I seem to have been more than a little marooned in the desert of late. It has become affixed in my thoughts thanks to Bryn Hammond’s excellent account of Alamein and that stunning account of the camoufleurs. Then we had the biography of Dick McCreery which spent a fair amount of it’s time up to it’s gaiters in sand.  There was Nap Murray, that fine general we so admired last year, who was seriously wounded at Alamein, who was recalled by McCreery; and you see how they all link together – a bit like a family and in away you have the British Army in microcosm.

But now we head west to the opposition and the fabled Afrika Korps. These two books appear at the same time and the winner is you the book buying public. At first I thought how mad, how inept are Pen & Sword? There must be some duplication, right? The same snaps in two books with differing prices etc, etc. Wrong. As far as I can tell there are no duplicates. The books have entirely different sets of photographs and are supported by excellent captions. So, if you are looking for reference material for model making or you are just fascinated by the desert war then this is a bit like a mini Holy Grail month for you. What’s not to like?

Alistair Smith is back with another stunner from the Images of War series. He has chosen some genuinely amazing images from the collection of James Payne who rommels-desert-warriorsruns Through Their Eyes which you can find on the internet. As usual Alistair goes to great lengths to explain the background of what we are looking at and much of the detail behind each picture. This book is up to standard with the very best of all the others in this series. I’ll save you the yawn of describing the photos. You’ll see Germans in shorts and Germans in long trousers. We have Germans driving tanks, motorcycles and trucks. There are Italians doing stuff and Brits in silly hats who met an uncertain fate. I’m not simplifying it, but why get too deep? You know what to expect from these books and you know it’s the desert, right?

Michael Olive and Robert Edwards’ book is from the Stackpole Books stable across the pond. It is glossy and sharp and has one of those nice colour sections on uniforms we last saw in a similar book on the Eastern Front which I raved about last year. This volume is of equal quality, nothing more; nothing less. The photographs are fantastic. I think I might have seen one or two of them before, maybe in a volume of Purnell’s History of the Second World War; I can’t be sure, but who cares? It is absolutely class. Five star. Nuff said.

So, I am replete. The desert sun has set on my bookcase and although I can see there are some personal accounts from the blue to catch up on and I’ve had an email from the nice lady at Pen & Sword hoping I will read one of them, I have moved on to another foreign field and I’ve got sand in my laptop.

Mark Barnes

By Alistair Smith
Published in soft back By Pen & Sword Military £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84884 807 8

By Michael Olive & Robert Edwards
Published in hardback Pen & Sword Military £19.99
ISBN: 978 1 84884 866 5

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.