7/10. Well written and fascinating, particularly in its clear demonstration of the way the French just ‘gave up’ (both generally in the inter-war period and in 1940 itself). I would have preferred more analytical clarity regarding exactly when things went wrong and why – at some moments Horne seems to be suggesting that a sufficiently active response by the French in the first few days (between the 12th and the 14th of May) might have made a decisive difference in reversing the tide, at others that the Germans superiority in weapons, tactics and men (quality, not necessarily quantity) meant that France was doomed from the start. The relative success of the few British salleys against the Germans make me incline more towards the former possibility. I also think this view may be warranted by the concerns evinced so frequently by those within the German General Staff (and Hitler himself) about the vulnerability of their flanks, as well as the huge convoys through the Ardennes, in the first few decisive days of the battle. If this is the case, it shows that what is today considered one of the greatest and most brilliant military victories of all time might well have ended up as another failed Schlieffen plan.
To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne
JUNE 15, 2008