on 25 September 2010
This is not a bad book; it is not the detailed history of the battle of Meiktila that I had anticipated, but it is not a bad book. What you get is a brief, competently written, operational level account of the entire 1944-45 campaign in Burma from the crossing of the Chindwin to the battle of the Sittang, centring on, but not limited to, the decisive battle of Meiktila. The author does not waste much time discussing issues at the strategic level. Why the British decided to fight the Japanese in Burma is not that apparent. Neither is it the detailed tactical history that I had hoped for; there is little discussion of the organization, tactics, weapons and equipment of either side. There are very few mentions of anybody below the rank of Brigadier. Those with a narrower interest in the battle for Meiktila itself may be best advised to acquire Edward Young's 'Meiktila 1945 The Battle To Liberate Burma', which is one of the best of the Osprey books, and naturally includes superior maps and a slightly more interesting selection of photographs than this book. The maps in this volume are quite disappointing, placed, as they are, at the front of the volume. The author also has an annoying habit of spelling important place names such as Pyawbwe, Thazi and Mahlaing incorrectly.
The author has included, as Appendices I and II, orders of battle of 4 and 33 Corps. This is a laudable effort. Unfortunately it is marred by far too many errors. For example; 19 Indian Division, a major participant in this campaign, is not included at all, while 23 Indian Division, which never fought in the campaign, is present in the OB. The most obvious errors are things like Anti Tank Companies (Mixed) for Animal Transport Companies (Mule) and Lines of Communication Reconnaissance Companies for Line of Communication Recovery Companies. These are misunderstandings, presumably based on the author's unfamiliarity with the subject matter. Other errors are just plain sloppy; the Royal Deccan Horse is missing from its brigade, 4/1 Gurkha Regiment, 13/13 Frontier Force Rifles, Tehri Gerhwel, 4 Frontier Force Rifles, 7 Baluchistan, etc. It is difficult to imagine how such errors occurred.
There is little here that is new, very little is footnoted, there is no bibliography, and the work seems to be based on quite a narrow selection of mainly secondary sources. This book will give the reader a brief and largely accurate account of the relevant operations, but is certainly not the work that such an important battle, let alone campaign, deserves.
on 1 September 2010
I've just finished this excellent account of a little-known but crucial part of the Burma campaign in World War 2. This author really knows his subject - the narrative is packed with facts and figures - but he also makes it a 'gripping read'. One of the book's many stengths is the way Mr Pearson explains the vital role of logistics, without which this great victory could not have been achieved. Field Marshal Slim has never received the recognition he deserves as a great commander, but Michael Pearson's book definitely helps to put that right!