By Rebecca Drew
FASCINATING then and now images showing how the battlefields of France were left devastated in the three months after the WW2 D-Day landings have been revealed in a thrilling new book.
The series of contrasting photographs show the Germans proudly marching through Cherbourg along what is today known as the Voie de la Liberté. A war-torn Coutances is also depicted with its cathedral, which still stands today untouched by the littering of bombs that hit, a model of the Eiffel tower can be seen lying amongst the rubble.
Other pictures show Canadian David Currie who was awarded the Victoria Cross whilst in command of a battle group near St. Lambert-sur-Dive whilst trying to close the Falaise Gap where the German army was destroyed.
The incredible shots have been released in the book, The Normandy Battlefields Bocage and Breakout: From the Beaches to the Falaise Gap by Simon Forty, Leo Marriott and George Forty. It is published by Casemate Publishers.
“France saw, as you might imagine, serious damage to its buildings and serious loss of life among its inhabitants. Some places—Saint-Lô, Caen, Saint-Malo, Le Havre—were flattened,” said Simon.
“It can be hard to envision wartime France when you’re standing among rebuilt city centres. Then and now photography allows you a glimpse of the past and a fragmentary link to our forebears many of whom died for their country.
“It’s also instructive for an author to travel to the locations you write about, it can help you understand much better why things happened in particular places and how geography played such a crucial role in the campaign. To give one example, the bocage, visiting the area today one can only marvel at the bravery of anyone who would fight there.
“There are many books on the battle of Normandy, but that’s because the subject is so fascinating and the battlefields are so close.
“For a British military historian, few other World War Two campaigns command a similar interest. A huge opposed landing against a brutal regime that had four years to prepare for the assault.
“We and our Allies fought a tenacious, fanatical enemy. And we won. We out-thought them, winning the strategic battle; we out-foxed them—they fell for the ‘fortitude’ deception plan.
“The breakout Operation Cobra took them completely by surprise; and we out-generalled them, because the much-maligned Montgomery and Bradley destroyed the opposition in twelve weeks of fighting.
“For all the Nazis’ much-vaunted tactical acumen and ‘superior’ weaponry, their generals followed the orders of their dictator and were crushed.”
The Allies’ eventual victory over the Germans came at a cost. Between June and August 1944, allied forces suffered 209, 672 casualties on the ground and 16,714 in the air.
In contrast, the Germans had 450,000 casualties, of which 240,00 were killed.
“Leo and I have produced books on D-Day and the battles in the Low Countries,” added Simon.
“This book looks at the Normandy campaign that falls chronologically between these two.
“Its mix of old and new photographs serves as an introduction to the campaign, a primer for those who want to visit the battlefields or an easy-to-read photographic essay for the armchair enthusiast.”
Published by Casemate Publishers, The Normandy Battlefields Bocage and Breakout: From the Beaches to the Falaise Gap by Simon Forty, Leo Marriott and George Forty is now available to buy on Amazon for RRP £19.99.
For more information see: www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Normandy-Battlefields-Bocage-Breakout-beaches-Falaise-Gap/1612004199/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498832489&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=he+Normandy+Battlefields+Bocage+and+Breakout%3A+From+the+beaches+to+the+Falaise+Gap