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A Soldier's Life: General Sir Ian Hamilton 1853 to 1947 Hardcover – 21 Apr 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (21 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333734440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333734445
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 974,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

If General Sir Ian Hamilton had been alive today his reputation might have been very different. Public figures now come pre-packed in Teflon; Bill Clinton survives all sorts of sexual indiscretions; Peter Mandelson goes from strength to strength after his mortgage fracas. There is almost nothing that can't be spun away. But for Hamilton it was one strike and he was out. Forget his modernising role in the Victorian army and his successes in both India and the Boer War, it's Gallipoli that he is remembered for. Hamilton was the man in charge of the disastrous campaign to break the Western Front stalemate with a flanking movement from the Dardanelles in 1915--and his reputation has been in tatters ever since. Revisionism is a popular genre for modern historians.

In recent years, John Terraine has delivered an apologia for General Haig and now John Lee attempts to do the same for Hamilton, with, it has to be said, a great deal more success--but then he does have a slightly easier task. While Haig was in a league of his own for stubbornness and incompetence, Hamilton at least has a few likely candidates with whom to share the blame. There are Kitchener and Churchill who appointed Hamilton as Commander-in-Chief rather as a last-minute afterthought and packed off a desperately small, inexperienced, underprepared, under-resourced expeditionary force with only the barest outlines of a plan. Then there was Vice-Admiral de Robeck, who might have defeated the Turks at the first landings, but who strangely decided to retreat when victory was insight. There was the host of junior officers who, when confronted by two possible options, almost invariably chose the wrong one. And then there were the Turks themselves, who turned out to be far braver and far more militarily astute than anyone had bargained for. Lee takes us on a thorough and entertaining tour of Hamilton's career and he presents a spirited defence of his subject. But when push comes to shove, it is still hard to see Hamilton as a man more sinned against than sinning. Yes, others made errors that made life difficult, but the buck does stop with the Commander-in-Chief, and Hamilton had neither the judgement nor the conviction to direct the campaign in a less feeble fashion. But if he can't exonerate his man entirely, Lee should be content to have pleaded mitigation. --John Crace

About the Author

John Lee is an executive officer of the British Commission for Military History, and is widely known at a writer, lecturer and tour guide specializing in the First World War. He is also a Sales Representative for Macmillan! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Hardcover
General Sir Ian Hamilton is doomed by one simple truth, since the end of the Age of Empire, the publics appreciation of its imperial servants who risked life and limb has essentially disintegrated to the point that even the greatest of them such as Roberts and Wolseley are largely forgotten. On the other hand the Great War has become a pillar of the British national psyche even though virtually all of the population has almost no accurate knowledge of what the war was for or how it was fought. Even popular history on this through various mediums has been twisted by a post-Great Depression distortion of the truth that has was almost universally accepted until recent historians have sought to established a more accurate and balanced view of the period. Alas still the overwhelming public view of the Great War is something akin to "Blackadder history". The relevance of this to Hamilton is obvious. Whilst he was one of the most forward looking, clear thinking, brave, army reforming officers fighting for King, Country and Empire who accomplished a multitude of feats for his empire this is all forgotten, in the face of the one failure of his career, a failure that he was largely not to blame for! Unfortunately for him, the misinformed view of him has been made to fit the Chateau ensconced generals as portrayed by Stephen Fry as General Melchiott in Blackadder Goes Forth, albeit his chateau was a greek island.

So the truth. General Ian Hamilton was one of the foremost servants of Great Britain and the British Empire in the ninetieth and early twentieth century. Throughout his life he risked his life to serve, not for material goods, he regularly scorned those who only sought material possessions, but for his belief in service to his country.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Lee does an excellent job in writing about a man whose brilliant career was brought to a stop due to Churchill's ideas about Gallipoli. Such a shame as this talented officer deserved much better. Lee explains all in this book but not so much about the private life, which is anathema to the Generals army service of ecxcellence.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting look at a much-maligned general 24 April 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding! 26 May 2010
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great guide to the army life of Ian Hamilton. I have read this book several times and each time I discover something new.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A weak case for Hamilton as a general 4 Oct. 2004
By Devl's Advocate - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a semi official biography (the authors' wife wrote the biography of Sir Ian's wife!), the book tries a tad too hard to polish the tarnished reputation of Sir Ian Hamilton, arguably one of the more infamous Great War generals, and an abject failure at that. This attempt to burnish Hamilton's grotesque incompetence as a general, and his all too typical and familiar British way of generalship in chateaus (in his case, luxury liner) miles behind/away from the front, hands off attitude regarding operations and intrigues aginst colleagues, just come across as pathetic.
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