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BROTHERS IN ARMS by James Holland


One Legendary Tank Regiment’s Bloody War From D-Day to VE-Day

by James Holland

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-8021-5908-3
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

A fine account of the brutal daily experiences of a celebrated British tank regiment.

World War II historiography received a shot in the arm with Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book, Band of Brothers, which eschewed the traditional campaigns-and-commanders format to describe a single unit’s experience. In his latest, veteran military historian Holland, author of more than 10 books about WWII, tries his hand successfully with the Sherwood Rangers. A British cavalry regiment throughout World War I, in 1942, the Rangers converted to armor in time to fight at El Alamein and then across North Africa. Withdrawn to Britain, they trained throughout early 1944 and then came ashore on Gold Beach on D-Day. This book is the result of massive research in British and American archives, plus a few interviews with survivors, and the author includes a generous selection of maps and photos. The text is best suited for military buffs, as Holland delivers an intense, 400-page description of the regiment’s nearly yearlong battle across France, Belgium, and Germany. An expert military historian, the author steps back regularly from battlefield fireworks to explain tactics and technical details. The Rangers mostly drove American Sherman tanks, denigrated from the beginning for having smaller guns and less armor than German tanks, but Holland records few complaints. They were reliable, easy to operate, and quick to repair compared to German behemoths, and they could fire a shell every three seconds. The regiment’s Shermans destroyed many Tigers and Panthers, and shells that bounced off distracted their operators. Readers who assume that it was safer to be inside a tank will quickly realize their error thanks to Holland’s precise accounts. Casualties were high, and deaths often gruesome from burns or suffocation. Many popular historians write that German resistance collapsed once the Allies crossed the Rhine, but this wasn’t the experience of the Rangers, who fought and died until a few days before the end.

One of the better recent blow-by-blow chronicles of a World War II unit.