El Alamein: The Battle that Turned the Tide of the Second World War

Published on
July 22, 2014
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Bryn Hammond
Other Publication Information
Hardback, 344 pages, 39 b/w pictures
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Book cover

This book tells the story of the events leading up to, during, and after the battle of El Alamein from June to November 1942. Prior to this victory, the British had not been able to defeat the German army anywhere. The author uses a huge number of first-hand accounts to illustrate the viewpoints on both sides of the hardship faced by the common soldier, the decisions that had to be made by the commanders in the face of political pressure, the actions and the consequences of the battles leading up to the stand at El Alamein, and the abilities of some of the (for lack of a better term) ‘superstar’ generals in charge on both sides.

The story is mostly one of the British forces in North Africa. What most fail to realize (and the author does a good job of pointing out) is that the ‘British forces’ had a significant portion made up of Indian, South African, Australian, and New Zealander troops. The narrative leads one to feel a certain amount of sympathy for General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Montgomery’s predecessor as commander of 8th Army, who was actually handling duties as 8th Army commander and Commander Middle East at the same time. Likewise, I received the impression that the author believed Rommel, while a brilliant tactician, did not care much for the necessities of dealing with logistical problems and was concerned about his reputation in Germany. That failure to deal appropriately with logistics was one of the root causes of the eventual defeat of the German and Italian armies in North Africa.

There are two sections of black and white photographs illustrating notable persons involved in the campaigns, plus photos of some of the equipment and items of particular interest. There are several maps scattered throughout the book. At the end are detailed Orders of Battle for 8th Army, Desert Air Force, Italian Army, and German Army, a glossary, copious references the author used for the personal viewpoints, and a good select bibliography.

I learned quite a bit about the events that provided the British people their first real lift in spirits in World War II. The defeat of the famed ‘Desert Fox’ was a morale boost for Allied troops around the world and the first real defeat of German forces anywhere. It also brought to light the fact that the Italians were really not ready to fight a war.

I recommend this book. It will probably challenge some of your preconceptions of the people and the activities that occurred at this time. One can occasionally see the author’s opinion coming through, but I have no problem with that. A good read and a good addition to your library.

Thanks go to Osprey Publishing for the book and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.


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