A story that lay dormant for thirty years and adds to established military history. The British once again forced into a war they had not prepared for adequately. – Very Highly Recommended
NAME: From Calais to Colditz, a Rifleman's Memoir of Captivity & Escape FILE: R2868 AUTHOR: Philip Pardoe PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword BINDING: hard back PAGES: 174 PRICE: £19.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Battle of France, Calais, POW, POW camps, King's Royal Rifle Corps, Battle of Calais, Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo, rear guard, Colditz Castle, POW escapes, camp life, escape technology
IMAGE: B2868.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y4cfzpuy LINKS: DESCRIPTION: A story that lay dormant for thirty years and adds to established military history. The British once again forced into a war they had not prepared for adequately. – Very Highly Recommended Once again, a book from a publisher who excels in publishing well-researched and written books about parts of important military history that has been seriously neglected by others. In this case, the author wrote his memoirs and they lay there unpublished as many do. The reason is often that the authors are modest and wrote primarily to set events in their own minds and to help their families to understand what it was all about. Happily, 30 years after the author's death these memoirs are now in print and a delight to read. The British have long been nervous about maintaining standing armies. A concern that dates back to Magna Carta. In 1939, Hitler pushed Britain and France too far with his invasion of Poland. The appeasers could delay no longer, but both countries were ill-prepared for a major war after years of spending the 'peace dividend'. Once more, Britain took for granted that its military would rise to the challenges, far beyond any expectations. Within the constraints upon them, the military did achieve the impossible. The author was part of a rear guard that has received very little recognition even though it played a critical part in the safe evacuation of more than 300,000 of their French and British comrades. The Battle of Calais should be recognized as a key element of Operation Dynamo and the Dunkirk Evacuation. It was necessary because the French had failed to hold up their end of the bargain in building the complete Maginot Line and providing the mobile reserves that were part of that line. When the Maginot Line was constructed it was intended as a deterrent to future German aggression. It was a symbol and a statement of intent that any future German invasion attempt would be blocked and catastrophically destroyed. Unfortunately it became a hollow statement. Unlike a long trench line from the Channel coast to Switzerland, with rear trenches and artillery positions, as the Western Front had become by 1918, the Maginot line was a series of forts and gun batteries with interlinking tunnels, underground railways and barracks, kitchens and hospitals. It required a strong force to be held in reserve, ready to rush to any centre of enemy attack. That reserve never really existed and the line was very sparse from the Belgian border to the coast to avoid frightening the Belgians into thinking they would be sacrificed in any future war. When the BEF was sent to France, it was inadequate in resources and numbers. It was assigned to the part of the front where traditionally the Germans would focus their main assault. As was demonstrated by British tanks at Arras, the British armour was more than a match for German armour when it was concentrated and supported by mechanised infantry and close support aircraft. Unfortunately, the infantry were still largely dependent on their own feet and the ground attack aircraft were obsolescent and grossly inadequate, even though the inadequately supported British Army gave the Germans a fright and came close to a major victory. As the German blitz krieg unfolded, the 21st Panzers rushed forward and curved round to Calais, ready to strike up the coast and encircle the British and French troops before squeezing them. Naturally the French would rather forget the detail of the Battle of France and the British would wish to remember the heroic evacuation of British and French troops off the open beaches of Dunkirk, the crucial actions were those at Calais, Arras and the Anglo-French rearguard that held the Germans back long enough for the evacuation. As with the author's unit, they were told to fight to the last man and the last round which they determined to do. There are many tales of great heroism still to be told about that rearguard. Sadly, many of these will now never be told unless someone rediscovers long completed memoirs. The author tells the story very well in a very readable dialogue. He also tells of his surrender, his life in POW camps, his attempts to escape, and the German recognition of his determination by moving him to the 'escape-proof' Colditz Castle. This is a gripping account and we are indebted to Harry Pardoe for his part in bringing his father's memoirs to a publisher with the skill and interest to publish them, together with some very interesting illustration. Lets hope more descendants follow Harry's example, there are so many worthy tales still to be told by those who were there.