Edmund Ironside was Chief of the British Imperial General Staff for the first nine months of the Second World War. He was a veteran of nearly 40 years in uniform served across the British Empire. And, he was a relentlessly honest diarist. "Time Unguarded" contains his lightly edited diary entries for the period 1937-1940, as the building crisis with Nazi Germany came finally to a declaration of war in 1939 and military disaster in Norway and France in 1940.
Ironside's diary was edited by one of his former military aides, himself an experienced officer, who limited this book to Ironside's diary entries day by day and only the most minimal after the fact explanations, clearly marked as such. What emerges, from Ironside's several excellent vantages points, is the slow stumbling of Britain and her allies into a war for which they were badly unprepared but failed to prevent.
Ironside was an observant man who spared neither himself nor the people around him in his diary entries. His bluntness can be sometimes be trite, but it is more often illuminating of how complicated events unfold in the fog of war. The author's distress at Britain's unreadiness for war is balanced by his pride in the stubborn professionalism of the British Army under duress, as at Dunkirk in 1940. His sorrow for the units which were sacrificed to hold the German Army at bay during the evacuation from Dunkirk has a special poignancy. In some respects, it was the last showing of the small professional army in which Ironside served most of his career, soon to become the core of a mass army of mobilized citizens.
"Time Unguarded" is highly recommended to students of the Second World War, especially seeking an insider's view of how it all fell apart at the beginning for the Allies.