David Knights' Weblog

June 7, 2017

Book review: The Doomed Expedition

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:05 pm
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Book review: The Doomed Expedition
Author :Jack Adams
Publisher :Leo Cooper 1989
286 pgs

This book covers the British army efforts in the ill-fated but endlessly fascinating Norwegian campaign.  The author has a special knowledge of the subject as he was a participant as a member of the Sherwood Foresters battalion and was deployed to Norway during April and May of 1940.

While the invasion of Norway is often times referred to as the first Air-Land-Sea combined arms operation in history, this book’s focus is just on the British Army efforts in Norway.  It does cover allied army efforts (French, Polish and Norwegian) insofar as they were connected to the British efforts. The book also touches on the naval and air efforts of the allies from time to time but by no means presents the complete history of those efforts.  The book also only lightly touches on the political and strategic issues which led up to Norway being involuntarily dragged into a conflict she wanted no part of and tried hard to avoid.  As much of the political story doesn’t reflect well on the leaders of the United Kingdom, it is understandable that a British author might not want to dwell upon this area.

As with all coverage of the Norwegian campaign, the author is faced with the challenge of how to tell the story of operations in three divergent and only slightly connected areas (Navrik, Bodo, and Central Norway).  Different books take different approaches to this problem.  This author has chosen to tell the story by operational area rather than strictly chronologically.  The author resolves any confusion this creates by periodically reminding the reader what was occurring in other operational areas at the time where necessary.

The details of the story of the British efforts in Norway are compelling and frustrating at the same time.  It’s the story of bravery and incompetence and reaction rather than action.  At the time of the German invasion the British were prepared to move in a number of army units to “peacefully” occupy parts of Norway.  Yet, when the Germans struck, the British dithered and their half-hearted response came more than a week after the Germans had invaded, giving the Axis forces time to gain their balance and consolidate their hold on the initial invasion areas.

The Brits committed troops piecemeal and never in a concentration sufficient to achieve their aims.  In many cases, the upper echelons of command had no clear idea of what their aims even were.  As always in war, the troops were the ones to suffer.  They arrived in theatre without supporting equipment such as tanks, radios, sufficient anti-aircraft and regular artillery.  In the face of the overwhelming air superiority of the enemy, these deficiencies doomed the British efforts to failure even before they began; Thus, the title of this book.

While not strictly a book related to modeling, the stories are sure to provide some inspiration and could well lead a modeler to build a model or two from Operation Weserübung.

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