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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly fine appraisal of a great man., 21 Oct. 2010
By 
Ned Middleton (British professional underwater photo-journalist & author) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: General Boy: The Life of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Browning (Hardcover)
I suppose the highest honour any country can bestow on one of their former sailors is to name a warship in their honour. Of course, armies don't have warships but they do name regimental barracks after great men. It says much for the esteem with which Lt. General Sir Frederick Browning is held by the Parachute Regiment that their depot in Aldershot is named Browning Barracks.

As is so expertly pointed out inside the book's front cover, there are three elements to Boy Browning's life which might each have been the subject of a separate biography. For those who, like myself, served with Airborne Forces in a former military career, I was particularly intrigued by the way in which he was portrayed during his time as overall commander of Operation Market Garden. At other times during that military career he acted as Mountbatten's Chief of Staff and also advised Eisenhower. Such politically astute generals are normally headed for the very top of their profession but not on this occasion.

The second of those three elements is undoubtedly his marriage to the lovely, brilliant and yet exceedingly demanding author Daphne du Maurier. This is a fascinating part of his life and provides those who like biographies but dislike military biographies with an excuse to make an exception in this case. How strange to find the good looking, always immaculate and self-assured general (and paratrooper to boot!) was not so self-confident when found outside the uniform and the work which gave him that air of complete security one would have expected to find at all times. Du Maurier was a sexually complex lady with a will to match any general. Maybe she was the reason for his nervous breakdown!

The third and final part of this trilogy is his post-war career in the royal household where he eventually acted as treasurer to the Duke of Edinburgh. Alongside the Duke, it was Browning who was in the car with Her Majesty after her immediate accession to the throne. The Duke of Edinburgh also pays a warm tribute in his foreword.

Though "Boy" was just a silly nickname given to him when he first joined the Grenadier Guards, Major General Urquhart said after Arnhem that it was surprisingly accurate. Browning had a harmless vanity, a certain quality of never really having grown up.

Recipient of the Croix de Guerre in 1917, the man with the boyish good looks went on to receive two knighthoods a CB and a DSO during a life which really is worth reading all about. I thoroughly recommend this book.

NM
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great General?, 9 Jan. 2011
This review is from: General Boy: The Life of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Browning (Hardcover)
I had often wondered why there had never been a biography of `Boy' Browning. Apparently, it was because he discouraged one being written when he was alive. During my long association with writing military history I had often come across people who knew Browning and many had less than flattering things to say about him. One remarked that a biography of him would never be written because there were too many negative things about him. Well they were wrong and here it is.

Richard Mead's book is certainly impressive and well researched. It is also rather long with its 257 pages of small print. Overall it gives a very good account of Browning's military and personal life and makes a valuable addition to the history of the Second World War. Some chapters are particularly useful most notably that on the Market-Garden operation.

Can't fault the research, or the writing, but overall the book was short of some sort of excitement. It was more a progressive narrative of Browning's life, rather than a thoughtful analysis of him and his performance as an important general. I fear that something, I am not sure what, was lacking here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly strung hero, 11 Jun. 2014
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This is my second attempt. My first review was wiped out after I'd put the stars in. Browning was an unlikely husband for Daphne Du Maurier. He was sociable and liked committees. She was unsociable and hated all that sort of thing. Browning, or 'Boy' as he was unfortunately called-it has connotations of immaturity-was born to the privilege of Eton and the Grenadier Guards. He won a DSO in WW1 but was off sick quite a lot. In fact his whole life was littered with time off for nervous illness. His exterior was unflappable and competent, but he was prone to depression and drunk and smoked to excess. He was nonetheless an excellent soldier, and by the time WW2 came had been promoted so much he soon became a General. He was involved in the embryo Parachute Battalion(or whatever it was called) and helped prevent it being strangled at birth by the other services. Top Brass seem a bunch of wrangling egotists. Hitler had recognised that paratroops had a short expectation of life after Crete. Nevertheless Browning believed in them as did others, and they did well on D Day. Unfortunately there after there was a great deal of inaction, and when Montgomery proposed Market Garden in September 1944 they jumped at it. It was always risky and would only have worked if everything had gone right. Unfortunately, owing to RAF caution, they could not all land on one day and were on a loser at Arnhem from then on. Other mistakes were made, but they were not critical.
Unfortunately the film A Bridge Too Far is a bit like Braveheart-inaccurate propaganda. In this case pro American with Browning the unfairly depicted scapegoat. In my opinion the whole operation did not have sufficient resources or proper leadership-the mixture of Americans and British saw to that, and Montgomery failed to give it his usual attention to detail.
Browning was fine, in my opinion, although not blameless. He was a highly strung man, and playing his imperturbable role took its toll on his health,as did the drinking and smoking, no doubt caused by severe stress. Being Prince Philip's right hand man and living in London all week no doubt did not help, and he died before he was 70.
This is a well written and sympathetic book, and Browning comes over as as a reasonable husband-considering how difficult Du Maurier was, with her crushes on others and a good, although inevitably mostly absentee father.
He had a good and mostly pampered life. Generals seemed to live like kings with their batmen, chauffeurs and so on.
We are better off for his having existed and he comes over as likeable and able, if superficially stand-offish, like most of the Old Etonians I've met.He was charming to many,we're told,and fair to if very strict with his troops.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight, 21 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: General Boy: The Life of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Browning (Hardcover)
A wonderfully well researched insight into this fascinating piece of WWII history. Vive les paratroopers! What courageous people. Sets the record straight after the misrepresentation of 'Boy' Browning in the film A Bridge Too Far.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 26 Dec. 2014
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Briliant
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wrong man for the job, 30 Dec. 2010
This review is from: General Boy: The Life of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Browning (Hardcover)
It is shocking to learn how high Boy Browning rose,with so little combat experience,never seeing active service after end of World War one,as a guardee he relied on his social contacts for advancement whilst his undoubted abilities as a martinet made for excellent parade ground soldiers it is apparent that Browning should not have been appointed to an airborne command,a sad fact that the men of 1st Airborne Division had to pay for at Arnhem,where Browning failed to display ability,an american Commander would have displayed far more aggression,perhaps with a more positive outcome.
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