Two years ago, while researching this book on the D-Day campaign, Max Hastings was trying to think himself into the minds of the poor bloody infantry who were about to invade Hitler’s Festung Europa. He was then whisked away to cover the Falklands War, to sit in the British Army’s unchanged Landing Craft (Assault) while an air raid took place overhead, the smell of sea-sickness rose from the bilge and the barely-controlled chaos that governs all military operations took place ashore.
The experience certainly did the Max Hastings by-line a great deal of good, and publishers being publishers, they have probably doubled the planned print-run for this volume as a result. But the impact of the Falklands campaign has been less than beneficial on what is otherwise a very good book indeed. There are only a limited number of ways that you can write about a battle, and some authorities would claim that there are but two. You can write about it from the point of view of the generals, who are supposed to know what is going on, or you can tell it from the point of view of the troops on the ground, who invariably have almost no idea what is going on, except that it is invariably awful, funny, boring or just plain terrifying.
The problem with Max Hastings’ book is that he tries to do both. There are moments when we are in the command bunkers, and poring over the minutiae of Montgomery’s various orders and letters back to the Chief of Staff in London. And then we are