Books on North Africa

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by penderel, Feb 24, 2008.

  1. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    Hi, my father served with the RA as an anti-aircraft gunner in North Africa and Italy. He mentioned he was at El Alamein but after the fighting. I don't know if this was the 1st or 2nd battle. I hope in the next couple of months to request his service records.
    However I would like to know more about El Alamein.
    Would you recommend the book El-Alamein by Bry Hammand. (It is available in South Africa)
    many thanks
  2. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Yes, ive read that book and can recommend it.
    I did a short review of the book on the forum when it first came out, a search should find it for you, cant post links from my phone.
    Actually if you look ten posts back from here I have already posted a link.
  3. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    Many thanks. I will order the book.

    (Note to self- search first!)
  4. Harryb245

    Harryb245 Member

    Two books I recommend is A view from the Turret by Bill Close (A History of 3RTR in the Second world WarPublisher Dell & Bredon ISBN -10:0953335917
    Press on Regardless Story of 5Th RTR WW 2 by Edward Wilson Publisher: The History Press
    ISBN: -10:1862272170
    Both cover the Western Desert War
  5. Harryb245

    Harryb245 Member

    Another Two books are A Tankies Travels By Jock Watt(Ex 3RTR RSM) Woodfield Publishing ISBN-10 :1846830214

    Leakey's Luck A Tank Commander with Nine Lives by Rea Leakey

    Publisher: Sutton Publishing Ltd
    ISBN-10 :0750931957
  6. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Can anyone recommend a book that includes detailed information on North African OOB's and the numbers and types of heavy equipment committed and damaged /destroyed for each significant battle up to at least the end of 1942? In particular I need to know the heavy equipment figures for both sides of the final battle of El Alamein. By 'heavy equipment' I refer to all armed equipment like artillery, tanks, anti tank guns, carriers and so on.

    It's about time that I started a North Africa book collection.
  7. L J

    L J Senior Member

    For those who want some information about the Italians,information that is more serious than the Allo,Allo stereotypes,I recommend (in the Osprey series) :Italian soldier in North Africa 1941-43.
  8. Richard G

    Richard G Junior Member

    Just finished going right through this topic to see what I've missed. A must read for those who like to get to the guts of what happened at a higher level is Nigel Hamilton's Monty 1942-1944. This book goes right into how Alamein was fought and what happened afterwards during the chase of Rommel, from both sides. A lot of the references are to official documents and to Monty's diary as well as the writings of Rommel which to a large degree cuts out later interpretations and subsequent opinion, a good thing because it keeps us closest to what actually happened and why.

    It's warts and all, it looks at mistakes made and why, particularly it reveals the failings of Rommel after Alamein which were significant and which eventually saw him relieved of command. As well as looking at the leaders it examines the British way of doing things, the good and the bad and how they changed as a result of experience and the need to match professionalism with like. Lots of depth and detail, including comments like how Australians were admired but not particularly liked ;)
  9. James Colvin

    James Colvin Member

    Hi, have just published (by Helion) 'Eighth Army V. Rommel: tactics, Training & operations in N Africa 1940-42 - seems well liked by those who have read it !
    James Colvin
  10. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Just a note that I am still trawling through my review copy, but would highly recommend this to anyone interested in the war in North Africa.

    All the best

    Chris C likes this.
  11. jwsleser

    jwsleser Active Member

    For those who wish to read an account on Alamein written by the third army involved, give The Three Battles of Alamein a try. This is a translation of the second part of volume III - El Alamein from Mario Montanari's excellent history of the North African campaign, Le operazioni in Africa settentrionale. This translation by the USSME (the Italian Army Historical Office) is pretty good, with only a few awkward phrasings. The only shortcoming is that the 46 allegati (appendices) were omitted from this translation. Many of those were the actual orders and correspondence which are valuable to those studying the campaign. Montanari weaves in UK and Commonwealth accounts, making his history arguably one of the best balanced accounts of the war. 56 maps and sketches are included.

    Pista! Jeff
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  12. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Took me a bit of searching to find my copy but I agree with Jeff that it's an excellent source.
  13. jwsleser

    jwsleser Active Member

    After writing a book on armor warfare in in Russia and several other WW2 titles, Robert Forcyzk has stepped into the campaign for North Africa. This is the first book of his I have read, so I can't compare Desert Armour to his earlier works.

    After reading Desert Armour, I do recommend it as it offers a different take on the why's behind the events in A.S. IMHO it provides reasons for students of the campaigns to take a closer look at the leadership displayed by all sides. I do have some issues with what the author provides, but it is more in the realm of supporting his argument rather than the argument itself.

    It is an attractive book. Numerous pictures and color equipment drawing fill the pages, with a good mix of UK, German, and Italian photos. There are several organizational wiring diagrams, but not enough to support the discussion. A German May 1941 panzer division diagram is provided on p.171 that can be used for Crusader, but no corresponding UK or Italian armoured division diagrams are included (the 7th Ar. Div. diagram on p.117 is Dec 40). The color maps are quite nice and very clear, but don’t support Forczyk’s argument as well as they could have (further elaboration below).

    My first thought after completing the book was it should have been named Desert Armour Commanders as Forczyk really focuses on the commanders and their decisions. Forczyk provides a different assessment of the strength/weaknesses of the armour leadership during the campaign than one normally finds in works on North Africa.

    The subtitle should have been 'Why Rommel should have been fired.' I have always felt that Rommel has been vastly overrated and realized that he needs a serious biographer to peel back the onion skins on his leadership abilities in WW2. I believe that Forczyk has opened that door and someone will finally do some deep research and write a detailed study of Rommel's command in A.S. This alone made the book fresh for me even as I felt that the author didn't really offer anything new in terms of research.

    On that note, what Desert Armour really offers is analysis, not some earth-shattering new discoveries from the archives. This is a mixed blessing as while the analysis is refreshing, he skimps on supporting his arguments with details. This is most noticeable when the first part of the book discusses the armour doctrine of the three countries but it isn’t often tied to crafting an in-depth examination of the decisions during the phases of the campaign which follow.

    My main difficulty with the book was the lack of supporting material for his arguments. For example he doesn't provide a timeline on Gott's orders/messages during Crusader in support of his statements that Gott basically did nothing at times. While the maps were nice in showing the actual actions, better would have to use them to outline the options/issues he presented. The maps tended to be more tactically focused when he is addressing operational issues which limited the maps’ usefulness to support the discussion. Only one map, the planned British operation for Crusader (p.223) showed an operational level situation in support of the narrative. Compass, the first Axis offensive, and the frontier battles lack any map/diagram of the operational situation/challenges facing the leaders when he was addressing their decisions.

    Forczyk’s bibliography is rather thin, especially when looking at his use of Italian sources and the lack of British War Diaries. He does cite a few additional sources in his footnotes that aren’t listed in his bibliography. However the book is light on footnotes, a negative given the nature of his argument and the lack of detail in his narrative.

    As the Italian military is the focus of my research, I purchased the book to discover what Forczyk possibly offered. He does address the Italians, but it quickly become clear that his research on their involvement in the campaign wasn't very deep. He mentions the discussions of guerra lampo (fast war) but never addresses the actual doctrine that was adopted, guerra di rapido corso (war of rapid progress). His discussion of the Italian side of the events leading up to and including Compass are basically a straight account of events rather than delving deep into the Italian command problems. In his discussion of Crusader, the decisions of Gambara and Piazzoni aren’t even mentioned (Crüwell’s famous ‘Wo bleibt Gambara?’). In the end, I felt what he provided was more reflective of attempting to be inclusive rather than a serious look at the Italian armored leadership.

    In all, I do recommend this book for the way it offers a different viewpoint of the battles covered. It is a solid account of the campaigns with some interesting thoughts thrown in. It will generate discussion on various forums.

    Pista! Jeff
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2023
    Rfn1940, Charley Fortnum and Chris C like this.
  14. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    Thanks for the review, Jeff!

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