the 17th Field Regiment. He served with four different artillery units during the rest of the war, and ended up as CO of the 55th Field Regiment. He was thus in a position to have some idea of the wider picture, while also being close to the sharp end.
This book certainly dispels any idea that the artillery was a safe posting. Many of Pettit's colleagues were killed in combat, some when their guns were subjected to enemy fire, some while acting as advanced observers and others in the general incidents of the war (at one point his HQ even gained a reputation for being a dangerous place to serve!). The artillery also moved more often than one might expect - even in periods of relative stability the artillery often had to move to find a better firing position, prepare for an anticipated plan or for any number of other reasons, so much of Pettit's time was take up with the complex series of tasks involved in moving a series of gun batteries and their associated HQs and observation posts.
This is an excellent book, combining an interesting diary with a useful supporting text, to give some idea of how the Royal Artillery earned its excellent reputation.
1 - Artillery, A Great Battle-Winning Factor
2 - Tunisia - The Beginning of the End
3 - Sicily - Europe at Last
4 - Normandy - 'The Majestic Plan of Forcing the Channel'
5 - Caen and Falaise - The Climax of the Battle
6 - Brussels and Antwerp - Montgomery's Concentrated Thrust
7 - The Reichswald, the Rhine and Into Germany
Afterword - The Territorial Army: Past, Present and (Problematical) Future
Author: John Philip Jones & Major Peter Pettit
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military