Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
Monday, 18 March 2013
Cataclysm - Keith Cumins
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Author: Keith Cumins ISBN: 9781907677236 Hardcover Pages: 359 Illustrations: 46 b/w, 33 colour maps Publisher: Helion & Company
The Eastern Front during World War 2 encompassed a
military landscape that by any standard beggars the imagination. Over a
north/south distance of 2,900 KM (1,800 Miles), 4 million Axis troops, 750,000
horses and 600,000 vehicles swept into the USSR driving forward to the gates of
Moscow and Stalingrad before ultimately being driven back to Berlin and defeat.
The cost to the USSR was staggering: over 8 million military dead; for Germany
and the Axis: over 4 million military fatalities. Fought with a degree of
brutality not witnessed in any of the other theatres of operations, the war in
the east, to a great extent, decided the outcome of the Second World War.
Keith Cumins’s book Cataclysm, undertakes to capture the
breadth and nature of the War in the East in one book. A daunting challenge to
say the least, but one that he accomplishes quite handily. The amount of
literature available pertaining to the German/Soviet conflict is vast and
covers the spectrum from micro to macro analysis. Certainly Cumins’s work is
presented on a much larger canvas (covering the period 1941-1945) but it is
very successful at presenting the reader with a broad brush account of the
events on the Eastern Front. The work is presented in a chronological manner
thereby enabling the reader to easily follow the unfolding of events despite
the often overlapping of operations and movement.
Despite the fact that the air conflict on the Eastern
Front was as involved and far reaching in complexity as any other element,
Cumins focuses on the ground campaign. This does not take away from the impact
of the text; in fact, it is beneficial as it ensures that the work retains a
reasonable length and depth. Included in the book are a series of colour maps
that are very beneficial in assisting the reader to follow the flow of events
on the ground. The author offsets the fact that the maps are all centrally
located in the book, by providing references to the appropriate map along the
border of the text. This is extremely helpful and a good touch.
Additionally, he includes appendices that provide
outstanding synopsis of place names, orders of battle and divisional structures
for both the German and Soviet sides. The orders of battle are further broken
out into the phases of: June 22, 1941, Operation Blau, Operation Citadel and
the Operation Bagration periods. A slight drawback is his partial bibliography
as it would have been helpful to have had included all of the source material.
Another plus regarding the book layout is the fact that footnotes are placed at
the bottom of the pages where they are found as opposed to at the end of the
book. I personally prefer this method as it allows one to review the additional
information provided without breaking the flow of the book.
Cumins’ writing style is fluid and smooth; therefore, despite
having to approach the battles from different viewpoints and multiple regions,
he is easy to follow and understand. Maintaining a strategic and operational
view of the conflict enables Cumins to follow the flow of battle from the
northern to southern theatres and including the actions within the German
allies’ spheres of influence. Additionally, from a structure perspective, he
opens his narrative with a synopsis of the strategic situation leading up to
the initiation of Op Barbarossa. Again, while it is somewhat cursory in length,
it hits all of the major points to provide the reader with the background
needed to tackle the enormity of the activity that followed. Cumins also breaks
his narrative into manageable sub-units through the use of sectional titles
that provide a contextual overview and break between sections within the chapters.
Overall Cumins’ book is a notable success. While
not adding new information to the Barbarossa story he succeeds admirably in
condensing the complexity of the operation into a manageable and useful
narrative at both the strategic and operational levels of engagement. For the
aspiring historian and casual military enthusiast, this is a highly recommended
book as a starting point from which to branch into more detailed accounts; made
more so by the fact that it is presented in a lucid and engaging style.