This is one of the most gripping accounts of WWII I have read. Alan Moorehead was war correspondent for the Daily Mail during the war in Africa 1940-43, ad in this highly personal account he describes not only the reality of the frontline, but visits many places not covered in other accounts, like Etheopia and Iraq. He has a vividly descriptive writing style, conjouring up powerfull pictures in the readers mind. These detailed episodes zoom the reader into the heart of the battle, yet the book still manages to give the overview of things. 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.
I am not usually a reader of military history but came to this from noticing some extracts in an anthology of writing about the land campaigns of the second world war. Alan Moorehead's pieces stood out in that book and reading the whole of his trilogy has lived up to the expectations. It is about much more than just the desert campaign, more like a diary of Moorehead's travels during the years 1940-43. His visits to the Sudan, the Middle East, India, America, London and Gibraltar all help the reader, sixty years on, to see the events of the day 'in the round.' Even events that he did not take part in such as the fall of Crete are described vividly with all the skill of an experienced war correspondent. 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 Doubtless there are things that could not be published at the time and details of decision making that were not known outside the army command at the time but certainly to me as a general reader the account had all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.
The book: really three books: '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. Very good!
Alan Moorehead was a hands on, front line war correspondent during the North African campaign of the second world war. He had an insight and a political nous worthy of, but sadly lacking in many of the political major players of the time. His descriptive battle scenes bear comparison with any work of fiction. He had a great analytical knack of where the next main actions were about to erupt within the huge war zone of North Africa. 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.
A must for any WWII buff. Entertaining and well written, this first hand account of the war takes you to places and episodes of the war that are not known at all by the general public, such as Sudan, Abyssinia, Persia or the early battles in the desert. Absolutely brilliant, it's a shame that this book is so hard to find.