The battle of El Alamein is one of the most famous British victories of the Second World War, a key moment in the desert war and the first major British land victory over the Germans of the entire war. It also took place just before American troops were committed to the fight against Germany for the first time, and thus gained a wider significance, raising British morale just as her importance in the war began to declin.
The main difference between this and other accounts of the same fighting is that Hammond treats the fighting at Alamein as one long battle rather than using the more familiar division into First Alamein, Alam Halfa and Second Alamein. His argument is that these labels rather over-simplify events, and ignore those attacks that went in the opposite direction to the main thrust of events at any particular time, including some quite major British attacks that were launched by Auchinleck at the time when the Axis forces are generally seen as being on the offensive and some virtually unknown attacks ordered by Montgomery before the start of Second Alamein. All of these actions contributed to the overall result of the fighting, and to the development of the 8th Army as an increasingly effective fighting force.
Hammond also argues that there was far more continuity on the British side than is often realised. Montgomery's arrival didn't solve all of the problems in the 8th Army, in particular the often poor cooperation between infantry and armour, and many of his key officers were already in place when he arrived. Montgomery's big purge of senior officers didn't really get under way until after the fighting at Alamein was over, although some were removed beforehand. Montgomery's impact on the morale of the army is acknowledged, and in particular his ability to convince his men that they were going to defeat Rommel, but that victory was achieved with the army that Montgomery had inherited.
This is a well balanced account of this four month long campaign, acknowledging the strengths and weakness of Rommel, Auchinleck, Montgomery and the very different armies that they led. The contribution of some of the better Italian units is also acknowledged.
1 - The Road
2 - An Oasis of Calm
3 - Diminishing Returns
4 - The Little Man with White Knobbly Knees
5 - Summer Madness
6 - Something Old, Something New
7 - An End Has a Start
8 - Attrition
9 - 'La Caduta Degli Dei'
Conclusion - The End of the Beginning
Author: Bryn Hammond