Pen & Sword- The Black Bull: From Normandy to the Baltic with the 11th Armoured Division
Author: Patrick Delaforce
ISBN : 9781526784285
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches, 256 pages with 60 black and white illustrations
NOTE: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this sample copy of the book is in PDF format and is the basis of the review...but the book is available in paperback format.
The 11th Armoured Division, with it's Black Bull insignia, was thought to be one of the most effective and dominating armoured forces in the Western Front during WWII. This book centers on the division through the words of the soldiers and officers who fought with it. We get a glimpse of actions in some major operations, including Normandy (landing on Juno Beach on D+7 and active in Operations EPSOM, GOODWOOD, and BLUECOAT), Antwerp, Market Garden, the Ardennes, and finally through the final phases of the war across Germany.
If you are looking for a reference book to get ideas for schemes or technical information on the armor they used, this is not your book. If you are looking for accounts of battles and operations from the perspective of the soldiers and officers that were there, look no further. The text is informative and interesting, which isn't always an easy balance to execute. There are times one can get bogged down in the minutiae of units and names, but if you focus on what's happening and not so much on the who, it is a great volume that might inspire you to look further into recreating on your model bench. The maps and illustrations are quite good, and anyone who gets lost in the details (either for personal interest or in examining strategies for wargaming) will be quite pleased.
Things start at the beginning- with the formation of the division under the leadership of Major-General Percy Hobart (who would later design many of the unique specialized armoured vehicles that would come to be known as "Hobart's Funnies"). After this is a rundown of the typical assortment of vehicles the division used- from the Cromwells, Churchills, and Shermans they stormed Normandy with to upgunned Cromwells and Shermans (Firefly tanks were the only ones comparable to the feared Tigers) and Comet tanks. The overall majority of the book delves into the operations from Normandy to Germany- with each operation garnering its own chapter. Photos are scattered throughout but are a little hard to gather detail from (at least in the PDF version). They are interesting to be sure, but appear faded and dim.
It doesn't take away from what the book intends however, which is a thorough account of what battle in these conditions and operations was like. The photos complement the text which is the emphasis of the book. That being said, there are a few real treats included, which lend themselves to great ideas for vignettes or dioramas.
I would love to see this one done in a diorama- nothing like a pig roasting off of a tank barrel.
This is a great addition to the bookshelf-- and a welcome treat for those times when you are suffering from a modeling burnout and looking for inspiration or just wanting to enjoy a good read by the fire or the air conditioner depending on the season. One has to search extensively for movies and entertainment that has British armour operations as the focus, but hopefully with good resources such as this, one might see something forthcoming. I was reminded in reading of one episode in Band of Brothers ("Replacements") that featured the 11th- which made me pull out my DVD copy to re-watch. If you are looking for a good account of operations from the perspective of those who were there, look no further.
Highly Recommended for those interested in British WWII armour operations.
Thanks goes out to Pen & Sword and Casemate Publishers for this review PDF sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves, AMPS Albany
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