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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 12 October 2023

Darkest Hour

 This is another in James Holland's WW2 fiction series. While I haven't been reading them in chronological order, this is the last one for me and covers the France 1940 campaign.

Our hero, Jack Tanner and his squad are back from Norway and assigned to guard RAF Manston and the surrounding coast. This series is pretty much Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe set in WW2. Here, we have an incompetent company commander, a decent Lieutenant, and a crooked CSM. The class system runs through the story, only marginally improved from the Napoleonic Wars.

Tanner starts by upsetting the troops involved in the theft of military supplies, a theme throughout the story. Then, the Germans invade France, and the unit is sent to join another battalion in Belgium. This series focuses on small unit actions, which are very well described. However, the bigger picture is addressed, with occasional chapters covering Lord Gort's HQ and his challenges with the French. Holland's take is more sympathetic than the history books to Gort - justifiably, in my view.

We also glimpse the other side of the hill in the form of an SS major commanding a reconnaissance company, who regularly bumps into Tanner and his squad. Needless to say, Tanner, very Sharpe-like, tends to do his own thing. The unit takes part in the retreat from Belgium and then the Arras counterattack, spearheaded by one of my favourite WW2 tanks, the Matilda.

I won't spoil the story that ends up in Dunkirk, with Tanner's unit in the rearguard. Spookily, I was reading this chapter the night before Partisan at the weekend, and there was a game based on this action at the show. And very good it was too.

I really enjoyed this series and hope James Holland will finish Jack Tanner's war. For now, the latest Sharpe novel has just arrived. Getting any work done this week will be a challenge!


  1. Sounds like these are very very similar to the Andy Johnson series

    1. Another excellent series. Seelowe Nord is my favourite. Andy was at Partisan and we had a chat. Really interesting and pleasant guy.

  2. I always enjoy historical novels more when the author does their research. For example, I expect a “tank” to be the relevant make/model for that date. I suspect James Holland will have this particular aspect covered 😉

    1. As you would expect he does. Just one typo that I spotted. They had a 22-pounder ATG, when I suspect they meant a 2-pdr!