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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars will recommend
If you like military history you will like this book,an ant's eye view of the battle of britain and the experience of living through world war 2 on the kent coast through the eyes of col. rodney foster. Lots of interesting information on air raid times,troop movements,public opinion,and such like.most military history books say about the same on the different wars or...
Published on 12 Dec 2011 by penfold

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Attention
This book is based on the Home Guard in Kent, I bought it for my Father who was in the Home Guard at 16yrs old and it jogged his memory of his days in the HG before he was called up to join the Navy. He read it in a day and enjoyed it a lot, although not all the book is dedicated to the HG but featured it's author. I too read and enjoyed it but i would say that it has a...
Published 18 months ago by K C


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I loved it . . . but!, 4 Nov 2012
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
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Many editions of this book seem to have been published - the one I have is Penguin. Having read it, I am surprised. It is the sort of thing one expects to see under the impress of a local history society. When others have raved over it, why am I so mean as to give it only 3 stars?

The book has a certain charm, I admit. Colonel Rodney Foster IS very much out of the same mould as Captain Mannering; a rather stuffy middle class chap obsessed with how others treat him, in his case in the local RSPCA rather than the bank (He doesn't seem to have a "day job"). But what we can best learn from these pages is the strange way that the everyday kept chugging along while mighty events were being played out. As far as war on the home front is concerned, Foster really was on the front line. He could see, from his house perched high above the Channel at Saltwood, events along the coast, out at sea and even on the French coast. After a "big gun" - the kind that could fire shells across the Channel - was set up nearby, his family takes to travelling out to a house in the countryside to sleep each night, as German raids on the gun endangered their house nearby. Air raid warnings are constant, yet, in the early years at least, the sirens only start to go off after the raid has started (or even when it has finished, sometimes). The threat of invasion is at times immediate, hourly; if it came, Foster would have seen the fleet advancing across the Channel from his windows. The Battle of Britain goes on over Foster's head; planes, parachutes and bombs rain from the sky indiscriminately.

Despite all this, Foster's sangfroid is most often disturbed by the weather. I quote from 5th November 1940, one of the longer entries. "At 11.30 am three Huns dived on the town from over Pedlinge and dropped bombs. Two fell on the ranges and one hit the quarters of the Quartermaster of the Small Arms School. The next hit and demolished the barricaded side of Nelson's Bridge over the canal, spattering the small houses nearby with black canal mud, and the last fell on Hospital Hill, Sandgate, killing a Sapper from the section on Hillcrest Road. Shortly after, the rain came down. On my way to mount the guard I saw the strafing of the French coast in retaliation for the shelling of Dover. It came down in buckets as I left the post and I was wet through." This oddly deadpan style prevails throughout; bad weather and violent death are both inconvenient, but the weather more so. Foster has no descriptive talent, and gets most exercised about the bad behaviour of troops stationed in the area (one lot steal his supply of coal, another lot break down his fence and help themselves to his vegetables. Other depredations and a certain amount of rowdy scrapping between regiments are also reported), also the committee goings on in the local RSPCA and the constant irritations of inefficiency and back-biting among Home Guard members. Many entries are laconic in the extreme; that for 9th January 1943 reads "A very cold day. Gribbon has put himself in command of all the Home Guard units in Folkestone, and reduced my command to three platoons. I wrote out my resignation. I had a restless night worrying about it". On the 12th, discovering that if he resigns as Saltwood commander, the Home Guard regulations mean he will go down in rank to "private", he withdraws his resignation. This section provides some of the best unintentional humour in the diaries; by the 14th the weather is again central stage with heavy rain, localised flooding, and Foster's car engine damaged by driving through a deep puddle.

Reading the book with care, one can see that Foster has his upper lip severely stiffened. He occasionally remarks in passing that some setback in the war makes him "very depressed", and from time to time a really close shave with the hardware constantly flying about his ears has him admitting to having been "really frightened". Bear in mind that this is a man who has seen numerous acquaintances killed or injured, and is only too aware of the inadequacy of the Home Guard to repel the invasion which at times is expected hourly. He is not one to confide in his diary, however. On 26th of April 1941 he writes "One cannot put down one's feelings on the war situation". He means this metaphorically - in the context it is clear he means it's too bad to put into words - but it is literally true; he is incapable of expressing his feelings, opinions or reflections in words on the diary page.

And yet I said I loved it. Why? Because my mother lived in Hythe through the war and has annotated my copy with entertaining marginal notes. She knew many of the people Foster mentions, saw the same events and - after the war - even worked in the house (illustrated by Foster's drawings) which the Fosters lived in at the time! The moral of this story is, that if you have a local connection - especially if you are interested in the intimate history of the area - this is a jolly read. If you are looking for something with the insight, thoughtfulness and sensitivity found in We Are At War: The Diaries of Five Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times or Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Postwar Britain, you certainly won't find it here.

A postscript for locals and Dad's Army buffs; it has often been stated that the "Warmington on Sea" of Dad's Army is Dymchurch. At Saltwood, Foster is only a few miles from Dymchurch and it is frequently mentioned in the book. Certainly the mood, and general situation in the television series (which was actually filmed inland at Thetford in Norfolk) fit very closely with Hythe, rather than Dymchurch. However, "Warmington on Sea" is a composite of southern seaside towns; neither Dymchurch nor Hythe has the kind of seafront described, which fits Hastings better. What is quite clear from this book is that the action in the air, out at sea, and even within sight on the French coast, is far more constant and dangerous than we see in Dad's Army, also that the Home Guard trained much harder, with constant practice on shooting ranges and much more weaponry than we see with Captain Mannering's platoon.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Dad's Army, 30 Oct 2011
Living on the South Coast, facing France, I find this book fascinating. Despite the war part of Rodney's life went on as normal. A great read - now reading it for a second time.The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 4 Nov 2013
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this is a strange book to review. It's a diary. It has the most mundane items of everyday life such as the weather and yet such quality of information concerning the war. There is a dryness to his sense of humour and by the end I wanted to know so much more! I wanted to know about the diary extracts that were not in the book, no matter how mundane! This is a fabulous book. As a history teacher I will be referring to sections to bring alive the reality of life at home in the war, and about what happened to the houses left behind!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars down to earth and true, 30 Oct 2013
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my father was in the home guard and after reading it he told me thats how it was could not put it down
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Dad's Army, 3 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster (Paperback)
It is an excellent book, I bought it for a present and it was well received. Well worth the money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 10 July 2013
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If you like history and are interested in the war you will enjoy this book especially if you live or know the Kent area.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Of limited Interest?, 4 July 2013
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This review is from: The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster (Paperback)
I found this book fascinating because immediately post WW2 I lived in a house (near the author's) which features in the text and on a detailed map; also some of the people mentioned were familiar to me. As an account of day to day events during the war in Hythe and Folkestone and to a lesser extent Dover it is of historical interest but it has little literary merit being in essence a log of events in which the author was involved, or noted. Some illumination of the human aspect is given by references to the frequent pilfering of the author's garden by soldiers billeted nearby and to the problems of discipline and training in a Home Guard whose members had other responsibilities and priorities. Clashes of personality appear to have been a recurrent problem. Frustratingly the author often mentions matters which require amplification for the reader's understanding but too often he doesn't provide this. He gives the impression of being of limited imagination and the reader is given little idea of the human experience of living on the home front while subject to frequent bombing and shelling. As a straightforward record of one man's war on the coast of East Kent it will be of interest to those who live in the area covered, or know it well, but it would seem of limited interest to those who don't have this connection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 18 May 2013
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An interesting read about the thoughts of a retired officer and his life in the local defence volunteers.
I enjoyed reading of his experiences and frustrations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 26 April 2013
This review is from: The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster (Paperback)
What a wonderful book! Detailing local life in World War II in Hythe, Folkestone and the surrounding towns in south east Kent this also makes for a great local history book, as well as a World War II history book. It had me giggling, overcome with sadness and amazed at the strength and bravery of everyone during this war. A must read-couldn't put it down!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The real dad's army the war diaries of colonel rodney foster, 30 Jan 2013
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Mrs. S. R. Harris "rosina" (west sussex, england) - See all my reviews
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Interesting read of people who lived directly in the line of fire. But Rodney Foster, well, he doesnt seem to like anyone, he must be just about the only person of that time and now that doesnt give Churchill credit for our salvation in world war 2, he had a very odd attitude to the great man. I think he felt a kind of superiority to everyone, perhaps it was his long years spent in India where he was 'top dog'. dont deny that he was a patriot, but he rubbished Churchill's speeches at every turn, I ended up not liking him very much wouldnt like to have upset him, he even said on one occasion, I have forgotten the person, but he suggested he should be whipped or words to that effect, very colonial.....
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The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster
The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster by Rodney Foster (Paperback - 10 May 2012)
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