This was the standard book at school 30 years ago for the study of the Third Reich. Reading it all these years later it has lost none of its impact. The writing style remains modern and clear and in my opinion is unmatched on the subject. Many good books have been written on this subject but Shirer witnessed events with his own eyes meeting many of the historical figures and seeing the bodies before nearly becoming a victim himself. Written in a time when reporting was still a noble art it was criticised as being anti German. For me it lays the facts out and leaves the reader to make his mind up. Despite its length superb narration makes this a stunning a thought provoking listen. Find the time.
One of the most striking statements in this book concerns the German’s asking Australians what they are doing in North Africa. At a time when Japan was threatening Australia and the war was going badly in the Pacific a large army of Australians where fighting under the British in the desert campaign. Their contribution was vital and their reputation was second to none. This is their story and I would not hesitate to recommend it. It is packed with detail from the soldiers on the ground to the Australian PM travelling to Britain to plead with Churchill to allow Australians to command Australians and to allow troops home to defend their homeland. It is a stark reminder of the power of the Empire that South Africans, New Zealanders and Indians where also there. While their existence and contribution is largely unknown in the UK, it is engrained into the memories of their ancestors as much as the Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain are in the UK. A very well written and narrated story.
This is an excellent boys own story made all the more extraordinary by the fact that it is actually true. The raids are legendary in military history and have been replayed many times in films and TV documentaries. For me however the most fascinating part of the story is how he managed to cut across military protocols and red tape to get what he wanted. His struggle with the established Victorian style military leadership who constantly tried to derail him was finally won after a chance meeting with a forwarding thinking Churchill who saw the wisdom of his vision. This autonomous band remained a thorn in the side of the generals who could do little to control them due to the spectacular results they where achieving. Not a bunch of ruthless killers but a demolition squad with incredible nerve and guile. This book is packed with information and the delivery is rather too rapid in some sections. This is the writing style (1958) rather than the narration which is extremely good. You could listen to this book as a one off and enjoy it, however I would recommend that you listen to Tobruk and El Alemein first if you have the time. These books describe the drawn out attritional war with the horrific loses going on in the desert at the time – if you then read the Phantom Major in context to these novels the impact of his actions and his way of fighting shows just how ahead of his time he was. Undecorated and unappreciated by the British military hierarchy he never returned to Britain and went on to work on human rights and equality in Africa. One of those special people who seem to turn up at the right time in History.