Merville Battery and the Dives Bridges and Pegasus Bridge and Horsa Bridge by Carl Shilleto

Having received these guides that both relate to the Airborne Brigdgehead in Normandy, and are both by Carl Shilleto, I thought it would make sense to review them together. I have used the Battleground series of Battlefield Guides myself when visiting Arnhem in the past. To my eternal regret, I haven’t actually managed to get to any other battlefields apart from Arnhem, so until the time that somebody gives me a break in becoming a battlefield guide I will have to make do with reading battlefield guide books from the comfort of my own home!

Mind you, in this case it’s not really a case of making do – these are very good books indeed. Exceptionally well illustrated with archive and contemporary photographs, and with a wealth of appendices covering recommended reading, order of battle, glossaries and a handy reference list of grid reference co-ordinates for Satnav use. The maps in particular are a great resource – in particular the colour maps on the back are very useful. Perhaps the only thing that is missing with this series is a larger scale, detailed Holts-style map, but I guess if you want something like that you can go out and buy one yourself, or one of the French Michelin maps. There isn’t a huge amount on tourist information – some basic information such as climate, health, getting there, the perils of battlefield relics are well covered. With the internet, and ever disappearing international borders, it shouldn’t take too much trouble to google up some ferries and hotels.

I’ve done a fair bit of studying of individual soldiers who fought in the airborne bridgehead – namely Portsmouth’s own Sergeant Sid Cornell DCM and the 16 year old Boy Para Private Bobby Johns. Reading this book has helped me understand what happened to both of them in much more context. And I guess that’s what a good battlefield guidebook should do – make you feel like you have been there, without actually being there. I wouldn’t mind betting that out of everyone who buys a battlefield guide, something like 75% might not actually got to the area. And is that such a bad thing?

Both Battleground guides are available from Pen and Sword

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4 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, d-day, Uncategorized, World War Two

4 responses to “Merville Battery and the Dives Bridges and Pegasus Bridge and Horsa Bridge by Carl Shilleto

  1. John Erickson

    I’d really like to see a series like this for the Aleutian campaign. While I’ve seen enough real estate up close (especially in uniform) to know what effect the “lay of the land” can have, I have never been to topography as unique as that of the Aleutian Islands.
    (Don’t suppose you know of the existence of said guides?)

    • James Daly

      I don’t think so I’m afraid John, most of the series I am familiar with are targeted at Brits and hence focus on Europe, with maybe Gallipoli or N Africa thrown in. Do Yanks ‘do’ battlefield tourism? I know loads go over to Normandy every year.

      • John Erickson

        I know there are trips to France, Italy, and a couple of the Pacific Islands. Unfortunately, between the weather and the remote location, the Aleutians are pretty much ignored. There is still a Coast Guard base (including fixed-wing air) out of Adak, I believe, and also craft out of Attu (again, if memory serves). Given sufficient money, I know I could get to Dutch Harbor – that’s the base for the US TV series “Deadliest Catch”.
        Unfortunately, the “sufficient money” is THE key missing factor. :(

  2. Pingback: Battleground General Arnhem 1944 by Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell « Daly History Blog

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