When I was military attaché in Rome, an Alpini general once asked me who were the ten greatest British generals. I replied that there would not be much argument about the top five but that opinion would vary regarding the others. Before I could name one, however, he put his hand on my shoulder and said: ‘The point is, we don’t have a single great general. How do you think that makes an Italian officer feel?’
Mark Urban’s book does not strictly answer the Alpini question, although undoubtedly the three greatest names are among these ten generals. Rather, Urban is interested in the historical effect that generals have – political, geo-strategic or military.