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Combat and Morale in the North African Campaign: The Eighth Army and the Path to El Alamein (Cambridge Military Histories) [Hardcover]

Dr Jonathan Fennell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Feb 2011 Cambridge Military Histories
Military professionals and theorists have long understood the relevance of morale in war. Montgomery, the victor at El Alamein, said, following the battle, that 'the more fighting I see, the more I am convinced that the big thing in war is morale'. Jonathan Fennell, in examining the North African campaign through the lens of morale, challenges conventional explanations for Allied success in one of the most important and controversial campaigns in British and Commonwealth history. He introduces new sources, notably censorship summaries of soldiers' mail, and an innovative methodology that assesses troop morale not only on the evidence of personal observations and official reports but also on contemporaneously recorded rates of psychological breakdown, sickness, desertion and surrender. He shows for the first time that a major morale crisis and stunning recovery decisively affected Eighth Army's performance during the critical battles on the Gazala and El Alamein lines in 1942.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (17 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521192706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521192705
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.8 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,330,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'For those interested in insightful analysis and the impact of morale on combat operations, Fennell has made a decided contribution to the literature of military history and, consequently, this volume is recommended.' H-War (

'Path-breaking … This is an important book by a very promising historian.' Gary Sheffield, BBC History

'… a major contribution to the historiography of the war in the desert.' Book Review Supplement, The Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

Book Description

This new perspective on the desert war challenges conventional explanations for Allied success at El Alamein, one of the most controversial campaigns in British and Commonwealth history. The author studies the campaign using newly discovered sources, plotting a morale crisis and stunning recovery that decisively affected the Eighth Army's performance.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new look at the North African campaign. 17 Jan 2013
By Mike
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A truly outstanding contribution to the literature. The author has looked in detail at the morale of British (including Australian, New Zealand and South African) forces during the North African campaign. He has, I believe, taken the study of this campaign a great step forward, and has given a new dimension to understanding of how the army fought at the very basic level, the people and how their morale and motivation affected higher command decisions. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book 26 Jan 2012
By Ian
I would highly recommend this book; it gives a highly insightful view of the role of morale in the Eighth Army in 1942. I would go so far as to state one cannot fully understand the North African campaign without reading this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Small ambition, big claim 4 Feb 2012
By wimiam - Published on
This isn't a book about morale but an attempt to resurrect Montgomery's reputation. Fennell claims to "discover" that morale was important to British performance in North Africa and military operations in general, but who disagrees with that? Yet Fennell gratuitously claims to be countering an "orthodoxy" that morale did not matter or at least did not matter as much Fennell thinks it did (oh, the argument of a thousand incremental degrees). Fennell does not actually review any literature on morale, except to gratuitously dismiss superior theories as older (he does the same to previous histories of the North African campaign, BTW) and thus fails to assess the importance of such real concepts as leadership, primary groups, regiments, initiative, tactical competence, crew skills, material balances, etc., that others identified as important. Of course, he wants to write a history, in which case he should stop messing with theory. In any case, the history is tiresome: morale matters, over and over again, morale matters, see how it matters, every soldier agreed that morale matters; when the British Army was doing well, it was because of morale, when it was doing poorly it was because of morale. Finally, we get to Fennell's main objective: Montgomery. Montgomery thought that morale mattered; he told people that morale mattered; he reduced everything (training, commanders, unit structure, strategy) to morale; eventually Britain won in North Africa. Get it?
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