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4.0 out of 5 stars At the Sharp End by Peter Hart, a review by Thomas W Johnson, 21 Nov 2011
By 
Thomas W. Johnson (Kailua Kona, Hawaii) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: At the Sharp End: From Le Paradis to Kohima (Regimental Actions) (Hardcover)
One of the many great accomplishments of the Imperial War Museum was the sound archive project taken on after World War II. For those of you who have read Julian Thompson's "Forgotten Voices of Burma" this will be a similar experience. The author, Peter Hart, is or was the "Oral Historian of the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive." A lot of the material in "At the Sharp End" is also in "Forgotten Voices." So if you read Colonel Scott's "Ho, ho, ho! You never were any bloody oil painting!" in "Forgotten Voices", you'll see it again in "At the Sharp End."

This book is about the second batallion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and follows thier history from the mid - 1930's until just after June, 1944 at the conclusion of the battle for Kohima. Based on the stories in this book, the second batallion of the Royal Norfolks may qualify as the unluckiest batallion in the British Army.

The second batallion of the Royal Norfolks provided a rear guard for the British Expeditionary Force retreating back to Dunkirk. As a result of this fighting, to quote Peter Hart, "The fighting strength of the batallion had almost all been killed, wounded, captured or massacred."

After Dunkirk the batallion was reinforced and restrengthed back into its war time allotment, and sent to India. The Royal Norfolks were sent with the 2nd British Division to Kohima where they and the Royal Scots were ordered to march around Mt. Pulebadze and attack the Japanese positions on General Purpose Transport Ridge.

While the batallion was successful in taking GPT Ridge they did not entirely clear out the position that came to be known as the "Norfolk Bunker". The did "neutralize" the position so the batallion could be joined by the 1/4 Gurkha Rifles coming directly from Jotsoma.

The batallion was ordered to attack Aradura Spur, even though the batallion had been sorely depleted by the fighting for GPT Ridge and the Norfolk Bunker.

After trying to attack Aradura Spur and failing, the batallion "had shot its bolt."

The men remaining in the batallion were moved back to Dimapur for rest and reinforcement. "Overall at Kohima 11 officers and 79 other ranks had been killed with a further 13 officers and over 150 ranks wounded."

The book closes at Kohima, although the Royal Norfolks continued with second divison across the Chindwin and into Burma, so I don't know quite why Peter Hart stopped where he did.

Its an interesting book with lots of pictures but as I said earlier, you're going to see a lot of repetition with Julian Thompson's book. Still, its interesting, to me, to see how a particular action is described in a regimental history, versus, Slim's book or Ball of Fire or Furthest Battle or any of the other books about Kohima, Burma and the XIVth Army.
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