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 opening bombardment signalled the start of Eighth Army's own offensive which destroyed the Axis threat to Egypt. Explanations for the remarkable change in the fortunes of Britain's desert army have generally been sought in the abrasive personality of the new army commander Lieutenant-General Bernard Law Montgomery. But as Niall Barr argues in this fresh account, 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. Based on extensive original research, Pendulum of War looks beyond these arguments to provide a vivid picture of the fighting at Alamein from the early desperate days of July to the final costly victory in November.
This is also the story of how an army learnt from its mistakes. For too long the change in personalities at the top has blurred the real continuity of experience that saw the Eighth Army transform itself from a tactically inept collection of units into a battle-winning army. Pendulum of War explores the Eighth Army's 'learning curve', and shows how lessons from bitter experience were used to develop improved tactical methods that eventually mastered the veterans of Rommel's Afrika Korps.
Dr Niall J. A. Barr is a Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies, Kings College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Shrivenham. Educated at the University of St Andrews, he previously taught military history at Sandhurst. He has published widely on British military history and has conducted numerous battlefield tours including three to el Alamein. He is married with two children and lives in Oxfordshire.