In September 1944 Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery foolishly decided that he could push an armoured column 103km to Arnhem in a few days. With devastating command of his subject, Antony Beevor shows how one commander’s hubris destroyed an army. This is not a tale of heroes, although heroes are present. It’s a story about the ugliness of war. It’s about blood and piss and vomit, severed limbs, oozing brains and soldiers crying for their mothers. No one beats Beevor at recreating the bewildering cacophony of war.
Antony Beevor’s best-selling account of the operation takes a steelier look both at the defeat and at the dreadful civilian suffering that ensued...
This finely detailed account of the human cost ends with a poignant anecdote of loss redeemed.
As Beevor’s superlative new book shows it was not a failure of boots on the ground but a failure of brass-hat planning that led to surrender by Major General John Frost, whose force of 745 was reduced by fighting to just 100 fully operative men....Beevor is not the first historian to tackle this subject. US historian Rick Atkinson wrote a notable offering, his Liberation trilogy, covering Market Garden well.
Atkinson’s style is much more descriptive than Beevor’s whose strength lies in his grasp of facts. And Arnhem: Battle For The Bridges sees him return to Stalingrad form. Forensic is too soft a word to describe the breadth of detail he brings.
There is a particularly British tendency to romanticise valiant military failure... Sir Antony Beevor avoids this trap. In the meticulous narrative style he first employed in “Stalingrad”, he recreates the operation from the dropping of the first troops on September 17th to the evacuation of the remnants of the British 1st Airborne Division eight days later. Tragically, heroism and incompetence are inseparable.
The outline of the story of “Arnhem” may be familiar, but Sir Antony’s unearthing of neglected sources from all the countries involved—British, American, Polish, Dutch and German—brings to life every aspect of the battle.
The story gets the full Beevor Stalingrad treatment — an approach that has proved so successful in his half-dozen battle and campaign chronicles of the war. The drama of manoeuvre and counter-thrust, the courage and cowardice of soldier and civilian, the follies and vanities of commanders, which are especially rich in this story, are deployed with colour and humanity.
His fans will love it. Arnhem is one of the great British heroic defeats, along with Dunkirk and Sir John Moore’s failure at Corunna.
What Beevor does bring to this narrative, however, is a complete mastery of both the story and the sources. The beauty is in the details. At the Arnhem road bridge, besieged paratroopers ask their officers, with typical army humour, if they can now please be paid overtime... Antony Beevor received some criticism a few years ago, particularly for his grand history of the Second World War, which was perhaps too vast and sprawling a subject to showcase his talents. In recent years, however, he has regained his mojo. This gripping book, with its tightly focused timescale and subject matter, shows him once again at his very best.