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4.2 out of 5 stars112
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 25 September 2013
I borrowed this from the library and liked it so much that I bought my own copy. I found it very interesting because it is unusual for an other rank to write a memoir. Especially one where the author was a battery sergeant major who also had access to the battery clerk's notes. So, much of the 1944-45 campaign is very well documented with grid references for gun positions, ammo expenditure and times of moves. It is a fantastic reference book for WW2 operations of a Royal Horse Artillery battery in self propelled guns.

There is also some of the human element to it as well. I was especially moved by the mystery of Gunner E T Jones who disappeared in the middle of a battle between the authors casualty evacuation runs. Gunner Jones was never found and is commemorated on the memorial for the missing at Bayeux.
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on 14 August 2014
A good read as this is another book NOT written by a historian so gives a front line perspective.

Some may find it a bit tedious in part 2 as he the text is often "Moved to grid ref 9933, shot 25 rounds" and so on but for me this conveyed the unrelenting nature of the fighting very well. The fact they didn't know what they were shooting at most of the time and found this frustrating was also an interesting insight.
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on 30 July 2014
I value the accounts of wars written by soldiers actually in the thick of things because these complement 'top-down' histories. 'In the face of the enemy' does exactly that.

Powdrill gives a detailed and honest picture. He was a Regular senior NCO in the Royal Artillery operating for the most part just behind the front line. He first describes action with the BEF leading to Dunkirk, and then describes action following the D-Day landings.

Often, Powdrill says, he had no idea of campaign aims: they were allocated targets and his troop fired the guns where directed. "Again, I was unaware of what we were firing at". It seems the British army did not fully integrate its forces, but relied on individual arms being able to support each other.

When Powdrill's troop happened to work regularly with a RTR unit in 1945, cooperation was actually close. But this was practical cooperation, not integration as such. Comparison could be made with the German so-called blitzkreig approach - fast mobile attacks with combined forces.

Broader issues aside, this is a worthwhile read.
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on 16 August 2014
The author writes clearly and powerfully giving a first class description of his battle experience. The reader is drawn in to the story line,turning every page in ken anticipation. This is clearly the story of a very brave man. The only real disappointment is the story stops suddenly on his last day in the battlefield . I would really have liked to know the rest of his military service and what happened to him afterwards.
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on 20 August 2014
A good insight into the activities of the Field artillery, written in a most unassuming way. Perhaps there could have been more detail in the recounting of activities but it leaves a clear understanding of the danger in which these men existed and the dedication they gave to their support of others. Sometimes, what becomes obvious but is not actually stated says more than extra detail.
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on 13 August 2014
Readable account of certain actions experienced by the author. I liked it probably because it gave an insight of 'other ranks' experience and perspective during action rather than a purely timeline account of actions and military units involved which is often the style of historians and commanding officers. Good value and worth reading.
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on 22 August 2014
for anyone seeking an insight into the royal artillery in ww2 This is an excellent book.the author uses the 25 pounder..in its various forms..drilled out ww1 guns .plus the traditional 25 pounder moving onto the Sexton a sherman chassis with 25 pounder..

A Very insightful book

Chris Jenkins Aug 2014
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on 17 August 2014
Not the usual war narrative. Whilst the writing is a bit stilted, to read about a branch of the armed forces that is often neglected. Usually thought of as long range snipers the gunners in this book are in the thick of it. It seems that WO Powdrills Military Cross was well deserved.
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on 25 August 2014
What a privilege to read this book. The courage and fortitude of EA Powdrill is simply beyond my understanding. This was the in your face war - no abstract manoeuvres - rather directly engaging in battle. How he coped with loss (e.g. Driver Smith) is also beyond me. I weptbad I read of the horror of war. The book is also unique in that the author was one of the ranks -it comes with great authenticity - no varnish. There is no vain glory only a tale of gallantry and survival. So so many poignant moments in this book that would break a man or woman but the author had to swallow hard and move on. Another facet running though the book is the lack of information given to lower ranks in case they are captured and blab all to the enemy. The author is scornful of this argument and implies that more detail on targets would further motivated the gunners.
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on 26 July 2014
Great read, covers the very early war up to Dunkirk and the battle for Normandy... the author was decorated with the Military Cross and after you've read his accounts on life on the front line as a BSM you will understand why! Highly recommended...
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