Rommel and His Art of War
Dr John Pimlott (editor)

When I ordered this book I was wondering what new secrets about Rommel will I encounter. After reading it I wasn’t really sure if I haven’t read all that before in other books.

The book has a short introduction, eleven chapters and a short conclusion. Rommel’s youth is mentioned very briefly and with hardly any details. After the start of World War I the book takes its shape, which remains unchanged until the end. It is based on Rommel’s diary entries and letters to his wife, which are supposed to show how Rommel himself saw the events around him.

His experiences in the years 1914-1918 are covered very fast and briefly, if one seeks Rommel in World War I he definitely will not get any good answers here. An even shorter chapter is dedicated to his Inter-War Years and show that most of all what is written will be focused around his World War 2 experiences.

When World War 2 actually starts there is hardly any mention of his activities until he took the command of the 7th Panzer Division in 1940 and led it with distinction through France. Sometimes the whole book is very hard to follow, since it doesn’t have any maps and the reader is often forced to look in other books if he wants to make a better picture of what the writing is about.

Rommel’s Africa campaign is perhaps the best described in the entire book. It covers his first successes and retreats until the battle of Gazala, which is surprisingly well described when compared to other chapters of the book. Another chapter that is relatively well written is his push into Egypt and the first Alamein battle.

The chapters after the second battle of Alamein take the same shape as the chapters on his pre-Africa operations. They are brief and don’t go into much detail. A few interesting points are provided by Rommel’s notes on desert warfare, on the defence measures to be taken in the West against Allied invasion and his appreciation of the fighting in Normandy in its starting phase in June 1944.

The book contains 35 photographs of different sizes, of which some are taken by Rommel himself. The thing which is often missed are maps, which should give a graphical illustration of what the text is saying. The idea of an edited diary which this book is based on isn’t bad, it just lacks the depth one would expect from it. Some notes are very short and lack the specifics such as time and place where Rommel wrote them in his diary. It is even worse with letters, which are sometimes only a couple of sentences long and don’t give any relevant information. Dr. Pimlott’s comments, which are supposed to set Rommel’s writing into context, don’t reveal anything new, they serve to connect different notes, which can’t be put together.

Although this review sounds a bit harsh I stand behind what I have said. This book is a good choice for beginners and those, who don’t look for a detailed book on Rommel. Those, who want something more detailed, can easily skip this one.

(Reviewed by Miha Grcar)

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