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The Phantom Major | [Virginia Cowles]

The Phantom Major

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.
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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.

(P)2001 Blackstone Audiobooks

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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (153 )
5 star
 (81)
4 star
 (46)
3 star
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2 star
 (5)
1 star
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Overall
4.3 (55 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (54 )
5 star
 (31)
4 star
 (14)
3 star
 (5)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Alec 07-27-05
    Alec 07-27-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    "Makes you feel like you're there"

    Stories of the SAS are of course intruiging, and hearing about impossible exploits are super thrilling. This book has kept me in ear phones solidly over two and a half days, I could not get enough of it.
    In typical "old boys" style, like reading a Boys Own book, you can see the images. The reading is fast and VERY accurate so your heart is racing. There is action EVERY minute, great explanations, "wowing" incidents, and a great incite into the actions of the SAS, SBS and most special forces groups of that era.
    I am not a military buff as such, but I challenge anyone to put this book down once started. Its brilliant, and I hope I have done it justice in these few words. And to those soldiers who took part, my hat is off to you!!

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wolfpacker Memphis, TN 12-12-06
    Wolfpacker Memphis, TN 12-12-06 Member Since 2005

    Curtis

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Will Hook You Before Page 2"

    This book starts out with a humorous account of a Scot sneaking into a general's office to finally get past the red tape and get an audience for his brilliant idea to sabotage Rommel's war in North Africa. There are other fun stories, such as the one where the unit (short on supplies) boldly enters the New Zealand camp in broad daylight and packs up their supplies including a grand piano. They justify this in their minds by saying the New Zealand Government takes better care of their soldiers and will replace all of the stolen property with better stuff.
    This book is one of my favorites on WWII.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian Farnborough, United Kingdom 09-20-06
    Ian Farnborough, United Kingdom 09-20-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not just for military wonks"

    This is a very listenable book about a subject which should be of interest to history buffs and students of human nature alike. The reading is superbly done and the content is pacy and enjoyable. I suspect that this will get many listens in the future.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ram Kavasseri Fremont, CA 09-07-06
    Ram Kavasseri Fremont, CA 09-07-06 Member Since 2005
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    "Well written, superbly narrated"

    This book is by far my favorite Audio Book.
    It is well-paced, and moves the reader along without bogging down.

    One gets a very good feel for what it was like to be an SAS officer in WW2.

    Robert Whitfield's narration is masterful - the voice is clear and lively. Whitfield's Scottish and British accents are quite believable, and the narration pace matches the action in the book very well.

    I've listened to this book twice already.
    By far the most entertaining read I've downloaded from Audible.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Esa-Pekka Helsinki, Finland 01-26-11
    Esa-Pekka Helsinki, Finland 01-26-11
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    "Informative and engaging in turns but dismal audio"

    The book is very informative about the early days of the SAS, with a lot of detail provided for the special forces enthusiast. Some of the missions are depicted in an engaging style. But this is really for someone who wants to know details about the origins of the SAS more than great combat stories.

    Unfortunately the quality of the Audible audiobook is dismal. There is a lot of compression noise. The reader does a good job of acting out the various characters and their dialects, though.

    Book: 3 stars, audio 1 star, averages out to two stars.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 03-25-10 Member Since 2006
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    "best book ive downloaded so far"

    the phantom major is to date ther best audible book ive downloaded in the last 3 years. not just for SAS fans but thoroughly entertaining for all. the narrator is excellent give convincing accents to most charactors. a facinating true story with a real british stiff upper lip feel. worth downloading even if only a passing interest in WW2 for sheer entertainment

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 04-08-14
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 04-08-14 Member Since 2010
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    "A great summary of a breakthrough unit attacking a"

    Amazing piece on a new initiative, resorted to in wartime to avoid defeat that grew into a whole new approach to modern warfare.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron Orleans, Ontario, Canada 02-25-13
    Ron Orleans, Ontario, Canada 02-25-13 Member Since 2010
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    "The REAL "Rat Patrol"!"
    Would you listen to The Phantom Major again? Why?

    I have listened to it more than once already. It is exciting from start to finish. Always discover something interesting on re-listening.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It would have to be Major David Stirling of course.He had an iron will and incredible nerve facing overwhelming odds and harsh conditions every mission. However his demeanor was of a gentle giant who gained respect of his men;whom he treated with respect. After all,they were'irregulars' so the officer-non-com buisness was relaxed because of the hardships etc. all of the men faced. Each mission Major Stirling left the quiet,patient reserved part at home and set out across the desert to really cause the enemy maximum damage!


    Which character – as performed by Robert Whitfield – was your favorite?

    There were many incredible individuals under Major Stirlings' command who stood out by their brave and resourceful acts. Not ony British,but allied troops as well.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Just about every chapter. For example,as the commandos beetled back out from blowing up everything in sight with the enemy in hot pursuit,I think,anyone would find exciting .This was the true story of the formation of the SAS and their operations,"stirring it up", across North Africa during those years(1941-42) where things were at an impass because for every bit of ground gained,Rommel who was brilliant,would counter-attack and ground would be lost. These Commandos were a constant source of worry for the Germans,as their hit and run tactics were really effective and disrupted the enemies plans more often than not.


    Any additional comments?

    As mentioned in some of my other reviews,I take my time choosing,and VOICE is everything for me. I immediately loved Robert Whitfields voice,and will seek out other projects he is involved in. - Ron L.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Gawler, Australia 12-18-12
    David Gawler, Australia 12-18-12 Member Since 2010
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    "great story well told"
    What did you love best about The Phantom Major?

    the way this real life story was written made it ideal for audio book.


    Which character – as performed by Robert Whitfield – was your favorite?

    the narration was well done


    Any additional comments?

    one of the best audio books i have listened too

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 10-09-10
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 10-09-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Great Story of Brave Men"

    This was a great story of men with incredible courage. They get upset if they miss out blowing something up. Without the efforts of of their unit the North African campaign would have certainly been extended. The narrator was excellent and its a must for those interested in the means to survive during WWII

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Stephen
    Scarborough, NYK, United Kingdom
    8/19/05
    Overall
    "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!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    rochester, United Kingdom
    5/10/11
    Overall
    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Amesbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
    5/6/06
    Overall
    "The Origins of the SAS"

    A worthwhile listen as the book was originally written in 1958 but not read to audio until 2001. You are given a clear understanding of the daring raids undertaken in the Africa theatre and also the in-fighting prior to the establishment of the SAS.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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