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Pendulum Of War: Three Battles at El Alamein [Paperback]

Niall Barr
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Aug 2005
In late June 1942, the dispirited and defeated British Eighth Army was pouring back towards the tiny railway halt of El Alamein in the western desert of Egypt. Tobruk had fallen and Eighth Army had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika. Yet just five months later, the famous bombardment opened the Eighth Army's own offensive which destroyed the Axis threat to Egypt. Explanations for the remarkable change of fortune have generally been sought in the abrasive personality of the new army commander Lieutenant-General Bernard Law Montgomery. But the long running controversies surrounding the commanders of Eighth Army - Generals Auchinleck and Montgomery - and that of their legendary opponent, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, have often been allowed to obscure the true nature of the Alamein campaign. Pendulum of War provides a vivid and fresh perspective on the fighting at El Alamein from the early desperate days of July to the final costly victory in November.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (4 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712668276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712668279
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 208,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Excellent...a sophisticated, compelling and immensely readable account... Thoroughly researched, controversial, convincing... military history at its best" (Daily Express)

"There is no doubting the author's immense scholarship... He has a first-class understanding of strategy and tactics" (Simon Heffer Literary Review)

"Deserves to become the standard work on the desert war in 1942" (Richard Holmes)

Book Description

A compelling history of a crucial turning point in the Second World War, which also provides a detailed picture of the British Army at a critical stage in its fight against Hitler's Germany.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Book 18 May 2005
I have read several books on the subject of the battle of Alamein, and this is probably the best. It has a simple straightforward narrative style, with a compelling story. The author deals with the usual controversies with a clear and fair approach, and is clearly non partisan, highlighting strengths and weaknesses for all the generals concerned, and succesfully navigating the reader onto the salient points of the time.
He goes into considerable detail in describing such matters as minefield clearance; inter arms co-operation, and problems; infantry, armour, and artillery tactics, and their development in the desert, in a way that no other book on this topic that I have read has done. I certainly came away from this feeling I understood far more than before I started.
The tone and language is clear and unemotional, and focuses on what the author believes to be the salient facts. Although time and analysis is devoted to the generals and thier subsequent squabbles, this book is not written from the point of view of the generals. Nor is it a soldiers story, in the sense of including lots of personal accounts and experiences. Rather this is the story of an Army, the 8th Army, and it's coming of age in a crucial period and through the trial of three major battles. It covers all it's components and support arms, plus the impressive contributions made by the Air Force and Navy. But primarily this is the story of 8th Army, it's development and experiences, it's training and the painful lessons it learned in the crucible of battle.
I would heartily recommend this to anyone wanting to read an impartial and logical book on the Alamein campaign.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Book 19 May 2005
I have read several books on the Alamein battles in the past, but this is without question the finest.
Most authors concentrate not only on the fighting, but on the controversy surrounding Auchinleck and Montgomery, and almost invariably take sides, supporting one general or the other. Sometimes an author will try to avoid this by concentrating on personal stories and experiences, leaving aside the big picture.
Niall Barr has done neither of these. He has sought to tell the story of an army and its coming of age in the cauldron of battle. The Eighth Army is his central character here and he concentrates on telling the story of the battles and how the army developed and responded through those challenges.
In doing this he does of course touch on the generals and their controversies, and the officers and men, and their stories. However, his narrative is clear and impartial, and the reader will be shown the strengths and weaknesses of all parties, including the Germans, with a clear logic and impartiality. It was this which impressed me most.
Additionally, he goes into great detail about the various components of Eighth Army - infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, armoured recovery teams etc - and details their roles and development in clear and interesting detail. Their responses to technical and tactical challenges are detailed and explained, and the reader can see the faults of the army going into these battles and understand the incremental development and improvements made to turn the army into a true fighting machine. At the end of this book I understood far more than before about the army's inner workings, and such detailed matters as techniques of mine lifting, artillery barrages, infantry tactics and amoured warfare.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Desert strategy and tactics explained 13 Dec 2010
The series of battles fought around the El Alamein position in the summer and autumn of 1942 are both complex and surrounded with not a little myth. It seems that any battle in which Monty was in command has attracted controversy, much of it associated with the great General himself. Alamein is no exception to this but in this book the author tries hard to avoid becoming sucked into the usual debate between Monty's defenders and detractors. In my view this is to be welcomed as there are enough protagonists in that debate already and a bit of balance is surely overdue.

What made this work stand out for me were the author's efforts to explain both the tactics needed in the conditions of the Western Desert and the challenges of the theatre level strategy when dealing with extended supply lines. Readers get to understand the impact that the 2lb anti-tank gun had on limiting British & Commonwealth armoured tactics and the effects of Ultra signals intelligence on the Axis supply situation. It's unusual in my experience to encounter an author who clearly has such a sound grasp of all the elements that impact upon military operations. I think you would be hard put to find a better explanation of the how's, why's and what's of desert warfare including everything from small unit tactics to grand strategy. In the end you are drawn to the conclusion that it was not one factor that delivered an Allied victory but many different elements that all came together at the right time and place.

However, for those looking for the whole story there are some notable omissions. This is a work primarily focused on the British and Commonwealth point of view, with some reference to the thinking of German higher level command and little or nothing about the Italians.
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