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Readable, but not really military history
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.