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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 31 January 2011
This is a first-rate autobiography by a working class man, born in 1919, who became a soldier and experienced war in North Africa, Italy and Germany. His description of the firestorming of Dresden makes you feel as if you are part of it with him and it is, truly, a miracle that he survived to tell the tale. He was then taken prisoner of war and liberated by the Russians. After the war, in chapters worthy of John le Carre, he worked for the Soviets in London. This is not, however, a mere recounting of facts, however ironic - nor does Victor Gregg seek to blow his own trumpet. He does not see himself as any kind of hero. Nor was he, although he undoubtedly had guts. I think what I like most about this book is how the author's voice comes through loud and clear, often laughing at himself, often tinged with remorse. At the end of the book, you feel that you have met this man - he is real.
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Life as they say can be stranger than fiction and that's exactly what occurs within this autobiographical story by Victor Gregg who tells of his life experiences during the Second World War, from marching in Africa through Italy as well as being an eyewitness to the devastation of Dresden.

It's beautifully written and brings a human personal look to events that are pretty static and impersonal in the history books. Add to this a good understanding of pace, a solid comprehension of keeping it linear and it's a tale that should be passed on to others to read. With so much of recent history being lost with the elderly generation we need to get these stories down so that when the last one passes the stories are there otherwise we'll be left with a history that has no connection, cold and sterile.

Add to this events in his life after the war and it's a tale that will have many an author scrabbling to create an equally large as life character.
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on 30 October 2011
This is a fascinating, enthralling and compelling book. I read it in pretty much one sitting. Victor Gregg has done and achieved so much in his lifetime that it is almost impossible to believe, but it is all true.
There is enough material in this book for a television series, let alone a film. He showed compassion, courage, grit and determination. A humble man who was at the epicentre of so many notable events. I urge anyone to read this book.
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on 26 February 2011
This review is a slight cheat, as I am buying the book on the strength of a remarkable interview with the author on today's "Saturday Live" programme [26th February 2011]. He comes across as an extraordinary person - he says himself that some of the things he did [such as [for fun] substituting cement powder for the powdered pumice being made into 'soap' in the factory where he worked as prisoner of war in Germany - and which naturally set solid, and caused all the electrics to blow in the absence of fuses... this earned him the death sentence] were 'mad'. But his vivid re-telling of events including the Dresden firestorm, don't allow us ever to imagine that war was just another story.

It ought to be standard reading for schools, perhaps, to see what war is - not something that exists in a book, or a game on a console, but something frightening, shocking and dangerous: to be avoided wherever peace can be given the chance.
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on 12 April 2012
I started reading this book and felt humbled by the strength of this man's character for, without people like him, we would not have "won" the war. He comes across as an uncomplicated man [in a good way] and his attitude to the bombing of Dresden is commendable. War is ugly, there can never be an excuse to bomb places like that and his description of this bombing left me deeply sad for its inhabitants. Victor Gregg seems to be the sort of man who thrives on excitement and change and this is how his book comes across. Unfortunately for him this attitude cost him his first marriage but he felt he'd learnt lessons from that. An excellent read if you are interested in people generally [as I am]
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on 18 November 2011
This is a superb book for so many reasons.

The story itself is fascinating. It reads almost like a pulp novel but is wholly factual. Written by the author, about the author, it pulls no punches in telling his story from age 18 to age 90. It deals with his time as a soldier including his involvement in Alamein and Market Garden, his time as a POW, and his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden which left him a changed man. His marriage and the birth of his children, his divorce and remarriage, his work as a spy, his involvement in the fall of the Iron Curtain, and his feelings regarding all of these events.

It is a book that you will find hard to not read in a single sitting.

Be careful though, you may find yourself getting a little emotional at times.
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on 10 April 2016
A good read. How fate can intervene when you live your life day by day. I think its refreshing to read the wartime memories of an ordinary infantryman. And what memories they are. Rifleman Gregg's experiences read like an improbable Hollywood movie, where the American G.I. is always the hero. Here though we have a genuine British gallant who had seen it all, done it all, and lived to a ripe old age to record his adventures for posterity.
While Victor has laid down before us his experiences of his 10 army service that encapsulated the Second World War, for a man in his 90s he must view his distant past like looking through a distant mirror. Almost as if it was another life. He is probably as surprised by the bravery shown by some of his escapades as his readers are thinking how they would respond given the same challenges to their levels of courage and endurance.
As a keen fan of military histories, this one of the best books on the subject I have read lately. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 13 February 2015
I actually read this book some 3 years before writing this review but have just had my memory jogged after hearing Victor being interviewed on Radio 5Live. The reason for the interview was the 75th Anniversary of the Dresden Bombing,which Victor as a P.O.W. witnessed first hand.This book,and Victor's description,stunned and horrified me.The interview,during which he didn't mention his book incidentally,was even more powerful and the Broadcasters delayed the news report by 7 minutes so powerful and emotional were his words.
The bombing is only part of the book,the fascinating and moving story of Victor's life as a P.O.W.but inevitably it's the part that will stay in most people's minds afterwards,not least Victor showing the good side of many of "the enemy" and his views on those who send others to war.
This is a book that really affected me and every time I hear the usual 5 second soundbite about the latest bombing raid by someone,somewhere over some perceived grievance,fight over lines on a piece of paper or a disagreement over which way of worshipping the same God might be best.At those times,usually after 3 minutes on Beckham's latest hairstyle or something really important about some reality tv show, I think of Victor's
description of the reality and brutality of warfare and I share his views of those who profit from it in any way,politically or financially.
A very important book as well as an interesting one.I had no idea Victor Gregg was still alive but his radio interview was powerful stuff and attracted a lot of positive comment from listeners,many of whom I suspect don't think past the headlines from various parts of the globe every time our glorious leaders see bombing everything as the answer.
Fascinating book by a fascinating man.
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on 13 January 2016
My favourite autobiographies are the ones that make your eyebrows rise and your heart pound. Victor Gregg's book is absolutely one of them - from his tough beginnings in Bloomsbury to the Desert War to Dresden to his difficult post-war transition and succession of peculiar Cold War jobs, he has lived the type of life that begs to be read about. The descriptions of combat in the desert are vivid and frightening, and you can see how his hard upbringing provides the psychological bedrock of the cussed and dynamic rifleman. The descriptions of Dresden are horrible, and his own take on the bombing of that city is clear for anybody to agree or disagree with. I found the post-war involvement with the Russians to be a more difficult read - there was something evasive about the way it is told, which I suppose fits in with his own retrospective (and sad) assessment of how much he was affected by the transition from rifleman to civvie. All in all, a terrific book and full of telling perspectives relevant to so many aspects of the 20th century.
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on 2 January 2016
Victor Gregg is the sort of bloke you would stay well away from. He passed through some of the most vicious campaigns in North Africa and Europe physically unscathed. Captured at Arnhem he ended up condemned to death in Dresden, before making friends with the Russians. Everyone around him took a bullet, bomb, or mortar round and Victor cleaned it all up and soldiered on. His reflections on the stupidity of those in power and the ravages of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are spot on. Highly intelligent, utterly observant, Gregg tells his story with clear, unembellished language and you just know it is all true! The chapters covering his postwar career are pretty staggering too....
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