NAVAL INTELLIGENCE DIVISION. France. Volume I Physical Geography [Volume II History and Administration. Volume III Economic Geography. Volume IV Ports and Communications]. [Cambridge, UP, printed under the Authority of HMSO], June 1942-October, 1943.
Four volumes, 8vo. Original Royal Air Force grey-blue cloth, spines and front covers lettered and ruled in gilt; highly illustrated with maps, plates and diagrams, one large colour-printed map in rear pocket; cloth a little marked and spines faded; provenance: volumes I and IV inscribed C.O.S.S.A.C. in black ink on front fly-leaves.
First edition of one of the rarest complete sets of the series, restricted. Probably one of the best-researched books of the time on the country, with contributions on agriculture, population, topography, economics, climate, transport, in short, every aspect - and more - the military was supposed to know about France during the liberation from Fascism and the Nazis. 'A series of intelligence handbooks produced during the First World War had proved valuable both during the conflict and as subsequent reference sources. Early in the Second World War the Director of Naval Intelligence ordered the preparation of a new and improved series to meet the requirements of the day. The Handbooks were designed to provide, in the words of the Preface, "for the use of Commanding Officers, information in a comprehensive and convenient form about countries which they may be called upon to visit, not only in war but in peace-time; secondly, to maintain the high standard of education in the Navy and, by supplying officers with material for lectures ... to ensure for all ranks that visits to a new country shall be both interesting and profitable"' (Cambridge Archive Editions, who reproduce a few titles on the series, online). The four France volumes where prepared by the Cambridge sub-centre of the Naval Intelligence Division under the directorship of Sir James Mann Wordie (1889-1962) who, before fighting in France during the last years of the First World War had been chief of the scientific staff of Shackleton's arduous 1914 Antarcic expedition.
The rarity of complete sets is due to the fact that with D-day these volumes were issued to military units and used by thousands. We once handled the four France volumes collected by the British author Alan Sillitoe, who, in the 1970s, had to make up a set from different sources.
Sir Frederick Edgworth Morgan was appointed chief of staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Designate), or COSSAC in March 1943. As COSSAC he directed the planning for Operation Overlord, as well as other deception maneouvres leading up to D-day. General Morgan's first introduction to his task came when Lieut-General Ismay, the Deputy Secretary to the War Cabinet, presented him with a file of papers "some inches thick'', containing the records of the Combined Commanders' work in connection with the proposed operations against the German forces in Europe. He was required to "elaborate the means by which the expedition was to be organised and undertaken" within twenty-four hours. This he did in the form of a memorandum on cross-Channel operations, which served as a basis for discussion when he met the Chiefs of Staff on 24 March 1943' (internal history of COSSAC, written in May, 1944, online under history.army.mil/documents/cossac/Cossac.htm). 'He was faced with the gigantic task of planning the invasion of north-west Europe and a follow-up attack into the heart of Germany with an eventual force of 100 divisions, and also a deception scheme (Cockade) to keep the Germans alert for landings in 1943. He set up his headquarters at Norfolk House in St James's Square where he assembled an Anglo-American staff of all three services. Although a number of studies for a landing on the coast of Normandy had already been made, Morgan and his team faced enormous difficulties. The chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Alan Brooke, after outlining the problem is alleged to have remarked 'Well, there it is. It won't work, but you must bloody well make it.' If in the end Morgan failed to provide a plan which satisfied the eventual executants, they could not have managed without it. He devoted himself tirelessly to the task, working seven days a week and sleeping beside his desk. The happy relations he fostered in his inter-allied staff was a remarkable achievement in view of the misunderstandings and differences of opinion sometimes prevalent between the allies on a higher level … Nevertheless the great expansion of the forces available for Overlord and the consequent modifications of the plan in the first five months of 1944 should not obscure the fact that COSSAC and his staff had laid the essential foundations for the greatest amphibious operation ever undertaken. Among the many novel features of Morgan's plan perhaps the most remarkable and successful was the provision for large-scale maintenance from artificial harbours (Mulberries). Montgomery later wrote that Morgan 'did a good job … and produced an outline plan for OVERLORD which served as a basis for future planning' (Montgomery, 219). Eisenhower later wrote that Morgan made D-day possible.' (ODNB).