Monday, 6 May 2013

Book Review - Stuart Hills, "By Tank Into Normandy"

I'm pretty sure this was recommended me by someone on the Lardies list, but I can't find any mention of it in my email, which precludes me thanking whoever it was.

"By Tank into Normandy" is the wartime autobiography of 2nd Lt. Stuart Hills of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, and covers his career from being landed (eventually) on D-Day as the commander of a Sherman DD troop, through the breakout in Normandy, Operation Bluecoat, post-Market Garden operations with US 82nd Airborne and the final push into Germany.

You would be forgiving for marking the author down as a stereotypical British junior officer: born in Hong Kong, educated at boarding school in Tonbridge, keen cricketer and boxer, went to Sandhurst... and indeed, the photos in the centre pages do show him and his brother officers as the classic clean-cut army types. He is, however, a very articulate author, willing to reveal the emotions and thoughts behind the expected stiff upper lip.

I really enjoyed this - Hill (with assistance from a historian and teacher from his old school) writes clearly and articulately, telling the story of his wartime service in a way that grabs the attention and makes one see the action very clearly. It's also hard to look at those photos in the centre pages and realise how young some of these men were - Hills himself was only 20 - and how many of Hills comrades didn't survive the war. His quotes from the unit's chaplain are particularly sobering.

Hills died in 2004, two years after the book was published. As well as being an excellent insight into life in a tank regiment in World War 2 (and thus recommended reading for anyone who takes their gaming seriously), it's a fitting tribute both to him and those who fell during the war, be they famous or those who, as Hill says (quoting from the book of Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha):
...have no memorial;
[...]
Their bodies are buried in peace;
But their name liveth for evermore.

5 comments:

  1. I think that someone reviewed the book before because I put it in my wish list at Amazon, but thanks for refreshing in any case. Quite interesting.

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  2. My favourite kind of book - written by those at the sharp end. Thanks for the reccommendation.

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  3. Sounds like a great read, I'll keep an eye out for it.

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  4. A very fine review, Mike. A book I shall certainly be on the look out for! Thanks!

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  5. think i may have recommended that book, i know i did recommend it to some one in the blog-o-sphere maybe not here, but a bloody good read none the less.

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