Defeat Into Victory

William Slim

Introduced by Sir Max Hastings

An unforgettable account of the ‘Forgotten War’ in Burma, written by the British general who transformed catastrophic defeat into resounding victory.

Morale is a state of mind. It is that intangible force which will move a whole group of men to give their last ounce to achieve something, without counting the cost to themselves.

This is Field Marshal William Slim’s dramatic first-hand account of his decisive command during the Burmese campaign of 1942–45.

Its monumental narrative takes us inside Slim’ mind as he oversees the British Army’s desperate 900-mile retreat into India following the Japanese invasion; rallies his troops for the last-ditch battles of Imphal and Kohima, the ‘Stalingrad of the East’; and leads them on the triumphant race to recapture Rangoon. With wry humour, and a heavy dose of self-criticism, Slim recalls how he took an army shattered by defeat and patiently rebuilt its morale, restored its health, and turned it into a fighting force capable of inflicting the greatest land defeat ever sustained by the Japanese army.

Production Details

Bound in blocked cloth with a blocked spine label

Set in Adobe Garamond Pro

616 pages

Frontispiece and 40 pages of black & white plates

21 maps

Pictorial slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

An enduring monument

‘Out of this magnificent story he has made what must surely remain one of the enduring books of military history’
  1. The Times

An overnight sensation on its publication in 1956 – the first edition sold out within days – Defeat into Victory was immediately recognised as the best-written and most thoughtful memoir produced by any Allied general. It remains one of the great portrayals of the highs and lows of command: recommended reading at the military academies of Sandhurst and West Point, a must-read for business leaders and armchair generals, and an inspiration for anyone determined to move from setbacks to success. Above all, it is an enduring monument to the men Slim commanded – a disparate collection of Indian, African, Gurkha, Chinese, Burmese and British troops – and a vivid self-portrait of the man they christened ‘Uncle Bill’.

This new edition is richly illustrated with 40 pages of evocative black and white photographs, setting right Slim’s complaint about the 1956 first edition – ‘alas, it will be illustrated only by maps’. It also features a specially-commissioned biographical introduction by Sir Max Hastings, the doyen of British military history.

About Field Marshal Viscount William Slim

Field Marshal Viscount William Slim (1891–1970) was a rare combination, an outstanding general and a great writer. The son of an iron merchant, and from a family with no military connections, he started his career as an elementary school teacher in a Birmingham slum. Despite not attending Birmingham University, he managed to join its Officers’ Training Corps, and from there was commissioned into the Warwickshire Regiment. During the First World War, he survived crippling injuries during the massacre at Gallipoli and recovered to win the Military Cross in Mesopotamia. During the Second World War, he received wounds from three different bullets (armour-piercing, incendiary and explosive) fired by an Italian fighter plane in Eritrea, before continuing the war in India, Iraq, Syria, Persia and then Burma. In 1948, he was appointed Chief of the British Imperial General Staff and in 1953, Governor-General of Australia. It was during Slim’s service in Australia that he wrote the classic Defeat Into Victory, which he described as ‘a serious and reasonably dignified but, I hope, not too dull military work’. In 1964 he was appointed Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle, a position he held until shortly before his death in December 1970. Slim was voted ‘Britain’s Greatest General’ in a 2011 survey carried out by the National Army Museum.


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