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Arras Counter-Attack 1940 (Paperback)

WWII Military

By Major Tim Saunders
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 204
ISBN: 9781473889125
Published: 10th January 2019
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #10

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On 21 May 1940 during the ill-fated Dunkirk Campaign the British launched an operation spearheaded by two tank regiments to help secure the city of Arras. This was the only significant armoured operation mounted by the British during the campaign.

Poorly coordinated and starting badly the Matilda tanks ran into the flanks of Rommel’s over extended 7th Panzer Division. With the German anti-tank guns, unable to penetrate the armour of the British tanks, Rommel’s infantry fell into chaos as the Matildas plunged deep into their flank. The Germans were machinegunned and started to surrendered in large numbers but with the British infantry lagging well behind, fighting their own battles in the villages, there was no one to round them up.

Into this scene of chaos entered Rommel whose personal leadership and example started to steady his troops and organise an effective response, despite being spattered with the brains of his aide de camp. This was classic Rommel but in the aftermath, he claimed to have been attacked by five divisions.

The Arras counter-attack contributed to Hitler issuing the famous ‘halt order’ to his panzers that arguably did much to allow the British Army to withdraw to Dunkirk and escape total destruction.

When the author first looked at this event writing it up in any coherent fashion must have seemed a daunting task. In making sense, for the reader, of chaos and confusion he has succeeded brilliantly. All through the book there many first-hand accounts and a large number of maps and photographs. The final chapter is an up to the minute guide to the battlefield.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

The Arras counter-attack contributed to Hitler issuing the famous 'halt order' to his panzers that arguably did much to allow the British Army to withdraw to Dunkirk and escape total destruction.

Read the full review here

In The Footsteps

This well researched work based on British and German military records, describes the fluid nature of the battle and General Rommel's decision to send his Panzers columns racing across northern France to seize the Channel ports. The loss of German panzers in a poorly coordinated counter-attack by British Matilda tanks and French armour, together with furious resistance from British infantry, was sufficient to persuaded Hitler to halt Rommel's panzers. This halt bought the Royal Navy a few extra days to evacuate thousands British and French soldiers from the crowded Dunkirk beaches.

Richard Gough, Military Author and Historian

This is the largely untold story of how two British tank regiments counter-attacked the invading Germans, helped secure the evacuation
of more than 300,000 British and French troops from the Beaches of Dunkirk and made such an impression on Rommel that he thought he was being attacked by five Divisions . - Most Highly Recommended

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Firetrench

An excellent description of the Arras counter attack by an expert in the subject. It offers a very readable narrative of the situation that prevailed during the German offensive in 1940 and ties it in to an excellent description of the battlefield context. As would be expected from the author, the book ends with a good set of instructions on visiting the battlefield and offers details on where to stand to take in the impact of the geography on battle. It is a shame that access to Ferme du Belloy is no longer possible as it offered an exceptional insight into Rommel’s actions to direct fire from the ridge. I look forward to visiting the alternative location offered by the author.
Overall a very good read which sets clear some of the assumptions that get repeated in less authoritative accounts.

Michael McCarthy

About Major Tim Saunders

Tim Saunders is a former Army officer and author of thirteen Battleground titles on a wide range of Second World War battles. Tim is now also a script writer, programme maker and presenter for Battleground History TV.

In addition he regularly leads battlefield tours, including to the scene of Glider Pilot actions in Sicily, Normandy. Arnhem and the Rhine.

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