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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why we should be pacifists
A book that shows why we should all be pacifists - he even explains how he would have dealt with Hitler.
Published 2 months ago by Jean Arthur

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An unreliable memoir
At what point does a memoir stray so far from fact that it can be described more accurately as a work of fiction?

Even editor Duncan Barrett questions the truthfulness of Skirth's story in his introduction. He acknowledges inconsistencies and at one point suggests that `the memoir seems less an autobiography than a novel'. Given that he had such misgivings,...
Published on 19 Dec 2010 by M. Bromley


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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An unreliable memoir, 19 Dec 2010
By 
M. Bromley (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
At what point does a memoir stray so far from fact that it can be described more accurately as a work of fiction?

Even editor Duncan Barrett questions the truthfulness of Skirth's story in his introduction. He acknowledges inconsistencies and at one point suggests that `the memoir seems less an autobiography than a novel'. Given that he had such misgivings, it's surprising that Barrett and publisher Pan Macmillan have chosen to market this book as an 'extraordinary memoir'. What is particularly shameful is that Skirth makes serious allegations about the conduct of fellow soldiers, damning their characters without any regard for their reputations or the feelings of their descendants, and without offering any corroborative evidence.

Duncan Barrett should have taken more time to check the credibility of the memoir, or perhaps more notice of the `facts' he did check and found to be wrong. I bought this book as fact not fiction but it is an unreliable memoir and I feel cheated of the purchase price and the time taken to read it, though I haven't bothered reading it to the end.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A work of fiction, 4 Feb 2011
By 
Chris Baker "The Long, Long Trail man" (Leamington Spa, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
I have spent a considerable time checking the statements made in this book, comparing them with battery and brigade war diaries and soldier's records. Barely a line stacks up. I am afraid that "The reluctant Tommy" can only be considered at best a well-meant work of fiction or at worst some kind of personal attempt to embarrass individuals with which the author served. It's an interesting and even absorbing read, but a fairy tale.

UPDATE: on the basis of this and other research, the Imperial War Museum has now removed Skirth's papers from its catalogue on the basis of their unreliability as a record of the Great War. These papers were used as the basis for this book.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A shameful fantasy, 5 Jun 2010
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This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
This book should never have been allowed to see the light of day. With even the most basic checking it should have been obvious that the story is an elaborate fantasy. Skirth certainly existed - his Medal Card proves it - but basic checking of some of the alleged facts prove that the author was, at the most charitable interpretation, suffering from an appalling memory.

Skirth repeatedly claims to have served in 239 Battery RGA though it's clear he was actually in 293. He movingly describes two friends and an officer being killed on Messines Ridge on 8th June 1917 - though the unit war diary notes no casualties and the named officer isn't on the Commonwealth War Graves Register. In November 1917 he says his battery was so far forward they were ordered to withdraw and his insane CO refused to leave - Skirth claims to have disobeyed his direct order and fled with his pal Jock Shiels - yet according to the CWG Register John Shiels of 293 Battery RGA was killed on 18th July 1917. When the battery is later sent to Italy Skirth is quite clear that it was without guns as late as April 1918 yet the war diary records them firing numerous bombardments weeks before.

By the period he was writing about in Italy British artillery had reached heights of professionalism that it was not to scale again until El Alamein. It is inconceivable that a gun could have been so positioned as to be impossible to fire without killing the crew - they'd have known it just as much as Skirth and would have refused any order and would have had it moved. The senior officer he repeatedly slates as totally mad had a very respectable career and retired a full Colonel - lunatics do not do this - not even in the British Army.

Too many people have fallen for the "Lions led by Donkeys" line (itself a false quote invented by Alan Clarke) and happily gone along with this monstrous farago.

Read it as fiction - but don't accept any of it as fact.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why we should be pacifists, 23 April 2014
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This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
A book that shows why we should all be pacifists - he even explains how he would have dealt with Hitler.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VIEWS OF A FORMER GUNNER, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy (Paperback)
I have read Ronald Skirth's 'memoir' with more than a cursory eye. I bought this book having served my National Service with the Royal Artillery also the Honourable Artillery Company. Having read the book, I sent a letter to the 'Gunner' magazine assuming that Skirth's account is a correct account of his military service . On this basis, had Skirth's alteration to the gun sights been discovered, should he have been executed for treason - or hailed as a pacifist hero? Nobody bothered to reply! As a former member of the Western Front Association, I have my doubts but I am willing to try and stand in Skirth's shoes and ask, What would I have done in his position? I should also mention that my father served for over three years in the trenches of France and Flanders - including the carnage of Messines Ridge. He volunteered for a London TA regiment - the Queen's Westminsters - and was transferred having been wounded - to 15th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles (36th Ulster Division). He was discharged in 1918 suffering from 'severe neurasthenia and sent to the then hutted Maudsley Hospital in south London. In short, he was half mad. So whether Skirth's memory is accurate or not, he commands my respect as a sensitive young man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 8 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy (Paperback)
Very interesting book, I like reading the true stories from the front, anybody interested in World War One I would say ----read it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Reluctant Tommy - Review, 23 July 2012
This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy (Paperback)
Unfortunately I have to agree with the negative reviews I have read on this account (I confess to not having read all of them). I am not an historian but I am very well read on the subject of the First World War; my family history instilled in me from a very early age, a deep fascination with the war that has endured to this day.

Even an amateur historian such as me can find too many elements of the story that quite simply 'don't add up'. I had come across this book by chance without having heard of it previously and my suspicions as to its accuracy had been aroused fairly early in the reading of it and long before I had read the opinions of any of my fellow military history buffs. To be fair, it is stated early on that names of individuals and units have been changed (although the change of the name of a unit or specifically a battery in this instance is somewhat redundant since it is a very straightforward exercise to identify the correct unit based on official war diaries). The author can also be forgiven for memory failures following the lapse of such a long period of time between the events described and the writing of the memoirs. What I do find particularly unpalatable about this account is the distinct possibility that individuals referred to by pseudonyms (but persons who can be quite easily identified by living relatives, again based on other historical sources) have been posthumously defamed, including in respect of gallantry awards. It appears this may have been done purely as a means of settling old scores with men he personally disliked. In my opinion, such claims, particularly if they are to be made in print should only be done so when the accused are still alive to defend them and it is deeply dishonourable to do otherwise. What is also very distasteful to me as an ex soldier, is the author's claim that he was to be decorated for gallantry but refused to accept the award (a convenient explanation for why said award was never gazetted). A claim of this nature, if it is indeed untrue, is considered by servicemen to be one of the lowest and most detestable acts there is; to falsely claim credit or eligibility for or to a decoration for which one is not in fact entitled.

My own misgivings notwithstanding and as strange as it may sound given the tone of my invective, as the author himself is also no longer with us to defend his account, it should be left to the individual, only after having read the book, to make his or her own mind up as to the veracity of the account. I firmly believe however, that anyone who has read a significant number of first had accounts of the Great War will quite easily be able to identify far too many flaws to believe that this is an accurate account.

I have seen it written that this book should be removed from the shelves; I do not necessarily agree with this, but I do believe that it should be pointed out in greater detail that much of the material is, for a variety of reasons, of a dubious nature and that this account should be treated as semi-fictional at best.

To those who are determined, for whatever reason, to believe the author's account verbatim; perhaps they can't bear the thought of an 'honourable pacifist' writing an untrue or inaccurate account, I would simply point to the many inconsistencies with the official accounts of the actions and casualties described in the book (e.g. recording the date of the death in action of his 'best mate', not by days or weeks, but by over 4 months. If you remain unconvinced then perhaps you should consider the fact that the Imperial War Museum has chosen to remove the author's papers from its catalogue on the basis of their unreliability as an account of an individual's experience of the First World War.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Reluctant tommy, 12 Jun 2011
This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
A book that I was looking forward to reading but when I did it was tinged with a feeling of surprise at the author's continuous theme of self satisfaction and selfishness.
What ever the outcome re the detriment of his colleagues it did not matter - his war would go on.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A self-serving fiction, 14 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
Military records, including his own, give the lie to much of the critical detail in Skirth's concoction. As a work of fiction, this book would have been interesting to a certain degree. However, it masquerades as fact, very thinly disguised, and makes utterly unsubstantiated accusations against brave soldiers who, unfortunately, can no longer answer for themselves. It is nothing more than the story of a self-centred, self-serving man who, by his own insubordination, ran afoul of military authority and who, in retaliation, committed acts of sabotage which endangered the lives of his comrades. The hard evidence of existing military records show Skirth to be, at best, a disloyal soldier with a bad memory, at worst, a coward and a liar. The Imperial War Museum has withdrawn from its catalogue Skirth's alleged "memoirs" upon which this book was built. For the serious reader who wants to know the truth of The Great War, there are a great many excellent and honest publications. This is not one of them.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Unbelievable Tommy, 3 Dec 2010
By 
R. Ward (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Reluctant Tommy - Ronald Skirth's Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War (Hardcover)
If you are hoping to read an `honest and sincere' account of one soldier's experience of WW1, then you are going to be disappointed.

The author, Ronald Skirth, has deliberately misrepresented much of his military service in order to persuade the reader of his gradual disillusionment with war, his supposed conversion to conscientious objection and the virtue of pacifism. However, when many of his claims are put alongside war diaries, the official history, photographic evidence, transport archives, CWWGC data, The London Gazette, WW1 text books, and so on, very few, if any, of his claims can be substantiated - even those claims where he cites specific evidence in support of them. When the editor says, in the introduction, that, `...the basic facts - where he served and with whom - do all check out.' he is being candid about the limited extent of Skirth's truthfulness - Skirth saw action on the Western Front and Italy together with his comrades in 293 Siege Battery RGA. A good deal of everything else in the memoir is either fictionalised, or inaccurate.

The catalogue of inaccuracies, invention, contradiction, plagiarism and malicious character assassination is not only insulting to the reader and disrespectful to his comrades, but also diminishes the very cause he is trying to persuade us of.

There are, I am sure, many books extolling the virtues of pacifism through reasoned arguments and the fair and truthful rendering of personal military experiences - this book is not one of them.
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