Five Stars out of Five – Buy
‘F’ sub section, ‘D’ Troop, 426 Battery, in their gun pit in the desert at Bir Mentischa, Tobruk, October – December 1941. From left to right: back row, Lance-Bombardier Reid, Driver Stafford, Lance-Bombardier Williams; front row, Lance-Sergeant Renshaw, Gunners Lee, Reid and Ellis, Sergeant Smith and Gunner Reid. IWM HU 64670
To the Last Round is an oral history of the South Nottinghamshire Hussars (107 Royal Horse Artillery) by the Imperial War Museum’s oral historian, Peter Hart. Like his other books this is very readable, and very strongly focused on giving a voice to the men who served in the regiment during the war.
I can not recommend this book highly enough to anyone who wants to know what the war in the desert was like for the men who fought it.
The book is primarily based on the interviews with the men, which are well woven into a relatively sparse narrative about the campaign. The focus is always on the personal experience.
The book starts with the beginning of the war, and takes the reader through to the 6 June 1942, when the regiment was overrun by German tanks at the ‘Cauldron’.
Where the book stands out is in the insight it gives the reader about the conditions in occupied Tobruk, from the boredom of being in a fortress under siege, to the terror of constant bombardment. There are a number of photos, with most of them portray photos of the men who were in the regiment.
The book ends on the Gazala battles, where many men of the regiment died firing their guns to the last moment, in a heroic but pointless last stand. There are two interesting stories connected to Ray Ellis, who was with the regiment at Tobruk, and during its last battle at this and this link.
Room for Improvement
While there are some errors in the overall narrative (such as ascribing the first name ‘Clive’ to General Claude Auchinleck), these do not detract from reading.
This is a good quality hardback with an attractive dust jacket. Pictures are of good quality too.
The review is based on the original hardback version of the book. It was not provided for free and I have no commercial interest in the book.
Cover of the Current Edition, showing a colourised picture of gunnery practice at Kabrit, April 1941.