on 29 January 2014
I was first introduced to Max Reisch through his motorcycle adventure travelling two-up to India on a 125cc Puch. Apparently also an automobile travel enthusiast, it seems appropriate that like 'The English Patient' adventurer, Count Almasy, he should also find himself in Rommel's employ with the Afrika Korps albeit in maintaining the German vehicle pool.
I picked this up in Foyles interested in the subtitle, 'Desert Adventures With Rommel'. Although Rommel doesn't himself make an appearance, I bought the book as Reisch writes in such an easy, relaxed attractive style, friendly and light-hearted in tone. I can't recall his having a bad word for anyone -including his opponents !
There's little technical or historical detail beyond that which Reisch himself experienced. Whilst he describes well a recce into Siwa in Egypt avoiding Allied troops along the way, it is his time in Tunisia where the Afrika Korps made their last stand that is subject of the title. As the Italian and German armies retreated with an ever-decreasing strip of coast behind them, the Allied navies threw an effective ring of steel in the Mediterranean to halt an Axis Dunkirk, destroying any craft departing for Italy. Less than 700 of the near quarter million trapped Italo-German troops made it out sucessfully and Reisch aimed to be one of them ! It is this account that captivates the reader as Reisch's Great Escape takes shape and his plan is executed attempting to avoid the Allies, coping with violently fluctuating conditions in the Med and figuring out how to get safely to friendly territory in a small leaky under-powered boat. Does he make it ? Read it and find out ! Recommended !
on 15 August 2013
Naturally I was immediately lured towards this book due to the "Rommel connection", after all it is rare to read first hand from one of his "Afrikaner"! Reisch is a natural author when portraying his own transport related escapades, but I feel he has missed a "trick" by not writing more about the unique conditions he and his comrades experienced during the war against the Allies. Still beggar's can't be chooser's, and it is still rewarding to read of his rare feat of escapology during the impending final defeat of the Axis forces in Africa.
A word of thanks goes to the translator of his manuscript, and I dearly hope many more similar projects (translating of WW2 German memoirs) come to fruition very soon!