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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A proper autobiography
It is so nice to read an autobiography that is written (a) at the end of a distinguished career, and (b) for some purpose other than blatant self-aggrandisement. Sir Richard comes across as the ultimate army officer and family man, and gets his point across strongly without much controversy. I was expecting a few fireworks but actually his assessment of the political...
Published 4 months ago by Brian ONeill

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General Sir Richard Dannatt's verdict: more cash, more time please
General Sir Richard Dannatt's memoir of his time in the British army manages somehow to be both fascinating and banal.

Fascinating because of the detail he provides to back-up his severe criticism of Ministry of Defence civil servants and politicians, Labour ones in particular but Gordon Brown above all, for failing to fund the army sufficiently for the jobs...
Published on 10 Oct 2010 by Mark Pack


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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General Sir Richard Dannatt's verdict: more cash, more time please, 10 Oct 2010
By 
Mark Pack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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General Sir Richard Dannatt's memoir of his time in the British army manages somehow to be both fascinating and banal.

Fascinating because of the detail he provides to back-up his severe criticism of Ministry of Defence civil servants and politicians, Labour ones in particular but Gordon Brown above all, for failing to fund the army sufficiently for the jobs they demanded of it. Banal because, despite his long experience of counter-insurgency and peace-keeping operations starting with Northern Ireland in the 1970s, his repeated message through the book is one of `give the army more money, give the army more time'.

The contrast with the US army and the way, for example, it has massively altered its counter-insurgency approach under General Petraeus is marked. Resources and time certainly feature in the lessons learnt by the Americans, but are very far from the whole picture. The picture Dannatt paints of the British army by contrast is, in this respect, unintentionally a deeply unflattering one because it gives the appearance of an army looking over the last 40 years and pointing the finger at others rather than asking questions of itself.

In fact, the British army has been rather smarter than Dannatt's account gives out, but how it has learnt the lessons of its mistakes such as those in Northern Ireland or tries to meet the continuing challenge to ensure that soldiers do not go violently out of control in the stresses of counter-insurgency are not stories told in this book.

The one significant area of army error Dannatt does concede in the epilogue is that the army's doctrine of "Go first, go fast, go home" was a wrong one. But we are left wondering whether some of what he blames politicians for is really the result of the army giving poor advice to those politicians based on its faulty doctrine. If the army's own doctrine wrongly emphasised getting out of conflicts very quickly, was it really just politicians who are to blame for having planned and resourced the army on the basis that it would get out of conflicts quickly?

Yet Dannatt in other respects show a shrewd mind, particularly in his understanding of how counter-insurgency operations are both political and military questions. As he writes of his time in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, "If I found politics and the military hard to separate over the years, perhaps some might understand that the crossover goes back a long way."

The book is written in a plain style, with a sufficient smattering of military jargon to give a taste for how rampant acronyms are in the modern military but without having so many as to confuse the casual reader. The account is regularly punctuated by name-checks for those held particular commanding posts, as if out of a sense of duty Dannatt often feels a responsibility to credit them.

The names of soldiers who were killed often feature too, sometimes movingly and always as a reminder about the human reality behind discussions of army deployments, resources or campaign outcomes.

In all, the book is - perhaps like Dannatt's own career - solid and competent. It offers much in the way of detail about how he believes politicians got it wrong, but little in the way of insight into the way the army should be organised and operate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A proper autobiography, 4 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Leading from the Front: An autobiography (Paperback)
It is so nice to read an autobiography that is written (a) at the end of a distinguished career, and (b) for some purpose other than blatant self-aggrandisement. Sir Richard comes across as the ultimate army officer and family man, and gets his point across strongly without much controversy. I was expecting a few fireworks but actually his assessment of the political leaders during his time is more than fair, although rightly it would make for uncomfortable reading for certain Labour PMs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I expected and wasn't disappointed., 13 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Leading from the Front: An autobiography (Paperback)
Now we really know the truth. Thoroughly recommendable and will appeal to many members of society and all age groups.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Top man, 19 Nov 2010
By 
G. J. Weeks (London) - See all my reviews
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I read this book because I was impressed by the author's Christian testimony in the press. It is here in the book but I think muted in a typical traditional Anglican way. So I was rather disappointed that there was not more about how his faith influenced his life.

The general got to the top army post and was only denied charge of all the armed forces because of his outspoken standing up for the interests of his troops in a way the Labour government did not appreciate. One admires his courage on behalf of his troops and also his courage under fire in Northern Ireland.

If one is not into the technicalities of the army large parts of the book are hard going but Dannatt comes across as a first rate soldier and family man.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly honest, and challenging, 16 Oct 2010
By 
Robert Lyman (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Amidst the uninspiring splurge of self-congratulatory memoirs that have found their way into the bookshops this autumn this book stands out as something very different. Perhaps this is to be expected from the man who made the hallmark of his time in office a resolute defence of the men and women under his command. Where he fought battles - in the press, for public opinion, and against the political classes - it was for his soldiers, their living conditions, pay, equipment, training and morale. He stood up publicly for the men and women who daily place their lives on the line for their country, as well as their families, and reminded us all of the sacrifice they were and are making for the comforts and freedoms we take for granted. His book, therefore, is refreshingly and strikingly honest, the exact opposite in fact of the ego-maniacal tomes we have seen from ex-Labour politicians of late.

Dannatt was attacked by some (especially those on the left of the political spectrum) for being 'too political', but this accusation does not stand scrutiny. It is even a little pathetic. By standing up to an uncomprehending liberal elite (in and out of government) for those who had to fight Blair and Brown's wars but who themselves had no significant political voice, Dannatt reminds us powerfully of the responsibility society has to its Armed Forces when they are sent to fight on our behalf. The other Chiefs appeared parochial, tribal and silent in contrast, except where it was to defend their numbers of fast jets or surface vessels.

As CGS Dannatt quite rightly defended the Army, but this book demonstrates convincingly that he did not do it not do so uncomprehendingly, or blindly. Indeed, in the book he advocates quite radical rethinking about the way in which we think about our defence. For too long we have planned, structured and prepared for wars that never eventuate, whilst struggling with inadequate resources to fight those wars that do. This is refreshing thinking, and challenges all of our thinking about the role of the three services into the future. What Dannatt convinces me of, at least, is that we cannot simply continue on as we have, and that radical rethinking about defence and a slaughter of some sacred cows, be they tanks, aircraft carriers or fast jets, is long overdue.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, and gripping autobiography., 28 Dec 2010
Very good book, I read it in about a week (which is quick for me,I'm quite a slow reader)
The book,as you may have guessed covers his career, from a young officer in Northern Ireland to his last posting as a General,and the events of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He covers his time in the Balkans in depth (which was a bonus for me I find that period of history fascinating) and in makes sense of a very complicated situation.

Damn good book,Buy it!
(if you enjoyed Soldier: The Autobiography read this)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leading from the Front, 10 Feb 2011
By 
J. M. Cooper "Mrs JMC" (East Anglia. UK.) - See all my reviews
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Excellent - so good to hear Sir Richard reading this himself - and to hear such an honest frank view of the previous government from the 'gentleman' at the top on the front line!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leading From The Front, 30 Dec 2010
Having served in The Green Howards with Richard when he was a young subaltern, I found the book a riveting read. An excellent autobiography of a fine man.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written account of a life lived well., 9 Jan 2013
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I've read many biographies, and this is the least self-serving in a long time. It is a clear, entertaining and informative account of the life so far of a remarkable servant of the Crown who exemplifies the Sandhurst motto "Serve to Lead".

I was privileged as a young man to know General Richard, and I can tell you that he really is the honest, modest and decent person who leaps from these pages.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of British, 16 Sep 2011
This review is from: Leading from the Front: An autobiography (Paperback)
Some generals are cautious; others are bold risk-takers. That Lord Dannatt is in the latter category was proved by his willingness to challenge the Government when he was Chief of the General Staff. The structuring of this book is another example of his boldness, because offers us two books in one: first, a personal memoir of four decades of military service; second, a commentary on recent defence policy. Such attempts to do two things at once usually result in a confused book, but in this case Dannatt's risky strategy pays off brilliantly because his modest reflections on his outstanding career as a professional soldier ensure that his readers will like him and respect his opinions by the time they get to the more controversial bits. So when he complains of lack of clear policies, of preparation, and of proper equipment we know he does so out of real sympathy for the soldiers in the field who must suffer the consequences of those failures, because his mind goes back to the time when he was one of them. He is a soldier's soldier in the tradition of Viscount Slim, not a desk warrior. In any case, the points he made were controversial only because they were made publicly by the CGS, not because of any innate radicalism. The majority are obvious common sense - most obviously that politicians cannot expect the Army to play such an active role in foreign policy without proper resources. He is not a military revolutionary like Liddell Hart or Fuller with some new theory to spread. Even an outspoken professional soldier is still primarily a professional soldier, restrained by the organisational thinking that has been built up over those four decades, and by professional courtesy and deference. Indeed, the aspect of the book that deserves to endure is the portrait it gives of an impressive example of an impressive breed, the British professional soldier, at the beginning of the 21st century. His values, the values that used to define Britain - quiet but firm Christian faith, commitment to service, respect for tradition, and a love of country free of jingoism - set him apart from the crass materialism, in every sense of that word, which now dominates the nation to which he dedicated his career. The irony is that he seems to have enjoyed his life of useful service far more than those motivated only by the desire for personal pleasure have enjoyed their self-indulgence.
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Leading from the Front: An autobiography
Leading from the Front: An autobiography by Richard Dannatt (Paperback - 26 May 2011)
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