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Pendulum of War

UK Publisher: Jonathan Cape

A compelling new history of a crucial turning point in the Second World War which also provides a detailed picture of the British Army at a critical stage in its fight against Hitler’s Germany. In late June 1942, the dispirited and defeated British Eighth Army was pouring back towards the tiny railway halt of El Alamein in the western desert of Egypt. Tobruk had fallen and Eighth Army had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Rommel’s Panzerarmee Afrika. Yet just five months later, the famous bombardment opened the Eighth Army’s own offensive which destroyed the Axis threat to Egypt. Explanations for the remarkable change of fortune have generally been sought in the abrasive personality of the new army commander Lieutenant-General Bernard Law Montgomery. But as Niall Barr shows in this new interpretation, based on extensive original research, the long running controversies surrounding the commanders of Eighth Army – Generals Auchinleck and Montgomery – and that of their legendary opponent, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, have often been allowed to obscure the true nature of the Alamein campaign.

This book is the story of how an army learnt from its mistakes. The focus on personality has blurred the continuity of experience that saw the Eighth Army transform itself from a tactically inept collection of units into a battle-winning force. Pendulum of War explores how the Eighth Army learnt from bitter experience to develop tactical and operational methods that eventually mastered the veterans of Rommel’s Afrika Korps and provides a vivid and fresh perspective on the fighting at El Alamein from the early desperate days of July to the final costly victory in November.

Praise for Pendulum of War:
‘Niall Barr has produced what deserves to become the standard work on the desert war in 1942’ – Professor Richard Holmes, RUSI Journal

‘A wonderful recounting of the British campaign in North Africa. … Barr captures the struggle of the soldiers and resolve of the leaders, and the learning process of war. Even more, he portrays the internal politics of the British high command and the relationship between generals and politicians with subtlety and insight that few writers of military history have matched. … This is not only an exceptionally clear and detailed look at the battles in the western desert, but also a superb study of organizational leadership in crisis’ – General Wesley Clark, Washington Post