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on 18 May 2017
You forget what true journalists used to write like. Clear, evocative and immediately puts the reader on the spot. Also a surprising breadth of view of the campaign in the middle East.
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on 22 August 2017
Excellently written, wonderful depth of knowledge of the political/military situation. Given its age it is still a seminal work on the subject of the desert campaign. I consider it to be far better than many more modern books on the subject.
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on 8 July 2017
One of the best accounts of the war in the desert, a must read for anyone interested in the subject.
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on 31 August 2017
Best book about this area of conflict you will ever read. Moorehead is a master storyteller.
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on 24 August 2017
might have been written in the war years but was to read now. Excellent.
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Well informed.Beautifully and methodically written.
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on 21 August 2017
Interesting reading
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The book: really three books, and really 'African trilogy' brought out under a new name. These are
'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!
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on 20 March 2012
Alan Moorehead is now best known as the author of the classics 'White Nile', 'Blue Nile' and 'Galipoli'. But he made his name as one of the greatest Second World War correspondents, particularly covering the war in the western desert. This book covers his three years there, from the beginning of Wavell's fantastically successful campaigns against the Italians through Rommel's victories and British disarray - including graphic accounts of secret documents burning in Cairo - to America's entry, the Tunisian campaign and eventual victory. (A caveat - Moorehead was away for the crunch El Alamein battles, so don't buy it for them.)

This book is therefore both one of the great pieces of war writing and the best book, contemporary or modern, that I have read about the desert war. Moorehead covers many of the controversies that still rage today - Montgomery vs Auchinleck, relative fighting qualities of Germans, Italians, British and Americans - and relative importance of generals, equipment and tactics. Moorehead's judgements sound convincing to me - all the more so coming from someone who spent three years there. More importantly, the sense of detail and place - swimming in the Med after a long drive to the front lines, fly blown mess halls, a luxury liner gutted and turned into a troopship - that no modern book, even one quoting from sources, could ever match. He covers life as a war correspondent, how to report on Churchill, and reportage from a bomb run to some of the last classic naval warfare. His sidetrips from the Ethiopia campaign to a war time visit to New York - and the trips to get there - are snapshots of the war single issue books inevitably miss out. I can't recommend it enough.
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on 16 April 2016
Although the title "The Desert War" does suggest a coverage of the entire North African campaigns, as other reviewers have underlined this book isn't that. It is a stepping off point for further reading, but a very well written one which encourages one to pursue the subject. Moorehead was a non-combatant at the front, or just behind it, and although one has to imagine what those facing life and death in the cold and heat - and sand - encountered, his mobility and contacts with the HQ staffs gave him a much broader view of what was happening than any unit commander could acquire. His acount of the trials and tribulations of being a war correspondent are interesting, too, but not to the point of intruding upon what he saw, heard, and felt; or what the fighting men and affected civilians thought, either.
Whilst lacking continuity (most obviously from the moment Montgomery replaced Auchinleck before El Alamein), Moorehead's forays into other spheres are equally well thought out and observed. India at the time of Sir Stafford Cripps important mission sheds light on the beginnings of a whole separate story, for example. The jaunt south, observing a part of the routing of the Italians in Abyssinia explains much. And his return to North Africa in Algeria and Tunisia to cover the end of the German/Italian adventure is, I felt, a bonus, as he would not have seen nearly as much had he been chasing progress behind the Eighth Army. Moorehead's strength lies in his ability to observe, gather together and then recount the essential in a manner which gives both fact and flavour.
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