Fortress Europe

...from Pen & Sword

Title: Fortress Europe
Author: J.E.Kaufmann and H.W.Kaufmann
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-39900-272-1

From Stone to Steel Fortifications 1950-1945, a new 445-page hardcover book from Pen & Sword, and another first class book from the Kaufmanns for anyone interested in the history and details of the many fixed fortifications across Europe. While many people will immediately think of the Maginot Line, the Atlantic Wall, and maybe the West Wall as well, there is just so much more to discover.
Spread over 17 chapters, the detail is amazing. Even the introduction I was taken by their definition of a Fort as opposed to a Fortress, an interesting difference when you relate this to the rest of the story contained in this book. It covers the period after the Franco-Prussian war, when countries across Europe really went to town in creating fixed defences to protect their borders and key assets. Stretching from Belgium, the Netherlands, even neutral Switzerland, the Scandinavian states, up to Finland, then both Imperial and Soviet Russia, Austria-Hungary, Poland & Greece, the Turkish States and Gibraltar controlling each end of the Mediterranean, Italy, Iberia and at the end, includes Great Britain as well as France and Germany. There are not just identifications of the most important defence works, but their designers, how they were built, what they were equipped with in terms of armament and how they were intended to be used. Lots of things are explained, from how concrete was poured to ensure it stood up to assault, through the weapons fitted in the fortresses and bunkers, such as a reversible machine gun, where when the gun got hot, it could be rotated so another in the mounting took its' place while the first one cooled down. There were advances not only in methods of construction and design, but in the technology of artillery projectiles, some specially made to combat concrete emplacements. Add 4 Appendices to provide even more on Armour, Artillery Development, Machine Guns and the Revolution in Artillery. The book is heavily illustrated throughout, with old and new photos, maps, diagrams and plans that all add to the material in the text.
While there is material on the Maginot Line the Atlantic and West Walls, there is just so much more and you discover just how extensive these defence works are across the whole of the continent of Europe. Even here in the UK, not just the lines if Pill Boxes that crossed the landscape, but port defence facilities all round the British coastline. I found this a fascinating book to read, and learnt there is so much I still had/have to learn. If you are interested in the subject, then I suggest this will prove to be a valuable addition to your bookshelf.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin