To Lose a Battle: France 1940

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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. To Lose a Battle: France France 3 by Alistair Horne. During six weeks in , Hitler's blitzkrieg shattered the redoubtable Maginot Line and, shortly thereafter, the French army. No historian has written a more definitive chronicle of that disaster than Alistair Horne, or one so emotionally gripping. Moving with cinematic swiftness from the battlefield to the Reichstag and the Palais de l' Paperback , pages. Published June 28th by Penguin first published January 1st Maxime Weygand , Maurice Gamelin.

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about To Lose a Battle , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Mar 17, Dimitri rated it really liked it Shelves: The memories of the fall of France are spotty. Spotted by the shame of defeat and the blood of those participants who didn't live to see the fall of Germany.

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It's also blurry on account of the sheer speed, with the Panzer spearhead reaching the coast within a week. Horne is in peak form here, switching from the lowly sentry to the erratic directions of the Allied high command. The Allies have numerical superiority and their tanks that are just as good, but they react slowly.

As a reader your speed is jerked along. One moment you race until you collapse from exhaustion next to Rommel, the next you trot as an 80 year old man laments "I went out in ' I went out again in ' I had hoped to die in the peace of my own home. The ghosts of the Great War linger, as they're wont to do among senior officers who went over the top. The French barricaded behind the Maginot line, their entire operational art geared towards the defence, the grand plan a countersweep against the Schlieffen plan.

They knew what was coming, manoeuvers in even foresaw an intrusion via the Ardennes. Why the British went along is not made fully clear here. Industrial restrictions upon the establishment of an armoured fist?


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Surprisingly, Dunkirk also remains in the margins. As it did at the time. France had fallen, most people didn't care too much exactly how the BEF cleared out - alltough a quarter of the evacuees were French to join De Gaulle. The German High Command was too sceptical to believe its own luck sometimes, resulting in entire days lost Four French tanks, towing eachother in turn, accounted for a score of German vehicles in a day. These vehicles had earlier stood in line underneath the canopy of the Belgian firs, fuel trucks mixed between them, anxiously scanning the skies for the propellers of discovery.

Behind them came the mass of the German Army, on foot like their fathers, their soles already callused from the Polish plains. Don't let the pace fool you: The final chapter on the reminiscence of the battle tastes the strongest, written when the veterans sent their children to school and started to agree that their were better things to life than to transfer hate to the next generation.

Especially with Soviet nukes over the horizon. You may not carry away a crystal-clear string of facts here, but you'll want more: The Battle of France and Flanders: Sixty Years On and Blitzkrieg: Myth, Reality, and Hitler's Lightning War: View all 4 comments. Feb 15, Bou rated it really liked it Shelves: A very detailed and well readable account of the Fall of France, including a very good overview of the factors leading to the quick collapse of the French army Every year, when I went on holiday with my parents, I always remember a particular spot on one of the autoroutes leading to the south of France where a sign points out a fortification claiming that at this point you pass the famous Maginot line.

I always wondered how the French, up to this day, are able to still want to point this out to p A very detailed and well readable account of the Fall of France, including a very good overview of the factors leading to the quick collapse of the French army Every year, when I went on holiday with my parents, I always remember a particular spot on one of the autoroutes leading to the south of France where a sign points out a fortification claiming that at this point you pass the famous Maginot line.

I always wondered how the French, up to this day, are able to still want to point this out to passing tourists when the Maginot line stands for all that went wrong in May How was it possible that the German army, with less soldiers and tanks, was able to so quickly defeat the French army, that was considered at that time one of the mightiest armies on the continent? How was it possible that during the whole campaign, they never were able to materialize one counter-offensive or to disrupt the advance of the panzers?

In this book, Alistair Horne gives some good reasons why. First of all, the Maginot line constructed at the border with Germany but planned up untill the Atlantic was for the French not only a component of strategy, but a way of life. Second, the weak governments had signed the so called 'Matignon Agreement', promising a forty-hour workweek whereas the Germans still worked for 60 hours a week , annual paid holidays and further advantages. Third, strategic thinking had stopped in and the French still saw war as being done along the lines established in the Great War.

Why change, after all they had won, hadn't they?

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Starting from , even the French governments couldn't close its eyes anymore and started rearmament. It created two excellent new tanks, but the gravest defects of the French tank force were their poor operating range and the fact that four-fifths of them carried no radio. And due to lack of co-ordination and the hostility of the Popular Front and the 40 hour week, only resulted in the first delivery until a year after the new armamanet programme. The French were rearming, but on a much to slow basis. Apart from that, the French strategy was still in its cadres.

Charles de Gaulle, after writing his modern ideas in the book Vers l'Armee de Metier was struck from the promotion list after going against the established militairy thoughts. The German panzers would never be able to break such a sophisticated defense as that of France. And besides, the development of the anti-tank gun had already rendered the panzers obselete? The role of the French air force was also clearly laid down: On of the serious faults however was the complete inability to appreciate the importance of dive-bombers.

The Germans in the meantime were ready. As in they were ready to invade France through Belgium, performing a Sichelschnitt through the Ardennes, thougt as imprenetrable by the French. The French were initially not bothered by the crossing of the Meuse, but quickly grew to acknowledge the danger of the break in the lines at Sedan. However, where a quick counteroffensive would have thrown the Germans back after crossing the Meuse with just some small detachments, the French were never able to make a quick response.

The armoured divisions which were the only ones who would be able to block the German panzers were dispersed instead of concentrated and due to poor communication arrived always to late. This was the end of the story. The panzers were never serious attacked and were able to drive a split between the southern French army and the northern part, including the BEF and Belgian army. The rest is history. The book is roughly divided in two parts, the first part dealing with the events running up to the actual invasion in May The author really captures the underlying reasons of the French defeat.

The second part is telling the advance itself, with much detail for the Sedan breakthrough and the subsequent drive to the Channel. Although it praised the German offensive, it also notes the weakness of the plan, causing Hitler to lose the war. There was no follow up for the invasion of Britain.


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  7. Basically the Germans were surprised by their own succes. I really enjoyed this book and especially the underlying factors resulting in the French defeat delivered me great insights. View all 3 comments. Jan 29, Nick Lloyd rated it really liked it Shelves: Horne is a great author and this book is another fine work in his collection. I had long wondered how the French Army the largest in the world , combined with the B. Was blitzkrieg alone that much of a game changer? In a sense, yes. The blitzkrieg today more commonly referred to as "combined arms" warfare was an innovation that changed the playbook for everyone in the early 20th century.

    However Horne is a great author and this book is another fine work in his collection. However, France suffered from a myriad of other problems as well.

    Battle of France - Wikipedia

    Political division that created a realistic threat of "fifth columnists", lack of leadership at the national level, and the legacy of Verdun all played as much of a role as the stagnation of military innovation in France following the Versailles Treaty. As Maxime Weygand noted, France went to war with the army of , to fight the Wehrmacht of Jun 21, Al rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a superior narrative history of the fall of France in Horne examines the political and social changes in France following the end of WW I, and how these affected the French military and their ability to resist the German invasion in Horne examines the diplomatic and political attempts to resist, in addition to the ineffective military response by the French army and air force.

    Horne utilized an amazing number of sources and his narrative reads as a novel. I was completely abs This is a superior narrative history of the fall of France in I was completely absorbed by this book, and what I found particularly interesting was his examination of all aspects of the Maginot Line. I highly recommend this book, as well as his other work, The Price of Glory: Sep 26, Simon Wood rated it liked it.

    The third part of his trilogy of books on the conflicts between France and Germany it begins with an account of the French victory parade after The Great War, and moves on through the twenties and thirties, charting the disparate experiences of France and Germany up to the eve of the German invasion. This scene setting takes up a third of the book and includes the political, social, demographic and economic developments in France and Germany with a view to the war to come. He does stretch further a-field to paint a picture of the European scene including that in Britain, the Spanish Civil War, the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the negotiations between the Soviet Union, France and Britain that failed and gave rise to the Nazi-Soviet pact of August The invasion itself was a highly fluid affair, a textbook example of movement and the combined use of air and ground forces.

    The reader, unless they has a firm grasp on the geography of the area and the order of battle, will rather rapidly find themselves bogged down trying to picture the movement of the forces detailed in the text and end up in full sympathy with the confusion in the French command. The most interesting parts are those where ordinary soldiers are quoted, which give an insight into the reality of the war from both sides, including the copious adventures of one Erwin Rommel.

    The French hardly acquitted themselves well, even taking into account that they were to an extent hamstrung by pre-war decisions of which the Maginot line almost totally marginal to the battle is the most blatant. That much is obvious, as well as the strengths of the German planning and their militaries execution of the invasion; whether the British were quite as heroic as Horne states appears to me a little questionable, especially giving the extravagant praise he applies to Lord Gort and the lack of any significant account of what the British Expeditionary Forces were up to in the early stages of the campaign.

    Reasonably well written though with enough exclamation marks for a medium sized revolutionary manifesto! I suspect that this in inevitable in a writer who thanks William Buckley Jr in his acknowledgements, and has had the dubious duty of writing Henry Kissinger's official biography bestowed upon him bravery or foolishness?

    That said, it's not a bad book though I would be a bit shy about calling it impartial scholarship no references either! The last part of Alistair Horne's trilogy recounting the great battles of the Franco-German conflicts of , and he maintains the high standards of the previous two books.

    Mr Horne describes the military story but also seeks to understand the underlying causes of the French collapse. He illustrates in detail just how thoroughly the French Army was paralysed by "Maginot M The last part of Alistair Horne's trilogy recounting the great battles of the Franco-German conflicts of , and he maintains the high standards of the previous two books. He illustrates in detail just how thoroughly the French Army was paralysed by "Maginot Mentality" in , with generals too cautious to attack in the west even when almost the entire German Army was fighting in Poland.

    Mr Horne sees the roots of Maginot Mentality in the Battle of Verdun, with the other great debilitating factor for France, the political rivalry of Left and Right, going back at least as far as Unlike so many modern authors, Mr Horne refuses to turn a blind eye to the failures of one side whilst ignoring the other. The Left were opposed to militarism by instinct and were more concerned with war profiteers than with the Nazis, whilst the Right, grotesquely anti-Semitic and obsessed with fear of "Bolshevism", went by the slogan "Rather Hitler than Blum!

    Notes of discussions amongst the top levels of the French government reveal they were as much concerned with the ability of the Army to "maintain order" as its ability to fight the Germans. The catastrophic defeat of led to many recriminations between France and Britain, and here Mr Horne very much backs the actions of Britain's politicians and generals.

    He makes his arguments well enough, but I would be interested to read another version, perhaps from someone like Max Hastings who is never shy about criticising the performance of the British Army in both World Wars. Their French counterparts were complacent, inflexible and out of date. In sporting parlance, the French High Command went up against a better team and were hopelessly outclassed. Dec 08, Mike Hankins rated it liked it Shelves: However, though the book is exciting and interesting, in the end it proves to be quite one-sided, presenting the French as bumbling incompetents, perhaps unfairly.

    This works both for and against the book. Horne has leeway to describe events in vivid detail with evocative language, often including anecdotes to set the mood. In the middle of a street a horse with crazy eyes stood unmoving; as Stackelberg [a war diarist travelling with the troops] approached it, it suddenly collapsed and died. At such a moment, suddenly the great, complex stratagems of both sides, in which armies are moved about like chess pieces, become reduced to the isolated actions of one or two men.

    However, because of this target audience, Horne omits noting his sources. His footnotes are limited to tangential factual information or entertaining sidebars rather than noting his sources. Horne does include a lengthy bibliography, and while he does make use of war diaries and some archival sources, he also consults an extensive amount of secondary sources.

    The lack of specific citations in the body of the text makes it difficult to see how much weight he gives to various sources. However, these omissions seem to be a result of tailoring the work for a popular audience rather than inferior scholarship. He sees the campaign as the last in a series of struggles between the two powers.

    He also spends a good deal of time on the political developments in France during the interwar period, depicting French politics as a mess of competing bureaucrats that refuse to see the imminent danger facing them. Against this, Goering would be able to deploy 3,, planes out of a grand total of 5,… In mobility and training, the Luftwaffe… also had an incalculable advantage. The French were preparing for a defensive stance in a way that made sense based on historical precedents, guarding the Belgian border and the south, where the Maginot line was employed.

    Horne describes the action itself in vivid detail, giving much credit to Rommel and Guderian for their bold risk taking. While there are a few accounts of French bravery, the reader is often overwhelmed with the depiction of French forces as incompetent or unwilling to offer resistance. None of the works written analytically in the aftermath of the war sustain the legend. He notes also the morale-destroying effects of a generation of socio-political strife, which undermined the public's faith in the Third Republic. Horne's sources are impeccable, and his knowledge of military machinery and tactics impressive.

    The chapters describing the internecine struggles within the German General Staff are particularly fascinating. Occasionally, Horne's brisk treatment of military maneuvers will confuse the non-expert; occasionally, he leaves threads dangling, as when he inexplicably introduces the German generals' revolt of into this tale of A more serious flaw is the failure to deal fully with the British role in the fall of France. Despite its weaknesses, the book is sustained by the drama of events as they move toward their dark conclusion.

    Wisely the author rarely attempts to add extra color to this tense and almost inevitable tragedy. There was a problem adding your email address.