Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Book Review - The Alexander memoirs 1940-1945 by Earl Alexander of Tunis

The Alexander memoirs 1940-1945 by Earl Alexander of Tunis, Foreword by Shane Alexander, Introduction by James Holland

London : Frontline Books, 2010                                    ISBN 9781848325678

More reminiscence than true memoir, this short book in three sections ("The Desert", "Two Defeats", and "Italy") contains writings by General Alexander about his activities in World War II, and his descriptions of the actions that he presided over in France, Burma, the Western Desert and in Italy.

Each section starts with some personal stories and character sketches of other commanders (Eisenhower, Patton, Montgomery) or political figures (Churchill, Macmillan, Tito) and is followed by a section of maps and description of the battles and campaigns mentioned in the text.

There is little new material in this book, but what is portrayed well is the character of Alexander. He was universally liked by troops and other commanders, and was renowned for his smooth management of combined Allied armies, and this book shows why. He is good-humoured, gracious and humble, while fully knowing his mind, as well as being a good judge of character.

The most interesting sections of the book are how Alexander describes dealing with Churchill - curbing the Prime Minister's greater follies and encouraging him when he had a good idea - and his description of Montgomery, who Alexander felt has been somewhat roughly dealt with by post-war historians, while acknowledging his flaws.

Naturally the reader finds much justification for the Italian campaign within the text, with Alexander noting how much enemy material was tied down by his troops, and bemoaning how many of those troops were moved away to other busier theatres of war as time moved on. He has nothing but praise for the men of the line, even when he finds faults with their commanders.

Overall this book is easy, but not required reading.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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