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on 25 July 2001
This book should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in history, politics or psychology. Most importantly, it illustrates the danger of politicians meddling in military decisions, and the tragedy of men ordered to their likely deaths purely for reasons of political expediency (how might the war have developed if British forces had not been ordered to leave their prepared defensive positions and march into Belgium in May 1940?). The long wait from the declaration of war to the opening of real combat is vividly captured, as are the personalities of the Allied protagonists (noone escapes criticism, although praise is given when AB considers it deserved). If some of the "edge" of memoirs written by those serving on the front-line (for which read "Men at Arnhem" or "Quartered Safe Out Here"), is lacking, the snapshots of men taking decisions that will affect millions more than compensate.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 October 2014
Alanbrooke is quite possibly the most significant military officer that most people have never heard of. If you ever watch video footage of Churchill visiting the different theatres of war or at conferences with the other Allied leaders, more often than not you see Alanbrooke at his shoulder. It was not for nothing that he was recognised with a statue outside the Ministry of Defence in London, along with Montgomery and Slim. Yet still his part in World War Two goes unrecognised by the vast majority of the population.

This book is lengthy, and for the most part contains a direct transcription of Alanbrooke's diaries. There are notes added by the man himself when the diaries were published in limited form in collaboration with Arthur Bryant in the late 1950's. This allows, for example, Alanbrooke to express regret for his stinging criticism of Dudley Pound (First Sea Lord) during the war as he had later become aware that Pound was suffering from a brain tumour that eventually killed him. The diaries cover not only Alanbrooke's time as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but also as commander of II Corps in France and as Commander-in-Chief Home Forces in 1940-41. The diary entries are usually made before Alanbrooke retires to bed, and you can almost feel the tension when he believes that invasion is imminent in September 1940, given he will have been the one tasked to keep the Germans at bay. There are many personal criticisms, with de Gaulle and Eisenhower in particular not faring well. Churchill's strategic vision, particularly his desire to invade Sumatra, is not well regarded by Alanbrooke, but you can tell that Alanbrooke also greatly admires Churchill's leadership and is fond of him on a personal level. All of the major wartime conferences are covered, including major disagreements with the American Chiefs of Staff.

I thought that I understood World War Two pretty well before I read this book, but it was so incredibly enlightening to read the personal thoughts of someone who was so integral to the conduct of the war from the Allied point of view. It left me wondering that if without Alanbrooke's strong desire to concentrate on the Mediterranean (even though he apparently couldn't spell it) first we may have seen the Americans, and to a lesser extent Stalin, successfully argue for a premature invasion of France in 1943 or even 1942. If you wish to understand World War Two and why the Allied leaders came to the decisions that they did, this book is invaluable.
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on 23 April 2013
A straight talking and at times acid description of the administrative WW2 command front line at the top. Worth reading just for the details of the risky trips he and Churchill took to see other wartime leaders. The book well illustrates the ebb and flow of the conflict and how close different outcomes and the timing of the end of WW2 might have come to pass. Those with the benefit of hindsight who criticise WW2 actions taken should read this book. I felt the book seemed a much straighter account than those with an interest in telling a story of what they would have liked to have happened and their role in proceedings. I will read again.
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on 27 July 2001
Definitely not an easy read. Packed full of content it is undoubtedly of historical value and insight. The most enlightening passages are those which are added to the diary entries after the diary was written. (These are italicised, and easy to find). Many of the entries are dull, seeming to be an endless round of meetings, or touring military installations. (Chiefs of staff daily session etc).
The insightful stuff centres around his meetings with world leaders, (his meetings with Stalin for example), his constant interaction with Churchill, where he pulls no punches, and his ongoing conflict with Beaverbrook. Getting the inside view on what Churchill promised Stalin at their private session in Moscow (ie to open a Western Front in 1943) has been the highlight of the book for me so far.
Half-way through the diaries, I am not sure I acutally understand Alanbrooke the man, any better, only his surroundings and perceptions. It does provide, however, a unique historical insight into the period.
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on 18 June 2013
Brilliant description of the functioning of the British war cabinet and of the leaders who led the war effort against the Germans.
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on 30 July 2015
I read so much about 20th century history and on several occasions reference was made to these diaries. I believe he was an incredible wartime officer who gives amazing insight in to all the political machinations involved with fighting a war with allies. However most interesting is his continuous battles with Churchill over military strategy. He clearly had a love/hate relationship with the Prime Minister but recognized the amazing qualities that Churchill possessed. What is clear to me is that as much as Churchill was the best wartime leader available to us and recognized the nature and intent of Stalin (something clearly missed by FDR) but militarily had major shortcomings. Thank goodness a Chief of Staff like Alanbrooke existed and it would seem, reading between the lines, that Churchill recognized his great qualities.
A must for any serious looking to understand the history of WW2.
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on 29 May 2016
This book gives a true insight not only to how the the political and military leaders worked together but also the steely resolve of Lord Alanbrooke. My admiration of him is all the more profound as it is clear that he was a reluctant soldier and harboured worries which he could only confide to his wife through the diaries. His doubts and concerns which were in his thoughts prove to me that great leadership is that rare combination of self questioning, steely determination, strategic planning and assessment of others to manage them in the right posts. His service to this country is every bit a great as those such as Montgomery and Slim and arguably greater. A remarkable man and an unsung hero. A thoroughly good read.
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on 20 January 2010
Brilliant bi-polar leadership.

Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke (Brooke) was the Chief of the Imperial Staff (CIGS) of Winston Spencer Churchill (WSC) in the Second World War. The book presents the diary with unvarnished notes Brooke kept during the war. Brooke was by far the closest and most influential individual reporting the WSC. He was the chairman of the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff (COS), land, air, and sea. This committee was responsible for proposing and after approval by the War Cabinet directing all military action. WSC as "Chairman" of the cabinet and Brooke as Chairman of the COS were the kingpins. Nothing could be acted upon without their support. WSC and Brooke as personalities were poles apart. WSC was emotional, creative, enthusiastic, a visionary, with vast political-military and political experience and a superb communicator. Brooke was coldly analytical, with the ability of an executive view or even better helicopter view that allowed him to analyze the interactions over time of military actions, short term, medium tem and long term, an ability WSC lacked. Brooke also had vast military experience and was very highly regarded by his military colleagues. The different traits of these two men led to many conflicts that are described in great detail.
The greatness of Churchill about these conflicts was that WSC almost never made a final decision relative to war action or even in communications with Roosevelt or Stalin without reviewing the message with Brooke. Brooke often disagreed and WSC might use every conceivable ways, even unpleasant ones, to convince Brooke that he was right, but in the end would accept Brooke's advice.
You get a very vivid and real picture of what it is like to lead a war; what is overall strategy, what is a theatre of war, what is a battle, the importance of logistics and coping with and being dependent allies like Roosevelt, Stalin and to a lesser extent de Gaulle. On this last point WSC said, "Having to deal with allies is terrible". "There is only one thing worse and that is not having any".
Brooke writes in considerable detail how difficult and exhausting it was to work with WSC, about the many wrong ideas he had and how hard it was to convince him to accept his ideas. Brooke was often at the point of despair doubting if he could handle the job and WSC. Brooke frequently refers to WSC as a "great leader" and that working for him was the greatest experience and honor in his life. He does however not explain very much about what this greatness was, which is a pity. The same applies to his many lengthy critical comments on General Marshall and General Eisenhower.
An interesting question is who was right in the many disputes. Brooke, I think, is totally honest in what he writes. But that not mean he was always right. I have found some discrepancies with his opinions and what others have written, including WSC. It goes also the other way WSC has written things that are different from Brooke, WSC was not happy with the publication of the book.
Britain and as a consequence the USA probably would have lost the war against Nazi Germany were it not for the intense collaboration between these two very different, competent and remarkable men.
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on 18 March 2015
Contemporary Account of the War that makes clear victory was not assured for many years. Interesting that the losses of WW 1were seen as a reason for the poor quality of the Army`s officer class in the early part of WW 2.
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on 25 July 2015
This item was purchased for a relative. It arrived in perfect condition and is exceptional value. I am sure there will be many hours of good historical reading.
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