British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

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Mori
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Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by Mori » 15 Aug 2019 14:07

So few got through, by Martin Lindsay

first published in 1946. Vivid memories of the 1944-45 campaign. Easy to read, reliable, very well documented. The author really tried to understand what happened around him when he worked on his book.

Larso
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Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by Larso » 29 Feb 2020 06:23

'Chindit Affair' by Frank Baines

This memoir will not suit everyone. The title conveys accurately that the author, Frank Baines, served as a Chindit in Burma. ‘Affair’ deals with the sexual relationship he had with one of his Gurka’s while he was doing so.

Baines was a trained camouflage officer who bulled his way into 111th Brigade. He was assigned to command the brigade’s two Gurka protection platoons and did so through the brigade’s exhaustive campaign in 1944. At the end he was one of little more than 100 men still on their feet.

Baines writes with quite a jaunty tone. He describes his efforts to get into the 111th and his impressions of its famous commanders. He does this though in an overly metaphorical way that left me quite confused – they seemed more cartoonish than professional soldiers. He also writes at length on his men. There are some remarkable stories about their attitudes, beliefs, even a premonition and what I can only describe as a spirit visit? There’s also quite a bit on the British officers and men. It’s incredible how misunderstandings on a battlefield can have such lasting effects. There is also quite a bit on battle, though due to their role, Baines and his men are not called on continuously.

The business of Baines affair with a young Gurka was awkward reading. I couldn’t care less about the homosexuality or the class difference. It didn’t slip into pornography but an officer having an affair with one of his subordinates in the field is very unprofessional to say the least! Baines implies he was accorded a degree of sympathy by his fellow officers. Perhaps but I don’t think this is what was meant by ‘war making strange bed-fellows’.

This aside, and thankfully it is not the dominant theme of the book, Baines has an interesting story. The conditions they endured were horrendous and it appears the unit was ultimately misused. They still managed to knock the Japanese about significantly, though at great cost to themselves. An eye-opening memoir in more ways than one. 3 ¼ stars

iswise
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Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by iswise » 25 Jul 2020 16:05

Larso wrote:
19 Oct 2013 02:35
The Only Way Out by R. M. Wingfield

Anchor Press, 1956. Hardcover, 190 pages.

Wingfield is a particularly educated young fellow, who nonetheless is assigned to infantry duty and becomes a reinforcement just after Normandy. He is posted to 1st/6th Queens, a lorried infantry battalion of the 131st Bde, attached to the 7th Armoured Division. He is quite proud of this too. Later though, the battalion is broken up to supply drafts to other formations and he joins 159th Bde of the 11th Armoured Division.

Wingfield is very fortunate to join a disciplined unit. He receives a careful initiation to frontline life, including extensive tuition by veteran soldiers. Given lorries aren’t much good against cannons, most of his active service sees him on foot patrol or advancing with divisional armour. Sometimes they even ride on top of the tanks panzergrenadier style, though they’re not keen on this exposed position. Even so, there is not a lot of combat to speak of and most of the action seems to be in being smothered in gifts and kisses from liberated towns.

Initially he is an intelligence officer in his new unit and he is privy to some interesting material. Particularly, relating to the German buildup to the Ardennes offensive, where the British cannot understand the US failure to take appropriate action. The author does though give Monty considerable credit for saving the day, so it appears he has a fairly parochial view of the Alliance. Soon however he is back in the front line commanding a section and he does recount several sharp actions. The most notable is the final one where he is wounded. The confusion he feels and the see-saw of the battlefield are quite interesting to read of.

While a combat soldier, Wingfield doesn’t generally write of visceral fighting. Indeed, there is almost an adventourous attitude about him. He was very young though. I was interested in his appraisal of his battalion. Every man worked for the benefit of the frontline soldiers. I guess this supports the belief in the strength of Britain’s regimental system. There are also some interesting thoughts on premonitions, Dear John letters and other things of note to soldiers. I was fascinated by some stories which I can only think are apocryphal, particularly the relating to the new recruits the story of an SS massacre. It steeled them to show no mercy in turn. Unfortunately I can find no supporting evidence! I guess though this is the nature of combat. The bitterness and fog of war mean that stories grow a life of their own. So there are certainly some interesting things to read and reflect on here. Overall though, I think it is a 3 ¼ star book.
Hello Larso, Sorry to trouble you. My wife and I are in the process of publishing a book of her father's memoirs. He was in the 1st Bn Rifle Brigade from W Desert to Germany. We are trying to verify the location of a quote he references. He describes the quote as being made by Major GL Verney in the foreward to a book by someone in 131 Brigade. We think it may be the foreward to the book Only Way Out you refer to above which we believe was written by Major Verney. If you have the book would you be able to check for the quote which reads as follows:

QUOTE>> Our Divisional Commander at the end of the war, Major General Verney, wrote ”Those Battalions of the Queens Royal Regiment had a record of continuous front-line service that could probably not be equalled by any other infantry of the Second or Eighth Armies, save their friends and colleagues of the 7th Armoured, the 1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade”. END QUOTe

If you can confriom that we are correct taht wd be a great help as we can correctly refernce the quote in the book we are producing.

Many thanks in advance
Ian and Ann Wiseman
Gloucestershire
UK

Larso
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Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by Larso » 30 Jul 2020 11:04

Hi Ian,
I am looking for that book - I think I still have it? I'll PM you once I've found it and checked that source.

John

iswise
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Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by iswise » 20 Sep 2020 21:29

Thanks Larso,
In the end I found the book quite cheap on Biblio and now have a copy. It is the quote we were looking for so we can reference it correctly in the book my wife is compiling from her dad's memoirs :)

Larso
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Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by Larso » 24 Sep 2020 17:40

How funny - I just logged in to say I finally had time to go looking and found it today! I'm glad you got the info you were looking for.
John

iswise
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Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by iswise » 08 May 2021 12:08

Hi Larso / John
You may be pleased to know that after checking the reference in the above book I was able to donate it to the regimental museum collection which is based in Guildford. Interestingly they had not even heard of it before!
Secondly, my wife has now completed the self publication of her father's memoirs. The book "My Wartime Wanderings - From the Western Desert to Berlin" by Kenneth L. Phillips, 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, is available from Amazon, Waterstones etc. The book, featuring some of Ken's own photographs taken at the time, is a transcript of Ken's memoirs which he original typed himself from his war diaries (the originals of which are now held in the IWM London). Excerpts from letters home are also included. Would you be able to review the book on this forum or give me a tip on who to contact on order to have it reviewed.
Many thanks
Ian and Ann Wiseman

Larso
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Posts: 1948
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Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: British WW2 Memoirs - Reviews

Post by Larso » 08 May 2021 13:06

I'd be happy to review. I used to review on Amazon too but then they blocked me because I hadn't spent $50 in the past year - I'd actually spent over $80 but several determined efforts to explain this were beyond the capabilities of the staff I dealt with to understand. So I gave up on them. I'd submitted 650 reviews and was in the top 20,000 reviewers. I was quite addicted to it and was really upset it was so hard to deal with them. Just to contact them was a trial. Everyone kept bouncing me on to someone else. Anyway, PM me if you want to arrange something. Well done too on helping the regimental museum. I saw several when I visited the UK in 2019 - I loved them!

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