Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble, by Antony Beevor

There are three historical authors that I get out of bed for, Stephen Ambrose, Peter Fitzsimon and this guy, Antony Beevor.

I first encountered his writing when I read Berlin: The Downfall 1945, I then had to immediately read Stalingrad to understand just how dark the Russians were when they sought revenge in Berlin. Note: Read Stalingrad first, not only will you be better aligned chronologically, but you will understand how the dark the Russians were when they sought revenge in Berlin.

Following on from that I read his account of the largest invasion the world had ever seen, D-Day. A vivid and alarmingly accurate account of perhaps the longest day.

When Ardennes 1944 fell in my lap there was no way I was going to put it down. If you have read any of my other reviews of war history you will know how there is nothing I enjoy more than indulging my penchant for this aspect of our past.

If you have seen Band of Brothers you will be familiar with this excerpt of World War 2. It was thought that Germany was on the back foot and pretty well spent, but then Hitler rolled the dice one last time and the Battle of the Bulge was created. A month later nearly 100,000 men had been killed and the German spine was effectively broken. Ardennes 1944 details that month of hell on Earth.

What I like about Beevor’s style is that I have to keep questioning how can a ninety year old war veteran still be writing such graphic accounts of what he experienced. Then I realise that he wasn’t actually there. Obviously I know that he wasn’t there, nor is he a ninety year old veteran, but after reading his work you can’t help but feel he has a connection with Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

I enjoy that fact, that despite my wealth of knowledge regarding World War Two, each time I pick up a book by Beevor I learn more. I was unaware of atrocities that German soldiers committed on US prisoners of war and civilians in the area such is the niceties of war via Hollywood and Band of Brothers. Things that Beevor not only brings to the light, but spares no detail.

Beevor once again meets the mark and goes well beyond. For a full, heavy and frequently graphic account of the last great battle of World War Two, you cannot miss this book.

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Drew Thompson Drew operates a successful hobby farm for pampered cattle in rural South Auckland. He once dabbled in education, where he discovered any book was a good book. As with most ex-teachers, he realised he was better off spending his time and patience on his own awesome children.

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