.. Buckley's previous work "British Armour in Normandy" was the sort of wonderful eye-opening re-appraisal of the British Army's performance post-D-Day that Max Hastings' 'pro-German' treatments had always warranted. It is thus easy to agree with Buckley in this new work that the reputation of the British Army has suffered through a " disturbing" and very unflattering comparison with the German Army. You see it all the time on the net and in the literature - there is a sort of 'fan-boy' admiration for the German Army and its 'flamboyant' commanders - despite the ideological motivations, despite the racial and criminal undertones, despite harsh 'internal' terror - which is ultimately based on a very narrow definition of what constitutes military 'effectiveness'. Buckley argues that this image of German 'superiority'- largely based on the 'Blitzkrieg' of the early war years - conceals and ignores many many shortcomings and deficiencies on the German side and almost toally ignores those areas in which the British were much stronger - artillery firepower, logistical competence etc etc. By repeatedly attempting to mount ad-hoc and unsupported operations post-1941 the German Army delivered some short-term success but lived under constant threat of potential near-disaster. As Buckley argues the British conduct of operations predicated on firepower and logistics were not inferior to the Germans; if anything these kinds of operational methods were more sophisticated, requiring as they did, greater integration of the various operational constituents to achieve the desired affect.
No doubt the Allied armies "citizen soldiers" may have seemed lke 'amateurs' compared to German veterans skilled since 1939 - but 'amateurishness' - or at least what some commentators see as such - was a part of the Allies' military culture. As one commentator put it, .." we were not fierce fighting men like the Germans, we were civilians in uniform. Our equipment was bloody awful, but we did our best and we got there in the end.." Unlike the Germans. Post- D-Day the Germans, worn down by six years of constant conflict and ground warfare, were scraping the bottom of barrel, sending Volksturm and Luftwaffe Field Divisions into battle. Manpower concerns were a prime Allied consideration - Britain had only limited resources and materiel and Monty made up for this by substituting firepower and a deliberate approach to operations. And after September 1944 the Germans were largely fighting on terrain which was best suited to defence - the Dutch-German frontier area is broken by canals , rivers and full of woods.
From the British perspective, morale and manpower were key issues affecting the British 'style' of waging war. Another was command and leadership style - leadership, morale and unit cohesion, rather than racial or political doctrine, were the central tenants in the production of fighting power. When the British recognised the potential fragility of the morale of the men deployed on the ground, Montgomery and other senior commanders sought to develop an operational method that developed fighting power that achieved objectives. The Germans from the First World War through the Second World War had little understanding of theses levels of war as Buckley makes clear and woefully underperformed in this respect. There is some truth that at the smallest unit level the Germans were better than the British, however, this was of little use if it could not be translated into operational or strategic effectiveness. Integration of firepower and movement was a much more 'mature' military philosophy, which ultimately saw Montgomery accepting German surrender on the Baltic less than one year after the landings in Normandy..
The prevailing view of the British army as "slow and unimaginative" after the D-day landings is not so much 'white-washed' as some might imagine, but carefully and logically 'explained'. Monty's 'system' -built around the rock of its artillery firepower - was very carefully set up to exploit weaknesses in German battle tactics and to stifle and blunt the German manoeuvre expertise. For those in thrall to 'breakouts' and American knockout punches, Buckley goes some way in setting the record straight by giving the reader an insight into the attritional battles that made Cobra possible - three times the German armour employed in the Ardennes was wiped out by Commonwealth forces during the supposed stalemate and frustration of Caen. As such Buckley's history moves us on from the now hackneyed view expounded by Hastings and D'Este that the British army was somehow less effective than the Germans or the Americans. Monty may have been a flawed, egocentric and difficult man, but he was a man who got results, even if he did not get full credit. Was he flawless? No. Was he great? Decidedly so.