In the weeks after D-Day, the level of artillery action in Normandy was unprecedented. In what was a relatively small area, both sides bombarded each other relentlessly for three months, each trying to overwhelm the other by sheer fire power.
The Guns of Normandy puts the reader in the front lines of this horrific battle. In the most graphic and authentic detail, it brings to life every aspect of a soldier’s existence, from the mortal terror of impending destruction, to the unending fatigue, to the giddy exhilaration at finding oneself still, inexplicably, alive.
The story of this crucial battle opens in England, as the 4th Field Regiment receives news that something big is happening in France and that after long years of training they are finally going into action. The troop ships set out from besieged London and arrive at the D-Day beaches in the appalling aftermath of the landing.
What follows is the most harrowing and realistic account of what it is like to be in action, as the very lead man in the attack: an artillery observer calling in fire on enemy positions. The story unfolds in the present tense, giving the uncomfortably real sense that “You are here.”
The conditions under which the troops had to exist were horrific. There was near-constant terror of being hit by incoming shells; prolonged lack of sleep; boredom; weakness from dysentery; sudden and gruesome deaths of close friends; and severe physical privation and mental anguish. And in the face of all this, men were called upon to perform heroic acts of bravery and they did.
Blackburn provides genuine insight to the nature of military service for the average Canadian soldier in the Second World War – something that is all too often lacking in the accounts of armchair historians and television journalists. The result is a classic account of war at the sharp end.
From the Hardcover edition.
About George Blackburn
George C. Blackburn, M.C., was born in 1917 in a farmhouse near the village of Wales, which disappeared under the waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. He has been a newspaper reporter, Director of Information of the Federal Labour Department, and Director of Fair Employment Practices. In addition he has been a radio producer, an award-winning documentary scriptwriter, an award-winning playwright, and a lyricist and composer. His musical “A Day to Remember” was housed in a theatre built specially for the purpose in Upper Canada Village. He and Grace, his wife of fifty-seven years, have three children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
George Blackburn earned his Military Cross helping to save the Twente Canaal bridgehead in Holland.
“This book may well contain the greatest Canadian memories of World War II.”
–from the Trillium Award jury citation
“A very moving and poignant…account.…George Blackburn’s book is a salute to the human spirit and its ability to rise to the challenges that confront it.”
“Entrancing.…One of the best books to come out of the Second World War.”
“George Blackburn…brings us as close as we will ever come to the tension, savagery, and turmoil of the fighting in Normandy half a century ago. The immediacy of Blackburn’s narrative, his empathy with the fighting men, and his professional insight put The Guns of Normandy in a class of its own as a military memoir.”
–Quill & Quire
“A finer first-hand account of Canadians at war simply does not exist.”
–Tom Clark, National Editor, BBS-TV
“[Blackburn] provides details so graphic that even the most unmilitary reader can appreciate artillery warfare. The Guns of Normandy is no glorious adventure story. Once into the front lines, war is hell.…Tension overlays every minute of every hour of every day for weeks on end.”
–Books in Canada
“A remarkable book.…[It] promises to be definitive about wartime soldiering.”
“The finest personal account of the campaign in Northwest Europe written by a Canadian.…His description of what it was like to live through those desperate days…should be read by everyone who thinks that military history is about strategy and the views of generals.”
–Canadians Military History
“A war book not to be missed.”
“Easily the best book yet produced on…the Canadian army’s bloody campaign in Normandy. In terms of describing the nightmare of a massive mechanised war from the ground-level view of somebody who was in the thick of it, it is unique.”
–London Free Press
From the Hardcover edition.