Book Review The Battle of the Scheldt (aka Tug of War) and Cindrella Operation

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Tolbooth, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Just finished two books dealing with pretty much the same operations but two different treatments. Both cover the clearance of the Breskens pocket, South Beveland and the landings on Walcheren. Both authors took part in at least some part of the fighting - Whitaker as CO of the Royal Hamilton Light infantry and Rawlins in Support Squadron Eastern Flank.

    : The Battle of the Scheldt. (Originally published as Tug of War)

    Author: W Denis Whitaker and Shelagh Whitaker

    Year : 1984

    Quick review:

    The Whitakers present a picture of a lost opportunity. Had the 11th Armoured not been held at Antwerp the Beveland pennisula could have been cut much earlier, the port of Antwerp opened and the war, possibly, brought to a close in '44. The blame, they feel, lies with Eisenhower's indecision and the disagreements between Montgomery and Patton about where the main Allied attack should occur. Had all the stretched allied resources been given to Montgomery and full backing been given to him, his drive to, and across, the Rhine may well have succeeded and the war ended by Christmas. Instead the Canadian army become bogged down (often literally) in a bloody and costly battle against a reformed and tenacious enemy.

    As Whitaker was CO of one of the battalions involved he gives a good view of the action. There are also some interesting chapters about the problems Canada had with man-power - men being transferred from other trades into infantry regiments with little or no training and the consequent horrendous casualties. They pull no punches when it comes to criticising the politicians and senior officers back in Canada for the situation. I hadn't known about the NMRA (National Resources Mobilization Act) of 1940 which authorized conscription but only for home defence, which meant by 1944 there were 70,000 trained men who could not be sent overseas when there was a crying need for them. When the cabinet finally agreed to sending 15,000 trained NMRA men overseas in Jan 45 more than three quarters of them deserted or went AWOL.

    Overall a good book and well worth reading. Let down a little by some poor maps and the odd error - Churchill tanks were never fitted with flails (at least not till the 50's) and Simmonds didn't "invent" the use of Monty's moonlight, for example. They also repeat the old canard about British Intelligence knowing in advance that Coventry was to be bombed and did nothing - a particular annoyance of mine being a Coventry Kid.

    Rating out of 5: 4
    Title: Cinderella Operation: The Battle for Walcheren 1944

    Author: Gerald Rawlins

    Year :1980

    Quick review:

    Covers the same operations as 'The Battle for the Scheldt' but, as Rawlins served with the RN as part of the SSEF, with a different slant. It is also shorter - 160 pages as opposed to 460 for the Whitakers volume so obviously less detailed and with the emphasis on Walcheren, particularly the Naval side of things. The wider political and strategic picture is hardly mentioned but that's not the books' intention and doesn't detract from it.

    I found this an enjoyable and easy book. Read with Andrew Rawson's volume on Walcheren in the Battleground Europe series, or the relevant Osprey offering, it would give an excellent overview of the whole operation. Some small niggles - poor maps (in fact the same maps used in the Whitakers' book !) and a fairly un-inspiring selection of photos. Even so I think I'd recommend this to anyone wanting an introduction to the battle.

    Rating out of 5: 4
  2. smdarby

    smdarby Well-Known Member

    I bought the Whitaker book a few years ago on the cheap as a library reject. The description of the manpower problems of the Canadian Army at that stage of the war was the most interesting part for me. The fact that many replacements were from rear echelon units and did not even know how to load and fire weapons was a real eye-opener for me. It just demonstrates how politics at home can have a huge impact on the battlefield, which is a subject not many books cover.

    As well as the Rawson and Brooks (Osprey) books you reference, it is also worth giving a mention to Zuehlke's "Terrible Victory". I haven't read the Rawlins book - may have to get it. The naval aspect of the Walcheren operation is underrated, despite the fact they engaged the coastal batteries at very close quarters and suffered severe casualties as a result. Thanks for the review.

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