An excellent Osprey book on the last WWII North African battle. Well written informative and interesting, the book provides a very good overview of this campaign and includes a host of black and white photos and coloured illustrations and maps. Sold at a good price and quickly delivered, Highly recommended..
The title of this Campaign book is a little misleading as the book picks up the action from the 4th November 1942 on the day when the Axis forces at El Alamein finally broke and ends with the surrender in Tunis in March 1943. Rather than `the end in Africa' a more fitting subtitle would have been `Monty's missed opportunities' as this account reads as a series of botched chances to finish the German and Italian armies starting with failures immediately following El Alamein and ending with delays in closing the gap between the advancing 1st Army and 8th Army in Tunisia in the final days of the campaign. It is fair to say that Monty does not come out of this well and it is pretty clear that the author is unimpressed by the generalship on display during this period.
From my point of view this is a very welcome addition to the Campaign series as the Mareth Line is one of those forgotten battles of WW2. Now that Osprey has covered most of the major battles of WW2 we now get down to the lesser known operations. It is though easy to see why this is an overlooked campaign. With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the Axis forces in North Africa are finished and it is just a matter of time before the inevitable surrender happens. What we have therefore is the account of a series of retreats from one holding position to another with the British in pursuit. Could the campaign have been brought to a quicker end? It's hard to know for sure as Osprey format doesn't allow the space to argue the details of logistics and intelligence although I suspect that Mr Ford believes this was the case.
The main Operations of `Pugilist' and `Supercharge II' are well described and the text and maps makes these easy to follow. A big plus point are three superb original colour artworks by Steven Noon, easily some of the best seen in any of the WW2 Campaign titles. The author has managed to find some interesting photos of the terrain which helps enormously explain some of the problem faced by the Allied forces in attacking this Mareth position. The only weakness with the book is that the final section feels very rushed as if the author had run out of space with no opportunity to summarise the significance of the campaign or the lessons learned. This is a real shame as otherwise I'd have happily awarded this top marks.
Hopefully we'll soon see an Osprey title to cover Operation Torch and I'll be interested to see what Ken Ford has lined up next now that North Africa is out of the way.