Andrew Roberts

An Officer and A Gentleman

Archibald Wavell: The Life and Times of an Imperial Servant


Jonathan Cape 512pp £25 order from our bookshop

There used to be a cruel quip about the Second World War that while the Russians defeated Germany, and the United States defeated Japan, the British defeated … er, Italy. It has a smidgeon of truth in it, at least up to El Alamein, but it was certainly true that on land and sea Britain did score some fine victories over Mussolini’s would-be New Roman legions of Africa. Archibald Wavell achieved the best of these, with victories at Sidi Barrani, Bardia, Tobruk, Derna, Benghazi and especially the battle of Beda Fomm, prompting his prep school to note laconically in the Old Boys section of the Summer Fields Magazine: ‘Wavell has done well in Africa.’

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