Historian and bestselling author James Holland gave a fascinating lecture at St Mary’s on 21st February. James is an expert and enthusiastic speaker on the military history of the Second World War, and during his visit delivered a talk about Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, an operation which escalated the war and brought Stalin’s Russia into the conflict.  The lecture proved particularly valuable for girls studying A Level History, as half of their course has been devoted to the story of 19th and 20th Century Russia, including Stalin’s ultimate success against Germany in 1945.

James made the very persuasive case that Germany’s 'war machine' was fundamentally unsuited to the kind of war they found themselves fighting by 1940, first against Britain and then against the Soviet Union. For decades, Germany had fought short, sharp battles, and this thinking informed the way in which the Wehrmacht approached the conquest of European neighbours in 1939 and 1940. They proved unable, however, to sustain this, and James gave a number of illuminating examples of military inefficiencies that revealed a fundamental weakness that was to undo Germany in 1941.

James concluded by detailing the doubts of senior German military figures by the end of 1941: in the opinion of some, their war was effectively over as the mud turned to biting winter across the Eastern Front. James’s theories are argued in his book The War in the West, which he signed for audience members after the lecture.