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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 16 February 2018
Interesting details of all the WW2 Generals. Each one has a different writer so inevitably some are better than others.
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on 21 February 2014
Potted biographies written by insightful and passionate authors. Inspirational read on a wide variety of richly talented and dedicated individuals.
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on 25 April 2015
Fascinating book - especially Carton de Wiart.
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on 12 December 2014
Informed. The difficulty of Trained Generals dealing with a gambler with little ability in high command and a poor judgement.
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on 14 January 2018
This excellent book provides broadly sympathetic introductions to several of the key (or more well known) British Generals of the Second World War written by experts in their field - either academics or retired senior officers. Although written by different authors, a central theme through each chapter is the subjects relationship with Churchill and his impact on their career.

As stated above, each chapter is broadly sympathetic to each subject, including those adjudged to be failures such as Perceval. When criticism is due, it is forthcoming but always a more positive feature of their personality or generalship is included. The inclusion of the timeline of the life and career at the end of the chapter dedicated to each subject is useful. The choice of subjects means that every campaign and theatre are covered including the political and diplomatic arenas.

As ever, there are negatives. Firstly, not all subjects had their photo included in the photo section and secondly the book could have had a couple of extra individuals to look at. For example, Freyberg, who was certainly one of 'Churchills Generals' and an important figure in the Mediterranean campaigns, or Browning the Airborne leader, spring to mind.

However, all in all this book sets out what it means to and is worth revisiting again and again. If you want the biography of almost every general in the British Army in the Second World War, then try the equally excellent Churchills Lions by Richard Mead, but if you want to know what well known military historians think of the key figures in the British Army during the War, this is the book for you.
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on 6 June 2014
I came across this in a bookshop in Fredericksburg , Virginia and it is one of the best buys in a long time. It's a classic for the amateur military enthusiast as well as the professional. John Keegan (I was one of the many cadets at Sandhurst that he taught) has gathered some fascinating biographies from a range of talented writers and produced a work that is both educational and entertaining in equal measure. The reader gets to learn a little more of the personality of each subject and the relationship with a Prime Minister at a critical time for both. I particularly enjoyed how well some of the lesser known figures are treated - I came away with a much greater feeling for Field Marshal Dill. If you wanted to define 'service' then perhaps you don't need to look much further than him? The joy of this anthology is that you can range back and forth and have the luxury of taking a break as necessary. It's a great one for the kitbag (or bergen). Great as a gift for a military relative or for anyone interested in this period.
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on 11 December 2008
Had this book stuck just to exploring the relationship between Churchill and his generals it might quickly have become wearying but it has a much broader reach. There is sufficient biographical detail on the 20 generals studied to give each some 'shape' apart from his military exploits.

The chapters are by different contributors yet John Keegan has done an excellent job of smoothing the edges. So although not quite seamless, the book hangs together well and covers similar ground for each general. It is a matter of minor regret that only one chapter attempts a real psychological appraisal of its general and that is borrowed from Dr Norman Dixon's "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence".

To a reader with some knowledge of 20th century conflicts and WWII in particular, the book manages to provide a quite fresh "top down" perspective lacking in many other works. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 2 March 2008
This book covers a number of Churchill's main generals, together with some add-ons like Carton de Wiaart. The authors are mostly Royal Military College Mafia, and the style is short and punchy. You are will not find an Ian Kershaw book hiding in here but some chapters are excellent (Dill for example) and all are effective at getting the outline of the man's life and career clearly in mind. I found the chapter on Percival the biggest surprise from my Big Book of Stereotypes. I thought the chapter on Monty the weakest.
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