Lockdown Library – Iain Ballantyne

Jun 5, 2020

June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day, and to mark the occasion we have a real treat for you in the Lockdown Library – Iain Ballantyne reading from his most recent publication, Arhhem: Ten Days in The Cauldron.

PFD’s Lockdown Library is a new project bringing together our wonderful authors to offer up some fun, learning and relaxation during these strange times. We’ll be posting regular book readings, short talks and Lockdown Lunches from our chefs, so be sure to follow our Twitter and Instagram(both @pfdagents) to see when there’s something new in the #LockdownLibrary.

17 September 1944: 30,000 airborne soldiers prepare to drop 64 miles behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied Holland; tens of thousands of ground troops race down Hell’s Highway in tanks and armoured cars, trucks and half-tracks to link up with them. The goal – to secure eight bridges across the Rhine and end the war by Christmas. Ten days later, over 15,000 of these soldiers have died, 6,000 have been taken prisoner.

Operation Market Garden was the daring plan to stage a coup de main in occupied territory, gain control of those bridges, and obtain a direct route into Hitler’s Germany. But, the operation failed and the allied forces suffered a brutal military defeat. In the 75 years since, tactics have been analysed and blame has been placed, but the heart of Arnhem’s story lies in the selflessness and bravery of those troops that fought, the courage and resilience of the civilians caught up in confrontation, and the pure determination to fight for their lives and their freedom. This is the story of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events.

In Ballantyne’s Arnhem, we go into battle with not only the famous commanders in the thick of the action, but also with all those whose fates were determined by their decisions. Based on first-hand interviews, military records, and diaries, we witness the confusion and mayhem of war – from the horrific and devastating to the surreal and mundane. But most of all, we witness the self-sacrifice and valour of the men who gave their lives to liberate strangers in a foreign country.

Although he has written several naval history books, including on the Second World War and the Cold War, Iain Ballantyne has during the course of his career as a journalist, editor and author also covered the activities of land forces. Those assignments took him to Kuwait, Oman, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Hong Kong, sometimes during times of conflict.

Iain has visited WW2 battlefields in company with those who fought there as young men, while also spending hours in conversation with Arnhem veterans. As a teenager Iain embarked on an expedition to follow the course of the Rhine, including a pilgrimage to Oosterbeek and Arnhem. He retraced the route of the British Airborne soldiers in 1944 as they tried to take the famous ‘bridge too far’. In that sense, Iain’s newest book has been decades in the making.

‘Arnhem: Ten Days in The Cauldron’ is Iain’s second title for Agora Books, following on from ‘Bismarck: 24 Hours to Doom’ (2016). His other recent books include ‘Hunter Killers’ (Orion, 2013) and the same mix of interviews with those who participated in events combined with research in the archives is to be found in his latest submarine warfare book.