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Special Subject: British Grand Strategy, 1933-1939, 1980 - 1984

Reference Code: GBR/0014/BRNT 7

Scope and Contents

From the Fonds:

This small collection mainly consists of Barnett's correspondence with Major-General Eric Dorman O'Gowan (formerly Dorman-Smith) for his research for The Desert Generals. The date range covered by the collection is 1958-1963. The collection largely comprises O'Gowan's side of the correspondence (although there are occasional copies of letters from Barnett). The correspondence is lively and detailed and covers O'Gowan's experiences during the desert war and arguments and events supporting his firm belief that General Sir Claude Auchinleck's achievements had been underestimated. O'Gowan himself described the correspondence as Dear Bill: Letters from an Angry Old General to an Angry Young Writer (BRNT 2, letter dated 5 August 1958).

O'Gowan had held the position of director of military operations in Cairo and was appointed Deputy Chief of the General Staff by Auchinleck in 1942 and became Auchinleck's personal chief of staff after the loss of Tobruk. In August 1942, Winston Churchill replaced Auchinleck as Commander in Chief Middle East with General Sir Harold Alexander and made Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Montgomery General Officer commanding Eighth Army. In writing The Desert Generals, Barnett sought to refute the myth that "all in the Western Desert was defeat, retreat and confusion...[until] the Battle of Alamein in October 1942, which...went exactly according to Montgomery's Master Plan, demonstrated his military genius, marked the turning point of the war and constitutes one of the decisive battles of history. (The Desert Generals, 2nd edition, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1983, page 7).

Later additions to the collection are (BRNT 6-7) material relating to the History special subject on British Grand Strategy (1933-1939) taught by Barnett at Cambridge and a record of an interview with Lord Attlee and Lord Chandos.


  • Creation: 1980 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access

From the Fonds:

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.


2 file(s)

Language of Materials


Finding aid date

2009-07-01 09:45:47.173000+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087