Not only was Bill Slim probably the best British commander of the Second World War, his memoir is far and away the best examination of the demands of high command yet written. It is not self-serving and tendentious like the writings of Montgomery; in its examination of events it is factual and down to earth, but warmth of the man still shines through.
Slim was perhaps fortunate in being able to win back what had previously been lost, and did not suffer the ignominies heaped upon Wavell. This was partly because when he became corps commander in Burma during the retreat in 1942, he could not possibly be held responsible for the situation he inherited. By the time he was appointed commander of Fourteenth Army, matters were still desperate as the Japanese attempted an invasion of India. And throughout his tenure, he struggled with his command being at the bottom of Allied global priorities.
Yet he was able, through dedication, skill and force of personality to lead his multi-national army - some 750,000 comprised of Britons, a great many Africans from across the continent, but principally Indians - in the reconquest of Burma. Not only that, he achieved this in a country devoid of the means of support, crossing great rivers, jungle clad mountains and burning plains. He was a truly great leader. 'He understood men', wrote the Australian Roy McKie. 'He spoke their language as he moved among them, from forward positions to training bases. He had the richest of common-sense, a dour soldier's humour and a simple earthy wisdom. Wherever he moved he lifted morale. He was the finest of Englishmen.'