- Posts: 999
- Joined: 25 Oct 2014 11:04
- Location: Europe
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.
- Posts: 1918
- Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
- Location: Brisbane, Australia
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