on 6 November 2012
I never knew that camouflage really mattered and was key, not just part of, winning El Alamein and other pivotal battles in the 2WW. He gets the oddity and unmilitary character of the people who did it spot on, and shows how as with Bletchley one of the strengths of the British was to take risks with techniques which weren't in the book and would have looked mad if they had gone wrong. A great read.
on 28 April 2016
An account of the methods used to deceive Rommel’s Afrika Korps by the Allies Camouflage Unit in the North African campaign in WW2. And of the men who did it. It seems that both sides used deception, but that the British Unit was particularly successful.
It is fascinating to read the various ploys and tricks employed, such as disguising tanks and even an army. It may be that Rommel eventually, by over extending his army, would have been defeated anyway, but there can be little doubt that the ruses worked and shortened the campaign.
This story of the Camouflage Unit is a lesser known aspect of the war, and very well told. It’s being related in step with the North African campaign is particularly helpful and indeed the book may also be viewed as a primer of the campaign.
on 14 November 2012
Had no idea that the history of camouflage was so fascinating, and its role in the war so crucial. This book is partly a thriller but it is also an inspiring account of the role of unexpected and often quite unmilitary people in an extraordinary military victory. You can tell you are in the hands of a film director as the author sketches in with just the right amount of detail the cast of artists and other unlikely characters who created the phantom army, and sets the scenes with fluent knowledge of the military facts combined with an eye for the vivid and memorable detail of people and landscape. The battle scenes are expertly portrayed but never laboured. If only you could always learn about the events of war so enjoyably!
Mention 'camouflage and concealment' and anyone of a certain age will immediately recall the famous Monty Python sketch. Alas, right away you can tell that this isn't the kind of book to include this in their wide-ranging discussion of the subject. More's the pity, because the opening section of the book, which tracks the main characters before they became involved in Britain's camouflage unit, is dead boring. That's why I held back the 5th star for what is otherwise an excellent popular history. It's well-written, and the deeds of the camouflage unit are embedded in a sketchy but adequate narrative of the ups and downs the North African campaign, and brief but incisive portraits of Rommel and Montgomery. He includes a post-script about how surveillance technology and concealment technology have rendered obsolete the crude but effective efforts of the amateur artists who fooled Rommel.
on 10 July 2013
Bought the paperback edition of The Phantom Army of Alamein when read rave reviews for the hardback edition. How do you deceive an enemy such as Rommel who is well-versed in deception himself, especially in a desert? This is a good enough reason in itself to buy this book. Only the British could possess such a varied collection of determined and different characters to tackle the immense problems. One or two real characters, maybe, but also tremendous hard work and ingenuity. Best to buy the book.
on 5 December 2013
The story of the development of camouflage in the Desert, mainly by enthusiastic amateurs. Try this test. You are besieged in Tobruk. All your fresh water is in a huge tank visible for miles and everyone knows exactly what it is and where it is, especially the enemy. A very few bombs will force a surrender. How do you camouflage it so that the Germans don't bomb it?
Now read the book. None of the rest of it will disappoint either.