8-9 May 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe
Brits - and many others - think of the Germans as a rather humourless lot. Antony Beevor's book D-Day: The Battle for Normandy dispels many myths about the Allied landings in France and the subsequent fighting. Among them is the myth that Germans don't have a sense of humour.
Beevor cites this German joke that was circulating among the Wehrmacht soldiers.
'The almost total absence of the Luftwaffe to contest the enemy's air supremacy continued to provoke anger among German troops, although they often resorted to black humour. 'If you can see silver aircraft, they are American,' went one joke. 'If you can see khaki planes, they are British, and if you can't see any planes, then they're German.'
The other version of this went, 'If British planes appear, we duck. If American planes come over, everyone ducks. And if the Luftwaffe appears, nobody ducks.' American forces had a different problem. Their trigger-happy soldiers were always opening fire at aircraft despite orders not to because they were far more likely to be shooting at an Allied plane than an enemy one.'
I highly recommend the book. Even if you are not a history buff, soldiers' stories Beevor collected would liven up any of your tours to D-Day sights and memorials.
Tip: if you are buying second-hand, check that the first 17 pages of the book are not missing. Last year, as the 65th anniversary of D-Day was approaching and publishers were rushing the book to sellers part of the circulation came out without them.
And if you shop from France use the 'livres en Anglais' search box at the top of the side-bar to save on delivery charges.
Below is a fragment from the war epic 'The Battle of Britain'. Goering asks his pilots how he can help them. 'Give me a squadron of Spitfires,' one of them says.