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Alamein: War Without Hate [Paperback]

John Bierman , Colin Smith
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Sep 2003

'Excellent ... a remarkable achievement and ought to be recognised as one of the most succesful histories of the Western Desert and North African fighting yet to have appeared' John Keegan, Daily Telegraph

For the British, the battle fought at ElAlamein in October 1942 became the turning point of the Second World War. In this study of the desert war, John Bierman and Colin Smith show why it is remembered by its survivors as a 'war without hate'. Through extensive research the authors provide a compellingly fresh perspective on the see-saw campaign in which the two sides chased each other back and forth across the unforgiving North African landscape.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 Sep 2003)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141004673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141004679
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 280,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

"Colin Smith, veteran war correspondent, has built an impressive reputation as a military historian," noted Sir Max Hastings in his review of 'England's Last War Against France'.The author, whose award winning journalism for The Observer took him from Saigon to Sarajevo, writes a similar narrative history as Hastings and Antony Beevor though his subject matter can be less familiar.In 'Singapore Burning' he concentrates on the hard fought retreat down the Malay Peninsula that preceded the fall of Singapore itself. His account of Britain's forgotten war within a war against Pétain's Vichy French covers all its land, sea and air campaigns. Praised by a wide range of reviewers, his books includes the Palestine novels 'Spies of Jerusalem', 'Let Us Do Evil' and 'Collateral Damage'. His most recent work is a revision of Andrew Borowiec's 'Warsaw Boy' for Viking Penguin.

Product Description

Amazon Review

There was little to romanticise in 20th-century warfare, as detailed in Alamein: War Without Hate. The bloody stalemate of the First World War trenches and the stark confrontation between a genocidal dictatorship and the forces of democracy in the Second World War could not be given the gloss of "chivalry" and "fair play" applied to the less mechanised slaughter of battles in previous centuries. The exception was the North African campaign, the Krieg ohne Hass (War without Hate), as it was described by the German commander Rommel. The myth of a desert war that was somehow "cleaner" and more noble than the fighting on other Second World War fronts has been perpetuated both by veterans of North Africa and by some historians.

In their fine account of the struggle between Rommel's Afrika Korps and Montgomery's Eighth Army which culminated in the second Battle of Alamein, Bierman and Smith replace myth with reality. However, they do show that the desert war was different from the other theatres of war. There is some basis to the myth of the "war without hate" and a good deal of the credit for this can be given to the German commander. Not that Bierman and Smith are primarily interested in the personalities of senior commanders. Even the pen portraits of Rommel and Montgomery are slightly perfunctory. What they want most to do is to provide a clear and readable narrative of events unfolding in North Africa from 1940 to 1943 and how they affected the ordinary soldiers who fought on both sides. In this they have succeeded admirably. Their book refuses to romanticise the desert war but, by giving so striking an account of its reality, does a different kind of justice to the men who fought in it. --Nick Rennison --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A first class account of the arduous hunt to run Rommel to ground.' -- John Crossland, Sunday Times, best military history books of 2002

'A new definitive account of the desert battle.' -- Daily Mail, September 2002

'Excellent...A remarkabled achievement...Few historians write as fluently as Bierman and of the most successful Western Desert narratives.' -- John Keegan in Daily Telegraph, October 2002

'Peppered with... fascinating insights...and the authors manage to fill the entire canvas of the desert war.' -- Herald, September 2002

'big pacey read... panorama of the desert fighting up to the sacking of Auchinleck and the arrival of Montgomery.' -- Allan Mallison, The Times, September 2002

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Military History 6 Dec 2002
John Bierman and Colin Smith's joint venture, 'Alamein: War Without Hate' follows hot on the heels of a number of other very good titles covering the Battle of El Alamein (Stephen Bungay's 'Alamein' and Clayton & Craig's 'End of the Beginning' to name just two). This title covers the history behind the desert campaign, the lead up to famous confrontation at Alamein and the results of that pivotal battle (at least in the eyes of the British Commonwealth).
In just over 400 pages of tense and illuminating narrative we learn more than just the 'what, why & how' of the battle. As readers we get the chance to have a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers who fought in this campaign. We read about soldiers from all parts of the Commonwealth and their German and Italian enemies and we get an idea why this campaign was known as the "war without hate".
The story was presented in a lively and interesting manner and although I have read quite a few books on this battle the story was fresh and retained my interest throughout. I found that at times the authors presented accounts with humor and sometimes a little sarcasm but at all times with fairness to soldiers on both sides of 'no-mans land'. There may not be much that is new here but this book does offer a refreshing and easy to read account of one of World War Two's more famous battles.
I also found that at times whilst reading this book I really got caught up in the lives of some of the participants and I was sadden by many of the outcomes. This is the story about the ordinary infantrymen, tankie, artillerymen, pilot, sailor and civilian, on both sides of the conflict. I really enjoyed the stories from these men and women and it was pleasing to see that the poor old Italian soldier get a fair place in this account.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully evocative account 23 Mar 2004
This book is a fluent and gripping account of the North African campaign, beginning with the Italian invasion of Egypt (well prior to the arrival of Rommel), and finishing with the decisive battle of el Alamein. It's perfectly pitched on the detail, enough for those keen on the divisions and weapons, but never getting bogged down in them.
There's a great mixture of the larger picture; troop and tank movements, overall strategy; with the smaller personal details of history and experiences that fill in the gaps as far as the real people and real lives are concerned. This is augmented by footnotes throughout that fill in the details of the fates of many of the figures very satisfactorily.
Overall a fascinating account of an almost unique campaign. Heartily recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Like their last joint effort - on Orde Wingate - Smith and Bierman have taken a challenging subject and treated it with their original blend of professionalism, humour and huge respect for their subjects (or most of them, at any rate). In addition, those elements of the book which have never been discussed before are fascinating, and must add to the book's importance.
By borrowing the subtitle War Without Hate they might have slipped into a misleading account of a soft-focus, rather comfortable sort of conflict. They make their point but leave you in no doubt just what a campaign like this means in terms of human loss. Why were we able to beat a better-equipped enemy who was also better-generalled (at least initially)? Because we had some outstanding junior officers and senior NCOs, many more of whom gave their lives in this campaign than in other armies and other wars. The account of the Rifle Brigade's action at Snipe, as well as a number of other accounts of individual acts of bravery (generally linked to a high degree of situational awareness), show how such people enabled Monty to achieve his objectives. And the stories are gripping.
I enjoyed the discussions of the generals in particular. There is some uncomfortable reading here, though, because of the comparisons between the two sides. Although the authors do not dwell on Montgomery, they leave you in no doubt how outstanding his contribution was; and, despite being a professional soldier not known for his tolerance or humanity, he understood that he needed to tailor his plan to the limitations of his citizen army.
I had the luxury of reading the book over Christmas and New Year, and so hardly put it down until I had finished it. I look forward to the next one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War writing without irony 5 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed and learned much from this book. The risk with books about military campaigns for the non-military (or this one at least) is that of confusion. Perhaps it is the authors' acknowledgment that they are journalists which explains why this book avoided, in my view, that pitfall almost entirely. And the book left me wanting to know more - particularly about some of the characters involved.

But surely the reason tanks burning is called brewing up is not "curiously, the same phrase" [page 104] but an ironic connection?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Fantastic 17 July 2010
I have to admit that i bought this item 2 years ago and for whatever reason have only just got round to reading it. I'm glad i bought it, it's just a fantastic book and gives an excellent, comprehensive account of the war in the desert.

For anyone remotely interested in the war, this book is a must. And don't be deceived by the title, it doesn't focus on Alamein alone but in everything leading upto it and all the key players.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Right Choice
I think this book was an excellent choice for me. I wanted to read about the events at Alamein, understand their significance and get an insight into the people involved and what... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Nico
5.0 out of 5 stars The men who fought the batles
First hand accounts of their experiences by German and Italian as well as British and Commonwealth soldiers add to the fascination of this detailed account of the first defeat of... Read more
Published 22 months ago by James Clayton
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Account
I was extremely pleased to read this fine book . My late father served as a wireless operator with the Long Range Desert Group in North Africa . Read more
Published on 16 April 2012 by A.J. Reynolds
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Great book - very thorough but keeps the history story line going so well that you don't want to put it down. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2012 by W. Page
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT
I like these types of history books that use personal anecdotes from soldiers from both sides to spice up the dry facts of the events ... Read more
Published on 5 Dec 2011 by Colin Powis
5.0 out of 5 stars War without hate?
Is there ever a war without hate? I doubt it.

However, in the context implied it is a valuable and rare reminder that the demagoguery, pogroms and civilian annihilation... Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2011 by Roberto 66
5.0 out of 5 stars memory lane
bought for my father who now at 90yrs old was actually there. he enjoyed reading the book, thoght it was well written and it also broght back some good memories. Read more
Published on 24 Aug 2011 by colin
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative and readable
When a history book comes along that is both authoritative and readable too, you should go out and buy it. Read more
Published on 22 April 2011 by J A Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and very readable
Very well researched, and the writers tell the story in a vivid and readable way. A difficult book to put down once you are reading it. Read more
Published on 8 Feb 2011 by R Rumble
5.0 out of 5 stars Under desert skies: this story of a unique WW2 campaign is `the full...
The overall scope of this excellent book is a revelation, offering new perspectives of a unique 3-year campaign with its own special character. Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2010 by The Guardian
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