Years ago I read a short article about Field Marshal “Uncle Bill” Slim titled “Britain’s Greatest World War Two General.” It just scratched the surface of that great, atypical English warrior, and left me wondering why he was not more widely known. Thus, I was very pleased when I learned that Osprey would present him in their Command series.
There are solid grounds for asserting that when due allowances have been made… Slim’s encirclement of the Japanese on the Irrawaddy deserves to rank with the great military achievements of all time…comparison between Montgomery and Slim is relevant here…there is no Montgomery equivalent of the Irrawaddy campaign. His one attempt to prove himself a master of the war of movement – Operation MARKET GARDEN against Arnhem – was a signal and embarrassing failure. Montgomery was a military talent; Slim was a military genius. So is quoted historian Frank McLynn in the introduction of Osprey’s Bill Slim. Slim started the war with mixed results yet ended it having destroyed two Japanese armies. Montgomery denigrated Slim yet post-war, Slim was recalled from retirement to succeeded Montgomery as Chief of the Imperial General Staff; when announced officers broke into spontaneous applause!
Indeed, Field Marshal Slim received the rare public adulation of his men. Slim, recalling his experiences leading his men at Gallipoli in the First World War, took great care of his men, stating officers should never forget the smell of their troops’ feet. “Uncle Bill” was a term of respect and appreciation.
Slim’s battlefields spanned the Middle East to the Far East. The general commanded Commonwealth forces in the British Army’s longest retreat in its history in 1942, saved the army, and avoided a defeat worse than Singapore.
In defeat Slim took the responsibility. In victory Slim deflected the credit to his subordinates. He went to great pains to avoid the spotlight. In operations he did not rely on the traditional tactics of set piece frontal attack with massive forces. Slim used maneuver and guile. Even in 1944 -45 he did not have numerical superiority on the ground. Yet he achieved Britain’s greatest victories of WW2. He did so by employing tanks in the jungle – impossible according to the General Staff.
Slim wasn’t flawless; he miscalculated the speed of the Japanese advance and almost lost the battle around Kohima. Ultimately, General Slim and his retrained Commonwealth and Colonial troops decisively defeated the invaders.
Ultimately, Slim took on superior Japanese armies on their own ground and routed them, liberating Burma.
Series: Command 17
By Robert Lyman
Illustrator: Peter Dennis
Author Robert Lyman has a wealth of knowledge about Field Marshal Slim, having penned a book on him, and Osprey books of battles that Slim figured prominently in. Mr. Lyman explains the plans, organization, employment, development, leadership philosophies, tactics, and effectiveness of Slim. After the traumatic fight against the Japanese in 1942, Uncle Bill retrained his troops to depart the roads and be comfortable in the jungle. To consider not themselves surrounded if the Japanese infiltrated behind them, rather that the Japanese were surrounded! He also contrasts Uncle Bill with his vanquished opponents, Japanese Lieutenant-Generals Mutaguchi and Kimura.
Bill Slim is presented to you through 64 pages in nine chapters and an index:
2. The early years
3. World War II, 1939-43
4. India and Burma, 1943-45
5. Opposing commanders
6. Inside the mind
7. When war is done
8. A life in words
9. Further reading
Photographs and Illustrations:
Within is a great deal of photographic support of this work, World War I through 1965. Also enriching the book are three color painting by Peter Dennis, and several maps. Most of the photographs are sharp and high quality. The paintings are:
1. Corps commander’s orders group, Yenangyaung, 18 April 1942, when to save his trapped army General Slim gave command of the forces to Chinese Major-General Sun Li Jen.
2. 15th Division fighting in the Mayu Range, Arakan, February 1944, Commonwealth troops blasting the Japanese with an M-3 Grant and a Hawker Hurricane.
3. Major Henchman and members of No. 76 Column, 23rd (Chindit) Brigade at Tseminyu in the Naga Hills, April 1944
Several maps orient the reader:
• The extent of operations in which Slim was involved, 1940 – 45
• The retreat from Burma
• The Second Arakan campaign
• Imphal and Kohima
• Slim’s reconquest of Burma
This is a fine account of an exceptional commander. It is a shame that Field Marshal Slim is not better known. He penned a couple of books after the war. Thanks to this Osprey book by Mr. Lyman, I want to find and read them.
I highly recommend this book to any student of the CBI or British generals.
Please remember, when contacting manufacturers and sellers, to mention you saw this book here—on Armorama.
Highs: Authoritatively researched, documented, and presented. An excellent selection of illustrations and photographs.Lows: A de minimis typo.Verdict: Students of the CBI or British generals should appreciate this book.
About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR) FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES
I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art.
My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling!
My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...