What are you reading at the moment?

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Gage, Mar 12, 2006.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Hi again Tom :) It's from earlier, regarding September '44.

    "Looking back from the 9th November when the Canadian 1st Army took over in the Nijmegen bridgehead, and prepared for its watery northern role, the hopes of September and October are seen as extravagant fantasies, arising perhaps out of Montgomery's great anxieties. Yet there is, I believe, strong justification. In late August as his armies prepared to burst across the Seine it had not been unreasonable to hope for a miracle. But the Field Marshal had hoped for two miracles: a miracle on the left at Antwerp, and miracle on the right at Arnhem. When he was faced with the grim reality perhaps he bluffed--even himself--for if he once let slip his tenacious vision of the Rhineland and the Ruhr Eisenhower might deny it also. Had he permitted himself to admit the impossibility of fighting the Rhineland battle in October it would have been difficult to gain Eisenhower's consent for it in November. And it had to be fought. Without Montgomery's continual insistence the weight might have shifted south for good. Governing all of the Field Marshal's thinking and actions was the belief that the Rhineland and the Ruhr were the right roads for the conquest of Germany and the foreordained tasks of his armies. He could not act alone. If there could not be a single ground force commander he must have one of Bradley's armies under command, and the certain cooperation of the US's 12th Army Group on his right. Patton's 3rd Army must be curbed. That is, I believe, the basis of Montgomery's long struggle, and the basis of his nightmare. If he admitted the weakness of his position it would become true. He feared constantly that if the weight was thrown to the centre it would be an irreparable mistake, a strategic blunder of the first magnitude. In the last resort he would yield the command of "his" battle; but it must be fought."​

    There are some shifting thoughts here. First Thompson describes the hopes of Sept/Oct as fantasies, then says there was "strong justification" to hope for a miracle, but then to point out that Montgomery hoped for two (Antwerp and Arnhem). Whereas... I mean, you could call Antwerp a hoped-for miracle with the push to reach it, but a squandered one considering the additional fighting that was required before it could be used as a port. If Arnhem had worked it would have been a miracle but that would have required EVERYTHING to go right. I don't think there was honestly strong justification for hoping it would succeed.

    And then it seems a little unclear whether Thompson is trying to convey the idea that Monty thought the Rhineland battle had to be fought, or whether Thompson agreed the battle had to be fought. Without going into any overall strategic analysis of whether that was actually true or not.

    And then there's the next bit, which makes me want to roll my eyes VERY HARD. I mean, the Allies had discussed and agreed that total victory was required.

    "But the battle was not only in the field. Vast political forces loomed as victory was in sight. The New World was fighting to destroy the German armies; the Old World is fighting to win a political victory, to make Europe a safe place to live in.
    "There is a point where these aims diverge, for war is not so much a political instrument to the Americans as an act of retribution. My purpose here is simply to draw attention to these factors, not to discuss them. An awareness that such factors exist may be helpful in the contemplation of the campaign in the field."​
  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    IMO the only way for Montgomery to break into Germany in early 1945 was to attack through the Rhineland; the waterlogged Dutch river Delta with its brittle dykes was no longer an option.

    In January 1945 the pre-Market-Garden strategical discussions flared up again. With Monty proposing a main Allied effort by a concentrated thrust to the north of the Ruhr Industrial area, featuring the 21st Army Group (reinforced by the 9th US Army), while Eisenhower, with the German counterattacks of that winter still in mind, was more careful. He wanted to close up with his Armies along the entire length of the Rhine, to create a saver starting-position for the operations across the river. Montgomery's proposal also implied that the other American Armies had to remain idle, something Eisenhower could not accept ... and Ike won this time ;).
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2020
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  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Is there any indication that Thompson had actually spoken to Montgomery? Or was it all just journalistic waffle of the highest order?


  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Should we split this discussion off into another thread?
  5. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Although the actual fact is that on 31 Jan 45 Eisenhower cabled Bedell Smith that:

    "You may assure the Combined Chiefs of Staff that I will seize the Rhine crossings in the North immediately that is a feasible operation and without waiting to close the Rhine throughout its length".

    Also worth noting that on 5 Feb 1945, after a conference at NAMUR with Eisenhower and Bradley, Montgomery cabled the British War Office:

    "EISENHOWER accepted my conception of the problem … and gave orders that we would work to that general plan … he was prepared to make a limited advance in the north, to secure the RUHR without first clearing the Germans from the west of the RHINE in the south and he accepted my proposals readily and agreed with my arguments."

    Rather than read Thompson I would advise reading vol 3 of Hamilton's biography of Montgomery.


  6. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    ATM I'm reading Elizabeth David's "Italian Food".
  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I've gone all in and am currently reading THE BIG ONE:


    It's the original unrepentant 1929 version to boot. Wild stuff.
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  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I've borrowed some of my Dad's paperbacks to help fill the time during the long days ahead. To start with I am reading the War of the Running Dogs, by Noel Barber. Dad had this in his collection due to his National Service in Malaya during the mid-1950's.

  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Having been virtually house bound since December with eye problems and only given the OK to drive again a last week this lock down is doubly frustrating. However, now I can also read small print again without a magnifier, I've started to catch up on some of the books I bought and have only dipped into for reference /research etc. The one I'm reading in full at the moment is Death from the Skies (Tod aus der Luft) by Dieter Suss which compares the British and German experience and reaction to being bombed. A relatively lightweight work at about 600 pages it may pass some time! Provided of course that I don't come down with the Lurgi (my knees aren't bare so I've escaped the Spon plague) in the meantime.
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  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Glad to hear that reading is an option again. 600 pages would keep me busy for a good while.
  11. Wobbler

    Wobbler Well-Known Member

    I read this, more than once, back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and, yes, it too was one of my Dad’s. It’s a great book.
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  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks Wobbler. My Dad has a decent library of books on this subject matter. It is interesting to me of course because many of the most senior soldiers dealing with the Malayan campaign, were formerly from the Chindits.
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  13. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Really enjoying this book. I have it at work as my lunchtime reading material, so I will now only have access to it twice a week. :mad:

    It has already thrown up some excellent information about ex-Chindit Robert Thompson, which I might add to his story on my website:

    Sir Robert Thompson
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  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    I am reading a lot of academic work on the Trolley problem. Forced choices of life or death may be weird and unconnected with normal life, but there are few trolley problems that have not been faced in WW2.

    Choose to direct a missile from a populated area to a lesser populated area? Part of Britain's V1 passive defence strategy. Check
    Choose whether one person you like or five you don't care about dies? Typical tactical decision Check
    Kill one person to use their body parts for the greater good? Somewhere in the Nazi regime for sure - Check
  15. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member


    Just finished this one. Quite short easy reading covering his training and operations over France in 41, then five months in Malta, training command, a couple of weeks on Spitfire IXBs, then his imprisonment in Stalag Luft 3. The most descriptive and interesting parts for me were his time as a POW, where he attempted a wire job just before the draw for the Great Escape places, and was in solitary so missed what could easily have turned out to be a death sentence. There's an interesting section regarding a naval camp towards the end, but I won't ruin it for anybody who may wish to read the book! Despite having 11 confirmed kills, there is little mention of these victories, instead describing friends and personalities in detail. Enjoyed this one.
  16. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member


    Excellent squadron history. The unit flew Wellingstons on anti-shipping strikes using torpedoes so it's an interesting look at a rarer use of the Wellington.
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  17. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Just finished "With Ensigns Flying" (picture in the other book thread) about British destroyer actions in WW2. I found I knew quite a lot of the actions described but still a decent read.
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  18. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    [​IMG]I'm half way through this one. One of those superb old books produced in the 30s with original photos from the authors collection and a fair few tracing paper fold out maps. The author served on seaplanes in WW1and was responsible for armaments in WW2, notably suggesting fighters should have eight machine guns when it was considered 'excessive' at the time and later championing the hispano cannons that were used later in the war. This book however concerns his interwar service in the late 20s with 70 and 6 squadrons in the middle east at a time when the policy was to keep order amongst various factions by bombing settlements. Plenty of descriptions of the landscape conditions and hardships and also flights in WW1 era aircraft like Brisfits and DH9s that were still in use. It's above the 'boys own' style some of these books have, being written in diary format, but still has a great spirit of adventure style.
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