In the hierarchy of our country’s exploits during the Second World War, the events of D-Day come second only to the Battle of Britain itself. In concert with our American and Commonwealth allies, not to mention various Poles, Czechs and anti-Nazi Germans, we launched upon the enterprise that would prove the decisive event in the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s tyranny and which, despite a number of obstacles, succeeded. Antony Beevor’s graphic and well-researched account of D-Day and its aftermath tells this story reasonably completely and, above all, compellingly. His publishers present it as the final part of his trilogy that began with the superb Stalingrad and, unlike most trilogies, treated the chronologically final part second with Berlin, which told the morally ambiguous story of the Red Army plundering and raping its way through eastern Germany to the capital in 1944–5. Beevor uses the same combination of scholarship and screenplay-style action that so distinguished the two earlier works in this one.
As the American historian William I Hitchcock pointed out in his equally excellent, and perhaps even more vivid book Liberation, published earlier this year, so many previous accounts of the Battle of Normandy have concentrated on troop movements and the big picture, while so few have drawn properly