Slim: the Standard Bearer by Ronald Lewin

For as long as I can remember I have been an unashamed Monty fan. I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading up on his career, and in particular between D-Day and VE Day. To this day I am convinced that he has had a very raw deal from History, primarily due to the efforts of a number of partisan US writers who have denigrated his achievements.

But having read this book, I can confidently state that I have changed my view that Monty was the most able British General of the Second World War. Why? Well, its no to say that I think any less of Monty, but I believe that in Bill Slim we have an extraordinary leader who has really not got the credit that he deserves. Ronald Lewis more than does the man justice here.

The first thing that makes Slim extraordinary is his humble origins. He came from ordinary stock from the West Midlands, and only managed to become an Army officer through the roundabout method of joining the local University Officer Training Corps – even though he wasnt even a member of the University! These humble origins meant that he never lost an ability to talk to the ordinary soldier on a personal level – a rarity indeed for Generals.

He saw action at Galipoli and the Siege of Kut during the First World War. He was seriously wounded at Galipoli, and was awarded the Military Cross. Even so, he could only remain an officer after 1918 by transferring to the Indian Army. He spent much of the period between the wars serving as a Gurkha officer. This experience of working with colonial troops proved valuable when he came to command a multi-national Army in Burma. Perhaps his Indian Army heritage has made him a lesser leader in some people’s eyes? If so, I would ague, as Lewin seems to, that it should not matter which Army a man came from.

Unlike Monty, Slim never let success get to his head. His men – officers and other ranks alike – called him ‘uncle Bill’. Lewin argues that Slim moulded 14th Army in Burma into such a motivated, effective force, a leadership that was only matched by Monty when in command of the 8th Army in North Africa, and perhaps Patton’s 3rd Army in 1944 and 1945. But it is hard to imagine the Desert Rats referring to their commander as ‘Uncle Monty’.

Also unlike Monty, Slim did not have his own band of subordinates. Whereas Monty would bring his own men from one posting to another, Slim almost always gave them men who were there a chance. More often than not they came to admire and respect him. This surely speaks volumes about the man. As well as his subordinates, Slim was well respected by his peers and commanders. The Supreme Commander during his time in Burma was Lord Mountbatten, who was a firm supporter. Slim even managed to get on famously with the notorious anglophobe ‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell.

Critics might ponder how Slim would have fared commanding in North West Europe, away from a colonial setting. Lewin’s analysis of his career leaves us in little doubt. In any case, the first time Slim had fought in the jungle was when commanding the retreat from Rangoon. As someone who was able to get on with anyone, would let his generals get on with fighting the battle without micro-managing them, and had the skills to adapt to any kind of warfare, I have a sneaking suspicion that Slim would have fared better in North West Europe than Monty would have in the jungle.

That my views on British Generalship have changed so much speaks volumes about the lucidity of Lewin’s writing. I am normally very sceptical of official biographies – very often they stray into hagiography. But this is more measured. I really would have expected it to be more popular than it is.

Perhaps as the Commander of the Forgotten Army, Slim is the Forgotten General? All the same, it should not take a new book to rectify this – Lewin has than done Slim justice.

About these ads

25 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, far east, World War Two

25 responses to “Slim: the Standard Bearer by Ronald Lewin

  1. Pingback: bpong table

  2. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was
    once entirely right. This publish truly made my day. You can not believe just how
    much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  3. Amazing! Its in fact amazing paragraph, I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this paragraph.

  4. Here is my list of the most effective Action Shows ever (in
    no specific order). The thing is that Maria is really a slave of God,
    and Captain Von Trapp is employed!

  5. This number is essential simply because it can be utilized
    to trace stolen phones. It is accessible in blue, orange, white, green, black, pink, and red.
    So, you think Apple iphone 4G is the buzzing gadget until date, huh?

  6. The Apple iphone Dev Secrets and techniques is getting
    rave critiques from those who have really tried it. Their arm band is hand-washable
    and drinking water-resistant. Another effective plan for iPhonw unlocking is Redsn0w.

  7. Remember, this will focus on any bootrom, but solely 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 firmware.
    There’s no warranty with this info. It is an activity which could take a
    month or two. After adding Tango rural Set the foundation system.

  8. In Play It, Youngster!, the visitors players form
    a circle. Being A classic favorite model, such gear is
    actually a set of walkie-talkies. You could use jelly beans or another sweets for this sport.

  9. Mafia Wars takes the 2nd position in this set of leading applications
    on Facebook. Then from the whatsapp.com site-you then get the whatsappAPK android
    record. It is not deficiencies in confidence that keeps me away.

  10. Nicely, then make way for the SIII simply because it can go on for 16.five hours!
    on a single cost! You might also need to return your telephone to a locked condition to preserve its guarantee.

  11. 1) Mail app crashes following restoring backup from iTunes.
    Launch cydia and include the following repository: cydia.furiousmod.com.
    These lists of casinos will no doubt alter as time goes on.

  12. The iPhone 3G, Mobile and the iPhone 4 all were
    introduced in June, during Apple’s developer meeting (WWDC).

    There’s a ridiculous reason to jailbreaking telephones.
    Previously, you’d to update and sync to your computer.

  13. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you could be a great
    author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back in the
    future. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts, have a nice weekend!

  14. Hello! I know this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask.
    Does managing a well-established website such as yours require a
    large amount of work? I’m completely new to running a blog however
    I do write in my journal everyday. I’d like to start a
    blog so I will be able to share my personal experience and views online.
    Please let me know if you have any suggestions
    or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

  15. You actually make it seem really easy with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually
    one thing which I believe I would by no means understand.
    It kind of feels too complicated and extremely huge for me.
    I am having a look ahead to your subsequent post, I’ll try to get the grasp of it!

  16. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog
    has a lot of unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is
    popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do
    you know any solutions to help reduce content from being ripped off?
    I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  17. Hi, i believe that i noticed you visited my web site thus i came
    to go back the choose?.I’m attempting to in finding issues
    to improve my website!I suppose its good enough
    to make use of some of your concepts!!

  18. Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing a few months of hard
    work due to no data backup. Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

  19. Excellent way of describing, and nice paragraph
    to get facts on the topic of my presentation topic, which i am going to convey in academy.

  20. Never to mention all together they also may just abandon your class.

    Have you ever wished to set your personal picture on your logon screen. Around the big
    iPad present, there is big fun in-your-face.

  21. To get a single photo, struck the camera button without
    choosing Results option. Vinyl double hung replacement windows are more affordable when compared with another kinds.
    You might want to see their hot report here.

  22. It performs a variety of tasks including marketing and cleaning a variety
    of documents leftover in Windows. Without doubt, it could function being an opportunity
    for internet sites to market their organization.

  23. If you just want to blog, leave the coding alone then. Don’t forget to check out
    the very best Android video games, which are simply a delight to play.
    For now, mark your territory outdoors the Apple device shops.

  24. Blocking that website or any other from your pc ought to only be attempted as a last
    resort. The drawback with the Amazon Mp3 App is it
    does not allow you to add tune via the application.

  25. Why users still use to read news papers when in this
    technological globe everything is presented on web?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s