The Devils Birthday by Geoffrey Powell

In the past I have been quite critical of the historiography of Arnhem. More than half of the books published that have Arnhem in the title or blurb offer little or no new analysis – the battle has been so raked over, that you have to wonder if there is really anything new to write. Such is why I will probably never attempt a book on Arnhem.

Written some years ago now, The Devils Birthday has aged rather well, and has always been one of my favoured works on Market Garden. And now, it has been reprinted by Pen and Sword. And not before time – it might serve to remind younger scholars and enthusiasts that much of what is presented as ‘new’ in military history, has already been written years before. This was, as the blurb tells us, the first book to be written about Market Garden as a whole by a British writer.

Perhaps the greatest faux pax in this book, is that Powell suggests that Lieutenant-General Boy Browning uttered the immortal ‘Bridge too far‘ line.  But crucially – and I have no idea why it took anyone so long to realise – Powell doesn’t actually substantiate how he knew that Browning had said such a thing. In all likelihood, it was – and remains to this day – an urban myth. As recent research has shown, there is no evidence that Browning made the ‘Bridge too far’ statement prior to the battle.

But that aside, this is a very good book. And especially so for a particpant in the battle, and a military man. It is well referenced and has good bibliography, particularly when it comes to official documentary sources. And we have to remember that Powell was writing originally in 1984- at a time when many of the key participants were still alive and able to contribute. It is perhaps a little heavy on narrative and a touch light on critique and robust conclusion – particularly when compared to modern Arnhem writers such as Robert Kershaw and William Buckingham – but military officers do tend not to drive points home against the establishment in writing!

It is a very able and useful study of the battle of Arnhem. What makes it all the more interesting is that Powell served as a company commander with the 156th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment at Arnhem, and was one of very few officers to return across the Rhine after the battle. Remarkably, when he and the remnants of his battalion landed on the south bank of the Rhine, they formed up and marched to billets in Nijmegen. And after almost ten days of bitter fighting. Tellingly, Powell tells this story, but is too modest to state that he was the officer in command.

The Devils Birthday is published by Pen and Sword



Filed under Airborne Warfare, Arnhem, Book of the Week, World War Two

17 responses to “The Devils Birthday by Geoffrey Powell

  1. secondbysecondworldwar

    I haven’t read ‘The Devil’s Birthday’, but I have read ‘Arnhem 1944’ by Martin Middlebrook (Penguin, 1995), and I would be curious to know what you think of it. I found it an interesting mix of narrative and personal stories, some of which were quite whimsical (e.g. the soldier who travelled with a pigeon in a box, and a small bag of corn to feed the bird).

    • James Daly

      I normally reccomend the Middlebrook book to any newcomer to the Arnhem battle; there might be more in-depth books and more scholarly, but as an all-round introduction it is perhaps the best, and most readable. Middlebrook has a very accessible writing style.

  2. It’s remarkable to go to see this site and reading the views of all mates regarding this post, while I am also
    keen of getting familiarity.

  3. After going over a number of the blog posts on your website, I truly appreciate your technique
    of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my bookmark webpage list and
    will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my web site as well
    and tell me what you think.

  4. It’s amazing for me to have a web site, which is good in support of my knowledge.
    thanks admin

  5. Choose jackets, tailored suits and shirtwaist dresses
    with straight, classic cuts. The Mark of Distinction are for Tier 2 battle suits.
    Of course, colots are not the only issue when it comes to excelling in your career.

  6. You can access it without discover the display.

    After The reinstallation is performed, you can continue with establishing of your private hotspot.
    The AirPlay is really a synching method for your Apple products.

  7. With all the things you can do on an iPad, a 10-hour battery life is certainly something
    you’d need. Oahu Is The battery, stupid.Or, put another way – how big is
    it. They had sanguine, lifeless whites under a dim vision.

  8. This is the best provision you can get. However it applied an international recognition as
    soon as it struggle encouraged by Dr. Much like anything else in life, control may be the key.

  9. Hey! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the superb work!

  10. I do accept as true with all of the ideas you’ve presented
    to your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work.

    Still, the posts are very short for beginners. May just you please prolong them a bit from next time?
    Thanks for the post.

  11. Apple didn’t increase the resolution of the iPad 2 vs.
    the iPad 1. I own an Android phone, I have a Zune, and I’ve
    a four-year old intel-based Mac. You can not save notes or papers on the home screen.

  12. With regards to stability, nothing could defeat the breach of the windows for their
    ‘glass’ substance. The Windows registry isn’t to be trifled
    with unless you know very well what it supports.

  13. You have to know that body jewelry is created designed for
    one section of the body. Drugs are incredibly common and it
    is soft to determine why. Bedroom, family room, kitchen, theatre, you
    will get the image.

  14. What the heck i just read? Testimonials and Studies Since the development that Teeth Whitening Products remove can become utilized to reduction fat,
    a great deal of analysis, studies, and personal opinions
    have got been widespread in the marketplace.
    The sights indicated by customers, industry commentators, as properly as
    study companies have got been good and motivating. Statistics have got demonstrated
    that the herb from the Teeth Whitening Products place is certainly efficient for dropping weight.

  15. Enjoy reading it. Centered off recent experiments, Garcinia can be used globally as a diet pill for people
    enduring a overweight. It comes by a all natural supply
    and does not include terrible toxins, items or waste that can injure your
    whole body. By made up of hydroxycitric acid, this kind
    of might be a fat blocker, which is vital
    for weight reduction. Forskolin success stories allows individuals to curb their very own appetites and trim down glucose
    or desserts thinking about eating. No longer running to
    the kitchen every single Fifteen minutes to have a munch.
    Actually, the authentic Garcinia Cambogiawill stabilize
    the amount of a individual tension human hormones. This will aid to protect yourself from likely developmental over eating, which happens to be among the list of main causes for weight gain.

  16. Although Asian clothes are very fashionable, cheap and readily available, one has
    to keep in mind that it needs a lot of confidence to carry them
    off. Give you the several information you make take part in toward your dream in fashion. Items like a
    basic black skirt will be fashionable for years to
    come, and can be updated with tops that are currently in the fashion eye.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s