Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Shane Greer, Aug 13, 2019.
I watched this review with interest particularly his comment that “It’s not about the running of the battle but about the men that went over and never came back”. I agree with that sentiment entirely but feel that all of those that were killed, or even those that were wounded and taken prisoner, deserve to have the circumstances of their death, wounding or capture accurately reported, and not just those selected few that Mr Sarker has chosen to write about.
My Father participated in the advance of the South Staffords along Untrechtseweg towards the Museum on the morning of 19th September and it’s something that he often described as akin to the Charge of the Light Brigade with fire coming down on them from German positions along the railway to their left and the brickyards across the river to their right as well as from the houses ahead of them. He saw many of his friends and comrades killed during that attack and D Company, in the lead, sustained 40% casualties within the first few minutes. So how does Mr Sarkar describe this in his book? (Page 92) “At 0400 hours the British attack went in, the South Staffords initially making good progress for some 700 – 900 yards, along an undefended section of road, Reaching the town’s Museum.”
Undefended my foot, how on earth does he think that volume of casualties was sustained unless the attack was opposed!! I was recently contacted by the son of another veteran of that advance who told me that his father, a Bren gunner, had said that the only shelter that he could find was "in the gutter pressed up up hard against the kerb”.
Similarly most accounts by members of the 4th Parachute Brigade, who jumped on to Ginkel Heath on the second lift, on 18th September, describe how they were fired upon as they descended in their parachutes with many being hit and killed or wounded as they descended. Even on the ground they were not safe as the DZ was being shelled, mortared and swept by machine gun fire. Once again Mr Sarkar described this as (P 219) "Therefore when the parachute drop did eventually take place between 1400 hrs and 1500 hrs, the DZ was completely clean and fire on it came from only a few isolated enemy weapons situated at a distance.” Just how far from the reality of the situation can this description be?
I contacted Mr Sarkar about the disturbingly high number of errors in this book, knowing full well that a Dutch friend had been asked to read the draft and had actually advised him that it needed to be properly proof read by others with a sound knowledge and understanding of the battle.
In his reply Mr Sarkar told me that a decision had been made by himself and his publisher that, for reasons he would not disclose, they were not prepared to do this and, in the main, it would appear that they had instead relied solely on the families of those concerned to read and agree their respective chapters. Whilst these people will undoubtedly know the intimate details of the personal lives of those concerned I doubt if they would have the necessary in depth knowledge of the battle to spot errors in relation to that. I can therefore only presume that Mr Sarkar and his publisher assumed that most people reading the book would know so little about Arnhem that they would never notice the many errors that it unfortunately contains.
Sadly, that seems the case for many history books. It's strange though, as I remember years ago reading his book about a British VC in 1940 and thinking how well researched it was.
Sadly I know that at least one offer to proof read his book was made by a person that has written books on the subject and conducts numerous battlefield tours so it wasn’t that he would have had difficulty in finding somebody to do it.
You only have to read the first couple of lines of the Prologue before you begin to wonder how well researched it was "At 0200 hrs on 6 June 1944, a coup de main party of the British 6th Airborne Division was dropped near Benouville in Normandy to seize the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne”. Now I always thought that the Ox & Bucks landed by glider just after midnight!!
Hmmm, I'm going through a similar frustrating read with David Bennett's A Magnificent Disaster. Some interesting insights mixed with some strange statements such as:
To the left of the Irish Guards on the Meuse-Escaut Canal [on 17 September 1944], a little-known event took place. After the start of the Guards’ assault, other formations of the British XII Corps began quietly to cross the canal at Lommel. Their aim was to establish a bridgehead and second start-line for the ground troops in Operation Garden. There was no artillery support [sic] so the Germans would not be alerted to a major waterborne assault and so that the airborne overhead would not confuse the crossing with the Guards’ advance from Neerpelt.
Which seems strange as the East Lancs war diary records that:
At 2315 hrs, the sp wpns opened fire and for the next 20 mins the night was filled with the noise of the barrage, rattle of the MGs, and the crash of the concentrations of Mors.
And I'm not sure which of the airborne were overhead at that time of night!
The coup de main element which had been such an integral part of the Op Comet planning was cancelled when the Americans became involved in Market Garden as their fighter protection would not fly between dusk and dawn. So there would have been no airborne troops in the air by night!!
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