The Phantom Army of Alamein

  • by Rick Stroud
  • Narrated by Steve West
  • 8 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In 1940 a group of artists, sculptors, filmmakers, theater designers, and set painters came together to form the Camouflage Unit. Led by Major Geoffrey Barkas and including among their number the internationally renowned stage magician Jasper Maskelyne, the unit's projects became a crucial battlefield weapon. At the siege of Tobruk the unit made a vital desalination plant appear to have been destroyed by enemy bombers; from then on they used their storytelling skills to weave intricate webs of deception, making things appear that weren't actually there, and things that were, disappear, to deceive the enemy. Their stage was the enormous, flat, and almost featureless western desert.
The unit's schemes were so successful that in August 1942 the Unit was ordered by General Montgomery to come up with a way to hide the preparations for the Battle of Alamein, the biggest battle the 8th Army had ever fought. "Operation Bertram" was born. In six short weeks two divisions, with armour, field guns, and supporting vehicles, were conjured from the sand, while real tanks and lethal 25-pound field guns vanished from sight. Then, on the eve of the battle, the unit performed the biggest conjuring trick in military history. Right in front of the German's eyes they made 600 tanks disappear and reappear 50 miles away disguised as lorries. Rommel had been bamboozled by an army made of nothing but string and straw and bits of wood.
The Phantom Army of Alamein tells for the first time the full story of how some of Britain's most creative men put down their brushes, pencils, and cameras to join the rest of the world in the fight against the Nazis and played a vital role in the winning of the war.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

NOT AS IN DEPTH AS I EXPECTED

Overall, this book is alright if you know nothing at all about the WWII battles in North Africa. I thought there would be much more about the Camouflage Unit itself. Instead the men and their work is just a "side dish" to Rommel, Montgomery, Churchill, Hitler, Eisenhower, et. al. Even Operation Bertram and the battle at Alamein is relegated to the last 45 minutes of the story. I'm a rabid war buff and had never even heard of this critical and important military unit. So, for that reason, I'm glad that this story was told. But I feel there are so many layers that have yet to be revealed here. Also, Audible really needs to provide listeners with PDFs of photos and/or maps included in the print copies. I don't know if photos of the camouflage work are available in this book but they would go a long way towards helping us really appreciate the misleading tactics used by the Camouflage Unit.
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- Linda Lou

A Good History Book

This book tells the story of the British Army Camouflage Unit in the North African Campaign of the Second World War (1940-43). Surprising it is quite a page turner and does have great detail without being bogged down. If you are interested in the Second World War then this is a must, but if your thing is the North African Campaign with the 8th Army, Deutsch Africa Corps and lets not forget the Italians, then you need this book. Everybody gets a mention, South African Engineers, Australian Desert Rats, British HQ in Cairo or Rommel's adjutant. A good book worth the listen too.
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- Michael

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-15-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury