I was tempted to give this book 5 stars but decided in the end on 4 largely because of its petty errors in style,expression, syntax and grammar. For example, I was annoyed throughout by the consistent use of the German word 'Panzer' for both 'tank' and 'tanks' - perfectly correct, of course, in German - but this book is written in English! Twice Mr. Kitchen writes of 'soft-peddling' when he means 'soft-pedalling'. And there were not a few other examples. Here and there he also exhibits a lack of certainty in his grasp of concepts, such as when discussing air superiority and/or air supremacy and/or 'absolute air superiority' and confusing the reader by.mixing them up. His editors in these respects let him down.
Nevertheless these details do not detract from the true worth of this book on the whole. I have read many books about Rommel's desert war from various points of view but never a more thorough one than this from the German side.
Despite all that I have said above, with all its faults this is a gripping book! I recommend it.
I began this book with great anticipation but my excitement did not last long.
I would at least expect a book published by Cambridge to be decently edited but this is not. It is riddled with contradictions and repetitions, there are frequent small errors (like referring to a German 75mm AA gun, probably vice 88mm, or first comparing and contrasting the Matilda and Crusader tanks correctly, and then a few paragraphs later calling the Crusader the Matilda's replacement).
Whils Kitchen has published extensively on German history, this is his first published work of military history, and it shows. His understanding of the German army is far from complete, and his tactical descriptions are confusing. He is most comfortable with the diplomacy, politics, and logistics arching over Rommel's head (and in this respect the title should refer to something other than ROMMEL's war), but he does not really add any understanding beyond Douglas Porch's Path to Victory, and his description of Italy's entry into the war is far less clear than Ian Kershaw's in Fateful Choices.
Most of all, Kitchen has it in for Rommel. Every action is criticised. When Rommel fails he is criticised for failing, and when he succeeds he is criticised for the risks he ran. He seems to subscribe to the American way of war with total logistical preparation, and to believe that Rommel should have done as he was told and rusticated in Libya, because the logistics were not really there to do anything else.
What he shows, though, in spite of himself, is how Rommel, with his drive and energy, played the poor cards he had been dealt to great effect. It was not always pretty -- Rommel was usually a step ahead of the British, but to get there he had to run risks, had to drive his men to the end of their strength and the end of their supplies -- the shape of things to come as the German army struggled to cope with growing numerical disadvantages as the war progressed. But instead of understanding this and recognising the roots of German excellence, Kitchen criticises it, devaluing the service of the German soldiers in the process.
In his criticisms of Rommel, though, Kitchen adds little to what David Irving published in The TRail of the Fox thirty years ago. Hardly jsutifies a new book, and Kitchen could at least apologise for relying on that neo-Nazi Holocaust denier.
This is a nice book on the campaign in North Africa. While not providing any sensational new info, much of the relevant info is here put into context. It details not only the fighting itself, but also how the political decisions made in Rome and Berlin influenced the campaign. It does, however, have some serious drawbacks.
While most contemporary students of the North African campaign agree that Rommel was a highly controversial military leader with as many flaws as virtues, this book really takes it a step further, too far in my opinion. Indeed, the focus seems to be "Rommel-bashing", using every available negative scrap of info against him, only grudgingly admitting that he had some strengths as well, usually only as he was forced on the defensive in the later part of the campaign. In addition, it even claims that Rommel never wrote about feelings when writing to his wife, while allegedly enjoying nude swimming with younger officers...
(To be fair, the book is also highly critical of the British leadership)
The work has some minor factual mistakes, while not serious, they are irritating. My guess is that the author is well conversant with the political and strategic game, while lacking the insight and knowledge of the military details.
The word panzer is used ad nauseam, and while it is true that Panzer is the correct plural form in German, it would be more correct to write panzers when writing in English and describing several vehicles. Details...
It could also have had a slightly better layout, as it can be a bit tedious and unstructured at times, and the coverage tapers off after El Alamein, almost as if caused by lack of space or writing stamina.
While the supply situation determined the eventual outcome of the campaign, this was not decided at sea. Occasionally the British effort to strangle the supply lifeline would succeed, but only temporarily. The real flaw was the lack of capacity in the African ports (even if operating at full capacity, disregarding enemy attacks and interruptions, they could never attain the level needed to support the entire army). Furthermore, offloaded supplies accumulated in the ports due to a lack of land transport to the front. This is mentioned briefly, but still too much emphasis is placed on Malta and the Brits hindering the flow of supplies.
I would hesitate to recommend this work to a novice student of the campaign. When read with a critical eye and together with other more detailed books on the topic, it can be a nice addition.
PS. Can authors please stop repeating the old propaganda lie that the Germans had to heat the armor plating of a Panzer with a blowtorch in order to fry an egg on it..? Obviously, they have never been in the desert..
the book is good in its consistency. in the 400 pages or so he makes a couple of small errors but not serious ones. He also sets the book out oddly, frequently going back over information he has already covered but the content is brilliantly researched and explained at every level. there is none better to cover the topic of rommel's phsyche than Martin Kitchen. 'nuff said