The Phantom Major

  • by Virginia Cowles
  • Narrated by Robert Whitfield
  • 8 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the dark and uncertain days of 1941 and 1942, when Rommel's tanks were sweeping towards Suez, a handful of daring raiders were making history for the Allies. They operated deep behind the German lines, often driving hundreds of miles through the deserts of North Africa. They hid by day and struck by night, destroying aircraft, blowing up ammunition dumps, derailing trains, and killing many times their own number. These were the SAS, Stirling's desert raiders, the brainchild of a deceptively mild-mannered man with a brilliant idea. Small teams of resourceful, highly trained men would penetrate beyond the front lines of the opposing armies and wreak havoc where the Germans least expected it. The Phantom Major is the classic account of these desert raids, an amazing tale of courage, impudence, and daring, packed with action and high adventure. An intimate record based on eyewitness accounts, this book still stands as the definitive history of the early years of the SAS.

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What the Critics Say

"This military story is ideally suited to audio: maps aren't necessary to follow its excitement, and the reader adds a pleasing dimension with his skill at accents, reminding us of whom the story is about." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

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The Phantom Major

Despite some rather dodgy attempts at accents this audiobook is a thrilling adventure - made all the more exciting because the incidents were factual.

Less for the serious military historian than the casual 'war buff', factual backgrounds to the war in the desert are secondary to the escapades of David Sterling and his SAS (the LRDG gets good mention too).

The listener is led from one dramatic incident to another - and one can recognise many of the episodes in this book, which have been undoubtedly, influences numerous war movies.

An excellent 'listen' - though one might consider it cavalier, that is only fair as that is exactly what David Sterling was...Cavalier!

A ripping yarn!
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- Stephen

Unappreciated in his time.

This is an excellent boys own story made all the more extraordinary by the fact that it is actually true. The raids are legendary in military history and have been replayed many times in films and TV documentaries. For me however the most fascinating part of the story is how he managed to cut across military protocols and red tape to get what he wanted. His struggle with the established Victorian style military leadership who constantly tried to derail him was finally won after a chance meeting with a forwarding thinking Churchill who saw the wisdom of his vision. This autonomous band remained a thorn in the side of the generals who could do little to control them due to the spectacular results they where achieving. Not a bunch of ruthless killers but a demolition squad with incredible nerve and guile. This book is packed with information and the delivery is rather too rapid in some sections. This is the writing style (1958) rather than the narration which is extremely good. You could listen to this book as a one off and enjoy it, however I would recommend that you listen to Tobruk and El Alemein first if you have the time. These books describe the drawn out attritional war with the horrific loses going on in the desert at the time – if you then read the Phantom Major in context to these novels the impact of his actions and his way of fighting shows just how ahead of his time he was. Undecorated and unappreciated by the British military hierarchy he never returned to Britain and went on to work on human rights and equality in Africa. One of those special people who seem to turn up at the right time in History.
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- Richard

Book Details

  • Release Date: 25-02-2005
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.