Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1942-44

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    John Grehan & Martin Mace
    This is another in the excellent series from Pen and Sword on the Despatches From The Front series. As has been said in previous reviews, these are not the story of the events but are the Operational Reports written by Commanders, often well after the action(s) and which they have had time to think about and present in their best light. That caveat aside, these are excellent books which any historian would appreciate and give the opinions of very senior commanders on operations undertaken during WW2, in this case North Africa and The Middle East.

    To give an example of the time frames here, the despatch submitted by Field Marshall Alexander covering the period August 1942 to May 1943 (El Alamein to the end at Tunis) was submitted to the Secretary of State for War on 23rd May 1947. These therefore, are not exactly contemporaneous notes. One has to bear in mind that there was a lot going on and the war did not end in May 1943 to Alexander would have been extremely busy.

    There are five separate Despatches:

    1. Alexander’s as noted above

    2. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham on the naval operations in support of Operation Torch October – November 1942 submitted 30 March 1943

    3. Lt Gen KAN Anderson’s Despatch on Operation in North West Africa (1st Army inTunisia) 8 November 1942 t 13 May 1943 submitted in 7th June 1943 (but with a note by the War Office dated November 1946)

    4. Gen Sir H Maitland Wilson on Operations in the Middle East February 1943 to January 1944 - post Alamein and set up to ensure adequate command and control over the Eastern Mediterranean area while the fighting against the Germans under Rommel moved ever more westward.

    5. Finally a very short report by Admiral Cunningham on naval operations in the Sicilian Straits towards the end if the North Africa campaign May 1943, submitted November 1943.

    A very comprehensive set of Despatches covering the fighting on land, sea and in the air post El Alamein and up to the Sicilian landings. The reports are, as one would expect, very dry and official with the human element virtually written out of the documents. The point of these documents is to have a record of events and how they were met and dealt with, which these Despatches do very well.

    This is not the book for the casual reader, but anyone with a grounding in the actions in the Mediterranean area will get a very good overview of the actions as seen by the Commanders.

    3.5 Mr Mushroomheads for a very interesting book.

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