When, in September 1940, Adolf Hitler cancelled Operation SEALION, the proposed invasion of Britain by secret edict, he ordered the construction by the Todt Organisation of 1,500 miles of Atlantic Wall defences along the French, Belgian and Dutch coastlines. Every seaport was turned into a fortress. Hitler designed the layout and military defences of each one and specified the quality and quantity of cement and steel required. He personally appointed the commandants who swore an oath of allegiance and promised to fight to the finish.
Winston Churchill and his generals meanwhile were planning how to break into the Atlantic Wall fortresses. After the stunning success of D-Day and Operation OVERLORD, Allied forces had to seize key fortress-ports to get supplies landed. The Mulberry harbours on the Normandy beaches were vulnerable to the weather and could supply only a fraction of the Allies’ requirements. The Americans fought their way up the Cotentin Peninsula to try to capture Cherbourg, St Malo, Brest, Lorient and St Nazaire. At the same time the Canadian and British forces were hammering their way up the left flank, capturing Le Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais and surrounding Dunkirk.
Every fortress commander fought his defensive battle hard and destroyed the port facilities. The author was a member of the armoured division that captured Antwerp in a daring day and night onslaught. Hitler reacted by reinforcing the fortresses at Flushing and on Walcheren, which guarded the Scheldt River entrance to Antwerp.
Allied success was vital to avoid stalemate on the Western Front. All the glamour and news headlines concentrated on the Allied armies’ obvious successes; the Americans’ struggles in Brittany, and the Canadian and British campaigns in appalling conditions to open up Antwerp port were all too quickly forgotten. The forces fighting these horrible ‘little battles’ called it the Cinderella War. This book is the vivid record of their achievements, bravery and determination.