David R. Higgins, Poland 1939 German Soldier versus Polish Soldier (Osprey, 2020)
In Osprey Publishing’s latest Combat series offering, David Higgins surveys the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. The angle he takes to cover well-worn historical ground is to emphasize the soldiers while explaining the action. It is a tricky balancing act in such a condensed format, but one Higgins handles well.
Higgins begins with a potted history of post-World War I Poland and its relationship with Germany, ending with Hitler’s decision to invade Poland in September 1939. He then examines the doctrine and combat roles of both armies. He finds the Poles woefully behind in military spending, slow to modernize, and biased towards its cavalry arm that only constituted ten percent of Poland’s army. The Germans were also well ahead in logistics, technology, and tactics, though morale on both sides was generally high on the eve of the invasion. With both sides established, Higgins takes us into the three major engagements that led to Polish defeat: Cutting the ‘Polish Corridor’, thus isolating and destroying Polish units and forcing the Poles into retreat despite several, albeit unsuccessful, counterattacks; the fighting around Łomża and Nowogród where the Germans found it harder going; and the Polish counterattack that created the Bzura Pocket but could not be sustained. Higgins helpfully analyses all this condensed action in his concluding section with a nod to the campaign’s aftermath.
German Soldier versus Polish Soldier is a solid contribution to the Combat series. Higgins confidently narrates the major fighting, showing that the Germans did not have it all their own way despite their seemingly rapid success. The text is amply illustrated with colour plate illustrations of soldiers in action, maps, and black and white photographs. There is arguably too much operational narrative in a book on soldiers in combat, making some of it feel like a bit of a rehash, but a newcomer to the invasion will appreciate the context. Wargamers and other military hobbyists will certainly enjoy reading this.