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on 17 March 2013
What makes this book stand out is the detail surrounding the campaign rather than the campaign itself. Johnathon Dimbleys father was I think the BBC correspondent in North Africa which must have given the writer an unusual insight into this campaign. I am old enough to have followed this campaign,but with heavily censored information. I was biased in favour of Aukinlech partly due to the fact that I had his room at school. I remember him showing me where he had scratched his initials under the bed. Seventy years later I perhaps view him less favourably. I was anti Montgomery at the time and probably still am today. Not only is this book highly readable but it should be compulsory reading for anyone studying world war 2. It is said that the bombing by the Japanese of Pearl harbour and the German invasion of Russia were what won the war. The North African campaign doesnt quite rank with these, but nevertheless was more important than generally given credit.
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on 6 November 2012
THis book is a considerable achievement. The apparent economy of the style is deceptive, because the writing is as elegant as it is authoritative. Dimbleby unfolds the story of the events leading up to El Alamein with the imaginative control of a novelist, informed by the skill of the investigative journalist. Yes, maybe the material isn't new, but it's all in the telling, isn't it? This writer brings a rather affecting personal angle too - since his father, the great Richard Dimbleby reported from the desert for the BBC in the run up to El Alamein. What characters we have in this narrative! Churchill, Wavell, the 'Auk', Rommel....and (more importantly) all the fighting men whose testimonies are the stuff of real history. THis is an epic, told with brilliance by a writer who seems to have discovered his metier.
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on 5 January 2013
This is a really good read , I saw the last 30 minutes of J.D's. documentary on BBC-1 and was much impressed by his easy to understand yet detailed account of the North African theatre of war and the related political issues both at home and abroad for all the protagonists- Axis and Allied.

I have been reading this book a chapter at night before going to sleep - at my age it works well but this is not to imply that this is a boring read - far from it the author has an excellent grasp of his subject at all levels and succeeds in telling the good the bad and the ugly about the Mediterranean and North Africa.
The chapters build nicely to present a detailed account of how war came to the Middle East,the options open to the Axis which were by and large unrecognized and ignored until it was too late these opportunities went wanting when a fraction of the forces which when to Russia might have achieved so much.
The relationships within both Axis and Allied camps are explored , the natures of the various leaders personalities emerge and you develop a feel for how Churchill might have actually lost us the war had he not been controlled and that in both camps relationships were not always what they seemed to be the comments and insights within the Allied camp are certainly worth reading.
I liked this account in equal measure for both the military history of the N.A.T. and how J.D. draws together the many complex threads which are essential in explaining the nature of the constantly changing fortunes of both sides and how ultimately the Axis forces came to be defeated in a region which in 1941 was theirs for the taking for in the final reckoning the cost to the Axis in defeat was much more than would have brought them victory in 1941.
In terms of the military commanders the great and gifted rub shoulders with those who were out of their depth all had a common problem , the changing fortunes forced on them and the unrelenting demands from their political masters, not least from Churchill who was almost on a par with Hitler in terms of his interference with the military situation.
I have really enjoyed this book and would have no problem in recommending it , a really first rate book.
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on 1 December 2012
A very readable and well researched account of the North African campaign, but the statement in the blurb that "Dimbleby......redefines the battle as a tipping point in British fortunes" is surely, to any student of military history, a statement of the obvious. There appears to be nothing new in this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 29 May 2016
I read Dimbley's second book first, 'The Battle of the Atlantic'. I was so impressed by that book that I immediately bought this. Both books are excellent. Both campaigns are covered in greater operational detail by other writers but the strength of Dimbleby's approach is the comprehensive and detailed exposition of the political, diplomatic, strategic and personal aspects.

The latter is rarely treated in such detail but is crucial and fascinating. The personalities of the major players was of paramount importance to the way things unfolded, as is always the case. Dimbleby has the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt front-centre of the desert campaign, as it deserves to be. He also throws light on how and why Rommell was neither the invincible master of desert warfare, due to his own failings and the failure of Hitler to appreciate the importance of giving every assistance to Rommell to succeed. Nor was Rommell the untouchable 'Golden Boy' for his Nazi master in Berlin.

As in the war in the Atlantic and other campaigns, the unpromising, not to say perilous position of the British teetered on the brink of disaster while Churchill applied every trick in his personal and political book to coax the US, in the person of The Commander In Chief, President Roosevelt, into agreeing to his point of view and bringing Congress and the American people into the alliance that swung the situation and the result towards the Allies' victory. Dimbleby's book describes all this in the concise and readable prose of a first class journalist.

At the talk I went to where Dimbleby discussed his 'Atlantic' book he revealed he was writing a third. He refused to disclose the subject, only to say that he finds writing these books a tremendous effort, committing three years of his life in virtual exclusion from the world out side the project, including his family. On the basis of this book on the desert campaign and his 'Atlantic' book, my order for the next will go in as soon as the publication date is announced.
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on 7 January 2013
This book is an enjoyable read. Dimbleby writes with an easy and uncomplicated style which allows the reader to follow the Byzantine politics of the Anglo-American relationship in 1941-2 easily. He is strongest in the political arena - as a military history, this book is weak and unoriginal. He acknowledges the importance of tank design (and how inferior the British tanks were to the German), and the catastrophic breach of security over a lengthy period by the American Colonel Fellers, which gave Rommel an open window into British dispositions, but without going into details or seeming to realise their crucial importance. He disappointingly prefers to blame the "lumbering and inflexible" British army's failures on its class divisions. If they were so important, it is surprising that the French army - which has had a meritocratic officer corps since the Revolution - fought so badly in both 1914-18 and 1940; and even more surprising that the German army, in which a huge proportion of the officer corps sported the aristocratic "von", fought so very well. He takes no account of the inexperience of the British army and of the difficulties inherent in creating a mass army out of a small imperial police force and putting it up against a experienced professional army born of a militaristic society. Such a judgement probably reflects Dimbleby's own prejudices; especially as he seems to think that Montgomery, who was educated at The King's School, Canterbury, and St Paul's and was the son of a clergyman who inherited an ancestral estate in Ireland, wasn't part of the very officer class he seems to despise. There are a number of errors in the text which indicate either poor editing or sloppy research - for instance, the Arctic convoys did not "run the German gauntlet through the Baltic". All this points to a book written by an author whose expertise lies elsewhere. Read it for pleasure - but take it with a pinch of salt.
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on 3 January 2013
Although not a particular admirer of Jonathon Dimbleby, I could not put this book down.
Brilliant research and outstanding detail of Churchill's unyielding personality and persistance with Roosevelt and his chiefs of staff General Marshall and the Anglophobic Admiral King. His "battles" with his own generals Wavell and Auchinleck are also laid out in detail.
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on 26 April 2016
Disappointing. Title should have been "Churchill's quarrels with the generals." The actual battle takes up maybe a fifth. As his father was there I would have liked far more quotes from his astute eye. And many holes in Monty's record. No mention of his use of young and brave officers who reported back to him on what was really happening. And while he says that X General had past friction wouldn't we like to know where and how? No mention at all of Monty's rise to the top: staff college, writing of infantry manual, retreat from Dunkirk etc. On one page he says that Tobruk was of of no strategical importance, on another he says how long the supply lines were for the Axis forces. Little or no mention of the Long Range Desert Force or Stirling. And didn't thousands of Axis troops escape the Tunis surrender?
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on 18 March 2016
I have read many accounts of the desert war including Hamilton's biography of Montgomery, individual battlefield accounts and the work of historians such as Correlli Barnett. This account covered a broader field without going into too much detail and gave a clearer understanding of the more global and internal political and military issues both for the Allies and the Axis powers. Jonathan Dimbleby also had the benefit of access to Ultra and other decrypts that were not available to previous authors and has been able to explain why some decisions were made and what had an affect on some of the earlier failures and later successes.
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on 8 December 2013
Probably one of the best books I have read on the WW2 desert war. Full of insightful observations it does much to creat a clearer picture of the commanding generals ignoring all the hype and propoganda. It shows Churchill as a politician par excellance, especially when dealing with the USA, but as a pain in the backside for his military commanders by trying to get them to attack before they could succeed. In the end you admire those involved for their realistic acheivements in what was seen by many as a side-show in a theatre of extreeme conditions and scarce recources. Highly recommended.
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