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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Counterattack: Montgomery and the Battle of Bulge

Counter-Attack Counterattack: Montgomery and the Battle of Bulge

By Robert Oulds, 67 pages, Kindle e-book, 2022 

This is a very useful and thoughtful study of the Battle of the Bulge, which at last gives due credit to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery for his crucial role in ensuring the Allied victory. Hitler's Ardennes counter-offensive was his last desperate throw on the Western front.

The author, Robert Oulds, has also written Montgomery and the first war on terror: what a British military hero can teach those fighting today's war on terror, (Bretwalda Books, 2012), Everything you wanted to know about the EU, but were afraid to ask, (Bretwalda Books, 2013), and, with Niall McCrae, Moralitis: a cultural virus, (Bruges Group, 2020).

After the success of D-Day, General Eisenhower's broad front strategy had led to a lack of concentration of the Allied forces: there was no focus on the main point of attack. Montgomery had written as far back as 1925, "All through history, from the days of the great phalanx of the Roman Legion, the master law of tactics remains unchanged; this Law is that to achieve success you must be superior at the point where you intend to strike the decisive blow."

On Montgomery's plan, the Allied forces would have taken the initiative and caught Hitler's forces off-guard. Instead, Eisenhower's tactical failings (as he later admitted in his memoirs) allowed Hitler's forces to seize the initiative and catch the Allies off-guard.

The resulting battle is known as the Battle of the Bulge. Oulds analyses the opposing commanders, the opposing armies, the weapons available to each side, and the nature of the battlefield.

On 28 November, Montgomery warned Eisenhower that there was a weakness in the Allied forces' deployment. The US forces were positioned with a gap of some 100 miles which covered the Ardennes, an area held by just four weak, resting divisions. Montgomery suggested moving General George Patton's Third Army north to fill this gap and to attack the Sixth Panzer Army.

On 16 December, three German armies launched their armoured and artillery attack on the weakened American positions. By 18 December, the main German forces had advanced 20 miles into what had been US-held territory and taken the town of Stavelot.

Eisenhower reorganised the Allied forces and changed the position of the US forces to make the front more secure. On 19 December, Montgomery moved the British forces to secure key defensive positions so that the Germans could not exploit any crossing of the river Meuse.

On 20 December, Eisenhower gave Montgomery overall command of all the US forces north of the Bulge, the First and Ninth Armies. He reorganised the front.

On 26 December, the British 29th Armoured Brigade and the US 2nd Armoured Division checked the German advance before the river Meuse. On 31 December, the British XXX Corps retook Rochefort and Montgomery moved and prepared this force for the major counterattack.

On 16 January, First Army and Third Army linked up and then moved eastward to finally eliminate the Bulge. By 28 January, Hitler's last desperate throw on the Western front had been totally defeated.

In planning a battle, Montgomery always pursued concentration, control, simplicity. He urged reinforcing success. He always looked for the opportunity to turn defence into attack. In this decisive battle, he demonstrated to the full his famous ability to 'grip' the situation.

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