British Armour in the Normandy Campaign
The popular perception of the performance of British armour in the Normandy campaign of 1944 is one of failure and frustration. Despite overwhelming superiority in numbers, Montgomery's repeated efforts to employ his armour in an offensive manner ended in a disappointing stalemate. Explanation of these and other humiliating failures has centred predominantly on the shortcomings of the tanks employed by British formations. This new study by John Buckley challenges the standard view of Normandy as a failure for British armour by analysing the reality and level of the supposed failure and the causes behind it.
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A really excellent monograph that examines in detail the myth of British mediocrity during the Normandy campaign. The key conclusion is that the prime determinant of how the campaign played out is Hitler's refusal to countenance an elastic defense, thus condemning both sides to a grinding slug-fest. To be more specific. Buckley finds that while the British armored force had issues with doctrine, experience, and technology, it also had adaptability and overcame the issues facing it. If there was a key error it was that the British had a bad habit of resting on their laurels when they had a reasonably good tank gun. This happened with letting the 2-pounder soldier on too long, and it happened when nearly making the bet that the American medium-velocity 75mm weapon would be sufficient to get to the end of the war; it was fortunate that the 17-pounder gun was available. As for the issue of morale, Buckley is skeptical that there was that much of a morale issue with the typical British tank crewman; the British infantryman is another issue. He is rather more critical of Montgomery's lack of forthrightness when the campaign did not play out as expected, which probably undid the field marshal's exercises in attitude management. As for whether formations such as the 7th Armored and 51st Highland were burned out when they entered the field, that issue is a little more murky. Buckley suspects that the real problem here was a failure to unlearn lessons from the North African battles. Matters of doctrine are of great relevance to Buckley in terms of explaining the failures of British war-making in Normandy.