A Strange Campaign
The battle for Madagascar
By Russell Phillips
First off I should say I know Russell Phillips and have communicated with him via email, etc over quite a few years usually over our mutual connection to the SOTCW, he and his family actually stayed ay our guesthouse in Swansea once too.
All this being said regular readers of this blog know I have a somewhat obsessive interest in all things French and have actively studied the conflict between Britain and her former ally (now Vichy France) after the collapse in 1940; so a new book on one of the lesser know campaigns of WW2 is right up my alley.
Now I don`t game the Far East, so even though I was aware of the invasion of Madagascar it hasn`t really been on my radar as a possible wargames project. In fact apart from Chris Buckley`s "Five Ventures" and Colin Smith`s "England`s Last War Against the French" and a very good mini-campaign about the seizing of Diego Suarez which was publish in the SOTCW Journal I`m not sure I`d ever read anything else about it!
The book is well written in an easy, not too technical style.
It explains the reasoning and planning behind the operation, and in the appendix gives excellent orders of battle for the units involved on both sides. The various stages of the different operations are covered in reasonable depth and some quite interesting tabletop actions could be developed from the text. There are a few B/W images, but some excellent maps.
The author also covers the political discussions and the actions of SOE on the island pointing towards these brave undercover operatives and their gathered intelligence being a huge part in the campaigns overall success.
The campaign saw several innovations which the Allies would later use in the far larger amphibious operations to come during the war. It also saw some quite interesting and varied British and Allied units involved - King African Rifles, South African armoured cars, Commandos and the only use of the Tetrarch light tank by the British in its original intended role as a light tank Vs French colonial troops including locally raised irregulars - loads of scope for the modeler and wargamer.
Overall if you have an interest in WW2 outside the usual well trodden trails I recommend this book to you.