The assault crossing of the River Seine by the British 43rd (Wessex) Division in August 1944 remains one of the important operations of the closing stages of the Second World War. Once the obstacle of the great river had been overcome, General Horrocks unleashed the armour of 30 Corps on their historic dash across northern France and Belgium.
Assault Crossing, Ken Ford’s classic account of this critical battle, is the story of one British Division pitted against one German division. On one side, a fully equipped, battle-hardened unit made up of soldiers from the ancient Kingdom of Wessex, backed by some of the best artillery in the world and supported by tanks. On the other side, a much depleted, second-rate static division of men of various nationalities conscripted to fight a war for Germany that was already lost. On paper the British were assured of success, but between the two opposing armies lay the Seine, 680 feet of open water, overlooked by high chalk cliffs riddled with defensive strong points. The Germans were waiting.
In hindsight, the battle was described as an epic operation and used as an example to train future generations of soldiers. In reality, as with most battles, it was something of a shambles lurching from crisis to crisis until eventually the bridgehead was secured.
In his graphic narrative Ken Ford gives a fascinating insight into the planning of the operation and the confusion of the battlefield. He records using eyewitness testimony what the battle was like for the soldiers who were there.