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Hill 112: The Key to defeating Hitler in Normandy (Hardback)

Military Photographic Books WWII > Battles & Campaigns > D-Day & Normandy WWII > Hitler & the Third Reich

By Tim Saunders
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 328
Illustrations: 75 black and white illustrations & 30 black and white maps
ISBN: 9781399010474
Published: 15th June 2022



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‘He who holds Hill 112 holds Normandy’ seemed an unlikely maxim when the hill is viewed from a distance, but on reaching its plateau, the vistas unfold in every direction across a huge swath of Normandy. For the Germans it was their vital defensive ground, but for the British it was an essential steppingstone en route to the River Orne and access to the open country south to Falaise.

The Hitlerjugend SS Panzer Division lost Hill 112 to 4th Armoured Brigade when the Scots captured the Tourmauville Bridge intact, but the essence of Hill 112’s tactical problem soon became clear. It was impossible for armour to survive on its broad plateau, while the infantry could only hold the skeletal orchards and woods at the cost of crushing casualties. With II SS Panzer Corps preparing to attack the British, the toe hold was given up and 11th Armoured Division was left holding a bridgehead across the River Odon.

Ten days later, 43rd Wessex Division was ordered to resume the advance to the Orne with Hill 112 its first objective. As the west countrymen and tanks rose to advance, they met withering fire from the stronghold that Hill 112 had become. The scene was set for one of the grimmest battles of the campaign.

For six weeks from the end of June into August, when the Allied advances finally gained momentum, Hill 112 was far too important to let the opposition hold and exploit it. Consequently, it was regularly shelled and mortared, and shrouded with smoke and dust, while soldiers of both sides clung to their respective rims of the plateau.

By the end, Hill 112 had developed a reputation as evil as that of any spot on the First World War’s Western Front.

As featured in

The Armourer

As featured on Armourama


Review as featured in

Highlight: 'As a reference book, guide book, or just a good read, this has everything.'

Gun Mart Magazine, October 2022

"Tim has provided us, general buffs or serious scholars, earnest research enthusiasts or casual page-a-week armchair perusers, with an enthralling almost day by day account."


This was a really good read and one I would certainly recommend to others.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

This reads like one of those cover stories from one of the 1950s/1960s golden age British comics. Superb detail.

Books Monthly

The gripping narrative is supported by an abundance of maps and a super set of photographs, as far as battle books go you could not get better.

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Clash of Steel

I enjoy the use Saunders makes of primary sources. They help make the action more vivid. But I also enjoyed the higher level ‘command and control’ aspects. Reading this has made me want to learn more about Monty’s D-Day and Normandy campaign.

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A Question of Scale: A Wargaming Work in Progress

As a former infantry officer, and well established military historian, Tim Saunders has an instinctive feel for ground and the importance it plays in the land battle. He is, therefore, exceptionally well qualified to assess the vital role which Hill 112 played in the defence of the surrounding Normandy Plain and the Allied breakout to the east. From afar, the dominance of the plateau which is Hill 112 is barely discernable but, once you reach the “summit”, the entire Normandy bridgehead and beyond appears before you and it is easy for any soldier to see the truth in the maxim “He who holds Hill 112 holds Normandy.” Saunders also makes clear the tactical implications and vulnerability for both armour and infantry seeking to seize and hold the Hill. The Hill was shelled, mortared and bombed incessantly in the battle for dominance which raged for the best part of six weeks. Eventually the Hill was taken with very heavy losses by the west countrymen of the 43rd Wessex Division over whom the shadow of Hill 112, and the men they left behind, still hangs heavy. Although the book does not include a bibliography it does include a series of one hundred or so useful end notes. It is clear that Saunder’s narrative is largely based on his own encyclopaedic knowledge of the battle and on unit War Diaries and British and, recently released, German archives. But the real strength of this book is the inclusion of powerful and descriptive personal testimonies from survivors of the battle; it is just a shame that very few are referenced,. What emerges is a chronological and detailed account of the brutal struggle for the Hill, which changed hands several times during the course of the battle. It also provides a very clear understanding of the ground and of the traumatic experiences of those parties on both sides who took in the defence and capture of this vital ground which blocked the Allied breakout to the east. Much has been written on the battle for Hill 112 and this is most unlikely to become a classic, however, I am confident that even those with a reasonably detailed understanding of the battle for Normandy will find something new in “Hill 112 – The Key to Defeating Hitler in Normandy”, Recommended.

Military Historical Society

Another superb military history by Tim Saunders that offers a detailed account of the torrid fighting for Hill 112 and the surrounding area.
Using primary source accounts from both sides, he has provided the essential element of a battlefield history; to combine the thoughts and actions of both sides so that an added dimension is achieved. The maps are excellent and the images properly support the text. Hill 112 is one of those gritty encounters that probably does not get the acclamation that is given to other more mobile battles in Normandy, but this book shows the high importance of the ground and therefore why it was so fiercely contested. The detail is such that the actions of each platoon and company can be followed and what follows is a battlefield history which also delivers tension and emotion. Anybody intending to visit the ground must take this book along.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Tim Saunders

TIM SAUNDERS served as an infantry officer with the British Army for thirty years, during which time he took the opportunity to visit campaigns far and wide, from ancient to modern. Since leaving the Army he has become a full time military historian and has made nearly fifty full documentary films with Battlefield History and Pen & Sword. He is an active guide and accredited member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.

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