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Wavell - Soldier and Statesman [Hardcover]

Victoria Schofield
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

30 Aug 2010
Archibald Wavell's life and career makes a marvellous subject. Not only did he reach the highest rank (Field Marshal) and become an Earl and Viceroy of India but his character was complex. He joined the Black Watch in 1901. He stood out during the Great War, quickly earning the Military Cross but losing an eye. He was at Versailles in 1918 but between the Wars his career advanced with Brigade and General commands notably in Palestine where he spotted Orde Wingate. By the outbreak of war he was GOC-in-C Middle East. Early successes against the Italians turned into costly failures in Greece and Crete and Wavell lost the confidence of Churchill; their temperaments differed completely. Wavell was sent to India as C-in-C. After Pearl Harbour Wavell was made Supreme Allied Commander for the SW Pacific and bore responsibility for the humiliating loss of Singapore (he quickly recognized that it could not be held). Problems in Burma tested Churchill's patience and he was removed from command to be Viceroy and Governor General of India.As civil unrest and demands for independence grew, in 1947 Prime Minister Attlee replaced Wavell with Mountbatten who oversaw Partition. Wavell died in 1950, after a life of huge achievement tempered with many reverses, most of which were not of his making.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (30 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848843208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848843202
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 16 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 648,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Eminently fair, Victoria Schofield describes his campaigns lucidly and concisely'

(Philip Ziegler, The Spectator )

'Well written and based on detailed research'

(Jad Adams, BBC History Magazine )

'In this excellent biography, Victoria Schofield puts the record straight'

(Hugh Massingberd, Country Life 20060427)

'Schofield's biography is sympathetic towards Wavell without becoming adulatory'

(Justin Wintle, Financial Times Magazine 20060429) --Financial Times Magazine

Book Description

The first complete biography of Field Marshal the Earl Wavell, the great military leader and distinguished statesman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Tribute 20 Mar 2007
In August 1939, 56-year old General Sir Archibald Wavell was appointed commander of the newly created Middle East Command. 'The Chief', as he was popularly known, performed prodigious feats of generalship; vastly outnumbered everywhere, and controlling simultaneous campaigns that eventually encompassed nine countries on three continents. He faced colossal difficulties, not least being his relationship with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who grossly underestimated him, and described Wavell as only 'a good average colonel'. If Churchill was a lover of romantic war, Wavell was in many ways the antithesis of the Churchillian model, and their relationship suffered accordingly. Ms Schofield succeeds in illuminating this unfortunate mutual misunderstanding, and she doesn't spare Wavell's mistakes such as the abortive expedition to Greece in 1941.

In 1936 Dudley Clarke was appointed to Wavell's staff, and was overjoyed when he was summoned once more in 1940. However, Ms Schofield misses the enormous importance of Clarke's appointment: to head a deception unit that became known as 'A' Force. This developed the principles and methods of deception that covered the Normandy Landings in 1944. That a policy of aggressive strategic deception was both desirable and possible was essentially down to Wavell, but this significant contribution to the war is overlooked. And although she has rigorously mined the private papers, Ms Schofield seems to have ignored many useful published sources, such as Eve Curie's detailed description of Wavell following her visit to his headquarters in 1942. But this is a fine portrait nevertheless. In 1943 Wavell became Viceroy of India, and with Indian independence looming was replaced by Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1947. Had Wavell remained then perhaps his thoughtful and considered approach could have avoided partition. Instead he received an earldom for his services and died, aged just 67, in 1950.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant and sympathetic biography 30 Jun 2006
This is a brillantly researched and well-written book, the result of many years of considerable effort. And it has paid off with a massive, readable and authoritative work.

Wavell was clearly a very capable man but flawed as a leader of men. Ms Schofield reveals how this intellectual and shy warrior lacked the chutzpah of a Patton or a Montgomery and the political skills of an Alanbrooke or an Eisenhower.

Great generals need luck. And Wavell had little if any.

He was associated with two of the worst debacles of WW2, Crete and Singapore.

And he just could not get on with Churchill (and vice-versa) - which meant he was moved around from post to post.

Wavell did however achieve some stunning successes in Africa early on in the war when Britain was starved of resources.

This book is a reminder that until Pearl Harbor, Britain and its imperial allies stood alone in the defence of civilization. The courage, tenacity and toughness of men like Wavell meant that Nazi Germany failed to prevail. It defies belief that there is apparently no statue of him in London, a national disgrace which should be rectified

as soon as possible.

Ms Scofield has achieved an historical masterpice. She writes like a dream. The research is very thorough. And for any reader with the slightest interest either in military history, World War Two or the origins of independent India and Pakistan, this is a "must read".

I think I would have liked a few more maps. Perhaps in the paperback edition?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good solid piece of work 25 Oct 2010
Wavell, Soldier & Statesman, by Victoria Schofield, dropped through my door with a thud - it's a weighty tome... Oddly enough I had just finished reading volume 2 of John Connell's 1969 biography, Wavell, Supreme Commander.

Connell's book, for me at least, paints a warmer picture of Wavell than Schofield does. But overall she has put together a well researched and readable account that manages to cover a lot of ground in its 528 pages. It's a good solid piece of work and I enjoyed reading it.

(The reviewer, Robert Widders, author of Spitting on a Soldier's Grave: Court Martialed After Death, the Story of the Forgotten Irish and British Soldiers received a free review copy of this book. Robert Widders is not connected with the publisher in any way and did not receive any payment or inducement for this review.)
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography 27 Dec 2013
By jean stoten - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is very well-written. It gives a comprehensive account of Wavell's life and career from Sandhurst to Field Marshall to Viceroy of India, as well as providing insight into the character of a very complex man.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General or Poet Manque? 22 Jan 2012
By J. A. Brittain - Published on Amazon.com
This is an odd book. The original biographies by Connell and Roberts gave us all we needed to know about Wavell's life story. Then came Lewin's The Chief, which analyzed his military capabilities and record in a straightforward and objective way. Now comes this obviously sympathetic woman with a long biography that's very heavy on his relationships with family and friends, but nothing particularly new about his public record.

After reading them all, the impression of Wavell is that he was in the wrong line of work: he should have been a writer or teacher or something, where he could have had time to sit back and think about things, rather than be responsible for great events. There's no question that he was an intelligent soldier, but his strengths would seem to have been better fit as a staff officer, rather than in line field command.

Moreover, the claims for his stoicism and imperturbableness are slightly smudged by his overt request for Field Marshal rank and his petulance at the way he was treated by Churchill; there's a strain of self-pity in such actions.

With what others saw as "lack of drive", coupled with his admitted laziness, all on top of his incurable taciturnity (which he ascribed to boyhood shyness), he was clearly miscast in roles of supreme command. Churchill probably treated him rudely, but he wasn't far off the mark when he thought him fitted to be "the chairman of a golf club".
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