For a battle that essentially involved one Division, 10,000 men – the Battle of Arnhem has had more books written about it than any other. Some works about it have been revelationary, but on the other hand, some have been nothing more than cynical attempts to make money, conveniently published on an anniversary when the profile of the battle is high. The problem is, military history has always tended to attract a combination of ex-officer types and well-meaning amateurs, and even if intentions are there, often books about famous battles add absolutely nothing to our understanding. There have been enough books written about Arnhem that give a general overview, And tell us what happened. Do we REALLY need any more?
This book is different, however. Its author, William Buckingham, bases his argument – and it is an argument – on extensive research conducted during his doctorate. And it shows. Buckingham pulls no punches – if something has to be said, he says it. And backs it up with evidence. He advances the convincing conclusion that the failure at Arnhem was borne out of how the British Airborne Forces were developed, and inter service rivalries. Lieutenant-General Browning comes in for particular criticism. Although Browning has escaped much attention, probably due to typical British deferene and military politics, it would be a brave Historian indeed who would argue that Browning was not seriously culpable for Arnhem, in a number of ways. Finally someone has started asking the awkward questions.
This is a fine example of where modern military History should be heading – we can only hope. Critical, impartial, impeccably researched and well written, it takes understanding of the battle of Arnhem to a different level.