In late June 1942, the dispirited and defeated British Eighth Army was pouring back towards the tiny railway halt of El Alamein in the western desert of Egypt. Tobruk had fallen and Eighth Army had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika. Yet just five months later, the famous bombardment opened the Eighth Army's own offensive which destroyed the Axis threat to Egypt. Explanations for the remarkable change of fortune have generally been sought in the abrasive personality of the new army commander Lieutenant-General Bernard Law Montgomery. But the long running controversies surrounding the commanders of Eighth Army - Generals Auchinleck and Montgomery - and that of their legendary opponent, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, have often been allowed to obscure the true nature of the Alamein campaign. Pendulum of War provides a vivid and fresh perspective on the fighting at El Alamein from the early desperate days of July to the final costly victory in November.
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(198mm x 129mm x 37mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
A wide-ranging, technical analysis of the bitter campaign, throughout the second half of 1942, for dominion of Egypt. Barr (Defense Studies/Kings College London) examines the North African theater in the context of the larger war, and in particular what was happening on the near periphery: the Nazi airborne assault on the island of Crete, naval actions in the Mediterranean, ground combat in Ethiopia and an uprising in Iraq through which "Britain came dangerously close to losing its control of the Middle Eastern oil supplies." Charged with relieving the besieged port of Tobruk, much of the British Eighth Army found itself penned up west of the city. Even though Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps had fewer soldiers and a third fewer tanks, it threw the defenders back to the Egyptian frontier in a disorganized retreat that caused an American military attache to observe that the Eighth's "tactical conceptions were always wrong . . . its reactions to the lightning changes of the battlefield were always slow." The destruction would have been worse had the German ground forces not outrun their air support. Even so, centered on the little rail stop of El Alamein, the Eighth rebuilt its command, removing many staff officers and instituting the brigade rather than the division as the main unit of combat and movement. Though some officers were not eager to hurry back into combat with Rommel, Winston Churchill was eager to have a British victory before American forces landed in Morocco in Operation Torch, accelerating the schedule for a major offensive led by Bernard Montgomery. Surprising some observers, and certainly surprising Rommel, the Eighth rose to the occasion very capably indeed. Barr closes by concluding that in the Alamein campaign the force "was granted the breathing space it needed to assimilate lessons that transformed it from a clumsy and inept fighting formation into an effective and battle-winning army." A useful study of the war in the desert, though meant for readers with some appreciation of strategy, logistics, and tactics. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Niall Barr
Dr Niall Barr is a Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies, King's College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Shrivenham. Educated at the University of St Andrews, he previously taught military history at Sandhurst. He has published widely on British military history and has conducted numerous battlefield tours, including three to El Alamein. He is married with two children and lives in Oxfordshire.