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Eighth Army: From the Western Desert to the Alps, 1939-1945 [Paperback]

Robin Neillands
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Nov 2004
From June 1940 to October 1942, Eighth Army was the only Western army facing and fighting the Axis powers, Italian as well as German, on the battlefield. It was a British army, but represented the Free World. Some of the great fighting divisions of the War were part of it - the 9th Australian, the 2nd New Zealand, 1st South African, 4th Indian, 51st Highland and 7th Armoured - the famous Desert Rats - joined by the Free French, the Greek Brigade, and many more from Britain and around the world.

Though ultimately triumphant, the Army was not always victorious - it had to fight obsolete equipment, indifferent command and excessive demands as well as the enemy - not forgetting its most admired foe, Rommel, who met his match in Eighth Army's General Sir Bernard Montgomery (Monty).

This book is built on the memories of Eighth Army veterans, collected from all over the world. It includes personal accounts of the battles fought at Sidi Rezegh, Alamein, in Sicily and at Cassino - and all the way to the Gothic Line, the end of Eighth Army's 3,000-mile march to victory. It is a story that deserves to be told, about an army that deserves to be remembered.

Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New edition edition (8 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719556473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719556470
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.8 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 737,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Well respected as a military historian, Neillands tells an absorbing story ... he can take great pride in the end result of his labours' (Liverpool Daily Post 20040109)

'A splendid book' (Western Daily Press 20040110)

'Meticulously researched' (Contemporary Review 20040110)

'This is a touching book of valour and victory. And its might comes from allowing us to make our own opinions of war, reading it as the exciting account that it is. This is quite simply a book in a million' (Bangor Chronicle 20040110)

'An engrossing study of the first 30 years of strategic air forces ... Neillands has made a valuable contribution to the history of air warfare' (Saul David, Sunday Telegraph on THE BOMBER WAR 20040110)

'Rarely has oral history been put to better use' (Blake Morrison, Independent on Sunday on THE BOMBE 20040110)

'Neillands's central argument, sustained by a rich vein of oral evidence culled from hundreds of veterans of the conflict, is hard to fault' (Richard Overy, Literary Review on THE BOMBER WAR 20040110)

'In a crystal clear and reasoned way, this book counters some of the claptrap uttered about this aspect of the Second World War. It is also a compelling and very moving account of how thousands of British, Commonwealth and American aircrew sallied forth to attack Hitler's Reich' (Major General Julian Thompson CB OBE on THE BOMBER 20040110)

About the Author

Robin Neillands is the author of several widely acclaimed books on the First and Second World Wars, including The Battle of Normandy, 1944; The Great War Generals on the Western Front and The Conquest of the Reich. His most recent, The Bomber War, Major General Julian Thompson called 'a compelling and very moving account'. Of the same book Blake Morrison wrote 'rarely has oral history been put to better use'.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marching with the Eighth Army 29 April 2004
By A Customer
I started to read this book with some reservation. Was there anything newto say about the Eighth Army and, in particular, about the legendaryDesert Rats? I needn't have worried. Robin Neillands brings fresh insightand drama to the story of this remarkable army whose exploits took themfrom North Africa to the Italian Alps, an epic military journey thatspanned six years and 3000 miles. As with his other books, the authorlaces his account with the reminiscences of those who actually took partin the various campaigns. He tells the story clearly and incisively, witha pacy narrative style that keeps the reader gripped. It is as much thestory of the common soldier as of the high-profile generals who led them,not always successfully, though Neillands is particularly good on thatillustrious trio, Rommel, Monty and Patton. This is an enthralling book. Igave it to an uncle of mine - a former Desert Rat - to read and hepronounced it the best thing he'd come across on the subject in 50 years.Other military historians take note: like the Eighth Army itself, thisbook will be a difficult act to follow.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive history 12 Mar 2004
By A Customer
A good, eminently readable history which gives the whole picture to the reader,(some histories concentrate on the purveyors view of important events, and miss out some areas..this does not) it makes the reader realise the amount of planning and leadership which built the eighth army, and made it such an effective force.
There cannot be many historical authors who can write without being pompous or patronising to their readers...Neilands is one of the minority.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The forgotten army 8 Feb 2008
I bought this while on holiday in Cape Town, read the whole book in 3 days. The conditions described in the book regarding desert life, the international make up of the eigth army and the attention to detail make this an excellent addition to any book collection.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a memorial 25 Jan 2005
By Colin Platt - Published on Amazon.com
I am not sure if the previous reviewer and I have read the same book. There is no indication at all in this book that the Eighth army was invincible, quite the reverse, and its defeats are covered as well as its undoubted triumphs. Nor is there any indication of superior British equipment: the failures of British kit, from tanks to "flimsy" petrol cans are well documented, as is the wonderful improvement in reliability and firepower supplied by US lend lease tanks and equipment. But the book is a memorial and a tribute to the men who served in the Eighth Army. If there was anything "invincible" about it, it was probably the morale of the soldiers. The aim, I feel, of the book, boils down to this: It is an explanation of why, Winston Churchill was moved to say that it would be enough, after the war, for a man simply to say that he "had served with the Desert Army". The aim of the book is never to downplay the role or contribution of others, but to provide a fitting memorial to the men of the Eighth Army. Certainly I am not aware that the book provides any startling new revelations into the conduct of the war in North Africa, Sicily or Italy, but it is a solid introduction to the topic. I recommend it, because the scholarship and writing style are good enough to make me want to read more books by this author and enough, and adequate maps (always a problem in military history) are provided. It is not brilliant, it is probably a solid 3 star performer, but I have given it 4 at the moment, because the current one star rating is so woefully inaccurate that I cannot let it stand.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accurate and well researched 24 Jan 2006
By Thistle 746 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My grandfather served with this army during the Second World War - so I may be a little biased. This being said, I must share the similar sentiments of the reviewer from Australia. I found this book to be well researched and presents a very candid account of the Eighth Army in North Africa and Italy. In no way does Neillands attempt to hide the deficiences of the Eighth Army - at times he is quite critical of the British leadership, equipment and tactical inefficiencies. In spite of these deficiencies, the British, Australian and New Zealand troops performed their duties with dogged determination forcing Rommels retreat. By all accounts, I found the book very informative and a fine account of this campaign. On a very slight negative note, I did find the writers subsitution of the word "kit" for "equipment", on a regular basis, a little repetitive. All round, a solid four star rating.
5 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Keep it at arm's length 22 Sep 2004
By Devl's Advocate - Published on Amazon.com
This is a book that celebrates the supposedly invincible Eight Army in World War 2. From reading it, you may have thought that the Brits fought and won all their campaigns single handed, when the fact is that without American supplies, arms, air power, naval power and GIs, the mighty Eight Army would have been routed many times over by smaller, better led yet poorly equipped German forces.
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