Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review Villers-Bocage by Henri Marie

Villers-Bocage, Normandy 1944 by Henri Marie
Copyright 2010 (2nd Edition)(1st Edition 2003)

Although Henri refers to this as an a battle unknown to many, I'm sure that is certainly not the case with avid WWII gamers or especially those that play Battlefront's Flames of War, since they dedicated one of their Normandy books to it. Henri uses his original 1993 book as the springboard for this one. I don't have that book ("Tigers in Battle", 1993) but this new one builds from that original work.

Henri is a resident of Villers and has a pretty unique perspective on this particular battle and it is his goal to get as close to the historical truth as possible. I believe that he has pretty much succeeded in that endeavor. The covers the battle as a whole from the original clash in June through the eventual taking of the town from the retreating Germans in August, 1944. It is presented in both French and English usually side by side on the same page. Once you get used to skipping a column of text its pretty easy to read and the translation is excellent.

He does a good job of stripping through the propaganda and getting to the historical facts surrounding the battle in general and Michael Wittman's attack on "A" Squadron 4 CLY of the 22nd Armored Brigade and "A" company of the First Rifle Brigade on June 13th, 1944. Overall he treats this as an element of the battle but most of his focus is really getting to the heart of this particular attack and its affect on future events. I do feel that there is definite desire to discredit Wittman something that definitely comes up in the conclusions at the end of the book. He also contradicts himself in a couple of places. In the end decisions have to be made on the spot by the men on the ground, with 20/20 hindsight its easy to discredit some of those decisions now.

At the end he puts forth a number of conclusive statements, some I agree with some I disagree with and a couple I think are flat out wrong. As the reader that is my prerogative after all. The book has a fair number of eye witness accounts. In fact this book is the result of visiting British soldiers on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. It is filled with pictures from the battle itself (many of which I have seen before) as well as pictures form both before the battle and what some of those sites look like today. There are a whole series of excellent maps that show all kinds of interesting details.

This is really an excellent book and I highly recommend it.


  1. I think I need to get this book just for the pictures :)

  2. It is worth it just for some of the pictures. Some of them nobody had managed to identify before and a bunch are completely new, at least for me.