At All Costs!
Books on military history basically have two extremes. At the one end, you have the highly scholary, respectable and sometimes dull books that e.g. analyse the influence of weather patterns on the succes of the foraging needed to sustain Napoleon's troops in the field in Russia. At the other end, you have the somewhat embarassing, somewhat juvenile books that tell stories of soldiers KICKING ASS and how cool the PzKpfw VI Tiger I was. (Un)fortunately, At All Costs!, though making some pretence at scholarship, largely belongs to the kick ass end of the scale.
As the subtitle says, these are Stories of Impossible Victories, those fights won against incredible odds by units that really didn't have a chance in succeeding in their goal, but did. The introduction promises stories drawn from two and a half centuries of military history, but only the first tale, the British advance at the Battle of Minden in 1759, takes place before 1800. The rest are neatly divided between the 19th and 20th century, with World War II being represented by no less than four battles. Now take into account that over half of the examples brought together in this book involved British units and you can see that this is a very narrow sample of heroic offensives. As a scholary treatment, this is a wash.
What remains then is a collection of eleven examples of military daring do, ranging fromt he wellknown (the "Valley of Death" at Balaclava, "Little Round Top" at the battle of Gettysburg), to the less wellknown ("The taking of Longstop", during the British and American offensive into German held Tunisia in 1943). Bryan Perrett tells these stories well, being both clear enough in his descriptions of the battles to let you know what is going on while still giving enough of the flavour of the battle to get yourself involved int he outcome of it.
In all, this was an interesting and entertaining book to read, though I hesitate to say I learned much of it. Clearly a book to get from your local libray rather than buy yourself.
Webpage created 05-08-2004, last updated 12-08-2004