Book Review
Desert Rat 1940-43
Desert Rat 1940-43 – British and Commonwealth troops in North Africa
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


The “Desert Rats” which was made up of British, Commonwealth, Free French and Polish troops was sent to North Africa after its formation in 1941 to combat the fearsome Afrika Korps. The “Desert Rats” would face combat in an unforgiving desert environment. With the incredible heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night, wind and sand storms, vast areas to move, protect and conduct battle in the African desert proved to be as formidable as the Axis forces under the command of the famous Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel that they were facing. From 1941 to 1943 the “Desert Rats” made changes to its materials, training and its order of battle as it became more familiar with the type of combat they faced in the North African desert. The changes proved to be successful as the allied forces eventually defeated their Axis foes and gained victory in the battle of the North African desert.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released Desert Rat 1940-43 – British and Commonwealth troops in North Africa as Number 160 in their Warrior series. It is a paperback book with 64 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color illustrations, and detailed captions. It has a 2011 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84908-501-4. The book examines British and Commonwealth “Desert Rats” in North Africa during World War Two.


• Introduction
• Chronology
• Recruiting The Desert Rats
• Fighting Methods, Doctrine And Training
• Belief And Belonging
• Appearance And Equipment
- Uniform and equipment
- Weaponry
• Tanks
• Life On Campaign In The Western Desert
• Experience Of Battle
- The battle of the Omars, November 1941
- The 150th Infantry Brigade at Gazala, May 1942
• Aftermath
• Museums And Collections
• Select Bibliography
• Index


The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. I didn’t notice and spelling or grammar errors as I read through the book. Moreman covers the British and Commonwealth “Desert Rats” in North Africa during World War Two very well and goes into great detail in the various campaigns and the actions taken there and various related incidents. Also well detailed are items such as training, uniforms, small arms, armor and life on the front lines. Anyone interested in the “Desert Rat” British and Commonwealth troops in North Africa during World War II will find this book very informative and interesting.


There are a total of 51 black and white photographs throughout the book. There are no color photographs featured in this volume. The majority of the photographs are nice clear, centered, focused images. There are a few that are not of the best quality however due to be being blurry looking or too dark or too light. I have seen several military photographs that have this look to them so maybe that is just typical. I do know that several military photographs are actually stills taken from video so that could be one reason. I haven’t seen a majority of the featured photographs before and I was pleased with this. I definitely consider that a bonus as it is nice to have a reference book that contains several lesser known photographs as opposed to the same old over used photographs that many books tend to contain especially when dealing with such a specific subject. Several of the photographs will prove to be a valuable asset to the scale military modeler. Many of the photographs can be used as inspiration to simple vignettes to larger dioramas. They also provide several details on items such as uniforms, small arms and armored vehicles.

Color illustrations

There are 8 color illustrations by illustrator Steve Noon and they are very well done. As with the photographs, some of the illustrations can be used as inspiration for small vignettes and dioramas. The illustrations also come with well detailed captions. The color illustrations are:

• The Australian ‘Digger’
• The Land Mine
• The Attack
• The Desert Rat
• Weaponry
• A Brew-Up
• The Infantry Attack
• Advanced Dressing Station


The captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations well. They go into detail discussing things such as military units, campaigns and time frames, small arms, weather, etc. As I read through the captions I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. This is a very nice reference book that contains many interesting photographs and well detailed captions. It details the “Desert Rat” British and Commonwealth troops in North Africa during World War II very well. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


World War 2 Combat Uniforms and Insignia
Squadron/Signal Publications, #6013
Published in 1977
Martin Windrow with color illustrations by Gerry Embleton

Tank and AFV Crew Uniforms Since 1916
Squadron/Signal Publications - #6027
Published in 1979
Martin Windrow with color illustrations by Gerry Embleton

Afrika Korps
Ballantine’s Illustrated History of the Violent Century
Campaign Book No. 1
Published in 1968
By Major K.J. Macksey, M.C.

World The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Saturn Books Ltd.
Ian V. Hogg

Decisive Battles of World War II
Edited by Brigadier Peter Young
Bison Books LTD

World War II Day by Day
An Illustrated Almanac 1939-1945
Donald Sommerville
Dorset press

WWII Time-Life Books History of the Second World War
By the Editors of Time-Life Books
Foreword by Eric Sevareid
Prentice Hall Press

The American Heritage Picture History of World War II
C.L. Sulzberger
American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc.
Highs: Well written and detailed text and captions. Nice photographs and artwork
Lows: Some of the photographs have an out of focus look to them. Some of the photographs appear to be too dark/light.
Verdict: This is a very nice reference book that is well researched and written and contains many interesting photographs and well detailed captions. This will make a nice addition to anyone’s personal library and will also be a benefit to the military enthusiast.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84908-501-4
  Suggested Retail: US $18.95/ UK Ł11.99/ CAN
  PUBLISHED: Dec 10, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


This is a super book. It has some of the best artwork I have seen!
JUL 18, 2012 - 03:31 AM

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