In December 1941, as the Japanese led by Yamashita scythed its way through Malaya to capture Singapore, the British defence of their Asian colonies fell apart. Poor preparation and inadequate leadership left them exposed to a new type of warfare in the East, a Japanese blitzkrieg that proved every bit as effective as Hitler's in France the previous year. Defeat was certain. When the Japanese then advanced into Burma and knocked on the gates of India and China, Churchill and his generals had little idea of how to counter this seemingly unstoppable offensive.
Yet four years later, it would be the Japanese army that would retreat and final and complete victory would be claimed by the Allies. From Malaya and Burma to India and China – across jungle, mountain and desert prairie, the Burma campaign was the longest continuous campaign of the Second World War.
In The Generals, the highly acclaimed military historian, Robert Lyman looks at the role of the generals on both sides of the conflict and analyses their influence on the desperate struggle between both sides in what the British describe as 'The Forgotten War'. The ability of a general to inspire and motivate his men, and lead them to success, was crucial for victory but it took several years before the British were able to field leaders of the calibre necessary to defeat the Japanese.
The personality of each commanders had a direct impact on the outcome of battles, the formulation of strategy and the determination or otherwise of soldiers to fight to the bitter end. Through the stories of Yamashita, Perceval, Hutton, Irwin, Mountbatten, Stilwell, Mutaguchi and Slim, Lyman tells the gripping story of the war in the Far East through the perspective of the command and leadership abilities of the men who were responsible for the deployment of many hundreds of thousands of men in the titanic struggle for mastery in Asia during the Second World War.