Stalingrad, by Antony Beevor

I always knew this was an epic battle, of course, but having absorbed all the details, now I can only say, cor. I tried to imagine if any British city would have put up a similar level of defiance, had the Germans invaded, but then thought that the question might not be meaningful. I don’t think we had one in a similar situation with its back to a river, facing a possible invasion force. Also, by the time the panzers trundled up to Stalingrad they had already covered a distance equivalent to the entire British Isles, so no wonder they were short on supplies.

Beevor keeps mentioning the unreliability and weakness of the Germans’ Romanian allies, so I thought that if I was in charge of organising the Soviet counterstrike, that was where I would attack. And guess what, they did. See, I could have been a Red Army general.

This is the second time my tactical genius has second-guessed the experience and wisdom of a serving military leader. A few years ago we were watching a documentary on HMS Bulwark, solely because my (former 8-year-old) navy friend was on board. They anchored in the mouth of the Ganges so that the Marines could go ashore and play soldiers, but found that the water was so silty they were using up filters at an unsustainable rate. Jeapesblower RN’s solution: go out to sea, sail around in circles in clean water, then come back and pick up the Marines. The captain’s eventual solution … strikingly similar.