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Nearly 70 years have passed since October 1944 when Dick McCreery became the third and final Commander of the legendary Eighth Army in Italy – in succession to Monty and Oliver Leese. With his outstanding record as a fighting soldier and armoured tactician, it was no surprise to anyone that he was to be hugely successful.
McCreery was commissioned into the 12th Royal Lancers in 1915 and served on the Western Front surviving a serious wound and winning the MC. After commanding the regiment, he joined the staff of 1st Division under Alexander in 1938 before being given command of 2 Armoured Brigade. He won the DSO for his leadership during the Second BEF's attempt to stop the Germans south of the Somme in the aftermath of Dunkirk. As the Author reveals, McCreery's career nearly came to an abrupt end in Egypt in 1942. Sacked by Auchinleck, with whom he had major differences, he was in the right place to be selected as Chief of Staff to the Auk's successor, Alexander. He was later credited by Alex (but not by Monty!) for the solution to the El Alamein victory. He was promoted to command X Corps at Salerno, during the battles on the Gustav Line and in the advance to the Gothic Line.
As Commander 8th Army it was his brilliant plan to seize the Argenta Gap which enabled the Allies to drive the Germans back across the River Po into Austria. He subsequently became British High Commissioner in Austria, C in C British Army of the Rhine and British Military Representative at the UN, retiring in 1949. Remarkably, this is the first biography of arguably one of the finest British fighting generals of the Second World War and, certainly, one of the outstanding horsemen of his era. It should be read by all with an interest in leadership.
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