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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dynamic Desert Action, 14 July 2010
N. Brown (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Operation Crusader 1941: Rommel in Retreat (Campaign) (Paperback)
This is the third Osprey title by Ken Ford covering the Western Desert campaign and nicely fills in the gap left between the Tobruk 1941 volume (by Jim Laurier) first published in 2001 and the author's last work covering the Battle of Gazala published in 2008. With this publication Osprey has now completed its coverage of the Western Desert theatre of operations from the Italian invasion of Egypt in 1940 up to end of the El Alamein battles in November 1942. Hopefully we will see future titles that cover Operation Touch and the 8th Army's battles in Tunisia.

Firstly I have to say this is a very welcome addition. Operation Crusader is not well covered as a standalone subject other than in works about General Auchinleck. The scale and scope of the battle means that it fits well into Osprey's 96 page format although I would have liked to have seen a little more analysis of the campaign at the end. At this stage of the Desert War the size of the forces were such that both sides armoured forces had the space to carry out vast sweeping drives into and around each other's territory. Frontlines mean very little here. The author does well in explaining the complex back and forth manoeuvres across the Libyan desert of each side and this is helped in this by having the maps and text marry up very neatly - not always the case in some other Osprey works.

Two things that stand out in the narrative are the command disagreements between Rommel and his Afrika Korps commander Gen.Cruwell (with Rommel proven to be more than fallible) and a reminder of the multinational make-up of the British 8th Army. Great credit to the New Zealand, South African, Indian and Polish infantry forces which often performed so much better than the British armoured units in defeating the Germans and Italians.

Sadly Ken Ford still doesn't find the space for personal accounts but other than that this is a first class work and one of the author's very best for Osprey. If it was down to the quality of the writing alone I would happily had out 5 stars, however readers are again let down by substandard original artwork by John White. It is a shame we could not have had a repeat of the superb work done on the El Alamein title by Howard Gerrard. Furthermore and picking up an earlier point, I would have liked to have seen some attempt to analyse the relative weaknesses of British armour and its handling.

Overall though I would highly recommend this title for anyone with an interested in the Desert War as this work deserves a wider readership beyond Osprey's usual core audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full circle, 17 Nov 2010
Gisli Jokull Gislason "Jokull" (Iceland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Operation Crusader 1941: Rommel in Retreat (Campaign) (Paperback)
Osprey has now published books on all the major North Africa Campaigns of World War 2 and closes the gap on the battles in the Western Desert with Operation Crusader. Operation Crusader was a very important episode and along with Gazala ranks as a battle where both sides could have carried the day and was an intense battle.

Ken Ford does the battle justice and I think he spends reasonable time with the different sides high command decisions that would decide the outcome of the battle. The British even sacked their Army Commander Cunningham half way through when the British CinC Middle East Auchinleck felt that he had lost his nerve.

The battle was a seesaw affair with both sides gaining tactical initiative at different times and Rommel sacrificing a certain limited victory with ambitions for a great victory that eventually resulted in his defeat during the Crusader Battles (I am not giving anything away, see the title: Operation Crusader 1941: Rommel in retreat). In fact this was the first time the allies went against the Germans and came out on top.

Ford manages to draw the bigger picture and making it clear which is quite an accomplishment considering the confused nature of the battle. A worthy addition to the Osprey books. The only drawback is that because it is confused I felt it lacked the intensity to keep me reading and I had to put a little effort into finishing it rather that being stuck to it.

The full list of the Osprey Campaign books on the Western Desert is as follows.

Operation Compass 1940: Wavell's Whirlwind Offensive (Osprey Military Campaign) Sadly out of print

Tobruk 1941 (Osprey Campaign)

This book: Operation Crusader

Campaign 196: Gazala 1942: Rommel's greatest victory (Campaign)

El Alamein, 1942: The Turning of the Tide (Campaign)
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Operation Crusader 1941: Rommel in Retreat (Campaign)
Operation Crusader 1941: Rommel in Retreat (Campaign) by Ken Ford (Paperback - 10 Jun 2010)
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