This 120 page book was originally published in 2008 in Greece by Periscopio Publications and is being distributed worldwide by Squadron/Signal Publications. The book is written by seven authors; S. Stavropoulos, S. Vourliotis, K. Pararhiras, J. Terniotis, CH.Nikolaou, D. Gedeon and N. Panos, all of whom are responsible for a specific chapter or part of the book. The artworks used are done by R.J. Caruana, N.Panos and D. Hadoulas. The beautifull cover art is "The Desert Fox" from David Pentland.
The book differs from most books being a combination of a history book and a reference book, giving thorough historical information about the Battle of El Alemein in general as well as some more specific subjects, like the air and tank forces, secret warfare, and most specially the participation of the 1st Greek Infantry Brigade at the Battle of El Alamein.
The book is organized into nine chapters. The first chapter, The Battle of El Alamein, is the lion's share of this book. It describes a complete history of the Battle of El Alemein. By doing this it explains the goals of the German forces in Africa, tells how the British troops were forced to retreat to El Alamein, and what the main reasons were why the British army was forced in a defensive role in the first place. The strategic value of El Alamein, a small place ‘nothing more than a small train station’, becomes clear after a detailed description of the landscapes and terrain. The conditions of both opponents, the 8th Army as well as the Deutsche Afrika Korps, are mentioned thoroughly as well as their famous commanders and all the involved Axis/Allies forces. And, not to forget of course, the battle itself is described in detail.
This chapter actually is a book by itself, giving all the basic information about the Battle of El Alamein and flowered with nice anecdotes and stories even more than that. For me, this chapter was very clarifying and placed my mythical ideas about this battle and its commanders in a more realistic perspective.
After this immense first chapter there are eight chapters with more specific topics. I will walk them through individually. As the name already does suggest, the second chapter Air Forces at El Alamein is all about the air forces involved in the battle. It’s an important element while air supremacy was one of the many factors of British victory at El Alamein. The chapter describes the organisation of the involved air forces, the problems encountered and the successes made. Interesting to see was the build up of the Allied forces including many different nationalities like British, Canadians, South Africans, Australians, Americans, French, Dutch and Greeks, using a wide variety of different equipment. The chapter includes 14 full colour prints of airplanes (side views) and an equal amount of black and white pictures.
Uniforms of the Opposing Forces in North Africa is the third chapter and textually the shortest. But thirteen full colour examples of Axis and Allied uniforms, ground as well as air forces, are giving a good idea of the uniforms and gear used during the dessert war.
In the following Tank Forces in the Battle of El Alamein it is interesting to see the differences in concepts of tank warfare between the Allied and Axis. While the British developed three different types of tanks for different tasks (light, cruiser, and infantry) the Germans came up with the idea of building tanks suitable for all tasks. Differences were also to be found in tactics and of course in the quantities; the overwhelming Allied superiority was of great influence. And not to forget the tank's reliability, or lack of it, played a major role. Eight full coloured side views and 16 black and white pictures are included in this chapter.
After The Battle is about Rommel's 15 day high-speed retreat over a distance of 1,130 kilometres while the Allied 'jaw' was closing and the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria opened a second front. Also mentioned is the escape of the isolated German Ramcke Parachute Brigade. This chapter also includes a short view on the present remains from the battle in El Alamein, like the museum and the cemeteries.
The far most special chapter of this book is The Participation of the 1st Greek Infantry Brigade at the Battle of El Alamein. This brigade of Free Greeks took part in the war against the Axis almost directly after the capture of Greece by Axis forces. The brigade was formed in Palestine and Syria from the end of 1941 and included from occupied Greece escaped Greeks and volunteers from the Middle East. The chapter gives an overview of the Brigade's actions during the battle.
That not all the glory belongs to the visible forces becomes clear in Secret War in North Africa. The value of intercepted radio transmission and espionage was tremendous for both parties. Until July 1942, Rommel‘s strategies were heavily influenced by the information he got from his ‘reliable source’; an American colonel, military attaché in Cairo, with a great dislike for the British! On the other hand the allies gathered information by decoding intercepted messages scrambled by Enigma machines.
Some very nice, funny or even bizarre anecdotes are summed up in the short Lesser-known Details of the Battle of El Alamein. For instance, did you know that strange atmospheric conditions in the dessert were held responsible for a spontaneous explosion of an ammunition depot, or that Mussolini’s white horse was ‘captured’ by the British among other spoils of war after El Alamein?
The last chapter The Rival Commanders describes the complete life stories of Rommel and Montgomery from childhood, through their careers and First World War experiences, to Rommel’s dubious suicide and Montgomery’s post-war NATO career.
The book is neither a full text history book nor a reference work in the meaning that it has tons of pictures and drawings. The authors collected a wide variety of topics concerning this famous battle. On the other hand, this is also a bit the weaker part of the book because some of the chapters could have more depth. As a modeller there can never be enough pictures and photos in a book for me. This art works in this book are very beautiful but some of the photos are really small in size but like I said it’s not meant primarily as a reference book. Personally, I like the book very well. Recommended!
ISBN-13: 978-0-89747-563-1 ISBN-10: 0-89747-563-1
Highs: Good description of the battle, the forces involved, and includes information on both ground and air forces engaged. Lows: Some chapters could use more depth. Some photos are small and usefulness as a reference will vary as a result. Verdict: Overall an enjoyable book on the Battle of El Alamein.
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