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Archibald Wavell

Archibald Wavell Book Review

By Rachel E. Veres

Date of Review November 2012 Title Archibald Wavell
Author Peter Dennis Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2012 ISBN 9781849087377
Format 64 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $18.95


"I hope in the future [Archibald Wavell] will come out of his shell; he is too retiring here; probably the Army will do this for him…. Of his character I think very well; it was nothing that was not honourable or gentlemanly." – Second Master of Winchester College, M.J. Rendall to Wavell's mother.

In Archibald Wavell, author Jon Diamond examines Wavell's strengths and weaknesses as the sole British theater commander engaging Axis enemy forces between June 1940 and June 1941.  After his promotion to Command-in-Chief, Middle East Command, Gen. Archibald Wavell directed campaigns – most notably Operation Compass – across nine countries and in parts of two continents.

Originally planned as a limited five-day raid, Operation Compass evolved into the first major Allied military operation of the Western Desert Campaign.  Wavell's 36,000-strong Commonwealth forces confronted the 150,000-strong Italian Tenth Army under Gen. Rudolpho Graziani beginning 9 December 1940.  Despite 4:1 odds, Wavell's men demolished Graziani's forces, capturing 130,000 Italian POWs by 9 February 1941!

Illustrator Peter Dennis intertwines historical photographs of Wavell with campaign maps and artwork portraying important WWII campaigns.  However, the campaign map illustrating Operation Compass' final battles should read 4-7 February 1940 – not 1941.

Although described by others as "retiring" and "humble", Gen. Archibald Wavell possessed a keen military mind.  He demonstrated how, with crucial and creative strategy, numerically inferior forces can overcome numerically stronger ones.  Gen. Wavell exemplifies leadership qualities that current and future generations should study.

Highly recommended.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!