Ronald Lewin

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George Ronald Lewin CBE (11 October 1914 – 6 January 1984), later known as Ronald Lewin, was a British officer, publishing editor, radio producer and military historian.

Education[edit]

Lewin attended University of Oxford at The Queens College on an academic scholarship in 1932, having earned both the Hastings Scholar award and the Goldsmiths’ Exhibitioner award in Classics and Divinity. While there he earned double First honours in classical literature, history and philosophy.[1] His love of English literature endured throughout his life.[1]

Career[edit]

Following his graduation in 1937 Lewin worked as an editorial assistant with the British publishing house of Jonathan Cape Limited.[2] With the start of the Second World War in 1939 he joined the British Army, serving as an officer in the Royal Artillery. In North Africa he served under Montgomery, and was wounded at El Alamein. He returned to his field post and served with distinction in North Africa and Europe till the close of the war.[2]

Returning to England in 1946 he worked in the BBC Home service, initially as a producer. He was made chief of the BBC's domestic service in 1957, and remained at that position until his retirement from the BBC in 1965. In 1966 he returned to publishing, and was made editor at Hutchinson Publishing. He served in that capacity till 1969.[2]

Military historian[edit]

Lewin did not begin writing books until the age of 54. He wrote nine books during his lifetime and was working on a one-volume history of World War II at the time of his death.[1] His best-known book was Ultra Goes to War, an account written on the cipher breaking by which the Allies intercepted and broke the coded messages that the Germans transmitted by radio during World War II. His work on Ultra was the first to be based on official documents of the intelligence operation.[1]

Writing in a forward to a book by Lewin, historian Max Hastings said "He quickly established a reputation as one of the major miltitary writers of his generation." He went on to say "His biography of Slim was outstanding. His assessments of Churchill, Montgomery and Rommel at war are essential reading for students of the period."[3] Lewin's biography of William Slim, titled Slim the Standard-Bearer, received the WH Smith Literary Award.

Lewin's biography Rommel as Military Commander (1968) has been described by the University of Salford's historian Alaric Searle as "uncritical and effusive", a part of the tradition that cemented the Rommel legend, a view that the Field Marshal was an apolitical, brilliant commander and a victim of the Third Reich due to his (now disputed) participation in the 20 July plot against Adolf Hitler.[4] The historian Patrick Major states that the work focused on the military career of Rommel, depoliticising it and presenting him strictly as a soldier. In another work on the North African campaign, the 1977 The Life and Death of the Africa Korps, Lewin wrote that it was "possible and necessary to assert that (...) the purity of the desert purified the desert war", contributing to the myth of the clean Wehrmacht.[5]

Awards[edit]

Lewin was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1977 and of the Royal Historical Society in 1980. He was awarded the Chesney Gold Medal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies in 1982.[2]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Rommel as military commander (1968), ISBN 9781844150403
  • Montgomery as military commander(1972), ISBN 9780812814262
  • The war on land, 1939-1945: an anthology of personal experience (1969), ISBN 9780099057109
  • The war on land: the British Army in World War II; an anthology of personal experience (1970)[1969]
  • Churchill as warlord (1973), ISBN 9780812860993
  • Slim, the standardbearer: a biography of Field-Marshal the Viscount Slim, KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC (1976), ISBN 9780850522181
  • The life and death of the Afrika Korps (1977), ISBN 9780812906820
  • Ultra goes to war : the first account of World War II's greatest secret based on official documents (1978), ISBN 9780070374539
  • The Chief : Field Marshall Lord Wavell, Commander-in-Chief and Viceroy, 1939-1947 (1980), ISBN 9780374121129
  • The American magic: codes, ciphers, and the defeat of Japan (1982), ISBN 9780374104177
  • Hitler's mistakes (1984), ISBN 9780688058210

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Barnett, Corelli (1986). "Ronald Lewin, Military Historian". The RUSI Journal. 131 (4): 57–64. doi:10.1080/03071848608522739. Retrieved May 14, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Blair, William (January 12, 1984). "Ronald Lewin Dies; Historian was 69". Retrieved May 16, 2016. 
  3. ^ Lewin 1978, pp. 11-12, comments by Max Hastings provided in the book's forward.
  4. ^ Searle 2014, pp. 7–8, 26.
  5. ^ Major 2008, p. 527.

Bibliography[edit]