Eben-Emael & the Defence of Fortress Belgium 1940

...from Pen & Sword

Title: Eben-Emael & the Defence of Fortress Belgium 1940
Author: Clayton Donnell
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52677-982-3

The headline title for this new book is sure to grab many peoples attention, as the glider assault on the Eben-Emael fort in Belgium is one of the best known events of the German Blitzkrieg in May 1040. However, there is so much more in this new 258-page book.
In a key position, the powerful fort of Eben-Emael was subjected to a precision glider assault using DFS 230 gliders landing on the roof of the fort, and an assault by pioneers who used new shaped charges to destroy the turrets of the fort. The assault is detailed in the opening chapter, when the fort was conquered on the 10 & 11 May 1940 but is then followed by so much more. The rest of the book covers the stories of the rings of forts that formed defence lines around both Liege and Namur. The various forts are described and we get their individual stories over the next few days as each chapter takes us from the 10th May through to the 29th. While the 'interval' defence lines between the forts were soon abandoned, the fort themselves held on as long as they could. The forts were close enough to be able to provide fire support to their near neighbours, and that seems to have been frequently needed in face of the German invasion. They were subjected to regular bombing and artillery bombardment, including direct fire from anti-tank guns such as the small 37mm Pak 36 and the famous 88mm, which targeted the armoured observation towers in particular. The forts fired thousands of rounds, not only in their mutual support, but also against bridges, farms and counter battery fire, inflicting casualties on the German Infantry Divisions that were in the area. On plenty of occasions, their guns had to fire 'boites-a-balles' rounds to clear attackers from the walls and ditches surrounding the forts. One by one, the individual forts were forced to surrender, but the bravery of the crews is quite clear. The Conclusion that rounds things off considers the effectiveness of fixed fortifications such as the Belgian forts. While some were sealed off after the war, at least some have been preserved as museums that we can visit today.
In addition to the details of the taking of Eben-Emael, it is a part of the story of the 1940 invasion of Belgium which I had been really unaware of, and that is despite many years of interest in the history of WW2. A really interesting read, and so much more to it that adds to the whole picture of the 1940 Blitzkrieg. One I certainly recommend.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin