By Stephen Bungay
El Alamein was once the realm conflict II land conflict Britain needed to win. by way of the summer season of 1942 Rommel's German forces have been threatening to comb during the Western wilderness and force directly to the Suez Canal, and Britain was once in pressing want of army victory. Then, in October, after 12 days of attritional tank conflict and artillery bombardment, Montgomery's 8th military, with Australians and New Zealanders enjoying an important roles in a surely foreign Allied battling strength, broke during the German and Italian traces at El Alamein.
It used to be a turning-point within the battle and then, in Churchill's phrases, "we by no means had a defeat". Stephen Bungay's publication is as a lot at domestic analysing the an important logistics of retaining wasteland armies provided with petrol and tank elements because it is reappraising the strive against ideas of Montgomery and Rommel, and levels largely from the household political pressures on Churchill to the aerial siege of Malta, key to the keep watch over of the Mediterranean. And in a bankruptcy on "The Soldier's War", Bungay graphically inspires the phantasmagoric blur of thunderous cannonade and tormenting warmth that was once the lot of the person males who really fought and died within the wasteland.
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Had the prisoners but known this, and attempted a mass breakout, it is highly doubtful if the guards would have been able to stop them. On 15 February 1943 Giles Romilly was joined by another prisoner who the Germans believed shared a similar background – Lieutenant Michael Alexander. In August the previous year, whilst on detached service, Alexander had been captured in North Africa following a raid behind enemy lines. Dressed in a German uniform, he was almost certain to face the firing squad and in desperation exaggerated a distant family relationship to Field Marshal Harold Alexander, the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command.
Partially dressing, they quickly made their way down to the park where they finished reassembling their disguises as foreign labourers and climbed over the wall. The following day a passer-by spotted a pile of camp-issue blankets under some bushes and the alarm was raised, but the four were well on their way to freedom. Reid and Wardle crossed the Swiss border on the night of Sunday 18 October whilst Littledale and Stephens crossed over the following evening. 50 The flue through which Reid, Wardle, Littledale and Stephens had to climb naked in order to make their escape into the dry moat from the Kommandantur and then into the park, where they split up and each group made its bid for freedom.
As summer drew to a close, the camp authorities began to flirt with the idea of securing a propaganda coup by enlisting prisoners as voluntary workers. Unfortunately for the Germans however, the scheme failed drastically, possibly in part owing to the fact that the term which they used to signify this co-operation – ‘Mitarbeit’ – was translated as ‘collaboration’, with negative connotations in any language. The contempt with which the French, in particular, treated these overtures is best exemplified by an officer who one day, to the dismay of many of his fellow prisoners, loudly proclaimed that he would gladly work for a hundred Germans rather than a single Frenchman.