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As a 50's UK baby It's quite worrying that the glory of the allies 2nd WW seemed to be predominantly due to Russian sacrifices and USA industrial might overcoming an impressive German war machine and Japanese elitist incompetence than any real UK capability. That's not to say individual heroism was lacking, But again it's clear that other than the motivational skills of Churchill, Most UK Generals, especially during the early war years, were pretty much tossers. The statistical losses are truely boggling.. and no comfort whatsoever on an individual level.

An must read book, but neads time.
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on 7 May 2017
IMHO this book is a masterpiece. Max Hastings' books are always a good read and this one is a real page -turner. It is the eye-witness reports from people at the bottom of WW2. and its effect on them that set this book apart. I find it hard to avoid comparison, however tenuous, with the behaviour of Germany and Russia now compared to the 1930's and 1940's. Britain has its skeletons in the cupboard but none so numerous as the aforementioned countries and I would not trust them one inch. Ruthless? We in our little island do not know the half of it!
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on 21 January 2013
I'm keen on bottom-up history as a complement to top-down stuff and Hastings strikes a good balance. He points out that '...only a tiny number of national leaders and commanders knew much about anything beyond their immediate line of sight. Civilians existed in a fog of propaganda...' Quotes and/or descriptions of the experiences of soldiers in the front line, of displaced persons, of citizens subject to bombing, of victims of the Final Solution, of armies looting, raping and killing, and so on, make chilling reading.

What I found really interesting are the fresh perspectives given. The battles in Italy are an example. '...The wild Italian countryside and the hospitable customs of its inhabitants prompted desertions from the Allied armies on a scale greater than in any other theatre...Thirty thousand British deserters were estimated by some informed senior officers to be at liberty in Italy in 1944-45 - the equivalent of two divisions. These are quite extraordinary figures, which deserve more notice in narratives of the campaign...Alexander itched to reintroduce the death penalty as a deterrent, and a British divisional commander, Bill Penny, agreed: "Shooting in the early days would probably have been an effective prophylactic". But capital punishment was deemed politically unacceptable'.

A Lt. Alex Bowlby noted '...that most of his men performed their duties at the edge of mutiny. One would-be deserter removed by military police shouted back defiantly to his comrades, "I'll be alive when you're all f****** dead"...' (Note: the word in asterisks here is given in full in the text, but is this not allowed in this review)

Amongst other things this underlines the character of our largely citizen army in a democratic society. Russians, for example, shot their deserters on a massive scale as a matter of routine. Our soldiers had lost belief in their role in Italy and were dismayed that Mediterranean operations commanded diminishing attention at home. '...We are the D-Day dodgers in sunny Italee... they sang'.

Hastings explodes the conventional treatment of many campaigns. Not that Hastings loses the broader picture - far from it. Overall, this book is a magnificent achievement. I recommend it highly. But I would also recommend reading 'Britain's War Machine Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World' by David Edgerton - to give an alternative view of the British position at the outbreak of hostilities.
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on 14 October 2012
A fantastically written book, in the great style that we are used to from Max Hastings. He has Set himself a big task to cover all of the second world war, and this makes a valiant attempt. However I do feel maybe one book volume does not do full justice to this important part of our history. It is still a fantastic read and would highly recommend it.
However, I have to point out that the publishing cartel are really taking their customers for a big ride. The printed version of this book, with all the costs of printing, distribution, storage, shipping to customers etc., was 50% cheaper than the kindle version. Work that one out. An electronic version of this book costs virtually zero to distribute, store and no printing costs. But the publishers and Amazon think it is OK to make huge profits on kindle version. They are happy to fleece their customers. If they can make a profit on the printed version which is 50% cheaper, then they could make a decent profit on the kindle version for the same price. But no, they want to make huge profits instead. If publishers and Amazon are not careful, then e-books/kindle books will go the same way as CD sales. Customers are not stupid and do not like been taken for a ride. I went and purchased the printed version, you would be crazy to pay 50% more for kindle version.
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on 16 January 2013
"All Hell Let Loose " is an important book; everyone should read it. It is readable; the judgements are as far as I can tell fair if uncompromising; it is comprehensive.
The book has though destroyed one of my illusions. I had thought that the generals in the 2nd World War were on the whole competent; it would seem that few were. But at least in contrast to the Great War, battles were won and lost, and resulted in advances and retreats of hundreds of kilometres not at best hundreds of metres. The Great War was unnecessary. The Kaiser wanted a place in the sun for Germany not to obscure the sun for everyone else. It was a 19th century war fought with 20th century weapons. The 2nd World War on the other hand had to be fought.
The book made me realise the extent and the depth of the brutality and hardship in a way that I had not before. I have asked myself how I could have avoided knowing. I was 10 when the war started. We were I think rarely lied to but we were presented with a sanitised account and I suppose that, reinforced by post war films, is the image I have accepted. I had nothing in my immediate experience to challenge that. My father was too old to fight and so were the fathers of my friends. One of my brothers was medically exempt and the other was a physicist working on RADAR. Their friends were conscripted during the later years of the war and one didn't survive. Bill Whitaker was lost on his first operation, a thousand bomber raid. Colleagues a few years older than me served and one lived through the Dutch occupation. Emile Wolf, a Czech Jew who visited us often lost his family in the holocaust. I could have asked them about their experiences but it never occurred to me to do so, partly perhaps because of the image of the war we had been presented with. I doubt they would have been forthcoming had I asked.
Personally I suffered little. Bristol was heavily bombed but I certainly was not frightened. My mother was a poor cook with a fetish for economy so our diet was not much worse than before.
I accept that Max Hastings account is essentially true. The horrors of the eastern front and the Far East are beyond comprehension. I suspect though that for many who served elsewhere, the war was in the main just uncomfortable. For a fair number as Hastings makes clear, the war was a liberating experience. But for many in Britain the war made relatively little difference; it made little difference to me.
I fear I have not written about the book itself. I can only repeat that it is an important book, an impressive achievement and should be read by everyone. The world may be a violent and unstable place but nothing like it was 70 years ago. We should all be constantly aware of that.
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on 26 July 2012
I enjoyed reading this book when it came out in hardback and I certainly learnt many things about the war that I was unaware of.

I suspect that like most of my generation, we were spoonfed the idea that the most importannt areas of the conflict centred around Western Europe, D-Day etc. Hastings certainly opened my eyes regarding the importance of Russia in the war.

I did find the book hard work in places even though I finished it. I put this down to the sheer breadth of the subject. However having more recently bought Anthony Beevor's 'The Second World War' I must say that the latter makes a far more riveting read and would be my first choice on the subject.
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on 21 July 2012
I really enjoyed this book. It is very long and it's always a bit tricky to gauge the length of kindle books. It actually ends at 80% as the rremaining 20% is made up of pictures, footnotes, and an index.
The book's great strength is the way it includes personal recollections from ordinary people in the narrative. Hastings makes judgements about the military figures which I am not competent to evaluate but sound about right.
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on 23 April 2017
Looks good condition
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on 18 May 2017
good factual account
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on 1 November 2015
Everything else is a poor imitation
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