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Slim: The Standardbearer (Wordsworth Military Library) [Paperback]

Ronald Lewin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Sep 1999 Wordsworth Military Library
Prize-winning biography charting the life of Field Marshal the Viscount Slim.

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Slim: The Standardbearer (Wordsworth Military Library) + Defeat Into Victory: (Pan Military Classics Series) + Slim, Master of War: Burma and the Birth of Modern Warfare
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Product details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (23 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184022214X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840222142
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 182,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain's outstanding General 4 Mar 2012
It is said that to write a successful biography, the biographer must like or even be in love with his subject. Ronald Lewin is clearly head over heels with Slim, and he is not alone. The story of Bill Slim is that of an upright and honourable man who, through sheer hard work and an amazing personality, from humble beginnings made it to the top of his profession, and then beyond that to the very pinnacles of achievement in life. He was one of the very few Britons to hold the four Gs - the highest rank in the four orders of knighthood in Britain. He became a Viscount, a Field Marshal, a loved Governor-General of Australia and as Constable of Windsor Castle won the personal friendship of Her Majesty the Queen. When I had finished this book I began to realise how so many people had fallen under his spell, me included; how lucky I was to read it and how unfortunate to miss out on meeting a man such as this.

There are many who would argue that Slim was the best General produced by Britain in WW2; possibly he was even the best allied general in the Second World War. In a longer historical context, even equivalent in achievement to the Dukes of Marlborough and Wellington.

William Joseph Slim was a second son born into a lower middle class family in Bristol and, moving to the Black Country, his family suffered such economic hardship that Bill had to curtail his education and begin to earn, which he did by teaching in a rough primary school before working as a clerk in an engineering works. He joined the Territorials and then wangled his way into Birmingham University OTC.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of the giants 29 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ronald lewin has published a fine book about I would say the greatest fighting general of the war,there are great military men then there is slim.i wrote to the field marshals son years ago to say how much I admired him,i love books that have many photographs in them so you can see a subjects full life.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Slim the Standardbearer by Ronald Lewin is an interesting book dealing with one of the more forgotten heroes of the Second world War. It is well written with a nice even pace and deals quite adequately with both Slim's life before and after the army. However, at times it does seem a bit to uncritical of the man and his decisions and at times does show that it was originally written thirty odd years ago. Overall though it is a good book dealing with the general who was able to reinvigorate and inspire the British troops in S.E Asia and eventually lead them to victory after being so close to defeat.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Slim" biography of a brilliant soldier 21 Jan 2003
By David W. Nicholas - Published on
William J. Slim was an interesting soldier. He served for forty years in the British and Indian armies, rose to be a field marshal, served as governor general of Australia, and wrote what is considered to be one of the best memoirs to come out of the war, certainly among the best written by a senior officer. All of this, and many who read about World War II have never heard of him.
Slim was born the son of an unsuccessful businessman from Birmingham. His father sold wholesale hardware, and went bankrupt when Slim was in his teens, prompting the young man to look for a job that would afford him a paycheck for little outlay. He joined an army officer training course at Birmingham University (somehow without being a student of that institution, and neat trick) and when World War I started, he was mustered into the army as a lieutenant, and sent off to war.
He served first in Gallipoli, then Mesapotamia (later known as Iraq) and when the war ended, joined the Indian army, serving mostly with Gurkha regiments. By the mid-thirties, he'd seen enough service that when the war started he soon bounced up to corps command, and was instrumental in the retreat of the British army from Burma. The first offensive back into the country (the Arakan offensive) almost got Slim sacked, but someone perceptively relieved his senior instead, and he got the man's job. He fought, and won, the battles of Kohima-Imphal, and later Meiktila, and reconquered Burma. Afterwards, he was again almost sacked, instead promoted Field Marshal, and made Chief of the Imperial General Staff over the objections of his predecessor, Montgomery. From there, with some diversions, he became the Governor General of Australia, which he did almost until his death.
Lewin is a competent writer, but no master of prose or anything, and he concentrates on Slim and his career. There's little information on Slim's family, such as when his parents died, and almost nothing on his silblings. The author does spend a little bit of time on Mrs. Slim, and the children, but not much. There are some amusing anecdotes (especially concerning his time as Governor General of Australia) and a few myths get put to rest. The most prevalent one is the story that Slim enlisted in the army as a private and was eventually promoted all the way to Field Marshal. This is shown to be just not true, unfortunately: he joined the army through an officer's training course, much like the American ROTC.
The middle part of the book covers the war in Burma, and does a good job of it. The principle issue in a book dealing with Burma is whether you come down on the side of Orde Wingate and the Chindits, or against them. Wingate was a strange, fanatical, brilliant, annoying soldier who formed the Chindits, a unit of light infantry that fought in the jungle behind Japanese lines, supplied by air. Slim, and many soldiers in the conventional army, thought Wingate heedless of difficulties, and unscrupulous, to say the least, while his defenders think he won the war in Burma, and despise those who tried to "hold Wingate back." Lewin comes down gently on the side of Slim, as you might expect, but carefully lets you know how deceitful and devious Wingate could be when he wanted something.
Altogether, while this isn't a masterful biography, it is a good book and a worthy tribute to a wonderful soldier.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars None Finer 18 Feb 2002
By Fritz Steiner - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book concisely tells the story of an indomitable, brilliant in a practical way, yet wonderfully human warrior. It is a must read for anyone who wants to find out about the embodiment of leadership.
I am a great admirer of Field Marshal the Viscount Slim, who in my opinion was the finest general officer of the war anywhere in any army. He molded the magnificent British 14th Army and led it in a victorious campaign against an implacable, often fanatical enemy, performing the impossible against insurmountable odds.
It is interesting to speculate on how differently Slim would have handled matters had he been in command of the British-Canadian forces on D-Day instead of Montgomery. Slim, who was accustomed to having to get along on a shoestring, but who also moved boldly and decisively whenever opportunity presented itself, would almost certainly have taken Caen on D-Day given all the men, munitions and air power which Monty possessed. That achievement alone would have shortened the war.
On the other hand, I don't believe Monty would have fared well in Burma. He was far too cautious and always refused battle until he had amassed overwhelming superiority in manpower and munitions. I doubt he'd have ever gotten round to attacking the Japanese given the threadbare logistical situation in India and Burma.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding account of the life of William Slim. 10 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Read in conjunction with William Slim's "Defeat into Victory", Lewin provides a superb appreciation of the forgotten WW2 battles in Burma and the life and times of Britain's outstanding Army commander of the 20th century. A splendid portrait of the soldier, general, proconsul and man. A must read for any serious student of 20th century warfare.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learning from great examples 9 Sep 2010
By B. McAllister - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read about William Slim in an article in The Financial Times, several years ago. He was described as an effective leader, and this piqued my interest in gaining an understanding of his character and merits. "Slim: The Standardbearer", is the first book that I have read about Slim. Generally, I found it to be an interesting read, and probably a good beginning point - as it offers a broad survey of Slim's life. My only concern is that author is clearly enamored of Slim.

I am not a historian or a writing critic, so perhaps I'm missing some technical nuances in the author's treatment of the subject matter. Also, I am not a fan of historical accounts which take an overly harsh view, in effort to second guess popular sentiment. However, in this case, I would have preferred a stronger feel of objectivity and a bit less hyperbole singing the praises of the subject. (Are we nominating Slim for sainthood? He is a good man, but a man none the less.)

Also, what is with all of the expressions in French and languages other than English? Is that the way Slim spoke - punctuating ideas with knowing, witty colloquial phrases having special reference for an elite "educated" insider group? I studied Latin, German, and Swedish. I'm reasonably well educated. But, I found these phrases to be an annoying and elitest distraction.

Despite my concerns, my understanding of Slim is expanded, and I value the example of leadership that he provides. Perhaps, that is the reason for the author's zeal - the striking contrast of Slim's integrity and character vis-a-vis that of other "successful" leaders. Good guys can make a favorable difference.

By the way, I found it a bit amusing that Amazon's cultural "imperialism" emerged in the tag suggestions, by offering Myanmar as one of the tags and not Burma. I have to object. Contemporary to Slim's experience, it was Burma. No slight on the current (albeit despotic) leadership or government there.
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