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  1. Operation Bagration The Soviet Destruction of German Army Group Centre, 1944 Casemate Publishing Operation Bagration was the codename for the immense operation by the Soviet army that sealed the fate of the German forces that were already in retreat after the failure of Barbarossa when the might of the Soviet forces woke up to the danger in the nick of time. It exacted a heavy price from both sides, with almost half a million dead and a further 300 Germans falling into captivity, from which the majority wouldn’t return. It began in June 1944 with the mobilisation of 1.2m Soviet troops and armour, and ended with the demolition of the German forces and their removal from all parts Byelorussia, with the Soviet Juggernaut only stopping due to the ever-extending supply lines reaching their limits. This book by Ian Baxter from Casemate Publishing arrives in a stiff card cover with folded fly-leaf and 128 pages of glossy paper inside. It is a balanced book of text and photos, many of which are unlikely to have been seen by most of us, documenting the rout of the ailing German Central Army throughout the campaign, unable to reverse their fortunes even after the appointment of Hitler’s favourite trouble-shooter General Model. It begins with a table of contents as follows: 06 Timeline of Events 08 Prelude to Disaster 11 German Forces 24 Soviet Forces 30 The Eve of Battle 42 Operation Bagration begins: June 23-28th, 1944 64 Fighting for Survival: June 29th/July 16th, 1944 85 Operations in the North: July 7-13th, 1944 96 Operations in the Centre and the South: July 14-26th, 1944 111 Soviet Triumph 121 Aftermath 126 Further Reading 127 Index The photos are of excellent quality for the most part, with a few showing their age but that’s down to the performance of the cameras of the day, as well as the size of the original article. In between the sections are a number of colourful sections showing the uniforms, weapons and equipment carried by the various protagonists, from German Machine-Gunners to female Soviet Snipers. The various force lists show the huge disparity in numbers between the Germans and Soviets, a situation that grew worse as the campaign progressed. As well as the staged photos of the generals of both sides, there are a number of pictures that are more candid in nature, showing troops in action, at rest and doing the boring stuff in between the terrifying parts, such as digging trenches, travelling and pushing vehicles out of muddy fields. There’s a lot of diorama inspiration within the pages, in addition to the text and the captions to the photos. Conclusion The highlights for me were some of the detail photos showing hand-applied mud as camo on a half-track, a close-up shot of some Zimmerit on the side of a Panther, and my personal favourite was a nebelwerfer being towed by an Sd.Kfz.10, then in the process of firing, where you can actually see the blurred outline of the rocket leaving the tube. At time of writing, there’s a discount on the title from the link below. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. The Waffen SS in Normandy (9781612006413) July 1944, Operations Goodwood and Cobra Casemate Publishers via Casemate UK Once the Allies landed on the beaches in Normandy in June 1944, the Nazi forces that were defending the northern French coastline had to move their units, particularly their armoured SS units to the point of attack, despite Hitler's lingering concerns that this might be a feint to distract from the main attack. That and the general interfering that Hitler was prone to meant that getting authority to move would be difficult and could have consequences for those disturbing him or going against his wishes. This new book from Casemate is bound in a softback cover with half-width fold-out fly-leaves giving a synopsis of the contents in front, and details of the publishing house at the rear. It contains 128 pages of glossy paper, much of which is printed in black and white, with a number of pages in colour, including profiles and some excellent colour photos from the time. The book follows the timeline of the battles and gives information about the key players in the Waffen-SS Divisions, and their struggle to get to the front in a vain attempt to throw the Allies back into the ocean. The German forces that were present in the invasion area did a good job of holding the Allies in check until the end of June, after which their break-out was to test and break their resistance, with operations Goodwood and Cobra taking Caen and rolling into Brittany, sealing the fate of the German forces in France. Later, the British Operation Goodwood and Canadian Operation Totalize began the constriction of what was to become known as the Falaise Gap, where much of the retreating German materiel and manpower were either killed or captured. The photos are of the usual high quality, with a number of destroyed SS vehicles, plus some grisly pictures of dead soldiers, and of course the leading figures of the SS. Thankfully the number of gruesome pictures are few, but they are a little upsetting, so if you're of a delicate nature, now you know. Spread throughout the book are a quantity of profiles of the SS vehicles involved in the actions detailed in the book, and each of the main battles and engagements have a short section devoted to them. Conclusion Although the SS are a contentious subject for some, they were integral to the defence of France, so their activities bear scrutiny if you wish to have the whole picture of the battles. Of course it's not for everyone because of this, but it's interesting to see how they were defeated both by the Allies and the lack of understanding of the situation by the Führer back in Berlin. Review sample courtesy of
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