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To Lose a Battle: France 1940
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To Lose a Battle: France 1940

(France #3)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  666 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
During six weeks in 1940, Hitler's blitzkrieg shattered the redoubtable Maginot Line and, shortly thereafter, the French army. No historian has written a more definitive chronicle of that disaster than Alistair Horne, or one so emotionally gripping. Moving with cinematic swiftness from the battlefield to the Reichstag and the Palais de l'...lysée, To Lose a Battle overspil
Paperback, 726 pages
Published June 28th 2007 by Penguin (first published January 1st 1969)
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The memories of the fall of France are spotty. Spotted by the shame of defeat and the blood of those participants who didn't live to see the fall of Germany. It's also blurry on account of the sheer speed, with the Panzer spearhead reaching the coast within a week. Horne is in peak form here, switching from the lowly sentry to the erratic directions of the Allied high command.

Thus he connects the dots as the Wehrmacht first establishes bridgeheads across the Meuse, connects them & sticks ou
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very detailed and well readable account of the Fall of France, including a very good overview of the factors leading to the quick collapse of the French army

Every year, when I went on holiday with my parents, I always remember a particular spot on one of the autoroutes leading to the south of France where a sign points out a fortification claiming that at this point you pass the famous Maginot line. I always wondered how the French, up to this day, are able to still want to point this out to p
Nick Lloyd
Horne is a great author and this book is another fine work in his collection. I had long wondered how the French Army (the largest in the world), combined with the B.E.F. and the storied Maginot Line, could be so thoroughly defeated by the smaller German Wehrmacht. Was blitzkrieg alone that much of a game changer? In a sense, yes. The blitzkrieg (today more commonly referred to as "combined arms" warfare) was an innovation that changed the playbook for everyone in the early 20th century. However ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
This is a superior narrative history of the fall of France in 1940. Horne examines the political and social changes in France following the end of WW I, and how these affected the French military and their ability to resist the German invasion in 1940. Horne examines the diplomatic and political attempts to resist, in addition to the ineffective military response by the French army and air force. Horne utilized an amazing number of sources and his narrative reads as a novel. I was completely abs ...more
Simon Wood
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it

It's a good forty years since Alistair Horne wrote "To Lose a Battle", his account of the German Invasion of Western Europe in May 1940. The third part of his trilogy of books on the conflicts between France and Germany it begins with an account of the French victory parade after The Great War, and moves on through the twenties and thirties, charting the disparate experiences of France and Germany up to the eve of the German invasion. This scene setting takes up a third of the book
The last part of Alistair Horne's trilogy recounting the great battles of the Franco-German conflicts of 1870-1940, and he maintains the high standards of the previous two books.

I suppose the events of May/June 1940 will be well enough known, at least in outline, to anyone who has read about WWII. Mr Horne describes the military story but also seeks to understand the underlying causes of the French collapse. He illustrates in detail just how thoroughly the French Army was paralysed by "Maginot M
Mike Hankins
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: military-history, ww2
Germany’s attack on France in 1940 is one of the most famous military campaigns among both military historians and the general public. Alistair Horne’s To Lose a Battle presents a detailed examination of the campaign itself, while continually contextualizing it within the framework of France’s conflicts with Germany over the previous generations. This approach provides valuable insight, and Horne’s writing style lends the book an exciting dramatic flair. However, though the book is exciting and ...more
Michael Romo
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Horne is one of my all-time favorite historians and I loved this book. Although I read it more than a decade ago I still can recall many sections of what I read so long ago. It's not many books that I can say that for. That being said some aspects of the book are dated - as can be expected for a book written in 1969. Ernest R. May's book Strange Victory (2000) is a worthy successor to this book and both books read in tandem I believe provide all that can be said on this sad chapter of French his ...more
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
A well-researched history of the Nazi's campaign against France 1940. The historical groundwork and terrain descriptions established by Alistaair Horne greatly helps the reader understand why the German Army was able to completely overrun France in about two weeks. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in World War II. In particular, I recommend this to company-level army and marine officers.
Jane Shaw
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific book for helping us understand the fall of France, although it is more detailed about the battles themselves than fully interested me. Thus, I skimmed through those parts. The conflicts and failures of communication between the British and the French as well as the politics surrounding the French decisions (whether to surrender, for example) are fascinating.
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In its larger scope, this book reminds me of nothing so much as the movie Alien. There's the French army, girding itself to fight a normal, terrestrial enemy, and suddenly half a dozen panzer divisions burst out of its own chest. Very scary.
Rob Neyer
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Maybe just a bit more detail than I needed, but a beautifully written account of the campaign. I do wish there'd been more at the end about the disposition of French military forces after the surrender, esp. the powerful French navy. I guess I'll have to read another book.
Sep 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, war
Achtung - Panzer!
Brad Trefz
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Arguably one of the best account of the French defeat in 1940 (in English), Horne's third book in his trilogy concludes his arc of French history, from its beginning during the days of the Paris Commune and the defeat of 1870, through Verdun, to the final inglorious end of the Third Republic.

A quick read, and a perfect introductory text, that gives the broad brush without too many details,. That said, Horne's narrative can bog down as he describes the maneuvers of the various belligerents. For
George Nap
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A little long in the tooth, still a good read and source on the Fall of France. There were some quaint phrasings and perspectives which date the book. Horne, as is typical of British authors, speak of the French and Germans (and British, I will add) in stereotypes which, while important within the European prejudice of the time (Gallic pride, British steadfastness, Teutonic efficiency) made me feel a little like I was speaking to my late grandparents (who I loved, but were one generation removed ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alistair Horne is an amazing historian. Another masterpiece. My whole perspective of modern French history has been shaped and altered by his books.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
Sad and deeply moving, although perhaps a bit too granular in detail. Military history people would have no trouble keeping the dates and locations straight, but the rest of us may be found wanting.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a sad book, about the German invasion of France in 1940 and the ensuing debacle of the French and British attempts to throw them back.

Basically, the Germans had adapted their strategy to modern technology and the French and Brits had not, so the German tanks and planes literally drove circles around the French army.

The outcome, of course, expanded Nazi power and deepend the Holocaust and gave the Germans the ability to invade Russia in 1941, which led to another 40 million deaths.

A them
Nonethousand Oberrhein
Achtung, Blitzkrieg!
An incredibly interesting book, rich in details, historical facts and anecdotes that transform a plain history essay into a pageturner! If in the first part each chapter is dedicated to a different aspect of the various socio-political factors that brought France, Britain and Germany to May 1940, the second part expands into a day by day chronicle of the German invasion. Giving the point of view of the three nations through excerpts of various war diaries, the author meets a
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Part one flows quite well and the pre-battle analysis covers a wide variety of topics from the French psyche to the Luftwaffe's supremacy. Part two is very specific and I had some trouble maintaining my interest level (I am no historian). The book doesn't go over the last phases of the battle in much detail and really focuses on the first few weeks of the operation. Horne explicitly mentions why he left out much of the BEF evacuation, but I had hoped for a little more content with the Weygand Li ...more
Tyler Lees
Alistair Horne depicts the Fall of France in 1940 in the third and final volume of his history of France and Germany between 1860 and 1940.

To understand how World War Two was fought, why the fall of France was such a shock and so surprising, you must begin here. Horne explains how the German sweep was possible, and how the Allied disaster was possible.

If you wish to understand the second major campaign of the Second World War, Horne give the reader a detailed look at how it unfolded. I highly re
Seb Rattansen
Really enjoyed this book. I got through its 700+ pages really fast which is a testament to its page-turnability. On a par with A.J.P. Taylor's Origins of the Second World War. In some ways it's better...more tragic and poignant. Ahhh the poor French... The only silver lining to the book is that I knew the good guys would win (in the end).

After this I will definitely be reading Horne's other books on the long French-German war.
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: stopped
I went into it knowing that 700 pages would likely be too much detail for my interest in this subject and it was. I skipped some of the beginning after getting a feel for the overall picture and read most of the time after 1932 or so and that was enjoyable. Once the action started, I was quickly overwhelmed by the detail and put it down. I enjoyed what I read, though.
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
great narrative - excellent study on the french political/military/industrial psyche (1918 - 1940) which combined with a strategic superior Wehrmacht plan/execution led to history's top military collapses.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
Once again Horne delivers a great book which is easy to read and yet able to provide the reader with all the key ideas and actions of the French and Germans leaders.

A fantastic history on a often overlooked part of WWII and well worth a read.
Michael Chady
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Alistair Horne continues his expert analysis of the conflicts between France and Germany.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, war
Very well written.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf-history
The description (in the first chapter) of the victory parade in 1919 is the most brilliant piece of prose I have ever read.
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great account of the fall of France in 1940; the third book in Horne's brilliant Franco-German trilogy.
Thomas Myers
rated it it was amazing
Mar 14, 2018
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Sir Alistair Allan Horne was a British journalist, biographer and historian of Europe, especially of 19th and 20th century France. He wrote more than 20 books on travel, history, and biography. He won the following awards: Hawthornden Prize, 1963, for The Price of Glory; Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize and Wolfson Literary Award, both 1978, both for A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962; ...more

Other books in the series

France (3 books)
  • The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71
  • The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916