Genuinely new story of the Second World War - the full account of England's last war against France in 1940-42.
Most people think that England's last war with France involved point-blank broadsides from sailing ships and breastplated Napoleonic cavalry charging red-coated British infantry. But there was a much more recent conflict than this. Under the terms of its armistice with Nazi Germany, the unoccupied part of France and its substantial colonies were ruled from the spa town of Vichy by the government of Marshal Philip Petain. Between July 1940 and November 1942, while Britain was at war with Germany, Italy and ultimately Japan, it also fought land, sea and air battles with the considerable forces at the disposal of Petain's Vichy French.
When the Royal Navy sank the French Fleet at Mers El-Kebir almost 1,300 French sailors died in what was the twentieth century's most one-sided sea battle. British casualties were nil. It is a wound that has still not healed, for undoubtedly these events are better remembered in France than in Britain. An embarrassment at the time, France's maritime massacre and the bitter, hard-fought campaigns that followed rarely make more than footnotes in accounts of Allied operations against Axis forces. Until now.
His descriptions of these obscure battlefield encounters are thrilling and his narrative is spruce and peppery. - Daily Telegraph.
A narrative of war that has much of Patrick O'Brian about it... there are few who can, like Smith, bring to life these lesser-known battles and the unknown soldiers, sailors and airmen, most of them dead now, who faced death and won these wars for us then. - Carmen Calil, Guardian.
Colin Smith, a veteran war correspondent, has built an impressive reputation as a military historian...a fascinating story - Sunday Times.
Colin Smith's light yet detailed touch superbly outlines a wasteful and depressing story... A quality read with many political and military twists and turns. - Soldier Magazine.