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.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,