Brilliant study — Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day

Part 1

This 2019 book published for the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings is a major achievement at 1025 pages.

Peter Caddick – Adams age 60 has a varied career and background. He started off at Sandhurst before serving with the British army in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. Thereafter he took a first in War Studies in Wolverhampton University and became a full-time writer of military history besides taking groups for lecture tours of the Normandy landings.

As a result of his soldier and lecture background, he brings a broad and analytical perspective to his books. The end result is an excellent book with well-chosen anecdotes and a superb command of the sources. He writes very well. This is the first book of his that I have read. It won’t be the last.

Chapters 1 to 6 {p1 to p97} sets out the German preparations under The Desert Fox to defend the landings, describes the French, Canadian and American soldiers arriving in the UK in preparation for the landings and their experience interacting with the British civilians.

We learn that the American GIs practised a strict segregation in UK between their whites and coloureds servicemen, in particular the blacks. Caddick – Adams also tells us that the British were shocked by the second-class treatment meted out by the American military establishment to its black servicemen and that there was little colour- prejudice in pre-war UK. {pages 101 and 111}.

Caddick – Adams ‘s observation is true, but it must be borne in mind that in pre-war UK there were very few blacks in UK. The black GIs were seen more as novelties by the British and also as saviours. So, the resentment and the prejudice we now see in UK have not started and grown. VS Naipaul arrived in UK in 1950 to study at Oxford and when looking to rent accommodation he encountered racism. He narrated it in his authorised biography The World is What It Is by Patrick French.

A minor quibble I have, is with an observation by Caddick – Adams that a speech by Colonel Charles de Gaulle on 18 June 1940 to the defeated French people not to give up has greater significance than ” This was their Finest Hour” speech by Winston Spencer Churchill made on the same day. {p 3}. The contributions of the French to winning World War 2 pales in comparison to the immense inspiration given to the demoralised Brits by WSC in his top 3 speeches {p 900 endnote 2}.

This is a lengthy book as it touches on Cossacs only at chapters7 to 9. {pages 114 onwards}. But it is worth the read. Readers looking for a shorter book that explores the origins of the second front and the military planning is recommended to read Decision in Normandy by Colonel Carlo D’Este. Its a1983 book and thus outdated but a very good book, nonetheless.

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