Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen with Prime Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars24
3.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£9.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 20 April 2006
I read this book quite quickly as it was easy to read (ie not dense in its treatment of its subject matter)and because the author touched on topics of interest to me such as Churchill's interference in military affairs (and his understanding of these), British defence policy between the wars and the performance of the British forces and commanders during World War Two.

The reason I have only given three stars is that the author, when dealing with world war two, loses sight of the main themes he wishes to discuss, with the result that the books reads like a straight forward history of world war two.

I also believe that the book judges Churchill too harshly when it comes to discussing his involvement in military affairs in the sense that little or no weight is attached the political problems Churchill faced when things were going badly for Britain and the Allies during the period June 1941-October 1942.

Montgomery is the other major figure criticised by the author and I feel again that he has been too harsh in his judgement, especially in dealing with the way that Montgomery readied the 8th army for El Alamein and his pursuit of the enemy after it.

On the whole this book is for people who already have a good understanding of the subjects it covers as they will be able to judge the validity of the author's arguments.
11 comment|28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 February 2007
"What does an iconoclast do when all the icons are broken?", might be the subtitle of this book. Corrigan built his reputation on the back of his previous book, "Mud, Blood and Poppycock", a generally well-received strident attack on the "Lions led by Donkeys" critique of First World War generals. Here Corrigan, an ex-Gurkha Major, seeks to repeat his success by turning his gaze upon Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, in so doing, he demonstrates clearly the trap that faces those historians who self-consciously aim to upend all that has been thought before: either continue to do so, or fade into mediocrity. Despite claiming at the very start of his book "I have no wish to be considered an iconoclast", Corrigan thereafter sets out to be precisely that, all the time illustrating that he takes the position of a professional soldier with contempt for politicians, rather than a professional historian.

An ex-regular soldier, Corrigan is good on the purely military aspects of the build-up to and the fighting of the Second World War. For example, his narrative of the mechanisation of British cavalry, of the strengths and weaknesses of different weapons and items of equipment (tanks, guns, aircraft,) are all well worth reading. Indeed, his other contentious claim "that Britain did not perform well in the Second World War", is arguable, although the case has been better made elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Corrigan, who lists his hobbies in the cover jacket as including "pricking the pompous", has the blinkered approach of being unable to understand that, in total war, politics cannot be entirely ignored. For example, Corrigan blithely asserts that "[Churchill's] demands to sink the French fleet [in 1940 were] unnecessary, for...the French would have come to an agreement without the threat of force," but totally ignores that, whilst Corrigan has the luxury of assuming, in 2006, that that would have been the case, Churchill in 1940 could not take the risk. Moreover, he forgets that the political effect in the USA - proof positive that Britain was absolutely not about to surrender - was dynamite. Things are simple for Corrigan, but they were not for Churchill: yes, he "harboured ideas of continuing to fight in Europe," but the aim of keeping France, with her huge army and effective navy in the war, was not an idle dream that could easily be thrown away, nor could he easily abandon a British presence on the continent, knowing more than anyone else how difficult an amphibious landing would be.

Moreover, Corrigan demonstrates that in his contempt for Winston Churchill, he has failed to learn very much about him. It may be significant that in his bibliography, Corrigan lists four books by David Irving, and only one by Martin Gilbert, and that one not about Churchill. Despite the title of the book, Corrigan actually spends little time talking about Churchill, and almost none in analysis. His critical comments are rarely sourced, never explained, and prefers to make glib comments ("in view of his later treatment of Bomber Command,") rather than engage in the tiresome evidential business of what he really means. Corrigan calls Churchill, "a man who found it difficult to look beyond what he knew and was familiar with", a statement that would not be made by anyone who has ever studied the astonishingly prescient and innovation-minded Churchill (tanks, Mulberry harbours, naval aviation, "funnies", SOE, commandos, anyone?).

Corrigan is often factually wrong. For example: "originally destined for the infantry, he chose instead to join an expensive and gorgeously caparisoned cavalry regiment" - actually Churchill failed to get the grades, on entering Sandhurst, to join the infantry, but wished to join the 4th Hussars because they were a nearby regiment he had come to know well. Another criticism has Churchill down as overruling the Chiefs of Staff, who did not offer sufficient resistance. As is well-known, Churchill never overruled the Chiefs of Staff on a military matter, no matter how much he might press them, and this is much to his credit. Moreover, Churchill did meet serious resistance, not least from the iron-willed Brooke, who Corrigan disparagingly refers to as "Churchill's creature."

The tone, meanwhile, is always irritatingly smug, and sometimes hardly worthy of a serious historian: "there is no question that Churchill was personally brave and completely unafraid of death. The trouble was that he was not afraid of anyone else's death either" (a bizarre comment to anyone who has ever read anything about Churchill's anguish over Gallipoli, or his concern, expressed to Marshall, that a premature invasion of Europe would result in "a sea full of corpses.")

Corrigan's style is sarcastic, with an ill-executed attempt at humour that grates on the reader: "a cabinet that included that scourge of appeasers and standard-bearer for military might, Winston S Churchill."

Where he is not factually wrong, he is selective: he praises Britain for inventing the tank, but does not anywhere mention Churchill's vital role in the enterprise, nor for his role in sponsoring naval aviation. Again, whilst criticising Lloyd-George for the resentment felt by the Army for the demobilisation policy post-World War One, Corrigan does not give credit to the man who sorted it out, and introduced the policy of long-term service that he seems to favour - Churchill.

Where Corrigan does have a point, he spoils it by his antipathy to Churchill. There was no doubt that Churchill was a difficult and demanding boss, who demanded long hours and hard work from those who worked with him. Most sensible historians would however give Churchill credit for leading from the front. Not Corrigan: "It may be unfair to describe him as a drunk, but he certainly consumed more alcohol than was wise for a man of his age and condition, and to keep his professional advisers up half the night...when they, but not he, had a full day's work to look forward to on the morrow, was nothing short of selfish indulgence." Moreover, most of those who worked for Churchill, like Brooke, loved him despite his undoubted difficulties. Corrigan, of course, only quotes the negative aspects from Brooke's diaries, not the positive.

Corrigan is however probably correct that, "Operation Sea Lion was a chimera, and always has been," but gives Churchill no credit for being almost the only person who realised this in 1940. Nor does he give him any credit for making the most of what he had in spreading forces thinly and demanding use be made of them, or that, without Churchill, whatever "damage" he may or may not have inflicted on the war effort, without him, there would have been no war effort at all. But none of this should surprise the reader, for Corrigan has hardly a single positive word to say for Churchill during the whole 1940 section of his book.

When Corrigan does stumble upon a valid historical controversy, he deals with that little better than he does Churchill. One of the most hotly debated topics of the post-war years, the strategic bombing policy, Corrigan devotes a whole three paragraphs to, reaching the heights of analysis expressed in, "Dresden was just one more raid in a long war and was totally justified." Worse, he does not seem to know whether he supports the policy or not, for when Churchill is involved, he is castigated for being "quick to evade the blame for his own policy." On Norway, Churchill is seriously vulnerable to sustained critical analysis, but Corrigan simply cannot provide it, and prefers to stick to his trademark snide remarks ("the great strategist himself", "the great man",) and inappropriate language (Churchill replaces a naval commander with a "chum".)

Perhaps worst of all, Corrigan's judgment is fatally flawed either by his antipathy to his subject, or his devotion to his iconoclastic thesis, which might explain his backtracking when faced with Andrew Roberts on the BBC's Today programme. For example, Corrigan states that, "modern Germany is so terrified of a resurgence of National Socialism that Mein Kampf is banned (banning of books was something that the Nazis did quite a lot of, too)", as if there were some moral equivalence between the two actions.

This lack of judgment is also shown in Corrigan's inability - a basic requirement in a proper historian - to judge the decisions made at the time by the facts known at the time, and not with the benefit of hindsight. He criticises Churchill's belief in the French Army as being "idiocy" that was to prove "utterly and completely erroneous in such a short space of time", but completely ignores the fact that "la Grand Armee" was generally thought in Europe to be unbeatable, to be every bit as strong as in 1918, and that its swift defeat in 1940, was a shock that shook all Europe's assumptions, and from which the French have never really recovered. Proper historians, moreover, do not describe actions or events as "crassly idiotic", not only because it is inappropriate, but because such a sweepingly simplistic phrase is unworthy of the trade they practise. Nor do they describe those who disagree with them as "the Churchill faction." Such language is worse than mere silliness; it is, er, "crassly idiotic."

Corrigan holds that Churchill "was...the man who by his political actions between 1919 and 1929 contributed in very large measure to Britain being unready," for the Second World War, a responsibility that he attributes largely to the rolling "10 Year Rule". Corrigan does not make allowance for the fact that, at the time, Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and being conscientious, did what Chancellors are meant to do: cut expenditure, especially in times of peace and hope (which the 1920s undoubtedly were). Moreover, the rule ended in 1932, four years after Churchill left office, leaving plenty of time for rearmament; the failure to do so being the fault of others (Baldwin hardly gets a mention). Indeed, Churchill's time at the Exchequer ended four years before Hitler came to power, before any danger was manifest. Corrigan's alternative policy would have had the RAF equipped with hundreds of obsolete biplane fighters by the time war came: both a waste of money and potentially suicidal, since, being on squadron strength, they might well have been used.

Furthermore, in a typical phrase, Corrigan characterises Churchill's change of view on rearmament in the 1930s as due to being: "out of office, and increasingly unlikely to regain it...Churchill underwent a conversion that makes the Black Death look like a minor outbreak of the sniffles." Leaving aside the baffling attempt at humour, Corrigan's judgement must surely be questioned when he ascribes Churchill's change of policy on rearmament not to the rise of Hitler (a man whom Corrigan somewhat disturbingly appears to admire,) but to a calculated and false posture for office (which if it was, was totally self-defeating).

In sum, this is a reasonable book, if you ignore everything it says about Winston Churchill. The coverage of the military aspects of the war is good, but sadly, to use a Corrigan-esque phrase, the sound of grinding axes drowns out the sensible, sound narrative. Corrigan is after the quick judgement and the glib throwaway, not a sustained and detailed analysis of difficult and controversial times. If you want reasoned criticism, there are far better books, by such as Lamb, Charmley, Roskill, R. W. Thompson, and the Alanbrook Diaries.

In proving his case that Churchill "was very nearly responsible for losing [the war]", Corrigan must be judged to have failed. He is essentially out to make a splash, but when the ripples subside (as they already have,) the biggest stones sink fastest. In the great pool of Churchill literature, this book is surely destined to sink without trace.
66 comments|95 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 April 2007
"What does an iconoclast do when all the icons are broken?", might be the subtitle of this book. Corrigan built his reputation on the back of his previous book, "Mud, Blood and Poppycock", a generally well-received strident attack on the "Lions led by Donkeys" critique of First World War generals. Here Corrigan, an ex-Gurkha Major, seeks to repeat his success by turning his gaze upon Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, in so doing, he demonstrates clearly the trap that faces those historians who self-consciously aim to upend all that has been thought before: either continue to do so, or fade into mediocrity. Despite claiming at the very start of his book "I have no wish to be considered an iconoclast", Corrigan thereafter sets out to be precisely that, all the time illustrating that he takes the position of a professional soldier with contempt for politicians, rather than a professional historian.

An ex-regular soldier, Corrigan is good on the purely military aspects of the build-up to and the fighting of the Second World War. For example, his narrative of the mechanisation of British cavalry, of the strengths and weaknesses of different weapons and items of equipment (tanks, guns, aircraft,) are all well worth reading. Indeed, his other contentious claim "that Britain did not perform well in the Second World War", is arguable, although the case has been better made elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Corrigan, who lists his hobbies in the cover jacket as including "pricking the pompous", has the blinkered approach of being unable to understand that, in total war, politics cannot be entirely ignored. For example, Corrigan blithely asserts that "[Churchill's] demands to sink the French fleet [in 1940 were] unnecessary, for...the French would have come to an agreement without the threat of force," but totally ignores that, whilst Corrigan has the luxury of assuming, in 2006, that that would have been the case, Churchill in 1940 could not take the risk. Moreover, he forgets that the political effect in the USA - proof positive that Britain was absolutely not about to surrender - was dynamite. Things are simple for Corrigan, but they were not for Churchill: yes, he "harboured ideas of continuing to fight in Europe," but the aim of keeping France, with her huge army and effective navy in the war, was not an idle dream that could easily be thrown away, nor could he easily abandon a British presence on the continent, knowing more than anyone else how difficult an amphibious landing would be.

Moreover, Corrigan demonstrates that in his contempt for Winston Churchill, he has failed to learn very much about him. It may be significant that in his bibliography, Corrigan lists four books by David Irving, and only one by Martin Gilbert, and that one not about Churchill. Despite the title of the book, Corrigan actually spends little time talking about Churchill, and almost none in analysis. His critical comments are rarely sourced, never explained, and prefers to make glib comments ("in view of his later treatment of Bomber Command,") rather than engage in the tiresome evidential business of what he really means. Corrigan calls Churchill, "a man who found it difficult to look beyond what he knew and was familiar with", a statement that would not be made by anyone who has ever studied the astonishingly prescient and innovation-minded Churchill (tanks, Mulberry harbours, naval aviation, "funnies", SOE, commandos, anyone?).

Corrigan is often factually wrong. For example: "originally destined for the infantry, he chose instead to join an expensive and gorgeously caparisoned cavalry regiment" - actually Churchill failed to get the grades, on entering Sandhurst, to join the infantry, but wished to join the 4th Hussars because they were a nearby regiment he had come to know well. Another criticism has Churchill down as overruling the Chiefs of Staff, who did not offer sufficient resistance. As is well-known, Churchill never overruled the Chiefs of Staff on a military matter, no matter how much he might press them, and this is much to his credit. Moreover, Churchill did meet serious resistance, not least from the iron-willed Brooke, who Corrigan disparagingly refers to as "Churchill's creature."

The tone, meanwhile, is always irritatingly smug, and sometimes hardly worthy of a serious historian: "there is no question that Churchill was personally brave and completely unafraid of death. The trouble was that he was not afraid of anyone else's death either" (a bizarre comment to anyone who has ever read anything about Churchill's anguish over Gallipoli, or his concern, expressed to Marshall, that a premature invasion of Europe would result in "a sea full of corpses.")

Corrigan's style is sarcastic, with an ill-executed attempt at humour that grates on the reader: "a cabinet that included that scourge of appeasers and standard-bearer for military might, Winston S Churchill."

Where he is not factually wrong, he is selective: he praises Britain for inventing the tank, but does not anywhere mention Churchill's vital role in the enterprise, nor for his role in sponsoring naval aviation. Again, whilst criticising Lloyd-George for the resentment felt by the Army for the demobilisation policy post-World War One, Corrigan does not give credit to the man who sorted it out, and introduced the policy of long-term service that he seems to favour - Churchill.

Where Corrigan does have a point, he spoils it by his antipathy to Churchill. There was no doubt that Churchill was a difficult and demanding boss, who demanded long hours and hard work from those who worked with him. Most sensible historians would however give Churchill credit for leading from the front. Not Corrigan: "It may be unfair to describe him as a drunk, but he certainly consumed more alcohol than was wise for a man of his age and condition, and to keep his professional advisers up half the night...when they, but not he, had a full day's work to look forward to on the morrow, was nothing short of selfish indulgence." Moreover, most of those who worked for Churchill, like Brooke, loved him despite his undoubted difficulties. Corrigan, of course, only quotes the negative aspects from Brooke's diaries, not the positive.

Corrigan is however probably correct that, "Operation Sea Lion was a chimera, and always has been," but gives Churchill no credit for being almost the only person who realised this in 1940. Nor does he give him any credit for making the most of what he had in spreading forces thinly and demanding use be made of them, or that, without Churchill, whatever "damage" he may or may not have inflicted on the war effort, without him, there would have been no war effort at all. But none of this should surprise the reader, for Corrigan has hardly a single positive word to say for Churchill during the whole 1940 section of his book.

When Corrigan does stumble upon a valid historical controversy, he deals with that little better than he does Churchill. One of the most hotly debated topics of the post-war years, the strategic bombing policy, Corrigan devotes a whole three paragraphs to, reaching the heights of analysis expressed in, "Dresden was just one more raid in a long war and was totally justified." Worse, he does not seem to know whether he supports the policy or not, for when Churchill is involved, he is castigated for being "quick to evade the blame for his own policy." On Norway, Churchill is seriously vulnerable to sustained critical analysis, but Corrigan simply cannot provide it, and prefers to stick to his trademark snide remarks ("the great strategist himself", "the great man",) and inappropriate language (Churchill replaces a naval commander with a "chum".)

Perhaps worst of all, Corrigan's judgment is fatally flawed either by his antipathy to his subject, or his devotion to his iconoclastic thesis, which might explain his backtracking when faced with Andrew Roberts on the BBC's Today programme. For example, Corrigan states that, "modern Germany is so terrified of a resurgence of National Socialism that Mein Kampf is banned (banning of books was something that the Nazis did quite a lot of, too)", as if there were some moral equivalence between the two actions.

This lack of judgment is also shown in Corrigan's inability - a basic requirement in a proper historian - to judge the decisions made at the time by the facts known at the time, and not with the benefit of hindsight. He criticises Churchill's belief in the French Army as being "idiocy" that was to prove "utterly and completely erroneous in such a short space of time", but completely ignores the fact that "la Grand Armee" was generally thought in Europe to be unbeatable, to be every bit as strong as in 1918, and that its swift defeat in 1940, was a shock that shook all Europe's assumptions, and from which the French have never really recovered. Proper historians, moreover, do not describe actions or events as "crassly idiotic", not only because it is inappropriate, but because such a sweepingly simplistic phrase is unworthy of the trade they practise. Nor do they describe those who disagree with them as "the Churchill faction." Such language is worse than mere silliness; it is, er, "crassly idiotic."

Corrigan holds that Churchill "was...the man who by his political actions between 1919 and 1929 contributed in very large measure to Britain being unready," for the Second World War, a responsibility that he attributes largely to the rolling "10 Year Rule". Corrigan does not make allowance for the fact that, at the time, Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and being conscientious, did what Chancellors are meant to do: cut expenditure, especially in times of peace and hope (which the 1920s undoubtedly were). Moreover, the rule ended in 1932, four years after Churchill left office, leaving plenty of time for rearmament; the failure to do so being the fault of others (Baldwin hardly gets a mention). Indeed, Churchill's time at the Exchequer ended four years before Hitler came to power, before any danger was manifest. Corrigan's alternative policy would have had the RAF equipped with hundreds of obsolete biplane fighters by the time war came: both a waste of money and potentially suicidal, since, being on squadron strength, they might well have been used.

Furthermore, in a typical phrase, Corrigan characterises Churchill's change of view on rearmament in the 1930s as due to being: "out of office, and increasingly unlikely to regain it...Churchill underwent a conversion that makes the Black Death look like a minor outbreak of the sniffles." Leaving aside the baffling attempt at humour, Corrigan's judgement must surely be questioned when he ascribes Churchill's change of policy on rearmament not to the rise of Hitler (a man whom Corrigan somewhat disturbingly appears to admire,) but to a calculated and false posture for office (which if it was, was totally self-defeating).

In sum, this is a reasonable book, if you ignore everything it says about Winston Churchill. The coverage of the military aspects of the war is good, but sadly, to use a Corrigan-esque phrase, the sound of grinding axes drowns out the sensible, sound narrative. Corrigan is after the quick judgement and the glib throwaway, not a sustained and detailed analysis of difficult and controversial times. If you want reasoned criticism, there are far better books, by such as Lamb, Charmley, Roskill, R. W. Thompson, and the Alanbrook Diaries.

In proving his case that Churchill "was very nearly responsible for losing [the war]", Corrigan must be judged to have failed. He is essentially out to make a splash, but when the ripples subside (as they already have,) the biggest stones sink fastest. In the great pool of Churchill literature, this book is surely destined to sink without trace.
0Comment|32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 July 2007
This is an interesting book - and worth reading - but I was left feeling a little frustrated. It purports to debunk "the myths of Churchill's war", but rather than providing a focused critique of Churchill as a war leader, it slips into a rather generalised narrative of aspects of Britain's role in World War 2. (And very partially, too, there is almost nothing on the Far East campaigns). The author says in his introduction that his original intention was to "look at the British waging of the war as a whole", and it seemed to me that his intention changed part way through writing. To me the central thesis - that Churchill was in many ways responsible for some of the worst aspects of British performance during the war - feels rather bolted on and certainly not persuasively argued.

On the other hand I found most of the first part of the book, which covers the development (or lack of it) of British forces from the First World War through the inter-War years to be extremely well-researched and interesting. It is worth reading for this alone, but if you are expecting the book to do for Churchill what Mud Blood and Poppycock did for the myths of the First World War, you'll be disappointed. At a time when a dose of cynicism about war leaders might well be healthy, but when Churchill is still Man of the Century, that's a shame, and something of a missed opportunity.
0Comment|11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 April 2006
Another sizeable slice of convincing revisionist history from Corrigan.

He dissects Churchill's consistantly dire interventions into military affairs during the war with accuracy, brevity and an even hand. Churchill may have been the man who inspired the country to fight but he had a consitantly dreadful reord whenever he decided he know HOW it should be fought. Essentially if Churchill had a hand in planning or directing an operation the consequeces were ALWAYS a disaster. Corrigan is equally incise in highlighting Churchill's direct involvement in formulating and implementing ( prolonging even ..) the 'Ten Year Plan' that decimated the British armed forces during the interwar years.... but as the athor points out if you get to write the first 'History of WW2' ( all 6 volumes ) you get to highlight ( exagerate? )your sucesses and erase your mistakes.

Personally I think he's way over the top with his demolition of Montgomery - at least where it concerns North Africa - Monty does seem to have been a 'messiah' to the 8th Army after years of command medicrity and incompetence. Monty only really became an egotisial liability AFTER he had earned his 'reputation'and became dead set on making sure no one could ever chllange that reputation. For a more balanced view of Monty check out James Holland's 'Together We Stand'. Montgomery most certainly doesn't come out looking like a Palladin but neither do Ritchie or Auckinlech.

Corrigan marshalls his reasearch well and his arguments are convincing, concise and to the point.

But.... personally I did find myself grimacing whenever the author's 'grumpy-Daily-Mail-reading-retired-Colonel-living-in-Surrey' personal asides intruded too far, Maybe its my working class background hackles rising but to be informed that the british electorate are 'ignorant and fickle' that the Waffen SS 'have had a bad press' ( Hmmmm.... I'd check with the population of Oradure Sur Glane before stating that and maybe look at the histories of the Dirlewanger and Kaminski Brigades )and to have an appreciation of undouted german martial prowess couched in the following terms ' One loves and prefers the company of the gentleman, but one has to respect the player' had every working class based gene in my body howling in protest.... but thats just me and the book is worth every one of the five stars.

I'd advise reading Len Deightons ' Blood Tears and Folly' before this book - it gives a higher level more politically based overview and allows you to appreciate Corrigans more detailed approach.
11 comment|31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 June 2015
Having read Mud, Blood and Poppycock previously, I knew what to expect, and was not disappointed. I enjoy his method of demythologising the 'propaganda as history' narrative to which my baby-boomer generation were subjected. He does it in such a sympathetic and understanding way that at no time do your think he is debunking or diminishing the heroic nature of individual effort and sacrifice. To the contrary he humanizes the topics he focuses on, and puts them in a context that helps non-military readers empathize more with those leaders faced with the 'fog of war'.

That said, I cannot help thinking that, after the success of his first world war analysis in Mud, Blood and Poppycock, he struggled to find a thematic way of deconstructing the second world war in a similar manner. In the end he lit on Churchill as the fly in the ointment, continually interfering with the military, causing many of the early reverses, but somehow coming out smelling of roses. But it doesn't work. Even more crucially, it's totally unnecessary. The narrative stands well on its own. Britain was largely unprepared for war in 1939. It had let its military skills and strategic planning deteriorate horribly in the inter war years, and as we all know, was lucky to survive until the tide turned with Hitler's two great mistakes - invading Russia, and declaring war on the USA. This book tells the tale - and tells it well - of Britain's military travails, especially in the first three years of WW2. I learnt a great deal both strategically and tactically from it. But at the end, I wondered if, according to Corrigan, Churchill had been such an interfering old busybody with crazy ideas, how did we as a nation survive in 1940: how did the British people endure five years of total war: and how the hell did we actually play a large part in total victory! Still a good, informative book, but with a misleading title, and scraping the barrel to fit the narrative to the title.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 April 2012
In this follow up to Mud, Blood and Poppycock: Britain and the Great War, Gordon Corrigan explores the myths of Churchill's Second World War. It is not as good as this earlier book, but still has much to interest the reader, although at times the book goes into too much detail.

Corrigan's perspective is that of a Soldier and he allows this to influence how he looks at the 1930s - at the time Britain wanted to avoid another major war and government polices at the time reflected this desire. It is only subsequent events that proved such policies to be ineffectual.

He is critical of Churchill for a number of reasons, the majority, I feel, justified, especially Churchill's meddling in purely military matters (Norway, Greece, North Africa etc.), his so often unwarranted sacking of generals and his failure to grasp the importance of naval airpower.

Corrigan is surprisingly supportive of Neville Chamberlain, how he recognised the threat from Germany in the later 1930s but also realised that Britain was not ready for war in 1938 and so used appeasement to buy time.

Quite rightly, Montgomery also comes under attack, underlining the fact that Montgomery was far from Britain's best general during the war, despite public perception and Montgomery's own opinion!

The war in North Africa is an important element of the book. Corrigan is supportive of both Wavell and Auchinleck (and critical of Rommel), although I do feel that he could have made more of the enormous pressures both were put under by Churchill. In this respect, Corelli Barnett's excellent The Desert Generals is a better book.

There are one or two technical errors (the Priest SPG was not based on the M3 Lee chassis, not the Stuart chassis as Corrigan claims), and it is a pity that he did not make more of the fact that the British did not make use of the 3.7 AA gun in an ant-tank role as the Germans did with the 88mm.

Corrigan also does not look at the war against Japan, saving this for a future study. This is a pity as the war against Japan had significant influences upon the war against Germany and given the nature of this book, I feel it is virtually impossible to separate one from the other.

All in all, whilst an interesting study, I'm left feeling slightly disappointed.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 April 2008
This is an easy to read history in so much as the writing style is light and pacy. Unfortunately it is not a serious history and the text is riddled with historical inaccuracies and some utterly feeble, childish attempts at humour which have no place in a serious historical text.
Read it for a bit a fun which pricks a few bubbles and for some good military assessments of the early battles of he second world war but for goodness sake don't read it for it's insights of Churchill or for it's history.
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 January 2009
I was very disappointed with this book. It starts well enough but from around Chapter 8 it descends increasingly into a rant. From this point in the book Corrigan's analysis all but dries up and instead all he delivers is a series of unsupported assertions and criticisms.

Particularly frustrating is the inadequacy of the referencing. An example of this is when Corrigan tells us about how Montgomery had simply taken Auchinleck's and Dorman-Smith's "plans" and presented them as his own. In actual fact these "plans" were no more than their written appreciations of the situation and are contained as appendices in the outstanding 'Pendulum of War' by Niall Barr - however, they are not referenced. This dearth of references is the same throughout the book.

Another example of these unsupported assertions is Corrigan's comment that the battle for Normandy, and Operation Goodwood in particular, "exposed (Montgomery) for the fake that he was" that he should have been sacked and that there were "many others who could take over". Quite how Montgomery was a "fake" is never explained, nor is why he should have been sacked, given that the Germans were defeated shortly afterwards by Montgomery's strategy and were forced to retreat all the way back to the German frontier. No names of the "many others" who could have taken over from Montgomery are mentioned - quite who the "many others" were remains a mystery.

In summary, I do not recommend this book. Its scope is too broad, is lacking in supporting evidence and logical argument, does not address many of the key issues and feels increasingly rushed towards the end. As alternatives covering the same subject matter I would recommend: 'Raising Churchill's Army' by David French, 'War Diaries' of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, 'Colossal Cracks' by Stephen Hart and 'Pendulum of War' by Niall Barr.

This flawed and disappointing book clearly demonstrates why Gordon Corrigan never rose above the rank of Major. I will not be purchasing any other work by Gordon Corrigan.
11 comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 December 2006
In this highly readable narrative, Corrigan challenges a number of widely held perceptions. That Churchill intereferred in military affairs is widely known but his attempts to direct the affairs of single units (whether ships in the Norwegian Campaign or Military formations in North Africa) is less well known (such interfernece by politicians was noted again in Gulf wars 1 and 2 and has become known in military parlance as Reachdown; To be fair this book isn't just about Chuchill's mis-handling of the war. A large part, perhaps the most important part covers the years between the wars when British Public's reaction to the carnage of the 1st war lead in part (along with interservice rivalry, the machinations of the USA and the needs to police a vast empire) to a failure to invest in all things military. Particular fault is also identified in the British Army's failure to develop an operational doctrine (starkly contrasted with Germany)

Corrigan's writing style is easy to read and I enjoyed the hunurous asides. On my scale this would have scored a 5 but for a number of careless factual errors (for example the 1st Gulf War being given as 1992 - it was 1991); The book also concentrates on Europe and The Middle East - which might suit the author's critical points of British Army cpabilities; an improved picture might have been gained had Slim's campaign's in the Far East also have been covered.

Having read this book I am putting 'Mud, Blood and Poppycock' on my wish list!
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)