In This Review

Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke: War Diaries, 1939-1945
Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke: War Diaries, 1939-1945
Edited by Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman
University of California Press, 2001, 815 pp

Alanbrooke, the British imperial chief of staff during World War II, permitted a popular historian to publish excerpts from his wartime diaries in the 1950s. Those two volumes -- The Turn of the Tide and Triumph in the West -- were shocking for the time. Winston Churchill came in for some rough treatment, which outraged his admirers. (Shortly after the diaries' publication, Churchill turned his back on Alanbrooke at a party.) But scholars have long known that the unpublished manuscript of the entire diaries was rougher yet. Danchev and Todman have done a service in rendering them into a full-sized book. The extent of the material's novelty may be exaggerated; one should not take Alanbrooke's biliousness at face value. He was a man under extraordinary pressures, and the diary was a way of relieving them. But as a window on World War II and the nature of high command, this is an unequalled book -- even if one has less sympathy for this dour soldier than do his admiring editors.