At one point, during the fierce battle for the town of Saint-Lô, Beevor quotes a medic: "It's such a paradox, this war, which produces the worst in man, and also raises him to the summits of self-sacrifice, self-denial and altruism." Two pages later he quotes a French gendarme appalled by looting by soldiers and civilians alike: "It was a great surprise to find it in all classes of society. The war has awakened atavistic instincts and transformed a number of law-abiding individuals into delinquents."
Mr Beevor said: “The fighting was indeed ferocious, far more than has been recognised, and that was one of the main themes of my book.
“But many of its battalions were badly shaken, and it took several weeks and a new commander, before its fighting spirit was restored.
“The 51st Highland Division went through a bad patch, but its morale and fighting ability was rapidly restored in late July as I emphasise in my book.”