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Brothers in Arms: One Legendary Tank Regiment's Bloody War from D-Day to VE-Day Paperback – 12 May 2022
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From the bestselling author of Normandy '44 and Sicily '43, a brilliant new history of the last days of the war
'Seldom is war so vividly described...An assault on the senses...Painful to read, impossible to put down' Gerard DeGroot, The Times
'Epic and moving...Holland brings this cramped universe vividly to life' Patrick Bishop, Daily Telegraph
It took a certain type of courage to serve in a tank in the Second World War. Encased in steel, surrounded by highly explosive shells, a big and slow-moving target, every crew member was utterly vulnerable to enemy attack from all sides. Living - and dying - in a tank was a brutal way to fight a war.
The Sherwood Rangers were one of the great tank regiments. They had learned their trade the hard way, in the burning deserts of North Africa. From D-Day onwards, they were in the thick of the action til the war's end. They and their Sherman tanks covered thousands of miles and endured some of the fiercest fighting in Western Europe. Their engagements stretch from the Normandy beaches to the bridges at Eindhoven. They were the first British unit into Germany, grinding across the Siegfried Line and on into the Nazi heartland.
Through compelling eye-witness testimony and James Holland's expert analysis, Brothers In Arms brings to vivid life the final bloody scramble across Europe and gives the most powerful account to date of what it was really like to fight in the dying days of World War Two.
War as it should be described - ordinary men facing extraordinary horror. Caught in the drama of battle, we sometimes forget the good men who died. Holland, to his credit, forces us to remember ― The Times BOOK OF THE WEEK
Powerful and moving...James Holland's greatest strength as a military historian is that he brings humanity to his work. Brothers In Arms does more than just tell the story of the Sherwood Rangers...Holland has delved into their world and brought their characters to life. ― The Spectator
Their [the Sherwood Rangers] story can be seen as a reflection of the British war as a whole and Holland tells it very well, using his trademark technique of immersive detail and a cast of well-defined characters. If you are a fan of his style and I am, you will find that once again it works brilliantly ― The Daily Telegraph
An intimate and harrowing portrayal of warfare ― Radio Times
About the Author
James Holland is a historian, writer and broadcaster. The author of a number of bestselling histories, including Battle of Britain, Dam Busters, Normandy '44 and, most recently, Sicily '43, he has also written nine works of historical fiction, including the Jack Tanner novels.
He is currently writing an acclaimed three-volume new history of the Second World War, The War in the West. He has presented - and written - a large number of television programmes and series for the BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic, and the History and Discovery channels.
A three-part documentary series based on his bestselling book Normandy '44 under the same title can be found on Amazon Prime.
James is co-founder of the Chalke Valley History Festival and of WarGen.org, an online Second World War resource site, and presents the Chalke Valley History Hit podcast. He also presents We Have Ways of Making You Talk, a podcast with Al Murray in which they discuss the Second World War. A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @James1940.
- Publisher : Penguin (12 May 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 704 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0552177911
- ISBN-13 : 978-0552177917
- Dimensions : 12.7 x 3 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
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Not only is it very well researched (James Holland does not let us down here at all) but it is also very well resourced for the reader too with plenty of pictures, from maps of the actual action taken by reconnaissance aircraft on D-Day and useful diagrams of the Sherman tanks the Sherwood Rangers were deployed with plus a host of useful (never dull) appendices.
The book briefly charts the regiment's move in quick succession from traditional cavalry, to artillery and then tanks, from the desert campaigns to D-Day and then sticks with the men and machines from France to Germany at the end of the war.
This journey from the Normandy beaches to Germany's surrender is one fraught with loss. Never mind being in a tank thinking that you are as safe as houses. You were certainly not. The attrition rate was quite terrible, and its emotional cost even noted by that most phlegmatic of generations themselves in their writings at the time and in their interviews with Holland.
Holland does a great job also of demystifying the Sherman tank itself which has seen much criticism over the years with huge debates taking place on the internet for example. Many men fell not just because of inadequate armour, inadequate escape hatches, misfires and tactics but more equally men also died being cut down when abandoning a tank or when out of it for some reason. So you get a much more balanced view of the Sherman's performance.
One thing I still wrack my brains over though was Allied tank policy in WWII. The Sherman was a 'medium' tank - certainly not in the same league in potency as German Panthers and Tiger MBTs. Also, Holland puts contemporary tank tactics in context too - from pacific Tarawa to Germany - learning how to get infantry and tanks to work together effectively on offensives was something that was recognised even though it seems that the Allies were still learning to do it properly throughout WWII. Another source of weakness and arguably, casualties. Tank warfare was still relatively new, and It was a steep learning curve littered with dead men and burnt out tanks.
I do wonder how the Sherwood Rangers would have faired with a few more better armoured Churchill tanks at their disposal maybe at the hands of Panzerfausts usually coming from the sides? But as noted, these are tactical issues as well as ones of materiel and Holland is to be applauded for his even handedness.
Tactics and weapons aside, Holland is also to be applauded for getting as much as he could from his surviving interviewees. Nothing here is left to the imagination - from the joys of a hot bath, exhaustion beyond exhaustion to the sickening experience of recovering immolated men out of knocked out tanks for burial - it's all here dealt with respectfully and with gentle candour.
The mid to last chapters dealing with the hopeless life wasting German 'defence' of their land are truly brutal and dark indeed even though there is a light on the horizon.
So instead of feeling victorious, you are left with the same palpable sense of relief and loss that remaining Sherwood Foresters must have felt in 1945 when the German forces surrendered. This to me is the minor miracle of the book that Holland pulls off - no jingoism here at all. It is a very humane and humble ending that reflects I think the true horror and mixed morality of war - men at their best in the midst of doing their worst.
You are literally left thinking 'Never again'.
Stunning - and highly recommended.
I am in awe of what they achieved and I became transfixed by the actions of the Padre, Leslie Skinner , what a man …..
A wonderful read and thank you
This book by James Holland is one of those rare occasions when the final product is brilliantly researched, eminently readable and humbling as one learns the details of the courage shown by the chaps in these tanks.
Take a bow J Holland, very well done and you did the men of the Sherwood Foresters proud.