Of the nearly dozen books I have read about British deception in WW II this is the best so far. The author begins with a concise summary of events leading up the war in North Africa. Next she details the major place Dudley Clarke had in the deception efforts. Then she painstakingly details Allied efforts culminating in their complete control of North Africa. The author is not only excellent at communicating the details but she does not forget the big picture. For example she emphasizes the British willingness to use deception early in the world war as related to their very poor strategic position. Another example: once deception worked well at El Alamein the use of deception shifted from purely defensive purposes to positive ones. The author's writing is always clear and succinct. I especially appreciate her end notes indicating a very thorough use of primary sources in the UK. The hardcover book is approximately 262 pages with a detailed index, 211 pages of text and end notes totaling approximately 31 pages. Two reviewers were unhappy with a price of about $30. Although a bit high this is excellent scholarship and I did not mind the price. Highly recommended.
The author of this slender volume is be commended for focusing attention on the origins of organized and systematic deception in the Middle East during World War II. Double agents such as "Tricycle", "Garbo", and "Zigzag" have inevitably received the lion's share of public attention for the dramatic deceptions of "Mincemeat", etc., but Whitney Bendeck has done a great service to historians, students of World War II, and general readers in focusing attention on Field Marshal Lord Wavell and Brig. Dudley Clarke as the two men responsible for conceiving of and perfecting the techniques that proved so effective in deceiving the Axis powers. This book ought to be essential reading for specialists, intelligence historians, and anyone with an interest in either intelligence in general and World War II history. .
'Bendeck (Florida State) opens by reviewing some very effective British deception operations during the First World War, a skill neglected in the interwar period, due to a perceived lack of need. The desperate times that followed the Fall of France and the entry of Italy into the Second World War sparked a revival of British interest in deception. Bendeck then takes up the role of deception in the defense of Britain’s weakly held possessions in Egypt, the Middle East, and East Africa, threatened by substantial Italian forces in the Mediterranean, Libya, East Africa, and the Red Sea. She follows with a chapter on the protracted campaign in East Africa, the first large scale use of deception by the British in the war, both defensively and offensively. This is among the most valuable parts of “A Force, as the campaign is one of the most neglected of the war, and it was where British deception artists, notably Dudley W. Clarke, first practiced their skills. Bendeck follows this with four chapters on the more famous operations in the Western Desert, but most of the deception operations in that campaign have been well treated in earlier books. Throughout the book Bendeck gives us lessons in the design, planning, and execution of deceptions, offering numerous examples, not all of them successful. Bendeck has written a valuable account of how the British came to learn – or rather relearn – the arts of deception.'