Sir Ian Hamilton is destined to be remembered for one thing - the disaster at Gallipoli. In reality, however, he was a veritable rennaisance man with a varied and largely successful career that came crashing down around his ears over the period of a few weeks in 1915. John Lee is the first person, to the best of my knowledge, to take a close look at Hamilton's life outside the box of his performance at Gallipoli.
Lee deals with Hamilton's early career, his friendship with Lord Kitchener, his regimental career during the Boer War and his extensive service as an attached officer with the Japanese Army. The Gallipoli fiasco is also covered and Hamilton is given a sympathetic, though by no means hagiographical or apologistic, hearing.
Of particular interest are Hamilton's personal and political views. His early distaste for the Japanese Army (and broadly pro-Chinese sympathies) and his predictions that a) the Japanese Army was an effective fighting force that should not be taken lightly and b) that it was only a matter of time before Britain and China came to blows make informative reading. His reformist, radical even, left-wing political views and overt Liberal connections made him slightly out of place in the army (which had it's share of liberals, though of a less radical bent than Hamilton). Yet they led him, like a number of other left wing radicals with big ideas in the inter-war years, eventually to become somewhat attached to political ideas and causes which, while not exactly fascistic (and he was certainly no pro-Nazi) were fairly borderline.
Lee documents these issues in a readable fashion which adds flesh to the bones of the often rather superficial popular perception of Hamilton both as a person and as an army officer. The book should obviously be of interest to readers with an interest in the Gallipoli campaign (the recent history of the campaign by L. A. Carlyon is also excellent) but there is a lot more to it than that and anybody with an interest in the Great War in general or the history of the British Army would do well to take a look.
All in all, a good book. Having read it, one emerges with the feeling that Hamilton deserved a fair hearing and I believe John Lee has given him just that.