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The Machine Gunners [Paperback]

Robert Westall
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
Price: £5.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Paperback, 4 May 2001 £5.99  
Audio, Cassette, Audiobook £23.44  
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Book Description

4 May 2001

'Some bright kid's got a gun and 2000 rounds of live ammo. And that gun's no peashooter. It'll go through a brick wall at a quarter of a mile.'

Chas McGill has the second-best collection of war souvenirs in Garmouth, and he desperately wants it to be the best. When he stumbles across the remains of a German bomber crashed in the woods - its shiny, black machine-gun still intact - he grabs his chance. Soon he's masterminding his own war effort with dangerous and unexpected results....

'.... not just the best book so far written for children about the Second World War, but also a metaphor for now.' Aidan Chambers, Times Literary Supplement

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; New Ed edition (4 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330397850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330397858
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Westall was born October 1929, in Tynemouth, England. His first book, The Machine Gunners, was published in 1975, for which he won the Carnegie Medal. Amongst many more prizes and accolades, he won the Carnegie for the second time in 1980, with The Scarecrows. He died in 1993.

Product Description


...certainly the best war book I have ever read. It describes things very well and has a good story line. -- Sophie-Ann Leyland (Age 13) in The Historical Novels Review, May 02

About the Author

More than a decade after his death, Robert Westall retains his reputation as one of the most powerful writers for children. He was awarded two Carnegie Medals (for The Machine-Gunners and The Scarecrows) and used his own childhood experiences of the Second World War in his books.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books i have ever read 6 Jun 2001
By A Customer
this is quite possibly on of the best books i have ever read! Westall is an excellent writer and this book shows that he is a master story teller. the detail is extraordinary, the story line deep and intruiging and the characters are a stroke of pure genius. Chas Mcgill , the main character, is incredibly realistic and one which many can relate with. Chas' quest for war souveniers leads him to discover a German machine gun. He sets up a dugout with the machine gun planted in it. Here he helps defend Garmouth from bombing raids. This novel is an excellent example of Westall's fine story telling talent and is a book for all ages, as we see children not only enjoying themselves but being independant and seperated from the adult world.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling 23 April 2008
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was one of my favourite books as a child. I read and re-read my copy until the covers fell off, and even after reading it so many times I never failed to be thrilled by the story, excited and tense, even knowing the ending.

Chas McGill is a young boy growing up during the bombing raids of WW2. Like all young boys his age he is fascinated by the planes and plays imaginary war games with his gang. One day Chas discovers an extraordinary thing that turns his games into a reality and not only allows him to 'do his bit', but also makes him question what war is actually all about.

Westall wrote another book about Chas, Fathom Five, and although it is good, this for me will always be Westall's standout book. He also made Chas the subject of short stories, 'The Haunting of Chas McGill', which if you enjoy this, and I can't imagine that you won't, you will surely want to read to know what happens to Chas.

Westall also compiled a fascinating book in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum called 'Children of the Blitz'. He wrote The Machine Gunners mostly using his imagination, but when it became popular found that he was receiving letters from people who had grown up in the war who had had real life experiences like Chas'. Intrigued, he did some more research, and this book is a collection of first hand accounts of such episodes, which is fascinating and highly readable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boys at War 1 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This gripping book is the story of what happens when a group of teenagers in North-East England take the (Second World) War into their own hands. The great thing about this book is the authentic feel of it - the boys (and token girl) have the same friendships and rivalries and difficulties at home and school as any teenager has, but this is all played out against a backdrop of bombing raids, death and destruction and the threat of imminent invasion. This leads to a mix of excitement and emotion, as well as plenty of down-to-earth humour.

The fact that the author grew up himself during the war lends the story much credibility, which is something lacking in some more recent stories set in the war years.

My only slight criticism is that reading the book was rather like watching an action-packed film. There were quick changes in terms of scenes and characters which could be confusing if you weren't paying attention! Then again, I am not in the target group for the book.

All-in-all it's a great story that touches on some very important themes. Due to the realism, I probably wouldn't give this to children under 10, even those with an advanced reading age, but it's an excellent book for children of 10 or 11 upwards and makes a nice change from magic, superpowers, mutants, dystopia and other current teen book trends.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!!! buy it!!!! 31 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Machine Gunners is a story about a boy named Chas, which has the second best collection of war souvenirs in Garmouth. Then he finds a crashed Nazi plane which has a huge machine gun on it. In the end he wrenches it off, little does he know its still got live ammunition. He then builds a fort, tries to shoot down a plane and gets in trouble with the police. It has exciting bits too. A Barrage balloon falls on top of him, he finds a dead Nazi pilot, hides an orphaned friend, goes out in air raids and fosters a live Nazi! I think it's a FANTASTIC book. There is some swearing in it, but it makes it more realistic. It's one to put on your bookshelf!!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is totally captivating. With the Nazi aircrafts raining bombs on the town of Garmouth every night, there are many war souvenirs like bullet casings and nose cones of aircrafts. However, Chas Mc Gill finds a working machine guns that he extracts from a fallen aircraft with live bullets. This is a stunning tale of survival during war times packed with irresistable adventures. Chas and his friends build a secret fortress to fight the Germans and they have many interesting and smashing encounters along the way. They take care of a kind Nazi soldier, help their orphaned friend and have barrage balloons falling on them.The writing is superb throughout and the pace is sustained very well. Although there are some obscenities, I feel it adds realism and life to the story. The ending is poignant and extremely touching. I rate this as one of the best books that I have ever read.A fascinating and smashing read! I HIGHLY recommend this to everyone!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Childhood Favourite 1 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was struggling to find a book for my Kindle app the other night and came across The Machine Gunners which was my favourite book as a child. I constantly had the book on loan from the school library. I must have read it at least five times as a child due mainly been so well written for boys of a certain age and my fascination with anything to do with the Second World War.

Reading it as a adult it was still every bit as good as what it ever was and in no way read like a child's book. I have re-read other books from my childhood recently and they were very hard to get through as they were after all books meant for a child. However The Machine Gunners spans generations and is equally a good read for an adult as what it is for a child.

Forgive me I do not normally do book reviews as I am sure you can tell from this review so I will try my best here..

Excellent well written and superbly constructed story with many ups and downs and facets such as the perils of the blitz during the war, wartime life, schoolboy antics, excitement, guns, rebelling against the system etc. It really is a very good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic.
Read by my son 25 years ago,got this one for his 9 year old son.
Published 3 months ago by Lynn Burling
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
exactly as avertised
Published 3 months ago by matt
4.0 out of 5 stars Good edition
Bought as a birthday present for another grandson. Stout covers so it will stand wear and tear. It's a tale which will entertain.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. Marcia Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Read this at school and thought it had 4 sequels but can't find them as didn't get to read one of them at the time & now I can't find it to re read it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Marinda Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review
I really like the book and I really want to read the haunting of Chas McGill. The book is great
Published 7 months ago by AW
5.0 out of 5 stars For readers of all ages
At times it feels more like a social history than a novel. Almost every sentence seems to contain a topical reference to life in World War Two. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Officer Dibble
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, a little dark for kids
Robert Westall is from the old school of teen writers, back when they actually packed a punch. This story, about a group of kids growing up in wartime and wanting to do something... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ilovemycat
1.0 out of 5 stars Crap
Crap Crap Crap Crap Crap bad book I h8 it so much coz it is two pages long and ends at the best part of t h e book h e should of made it longer!!!!
Published 8 months ago by NOOB IND
5.0 out of 5 stars So good he read it twice
Very enjoyable book for my 9 year old son. He read it quickly and them re-read. Would definitely recommend for young readers.
Published 8 months ago by Kathryn Purchase
5.0 out of 5 stars The Machine Gunners
I'm 13 and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was captivating making me want to read on through day and night. Overall really good book
Published 8 months ago by Dominic Clarke
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