The SAS in Occupied France written by Gavin Mortimer and published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 216

In the world of military history there is no brand as potent as that of the SAS. They burst into global prominence in 1980 with their spectacular storming of the Iranian Embassy, and there have been hundreds of books, films, documentaries and even reality TV shows about them. But what there hasn’t been is a guide to the scenes of some of their most famous Second World War operations. That is why Gavin Mortimer’s vivid two-volume account of their daring missions in German-occupied France in 1944 is such compelling reading.

SAS actions in France delayed German reinforcements reaching the battlefront in Normandy, later sewing confusion among the Germans as they withdrew. The SAS trained the French Maquis and helped to turn them from an indisciplined rabble into an effective fighting force. Their exploits inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans, and they left a trail of destruction and disorder in their wake.

This first volume focuses on 1 SAS and describes in graphic detail operations Titanic, Houndsworth, Bulbasket, Gain, Haggard and Kipling, all of which were carried out in northern and central France. Using previously unpublished interviews with SAS veterans and members of the Maquis as well as rare photographs, Gavin Mortimer blends the past and present, so that readers can walk in the footsteps of SAS heroes and see where they lived, fought and died.

This book is very much similar to the WW2 tour guide books, in that it presents you with the information about the event and what happened alongside a large number of pictures, photos and maps/diagrams. But like a good tour guide it is interwoven with the specifics of the in this case SAS and the men involved. In all the result is a fascinating read and an immersion in the story/events being told by the author Gavin Mortimer. The pictures are excellent and the photographs of the memorials and people who died during the events add another layer to the story being told. These books about the SAS often tell a slightly different story to normal war type books in that they are more about the individual soldiers which makes them more personal because they all come from different backgrounds. After all, you don’t just join up to the SAS, you have to be selected as one of the best around. I enjoyed the format of this book and it has been an excellent book to read.

By Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.

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