A FORMER soldier, author, documentary maker and battlefield guide who lives in Warminster has penned a book about the Arras Counter-Attack 1940 which has its 79th anniversary this week.

Tim Saunders, the author of Arras Counter-Attack 1940, a book about the German victory in the Battle of Arras in France during the Second World War, has a lifelong interest in military history.

Educated at Clayesmore School, at Iwerne Minster, near Blandford Forum, and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he served as an officer in the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment for 30 years before becoming a reservist rifleman.

While he was a serving officer, ending his service as a Major, Tim started writing and has now finished 19 books, principally on the Second World War, and all on subjects which sparked his interest.

Of his 18th book, he says: “More than 4,000 infantry and tank troops took part in the Battle of Arras, a British offensive that lasted six weeks and ended in defeat. There is an enduring debate as to whether it was or was not a counter-attack.

“On May 21 1940, during the ill-fated Dunkirk Campaign, the British launched an operation spearheaded by two tank regiments to help secure the city of Arras, the only significant armoured operation mounted by the British during the campaign.

“My book unpicks the orders and analyses how the infantry and the armour failed to marry up to deliver a joint attack around the south of Arras but fought a series of separate desperate battles.

“The Arras counter-attack contributed to Hitler issuing the famous ‘halt order’ to his panzers, which arguably did much to allow the British Army to withdraw to Dunkirk and escape total destruction.”

Mr Saunders, 62, is a military historian who has appeared in television programmes as diverse as Time Team and Victoria Coren’s Balderdash and Piffle.

He and a group of other historians run Battlefield History TV, having produced over 50 full-length military history documentaries, ranging from the Viking Invasion of Wessex through to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Mr Saunders, who has just returned from battlefield tours in Normandy and Gallipoli, said: “My wife, Kate, says that I do not have a real job but work very hard at my hobby.”

Arras Counter Attack 1940 is published by Pen & Sword, price £12.99. It is available from Amazon and most good book stores.