Review by Mick Manise
by Max Hastings
Now Sir Max Hastings, the author is a retired journalist. Educated at Oxford, Hastings was attached to the parachute regiment in the Falklands war where he entered Port Stanley ahead of the British forces and arranged an interview with the officer commanding Argentinian forces!
This paperback tells the story of a 3 week period of ‘Das Reich‘, an armoured division of the Waffen SS, around the 6th June 1944, operation Overlord. At the time of the D-Day landings in Normandy, the division was spending time recuperating and refitting, away from the eastern front, in the Lot Valley , south western France. The Lot Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty, largely mountainous and forested, ideal for guerrilla warfare and in fact was a hotbed of resistance activity throughout the war. The resistance movements of the area, as with the whole of France had been mobilised on 5 June 1944 to cause chaos and disruption to the German response to operation Overlord. It was imperative to delay the movement of the Das Reich north until an established fighting platform had been established at the beach heads. The journey north was estimated at 3 days but actually took 3 weeks largely due to the logistical difficulties encountered in the movement of armour via the lanes and villages of this part of France and the activities of the various resistance movements. During the course of this journey the atrocity at Oradour-Sur-Glane on 10 June was committed in response to the kidnapping and assumed murder of an officer of the Das Reich.
A riveting read and a must for anyone interested in D-Day, the French resistance and the SS. D-Day may not have been successful without the activities of the various French resistance movements, OSS and SOE and the politics of these groups is mentioned. It is interesting to note that some sources have chosen to minimise the crimes of the Das Reich division, a mainly hard professional fighting force, who chose to take regularly used tactics of terror from the eastern front and employ them in a different theatre of war. To that end it has been necessary, for those concerned, to attempt to undermine the credibility of Max Hastings´ excellent work.