This lucid account by a practised hand of what went on in Europe during that final year of the second world war addresses a question that has puzzled many people. Why, after putting the German army to rout in August 1944, did it take Anglo-American forces until May 1945 to secure victory? Field-Marshal Montgomery, with whom I became closely acquainted after the war, had his own didactic version of what went wrong. After our setback at Arnhem in September 1944, General Eisenhower virtually called a halt.
‘Failure to win by Christmas,’ Monty told me, ‘all our troubles hinged on that … Patton [Commander, America’s Third Army] or me — didn’t mind which. One of us should have been sent on. Not a single effort … But a million men sweeping on! Then think — Patton in Czechoslovakia, the bridge between east and west.