By Tank Into Normandy

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Cassell, 2003 - History - 256 pages

'One of the best half-dozen personal accounts of the Normandy campaign' - Richard Holmes

Stuart Hills embarked his Sherman DD tank on to an LCT at 6.45 a.m., Sunday 4 June 1944. He was 20 years old, unblooded, fresh from a public-school background and Officer Cadet training. He was going to war. Two days later, his tank sunk, he and his crew landed from a rubber dinghy with just the clothes they stood in. After that, the struggles through the Normandy bocage in a replacement tank (of the non-swimming variety), engaging the enemy in a constant round of close encounters, led to a swift mastering of the art of tank warfare and remarkable survival in the midst of carnage and destruction. His story of that journey through hell to victory makes for compulsive reading.

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While I'm not a massive fan of military literature this was a very fast, easy read and described well the odyssey of a very mature and capable public schoolboy who finished his campaign aged just turned 21. Much understatement but you still get the taste of battle and the sense we were 'all in it together' in the fight against Nazi Germany. Remarkably Hills recognised many of his public school contemporaries and remembered their inter-school sporting achievements, including their scores ! He also offers many examples of how the old boy ethos operated on leave, smoothing army operations and the qualities it brings to team-playing and morale. A good revealing read. 

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About the author (2003)

Stuart Hills was 20 years old when he joined a tank regiment preparing to spearhead the D-Day landings. His parents and sister were in Hong Kong, prisoners of the Japanese, their fate unknown. One of the few surviving officers in the regiment at the end of the war, he went on to a successful business career.

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