Orde Wingate was one of the most controversial British generals of the Second World War, seen by some as a genius held back by inferior, unimaginative minds and by others as an over-rated egomaniac whose military achievements in Burma never justified the cost in casualties. He was controversial from the moment he first came to prominence in Palestine in the 1930s. His Special Night Squads were effective in dealing with Arab terrorism, but his public support of the Jewish cause wasn't popular in the largely pro-Arab British army. After the outbreak of the Second World War he played a major part in the liberation of Ethiopia, helping to defeat a much larger Italian army, but once again his methods made him unpopular and he ignored a direct order to disband his force.
His most famous efforts came in Burma, where he attempted to put his theories of long range penetration into practice on a large scale. Both of the Chindit raids were costly, but the first proved that the basic concept was workable and the second helped to develop many of the methods used by the entire Fourteenth Army during the eventual re-conquest of Burma. Wingate himself was killed early in the second raid, and command of the operation passed to Brigadier Lentaigne, whose performance in that role is also controversial.
This book is a rare example of a biography of Wingate that doesn't turn into a history of the Chindits. The text effectively ends with Wingate's death - a single paragraph gives a brief summary of the final Chindit operation - enough to provide context but avoiding the danger of judging Wingate by events that happened after he had died. About a third of the book is dedicated to the fighting in Burma, with a similar amount of coverage of Palestine and Ethiopia and the rest covering his background, early life, his main opponents and his post-war reputation. The result is a good short biography of a controversial figure that tends toward the pro-Wingate camp while giving coverage to his opponent's views.
The early years
Hour of destiny
Inside the mind
When war is done
A life in words
Author: Jon Diamond