The Battle for France: Six Weeks that changed the World, Philip Warner

The Battle for France: Six Weeks that changed the World, Philip Warner

The first few months of the Second World War came as something of an anti-climax - the famous 'phoney war' period, but that began to change in the spring and summer of 1940, starting with the German invasions of Denmark and Norway, before in May 1940 the Germans finally launched their long-awaited invasion of the west. Over the next six weeks Holland, Belgium and France were overrun and the British were forced to retreat from the continent.

As with most dramatic historical events there are several different historical schools of though to explain the German victories in 1940. Warner's account is firmly in the school that puts the blame on the French high command, and in particular on Gamelin, the Allied Commander-in-Chief until 19 May. His failure to create a strategic reserve, or to take any of the opportunities to launch potentially devastating counterattacks against the narrow German breakthrough certainly played a part in events,

Warner also acknowledges that much of the German success was due to their superior understanding of the best way to use the tank - concentrated in large numbers to provide a strong attacking force, rather that dissipated into small 'penny-packets' across the entire front (although its always easier for the attacker to concentrate his strength, knowing in advance where he is going to attack). He tends to underplay the key role of the Luftwaffe in the German victory

The account of the campaign itself is clear and well told, using evidence from all of the main participants (although with a bias towards British and German sources). The sense of chaos and confusion that followed the German breakthrough comes across well, as do the nerves that developed on the German side as the Panzers advanced further and further ahead. There is also an interesting section on the long term impact of this campaign, especially on the direction of the German war effort.

This is a good account of this pivotal battle, looking at the pre-war period, the fighting itself and the aftermath.

Part I: The Preliminaries
1 - The Seeds of Destruction
2 - Decade of Illusion
3 - The Armour of War
4 - The Surprise That Should Never Have Been

Part II: The Action
5 - Prelude to the French Invasion
6 - The Masterstroke
7 - Rumour and Reality
8 - Battle in the Skies
9 - Emergence of a Leader
10 - Pawns against the Panzers
11 - View from the Battlefield
12 - The Sweep to the Channel Ports
13 - Halt Before Dunkirk
14 - The Battles for Calais and Boulogne
15 - Evacuation at Dunkirk
16 - Rearguard Action
17 - View from the War Room
18 - Personal Initiatives
19 - The Forgotten Evacuations
20 - The Final Moves

Part III: The Results
21 - Hindsight
21 - The Invasion Which Might Have Been
22 - After the Fall

Appendix: Forces Involved in the Battle of France

Author: Philip Warner
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 275
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010 edition of 1990 original

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