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Popski's Private Army (Oxford paperbacks) [Hardcover]

Vladimir Peniakoff
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jun 1991 Oxford paperbacks
This is an account of military adventures in the Middle East and Italy during World War 2. Its author makes an unlikely hero: a Belgian-born Russian, educated at Cambridge, he had spent most of his working life in the Egyptian sugar-refining industry, but only found true fulfilment during the war. Feeling himself to be an outsider, he desperately wanted to be accepted by the British army when war broke out in 1939. He enthusiastically lists his talents: "A good deal of technical and administrative experience - a few languages - some knowledge of most European countries and of the Middle East - I could fly a light single-engined plane, sail a small boat, drive a truck in the desert". It was not, however, until 1942 that the British army found a way to exploit these talents to the full: they created the smallest independent unit in the British army of just 23 men and put the author in charge. Provisional titles such as "No 1 Demolition Squadron", "Desert Raiders", and "Jebel Rats" were all rejected in favour of "Popski's Private Army", employing the nickname by which the author was always known to his comrades. Their role in the Middle East combined reconnaissance, intelligence work, and sabotage: "I would, I decided", writes Popski, "employ my unit in spreading alarm and despondency, a much-derided policy". A policy which they continued on crossing into Italy in 1943, where they operated behind enemy lines.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 460 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (1 Jun 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192852388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192852380
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 874,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

Vladimir Peniakoff served with the Long Range Desert Group from 1940-42, before forming his own force. Rising to lieutenant-colonel in rank, and was decorated for bravery by Britain, France, and Belgium. He died in 1951. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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AFTER I had settled in Egypt I kept few ties with Belgium, a small, dull country, I thought, with which I was bored. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Popski's Private Army 16 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback
This is a beautifully written yarn about a small SAS type unit during the Second World War, based first of all in the Western Desert against Rommel's Axis forces & working with the Long Range Desert Group to sabotage behind the front lines. Later it switches to the Allied Invasion of Italy, where they use the new Jeeps to drive high into the mountains and around the flanks of the German & Italian forces.

Popski was older than most special forces & exceptionally well educated & it comes through in the writing. On one level it is a ripping good yarn, but on a deeper level it is an excellent study of warriors who excell in being fiercely independent, and who fought for their comrades more than their country.
Thoroughly recommended for anyone interested in special forces, WW2, or the Italian campaigns.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shows what a few determined men can do. 30 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback
An absorbing account of an aspect of the war that sometimes gets forgotten about. My Grandad was in the 8th Army as part of 7th Armoured Division, this book shows how the likes of LRDG, the SAS and PPA were able to support 8th Army by acting as its eyes and ears hundreds of miles into the desert and also sowing 'alarm and despondenecy' into the enemy. It also reminds us the work that 8th Army did continually fighting from 1940-1945 - an amazing achievement for a military force. This is an often detailled account of the foundation of the force, the logic behind it, written in an understated way. His portrait of individuals is well done and his views on various groups and nationalities is forthright, although in todays world may deemed a little 'unPC'. The work they did in Italy was actually far more important in a way, although this is dealt with at quite lick in relation to the Africa portions of the book. This forms the basis of my quibble with the book, when you consider the extent of the work PPA did, through looking at other accounts, especially in Italy many of these are not mentioned, one wonders if this is because of the fact that it was written so close to the war and he may not have been able to include it. It does feel that having discussed Africa in a leisurley way, the author felt he needed to get a move on with the Italian section. This does not take away from an outstanding war memoir. A shame he died as early as he did in 1951 of a brain tumor, he would have had a great writing career ahead of him if this book is anything to go by.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Account in everyway. 11 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
`Popski's Private Army' by Vladimir Peniakoff Hardcover 1953 is the second incarnation of this book the first being in 1950 under the title `Private Army'; the only other difference being that in the earlier edition the maps are attached and unfold to a 14 inch facsimile and of a better quality.

Secondly I totally agree with the positive reviews upon this page and I have added my own positive review to the page that is entitled `Private Army with a Portrait Illustratings and Maps

An excellent read, Insightful history and excellent valour and value.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Popskys Private Army 24 July 2010
Format:Paperback
Excellent reading, especially for those of us who lived during the second world war.
Shows just what the British can do especially without the Yanks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars my friend 7 Mar 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
my friend and line manger was Sgt Davies. I was proud to work with him he was a gentleman and did nto bragg about the LTDG I only found out through another friend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a must read 21 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
it is a absolute brilliant book i read it twice it is so good , i recomend this to all war book readers
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