Alan Brooke: Churchill's Right-Hand Critic

Lord Alan Brooke was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) throughout the majority of WW2. He was Churchill's key military adviser, yet few, outside of the military or academia, have heard of him. Little has been written about him, specifically, previously and historians writing about Churchill and the other military leaders have tended to gloss over his key input. He was an assiduous diary-keeper, recording his innermost thoughts, at the time only for himself and his wife; when those diaries were published years after the war, his decision not to edit out the less favourable comments on, what were now, national icons meant that he developed a reputation as rather embittered and a moaner.

As a Gunner, my first barracks were called Alanbrooke Barracks as Lord Alanbrooke was a Gunner too. I had read other shorter accounts (cf David Fraser's brief history within John Keegan's 'Churchill's Generals') but leapt at the opportunity to review this book.

Sangster has provided us with what, I suspect, will become the definitive account of Alanbrooke's war. He treats him well - always keen to underline the private nature of Alanbrooke's diaries and make the distinction between his public persona and what he wrote in private. This is a key point: this disparity between the public man who had to use tact and logic to convince a hugely varied audience and the private man venting his frustrations should be seen as a balancing act, rather than deviousness.
AB2.jpg

The book tracks Alanbrooke's career all the way through, understandably focusing on his time as CIGS, but providing a clear account of how he got there through the inter-war years and the early days of WW2. Central to the entire account is Alanbrooke's relationship with Churchill: that the relationship lasted the length of the war (and would have continued if Churchill had been voted back into power in 1945) is testament to the value Churchill felt Alanbrooke provided. It was a tumultuous relationship, largely because Alanbrooke was one of the few people who was able to stand up to Churchill and oppose his wilder plans: Churchill recognised this, and although it clearly angered him at times, he also realised that it was a necessary balance.

My only really criticism of the book is that the editing could have been tighter. On quite a few occasions, there appears to be a repetition of facts and quotes within a few pages and, in other places, the chronology is broken with events played out of order, which interrupts the logical flow. There are also one or two odd remarks that seem to have no grounding or justification for their inclusion (eg "some have claimed New Zealanders are civilised Australians" - who has? why? what relevance does it have?).

All in all, this is a detailed account of one the most important, but least well-known, key inter-personal relationships of WW2. Sangster allows the reader to get behind the diplomatic façade and really understand what made Alanbrooke tick. This book provides some real gold dust on strategic leadership, particularly on how to toe the very fine line between the political grand strategic arena and its supporting military strategy.

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Mr_Relaxed

War Hero
Lord Alan Brooke was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) throughout the majority of WW2. He was Churchill's key military adviser, yet few, outside of the military or academia, have heard of him. Little has been written about him, specifically, previously and historians writing about Churchill and the other military leaders have tended to gloss over his key input. He was an assiduous diary-keeper, recording his innermost thoughts, at the time only for himself and his wife; when those diaries were published years after the war, his decision not to edit out the less favourable comments on, what were now, national icons meant that he developed a reputation as rather embittered and a moaner.

As a Gunner, my first barracks were called Alanbrooke Barracks as Lord Alanbrooke was a Gunner too. I had read other shorter accounts (cf David Fraser's brief history within John Keegan's 'Churchill's Generals') but leapt at the opportunity to review this book.

Sangster has provided us with what, I suspect, will become the definitive account of Alanbrooke's war. He treats him well - always keen to underline the private nature of Alanbrooke's diaries and make the distinction between his public persona and what he wrote in private. This is a key point: this disparity between the public man who had to use tact and logic to convince a hugely varied audience and the private man venting his frustrations should be seen as a balancing act, rather than deviousness.

The book tracks Alanbrooke's career all the way through, understandably focusing on his time as CIGS, but providing a clear account of how he got there through the inter-war years and the early days of WW2. Central to the entire account is Alanbrooke's relationship with Churchill: that the relationship lasted the length of the war (and would have continued if Churchill had been voted back into power in 1945) is testament to the value Churchill felt Alanbrooke provided. It was a tumultuous relationship, largely because Alanbrooke was one of the few people who was able to stand up to Churchill and oppose his wilder plans: Churchill recognised this, and although it clearly angered him at times, he also realised that it was a necessary balance.

My only really criticism of the book is that the editing could have been tighter. On quite a few occasions, there appears to be a repetition of facts and quotes within a few pages and, in other places, the chronology is broken with events played out of order, which interrupts the logical flow. There are also one or two odd remarks that seem to have no grounding or justification for their inclusion (eg "some have claimed New Zealanders are civilised Australians" - who has? why? what relevance does it have?).

All in all, this is a detailed account of one the most important, but least well-known, key inter-personal relationships of WW2. Sangster allows the reader to get behind the diplomatic façade and really understand what made Alanbrooke tick. This book provides some real gold dust on strategic leadership, particularly on how to toe the very fine line between the political grand strategic arena and its supporting military strategy.

Amazon product
Thanks for this, I read his war diaries which were a really good insight into people like Churchill, Mountbatten and Montgomery,so this looks like a good read.
 

Auld-Yin

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This is a good read about someone who did not like being in the Limelight. Without Alan Brooke to keep Churchill on this planet regarding ideas then there is a very real chance that we may have suffered a lot more during the war. Churchill was impetuous and impatient, AB was professional and considered.

This is a good book and brings AB to the public and shows what a great man he was. However, note the caveat regarding repetition as the authors continually reminds us that a) AB was a private man and did not wear his heart on his sleeve and b) that he was an avid bird watcher. The last fact is repeated many many times throughout the book and almost looks like a criticism the way it is mentioned, rather than AB's way of relaxing in such a pressurised environment that he lived and worked in.

AB was extremely loyal to his officers, as Monty found out, shame that loyalty, and gratitude, did not work its way back fully.
 
This is a good read about someone who did not like being in the Limelight. Without Alan Brooke to keep Churchill on this planet regarding ideas then there is a very real chance that we may have suffered a lot more during the war. Churchill was impetuous and impatient, AB was professional and considered.

This is a good book and brings AB to the public and shows what a great man he was. However, note the caveat regarding repetition as the authors continually reminds us that a) AB was a private man and did not wear his heart on his sleeve and b) that he was an avid bird watcher. The last fact is repeated many many times throughout the book and almost looks like a criticism the way it is mentioned, rather than AB's way of relaxing in such a pressurised environment that he lived and worked in.

AB was extremely loyal to his officers, as Monty found out, shame that loyalty, and gratitude, did not work its way back fully.
Pity Boris doesn't have anyone like that around him now - he certainly needs it.
 
Ordered - I've got a soft spot for the stiff necked Ulsterman...
 
Having read some of the abridged version of his diaries via Arthur Bryant's Triumph In The West and the more complete but edited version by Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman in their volume, War Diaries 1939-1945 Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke I have to admit I find the man fascinating. On the allied side he appeared to be, if not the only one, then one of very few who had a clear grasp of all the strategic necessities throughout the war.

His battles with many who surrounded him must have been monumental and as he writes, very very tiring. His descriptions of the debate surrounding the second front with the US pushing for an early landing in France long before there was any chance of success must have been a continual frustration especially with the realisation that eventually the US would be in a position to dictate policy.

For me what makes his diaries so compelling is that they were written on the day that he describes. As has been noted the diaries were for his wife, not posterity and so there is no grandiosity or self-congratulation going on, none of the 'history has proven me right' that so often permeates the memoirs of the high and mighty. Anyway, it looks like I have another book to read concerning the man and that is a good thing.

Edited to add that we would probably know even less about the man had not Churchill claimed credit for Alanbrooke's ideas in his history of WW2. Evidently Alanbrooke was so incensed that he agreed to have his diaries published by way of correcting the record.
 
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