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4.2 out of 5 stars54
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 20 November 2014
One of the most amazing memoirs I have read, full of fascinating detail, vibrant, humorous character portraits of comrades, as well as clear impressions about the squalor and sadness of war.

The contribution of commonwealth forces to the post-Normandy conflict often dwells on the failure at Arnhem - this book clearly tells the story of the major role played during some of the hardest fighting of the war. Interesting also to hear a contemporary account of the battle of attrition around Caen! which supports Montgomery's post war assertions about his purpose in tying down and writing down the strongest German forces, allowing the American forces to break out on the right flank, which is contested by more recent writers. The author also tells a good story about British-US cooperation which conflicts with the much-told tales of animosity between the allies.

The book is also beautifully written and full of poetry. Literally so at some points. And if you have any Scottish connections the book will surely strike a chord, although the relationship between the English officer and the Scottish squaddies is somewhat uncomfortable or modern ears.

Overall a good read and well worth the effort.
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on 3 August 2014
Well, well worth reading. A very clear, personable account of what it must have been like as an infantry officer at that time. The author gives a sense of really caring about his fellow officers and men. There are no false heroics here, just a brilliantly clear description of what Woollcombe experienced during his time in the army. Certainly one of the best accounts I have read, and I have read many. A little known classic of its time I would suggest.
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on 20 December 2014
The author was a platoon commander in Normandy and then a Company 2ic from the breakout until the end of the war (although with six Company Commanders in his company he spent almost as much time in command as any of the 'permanent' OCs). He served with a battalion of the KOSB in 15th Scottish Division.

Like all first hand accounts it has a certain pathos to it. Detailed descriptions of people and his interaction with them, like the young sniper he shared a slit trench with under fire in Holland for six hours until the other older more experienced member of the sniper team comes to meet him. Later only the older man returns from the patrol, although the enemy sniper was dealt with too.

If you want to know what infantry life was like then this is worth reading. There is a high level of personal detail, especially of a the author's first battle experiences in Normandy and of his last where he talks about fighting in an urban area against German paratroopers on the Dutch/German border.
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on 21 December 2014
This is the best first hand account I've read about WW2. It's obvious the author was an officer and well educated because his descriptive powers are able to succinctly and yet almost poetically impart the horrors of what he faced. He sometimes devotes several paragraphs to describing an individual he served with so that the reader is really able to picture them. This makes the death of some those described all the more tragic.

The authors powers of description are also applied to the dead he comes across in the field which, although succinctly put really hit home e.g. "....his blue eyes stared before him in sightless amazement. A trouser button was open and his genitals showed like wax. " Thoroughly recommended.
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on 3 February 2015
This is an unassuming story of one man's war and his journey from Normandy to the final surrender of the German forces in Northern Germany in 1945.
The author gives superb sketches of his fellow soldiers and tells of their fate in a very simple and moving way.
To me the story brings home the random nature of the tragic death and wounding of ordinary men doing an extraordinary job. The writer takes the reader into his war and the terrible conditions endured on a daily basis with the ever present risk of death or wounds. His style is not dramatic and almost understated, but this only enhances the readers experience.
This is not a story of dramatic derring do, but of brave men doing their duty in the best way they could and trying to survive.
Highly recommended.
I gave 4 stars only because I feel the account would have benefitted from more maps notwithstanding the detailed description given in the text.
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on 15 January 2015
Amazing book, how on earth did young men cope with the absolute hell of combat, not only the danger but the lack of decent food, lack of basic shelter and apparent disregard from commanders of the need for basic comforts. Anyone interested in military matters
must read this book.
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on 22 February 2015
One of the finest accounts of the fighting from D-day to victory in Europe I have ever read , vivid , stark but also , in places , sprinkled with gallows humour!. I have read countless accounts of the European campaign and this stands as one of THE best , very highly recommended!!
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on 3 April 2015
This is the best account I have ever read of what it was like to have survived being at the sharp end from Normandy to the bitter end in Germany in May 1945. excellent
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on 7 January 2016
This book would be much improved, after the passage of 70 years, if the main characters were identified and named. It would be interesting for most of us and a far better historical record. Notes added to the text are all that is necessary while some of the old and bold remain to tell us.
When the book was first published it would have struck a chord with its readership and after only a decade it would all have been a little too raw to mention names; those of the KOSB who read the book at the time would have known for example who "heid the baa" was. .
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on 5 February 2016
Superb read, not the read I was expecting, heavy going at times, but in the end a real eye opener. Robert Woollcombe tells it how it was, no heroes, no graphic personal encounters, just normal blokes from all sides doing their bit. Made me realize just how much all soldiers went through on all sides and how sad war really is. A MUST READ about war in Europe.
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