African Trilogy: The North African Campaign, 1940-43 Paperback – 1 Jun 2000
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Journalist-historian's first-hand account of the North African campaign of WWII.
About the Author
Alan Moorehead was an Australian who came to London as a journalist in his mid-twenties in 1926. He worked for the Daily Express before turning, after the war, to full time writing books, and contributing to the New Yorker. He was awarded the OBE in 1946, the CBE in 1968. He died in 1983.
Top customer reviews
Although part military history, the book is also fascinating travel writing, his tours of colonial Africa describing ways of life that have vanished now. Moorehead always seems to find a way of enjoying a civilized meal even amidst the horror of war.
Although it took me a long time to read the book, I think in every chapter I thought "Wow Ive never read anything about this before" A truly excellent book.
The meat of the book, the ebb and flow of the battles in the North African desert, were originally three books published during the war and this book brings them all together. Doubtless there are things that could not be published at the time and details of decision making that were not known outside the army command at the time but certainly to me as a general reader the account had all the immediacy that could be asked for. Moorehead takes no jingoistic view of the events. His account is full of harrowing details but at the same time filled with humanity.
I am surprised, having read it from cover to cover, that it is not better known. It reads as a classic that goes beyond military journalism.
'Mediterranean Front' about the 1940-41 campaign under Wavell, first published 1941;
'A year of battle' on the 1941-42 campaigns under Auchinleck; first published 1943;
and 'The end in Africa' on the 1942-43 campaign under Montgomery, Eisenhower and Alexander. First published 1943.
The second book also has the story of Moorehead's travels to India and the third one of his trip to the States, but most of the three concerns the North African campaigns, where the author was a war correspondent: for the first two books based in Egypt and along Eighth Army, in the third book on the Algerian/Tunisian front. This is certainly not an official history with full overview of all the battles: it is a personal account from Moorehead's almost-frontline experiences (and occasionally real frontline ones, too.
The author: Alan Moorehead was an Australian, who in 1937 became correspondent for the Daily Express, and went to North Africa in 1940 as war correspondent. After the war he wrote many books on subjects as varied as Kasmir, Darwin and the Beagle, and explorations in Africa. He died in 1983.
My opinion: very impressive - this was written during the actions which it describes, and that gives it a very fresh feel. Moorehead is also an excellent writer, who can couple local actions with wider strategy and global impacts. The battles are described from very close-up viewpoints, from talking to the troops, to commanding generals, and from being under fire himself. It is direct, clear, simple and sensible, and very readable. It gives you a real feeling of the feelings at the time when Cairo was almost taken by the Germans, of the frustrations of the Tunisian front; as well as a series of excellent litte cameos on, say, general Giraud (reasoned, objective, with Mooreheads feelings showing through clearly - and not very positive!); or twelve affectionate pages on the corvette 'Exe' on which he travelled from Scotland to near Gibraltar.
His accounts of racing to beat his fellow reporters to the next battle are riveting, and even humorous at times.I found particularly interesting his accounts of meetings with the commanders and the foot soldiers involved in the campaigns. His analysis of the great Indian chess game preceding independence, his thoughts on great statesmen such as Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah and the sincere but slightly pathetic Haille Selassai.
Moorehead`s great Trilogy is quite simply a true masterpiece. His penmanship is superb. In my opinion this epic work is quite simply the finest true war account in existence. Alan Moorehead`s writing career went on far beyond the great battles of Gallipolli, His accounts of the great explorations, and the degredations wrought upon the recipients of the benefits of Western civilization; ( No room in the Ark, The Fatal Impact,
his White Nile and The Blus Nile) are essential reading for any scholar or would be adventurer; Indeed, for any lover of the English language.
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