To Lose a Battle : France 1940, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


To Lose a Battle: France 1940 is the final book of Alistair Horne's trilogy, which includes The Fall of Paris and The Price of Glory and tells the story of the great crises of the rivalry between France and Germany. In 1940 Hitler sent his troops to execute the Fall of France.

A six-week battle with lightning 'blitzkrieg' warfare and combined operations techniques, the offensive ended the Phony War and sent the French forces reeling as their government fled from occupied Paris.

For the Axis, it was a dramatic victory. But how was this spectacular result possible? In To Lose a Battle Alistair Horne tells the day-by-day, moment-by-moment story of the battle, sifted from the vast Nazi archives and the fragmentary records of the beaten Allies.

Using eye-witness accounts of battle operations and personal memoirs of leading figures on both sides, this book steps far beyond the confines of military accounts to form a major contribution to our understanding of this important period in European history. 'Alistair Horne really brings home the pathos and human folly of war, and he writes brilliantly' The Times 'Horne follows his line unfalteringly.

All the details are there: the small, fleeting triumphs, the greater disasters, the bravery, the cowardice, the stupidity and the intelligence ... that make war so fascinating and so terrible' Economist 'Horne completes his masterly trilogy ... the definitive account of one of the most efficient and astonishing campaigns of all time' The Times Literary Supplement One of Britain's greatest historians, Sir Alistair Horne, CBE, is the author of a trilogy on the rivalry between France and Germany, The Price of Glory, The Fall of Paris and To Lose a Battle, as well as a two-volume life of Harold Macmillan.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 736 pages, None
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780141030654

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Germany invaded France on May 10, 1940 and France asked for an armistice on June 17. When the French public learned of the request for an armistice their reaction was not the indomitable will to fight portrayed by Barbara Tuchman in Guns of August, this time the nation breathed a sigh of relief. I read this book because I wanted to learn about the fall of France. I now have a much better understanding of what occurred. In almost 700 pages the author sets forth a thorough narrative of the events that occurred in those six weeks. In addition, the place of this event in the ebb and flow of French history is a prominent topic in the book.The author portrays the decisions made in various conferences by describing the actions of the participants, what they said and how they looked. Diary excerpts, letters, battle reports are all part of the paper trail that tell the story of life in that time. The short letters which Rommel wrote to his wife from the battlefield add to the memories of this event. The scream of dive bombing Stuka's and roads full of refugees are all part of the narrative. The operative word for the book is thorough. At times it was a little bit like work. Finishing the book gave me a momentary sense of accomplishment.Germany invaded France three times in the modern era; 1870, 1914 and 1940. In 1940 just as in 1870 the French Army and their generals lost because they expected to lose. The French Army in 1940 was still suffering from the massive losses of WWI. When it was too late they appointed a 73 year old hero of WWI, General Weygand, to save them.The one mistake the Germans made was halting their drive to the English Channel to destroy the Allied armies for three days. This made possible the miracle of Dunkirk which allowed the British army and 100,000 French soldiers to survive.My major criticism was the lack of adequate maps. There are only six one page maps at the beginning of the book and they are difficult to read. The author also seemed to presume that his reader was fluent in French. Throughout the book are phrases in French with no translation. Maybe I should be fluent in French but I am not and this was a constant source of irritation.The book was remarkable for the lack of bloodshed present. There are casualty numbers but none of the carnage that war is made of. Hypocrisy practiced by an intellectual who went to school in the U. S. during WWIIThe book was a good thorough depiction of what happened that was dry and ponderous in some stretches. It was written to inform and not entertain the reader. I read the book to learn and I was rewarded with knowledge.

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