Alamein and the Desert War - 1967

Military History


This book brought together a range of writers and historians to provide a new account of the life and commands of Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. It is edited by Derek Jewell.

Len Deighton provides two chapters, both of which were adapted from articles he'd previously written for The Sunday Times newspaper. In 'Ironmongery of the Desert', he writes about the importance of technological developmets in matériel to any commander. He explains how, in the conditions of the Desert War, tanks, guns and aircraft came under extreme pressure and were often repaired and rebuilt in ingenious ways.

In particular, requisitioning captured enemy machinery came to play and important party in ensuring the British Army was properly equipped. In 'The private armies', Deighton writes about the rarely covered rise of guerilla armies in the desert war, troops designed to create havoc among the enemy through quick, mobile thrusts behind enemy lines.

Why it's interesting

This is the first venture by Deighton into proper military history, reflecting his lifelong interest in the subject. His focus on detail, and the relationship between soldier and equipment, are themes which are later reflected in his other military histories.

Sample text

'Goodness knows exactly when the British middle class began its love affair with the desert, but the final passionate embrace was undoubtedly from T.E. Lawrence. Driving to Damascus in the Duke of Westminster's private Rolls Royce, T.E. disabused us of the notion that wars must become the smelly mayhem that reports from Flanders would suggest they were.'

Extract from 'The private armies'.

Related fact

The first UK edition of this paperback, entitled The Sunday Times Book of Alamein and the Desert War, was published in 1967.


Alamein and the Desert War
paperback edition, 1967

Monty's finest hour

The book starts with a quote from General Montgomery:

"The battle which is now about to begin will be one of the decisive battles of history. It will be the turning point of the war"