Orde Wingate, A Man of Genius, Trevor Royle

Orde Wingate, A Man of Genius, Trevor Royle

Orde Wingate was one of the more controversial and unconventional British military leaders of the Second World War, best known both as the driving force behind the Chindit raids into Burma and for his often unusual behaviour, often appearing in camp just wearing his helmet (much to my surprise most photos, including the last one taken before his death, show Wingate clean-shaven), as well as for his ability to annoy his superiors.

Wingate has a tendency to appear out of nowhere in books on the Burma campaign, or after a brief summary of his career in books on the Chindits, so it's very valuable to learn in more detail about his previous career. The sections on the Special Night Squads in Palestine in the immediate pre-war period and on his part in the liberation of Abyssinia are of particular interest, helping to show how his theories on irregular warfare and long range penetration raids developed.

The liberation of Abyssinia was one of the more impressive British victories of the Second World War, and deserves to be rather better known than it is. A large and well equipped Italian army was driven out of position after by position by a much smaller British and Abyssinian force,

Wingate has always been a controversial character, attracting admirers and enemies with equal ease. He was clearly not an easy man to work with, mainly because he was always convinced that his ideas were absolutely correct. Anyone who opposed him was thus wrong, or an enemy determined to hold him back. Despite his eccentricities Wingate was clearly an excellent military leader, and was capable of inspiring great loyalty in the men serving under him.

Royle has produced a well-balanced biography of Wingate, attempting to look at both sides of the case in many of Wingate's bigger arguments with his superiors, and often finding good arguments on both sides (something Wingate himself rarely seems to have done!). The result is a superb biography.

1 - Father to the Man
2 - Fighting the Good Fight
3 - Officer and Gentleman
4 - Soldiering in the Sudan
5 - In the Land of Beulah
6 - Defender of the Faith
7 - Gideon's Men
8 - Marching off to War
9 - With the Lion of Judah
10 - Watershed
11 - Stemming the Tide
12 - Planning for Victory
13 - Operation Thursday
14 - Aftermath

Author: Trevor Royle
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 355
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2010 edition of 1995 original

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