Book Review - 'By tank into Normandy' by Stuart Hills

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Book Review - 'By tank into Normandy' by Stuart Hills

Post by Larso » 22 Dec 2005 06:05

Published by Cassell, 2002. 255 pages including index.

This is an excellent memoir indeed. The author served with the Nottinghamshire Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, an armoured regt with the 8th Armoured Bde, from D-day to VE Day.

He spends a bit of time on his youth, in particular his school days. I found this to be fascinating as it gave a very clear picture of what life was like for many English boys in the inter-war years. He writes of cricket and football, his stays with various guardians (his parents were Hong Kong residents and his recollections regarding life there are also very interesting) and watching the Battle of Britain dogfights. Then at the completion of school, he enlists and shortly therafter finds himself as a 19 year troop leader of Sherman DD tanks.

As such he participates in the D Day landings. Following this is the long and dangerous fighting around Caen and through the bocage country. He writes briefly of being up against Panzer Lehr and 12 SS Panzer, among others and discusses, again briefly the merits of each sides tanks. One particular day, a Tiger tries to do a 'Wittmann' on his column. All the trapped Shermans furiously fired smoke at the Tiger to put off it's aim until saved by a section of Typhoons, whose attack leaves the Tiger on it's side and minus it's turret. An interesting story given some peoples doubts about the success of such air attacks at Mortain and in Falaise.

The author is continually at the forefront of the fighting, his worse days coming in Belgium. Indeed, the number of casualties he recounts makes for very sobering reading. The types of things that can happen to human bodies in tank fighting is also made clear. So too is the tension of being the leading tank, of the leading troop, of the leading Sqn, of the leading Regt of a whole Corp's advance!! He gets through mostly unscathed but the same cannot be said for many of his colleagues.

This is a very well written book indeed. The writing is clear and polished, yet matter of fact. It seems typically English in it's detail, honestly informative but without becomming overwrought. I felt it to be a suitable testimony for many men of that generation. I strongly recommend this book to those with an interest in the period and in tank fighting in particular. It also speaks volumes about the England of the day.

Stuart Hills died in 2004. His obituary is posted on Allied Biographical Research.

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