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Deserter: The Last Untold Story of the Second World War [Kindle Edition]

Charles Glass
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The extraordinary story of the deserters of the Second World War. Who were they? What made them run? And what happened once they made the decision to flee?

During the Second World War, the British lost 100,000 troops to desertion, and the Americans 40,000. Commonwealth forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Britain's colonial empire also left the ranks in their thousands. The overwhelming majority of deserters from all armies were front-line infantry troops; without them, the war was harder to win. Many of these men were captured and court martialled, while others were never apprehended. Some remain wanted to this day. Why did these men decide to flee their ranks?

In ‘Deserter’, veteran reporter and historian Charles Glass follows a group of British and American deserters into the heat of battle and explores what motivated them to take their fateful decision to run away. The result is a highly emotional and engaging study of an under-explored area of World War II history.

Product Description


‘Sensitive and thought-provoking … As this compelling and well-researched book shows, the battlefield was not a place for heroes, but a place where young men were dehumanised and killed … Given such conditions who among us would not also have considered walking away?’ Sunday Telegraph

‘[These] stories of individual human beings who eventually cracked under the strain of hardly imaginable fear and misery – are wonderful, unforgettable acts of witness, something salvaged from a time already sinking into the black mud of the past’ Guardian

‘Gripping … painstaking … sympathetic … Glass reveals just how inglorious war really is’ The Times

‘Charles Glass gives us something rare – he describes war, it’s foulness and demonic chaos, not from the heroes’ point of view but from a human point of view … A valuable work’ Evening Standard

‘Remarkable’ Sunday Times

‘With his own skill and sensitivity, Glass recreates the inhuman scenes that pummel the other soldiers he examines … Glass displays an unusual degree of empathy and kinship with these men … refreshing and stimulating – history told from the loser’s perspective. 5*’ Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph

‘Glass’s humane and groundbreaking history brings these untold, often tragic stories to light’ Sunday Telegraph

‘An important and refreshing book, shedding light on a subject that deserves attention … deepens our understanding of the realities of modern warfare and is a welcome challenge to the unquestioning hagiography of “The Greatest Generation”’ Times Literary Supplement

‘This is a world of frustrated and degrading brutality, racism and moral stupidity, of opportunistic greed, corruption, fear, mental disintegration and crime … the more familiar narratives of war seem uplifting in contrast … if Glass makes little attempt at neutrality few readers will mind that … If you have tears, prepare to shed them now’ David Crane, Spectator

About the Author

Charles Glass is the author of ‘Americans in Paris’, ‘Tribes with Flags’, ‘The Tribes Triumphant’, ‘Money for Old Rope’ and ‘The Northern Front: An Iraq War Diary’. A world-famous journalist and broadcaster, he was Chief Middle East Correspondent for ABC News from 1983 to 1993, and has covered wars and political upheaval throughout the world. His writing appears in the Independent and the Spectator. He divides his time between Paris, Tuscany and London.
Visit his website at

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2205 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594204284
  • Publisher: HarperPress (28 Mar. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #140,146 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserter by Charles Glass 15 April 2013
As a rule, I read three to four books at a time; an old school habit, seldom broken. Mind you, not a bad thing with life so busy and all. But, once-in-a-while, a real page-turner comes down the pike that breaks my habit and slows life down to one book at a time.

This morning, I finished reading Deserter by Charles Glass. A thoughtful, evocative, emotional, and lucid study of the young men from my father's generation who deserted ranks during World War Two. Toward books end I cried.

Glass rightly calls Deserter the last untold story of the Second World War, a topic on which little is spoken, or for that matter acknowledged. In fact, it's hard for any of us to imagine one hundred and fifty thousand British, Commonwealth and American troops walking off the field of battle. But, they did. And, this is the poignant story... the untold story, of all the boys thrown into the meat grinder of war who had - for reasons of their own - had enough. This is a good book.
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Much has been written about the deserters of the First World War, the lack of understanding of shell shock, the executions at dawn and the campaigns for posthumous recognition and pardons; but far far less has been written about the deserters of the Second World War. Perhaps because we think of the trenches of Flanders as a particularly unique and horrifying form of warfare, the life of the fighting man in World War Two is somehow seen, in comparison, as 'not as bad'. As if war was ever something you could compare and contrast.

Many hundreds of men were executed for desertion between 1914-1918 - in the later war, just one. One poor unfortunate American private, Eddie Slovik. Men were executed for innumerable other crimes, but not desertion. This is not to say that desertion was not a problem in WW2 - as Glass points out, figures were probably even higher; and court-martial boards and military psychiatrists, whilst better informed, were not necessary any more sympathetic. After the horrors and shame of WW1 the public on the homefront simply would not have accepted execution as a punishment, and WW2 was a political war as much as it was a military and strategic one.

So this is an important book, and a welcome addition to a gap in WW2 studies. That said, anyone looking, as I was, for a general overview of desertion across the armies of both Axis and Allied powers, an investigation into the causes, impetus, apprehension, punishment, incarceration, legacy, had better keep looking. This is more an extended biography of a handful of three particular deserters, two American, one British, than anything else, and I don't think any of these men are especially representative. I was a little disappointed at the lack of this broad overview, but this is still an excellent book - moving and deeply humane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars heavy going 12 Jun. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
fascinating subject but felt like I was reading a text book. seemed a bit disjointed at times as jumped between subjects and places without any obvious continuity. showed the brutality and callousness of war ,especially in the treatment of the soldiers who had witnessed terrible things, particularly by their commanding officers and the M.P.s
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Place that is a Soldier's Mind 20 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a really original and deeply humane portrait of a number of soldiers who decided, for different reasons, to abandon the fight. I was particularly drawn to it because of its choice of perspective - that of the scared, confused or despairing soldier's mind - which allows the reader to vividly understand the horror and inhumanity of war without the blinding bombast of some war literature. It reminded me also - if anyone needs reminding - that the most radical and important thing one should struggle for is not only peace, but the active prevention of war. Highly recommended!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For WW2 buffs only 25 April 2013
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Charles Glass's new book, "The Deserters: The Hidden History of WW2" is a bit of a difficult book to characterise. While the central theme is on deserters from battle - and there were many - most of the book is taken up with descriptions of the various battles in Europe and Africa that the three focused-on soldiers fought. Glass tells the stories of three "deserters"; one British and two Americans.

After reading this book, I'm just surprised MORE soldiers didn't desert than the hundred thousand or so who did. Conditions were terrible and as Glass points out, replacements of old soldiers with new was not always handled correctly. The three men Glass writes about fought long and hard.

Why would a soldier desert? To escape death and injury, definitely, but, more than a few soldiers deserted TO the front to see more action! Soldiers injured in battle often had their physical wounds patched up, but unseen psychiatric wounds were not addressed and an injured soldier was often sent back to battle after being deemed physically recovered. He might be so scarred and the idea of battle too repugnant to bear that he would desert his posting. But, where to go? Desertion from naval service was usually impossible unless the sailor was in port, so most of those who did desert were infantry soldiers. Of all those who were caught and brought to trial, only one court-martial ended in a military execution - Prvt Eddie Slovik - instead of a dishonorary discharge and a prison term.

Glass's book is excellent reading for a WW2-buff. He's a good writer and takes a nuanced look at the three soldiers and their lives. But it is not light reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book about something that is never mentioned when talking about the war
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. W. And C. Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A window opened on an obscure page of the WW II
Published 2 months ago by gennaro bonavita
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read.
A real page turner. Fascinating-a cannot- put- down book!
Published 4 months ago by J. Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars I would love to see someone write a book about what happened ...
This book changed my atitidude to desertion in time of war, not all deserters were cowards and crooks. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. Rm Brooker
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Thoughtful, well researched and gripping.
Published 8 months ago by Miss JS Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the frankly ignorant and petty minded reviews, this is a great...
A couple of reviewers have posted ignorant or very biased reviews. One feels that getting the title of a regiment shows ignorance and "badly written" comment when this is... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars see below
Very very good and I sent Charlie Glass a congratulatory message but had no reply as against his other book about Americans in Paris in the last war which elicited an... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Nicolas Mavroleon
4.0 out of 5 stars To Stay or Leave.
Changed my outlook on the deserter question having been charged with desertion for missing the sailing of the ship I was serving on at the time.
Published 22 months ago by Valerie Gaffney
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
An excellent read, enjoyed by myself and my wife from cover to cover.
We learn't a lot of previously unknown facts etc from reading this book
Published 23 months ago by GEOFF GATWARD
4.0 out of 5 stars great read
great insight would recommend it to anyone interested in the second world war and reasons why some were against it.
Published 23 months ago by derekboggy
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