General 'Boy' - The Life of Sir Frederick Browning, Richard Mead

General 'Boy' - The Life of Sir Frederick Browning, Richard Mead

General 'Boy' Browning is best known as the commander of Britain's airborne forces for much of the Second World War, and as the senior commander most directly involved in Operation Market Garden, the famous 'bridge too far'. As this biography makes clear he was a rather unusual figure for a senior army officer, and in particular for a Guardsman. His family was involved in the drinks industry, importing Hennessy brandy into the UK, his father sat on the board of the Savoy Hotel, Berkeley and Claridges, and the family had connections in the theatre world, and especially to the D'Oyly Carte family. Perhaps most famously he was married to the novelist Daphne du Maurier.

Browning's own professional life began with a largely conventional experience of the First World War trenches. The inter-war period was equally conventional, other than the romance and marriage with the already famous young novelist. Things really changed professionally when he was appointed to head Britain's new airborne forces, where he played a major role in preserving and then expanding the paratrooper and glider-borne units under his command. Inevitably the centrepiece of the biography is Browning's role in Operation Market Garden. This was the first time he had commanded a corps in the field, and he wasn't entirely successful in the role.

Mead goes into some detail on Browning's role in the battle, looking at the various mistakes generally attributed to him. One of the more unusual features of this book is that Mead is willing to admit to his subject's failings, while at the same time conducting a generally convincing defence of his role at Arnhem (it has to be said that Browning's own defence of the operation was rather less convincing, and was based on the idea that the operation achieved 80% of its objectives, failing to acknowledge that the final objective, the bridge at Arnhem, was really the only one that mattered).

Browning's unusual career means that this book has a rather wider scope than most military biographies, covering his life with du Maurier and his time working for Princes Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. This should make it of interest to a wider readership than would otherwise be the case, but the military elements are also well researched and presented, so it will satisfy on those grounds as well.

Chapters
1 - Family (1335-1896)
2 - Tommy (1896-1914)
3 - Boy (1914-1916)
4 - Trenches (1916-1918)
5 - Peace (1918-1924)
6 - Sandhurst (1924-1928)
7 - Hiatus (1928-1931)
8 - Daphne (1931-1932)
9 - Marriage (1932-1939)
10 - Brigadier (1939-1941)
11 - Pegasus (1941-1942)
12 - Expansion (1942)
13 - Setbacks (1942-1943)
14 - Adviser (1943)
15 - Corps (December 1943-June 1944)
16 - Frustration (6 June-9 September 1944)
17 - Sixteen (10-16 September 1944)
18 - Market (17-20 September 1944)
19 - Garden (21-24 September 1944)
20 - Tragedy (24 September-9 October 1944)
21 - Verdict (10-26 September 1944)
22 - Aftermath (October-December 1944)
23 - Kandy (December 1944-May 1945)
24 - Victory (May-November 1945)
25 - Singapore (November 1945-July 1946)
26 - Return (July 1946-December 1947)
27 - Princess (1948-1952)
28 - Duke (1952-1956)
29 - Breakdown (1956-1959)
30 - Finale (1959-1965)
31 - Postscript (1965-1989)
32 - Retrospective

Author: Richard Mead
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 276
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010


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