Five out of Five Stars – Buy
Original Hardcover Edition, 2003
First off, Tony is a friend of mine, but this is because I liked this book so much, not the other way round. This book has shaped my approach to researching CRUSADER, and it is in my view an exemplar of what a campaign study should look like. It is also a must read for anyone interested in British and Empire WW2 history.
In my opinion Churchill’s Folly is a shining example of how battles should be researched – balancing veteran accounts, primary sources, and secondary sources, with a good understanding of the lay of the land.
‘Churchill’s Folly’ is dealing with the British operations in the Aegean in the autumn of 1943. These are interesting both in a strategic sense, showing Churchill at his worst as an interfering politician with a difficult to understand feeling that the key to victory is in the eastern Mediterranean theatre, and in a tactical sense, for example because the campaign saw the last combat drop of German paratroopers in WW2 and also because it was a complex, multi-service campaign, employing British army, special forces, navy and air force assets.
The book is a detailed account of the fiasco that destroyed the Long Range Desert Group, and severely weakened British forces in the Mediterranean at a time when the struggle for Italy was getting underway.
There is a day-by-day account of the battle for Leros, and a very detailed account of flight and naval operations in the battle.
Tony has gone to great length with his research, finding German veterans, going through German primary sources, and trying to splice together the story of a forgotten battle (a term I do not use lightly), giving equal weight to both sides. That he could walk the ground on a Greek holiday island must have been a bonus.
The book has some great, previously unpublished pictures, and a good array of maps. In the appendix there are various primary documents, and the whole book is superbly documented and annotated.
What was particularly interesting to me is his attempt to confirm claims for downed aircraft using the opposing side’s war diaries. This is something that has become much easier today, but when he wrote required hard graft in the archives.
An Osprey version has recently been published. You can buy it at this link.
The book has been republished as a paperback with a different look and maybe also title in the US, at this link.
A picture book has also been published in 2013, under the title Swastika over the Aegean. Good luck finding one.