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4.8 out of 5 stars32
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 31 May 2010
This new version of Alexander Baron's wonderful novel is long overdue. Most importantly, it includes a fascinating introduction that reveals much background on Baron that I (a long time fan) was never aware of. In addition, it includes historical research by the respected historian Sean Longden. In this Longden (who previously used Baron's private letters and unpublished memoirs in his book 'To the Victor the Spoils') reveals the truth behind the book and uncovers the identity of the real-life officer upon whom Baron based the novel's Colonel Pothecary. This adds a previously unseen dimension that will intrigue those who have read earlier editions of the book.

To those who are new to Baron, many readers consider this to be the most authentic novel of life in the British army in the latter stages of WW2. It avoids heroism or overbearing sentimentality to give a wonderful insight on the British character in wartime.

I am amazed there has never been a film of this book!
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on 30 June 2011
I've just read a first edition copy of this book that I came upon completely by chance and I literally read it from cover to cover with almost no breaks! It is the most believable and unsentimental account of the life and experiences of ordinary British soldiers in WW2 that I have ever read. Considering some of the gritty truths portrayed in the novel - gratuitous attitudes to obtaining sexual relief, random acts of violence towards fellow soldiers, to the summary murder of an officer in the field, it's hard to believe that the novel was first published in an austere and conservative era when the war was already starting to be painted as a 'war for heroes' in popular culture. There are few heroes in this book. Just a lot of ordinary blokes trying to stay alive and stay sane, having been conscripted out of their ordinary lives and into the insanity and cruelty of war. A well-crafted and thought-provoking novel.
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on 1 July 2010
A quite exceptional novel of the 'poor bloody infantry's experience of D-Day, the marking of time in the run up to the invasion, and the fighting that followed. Exceptional above all because of its humanity. Sean Longden provides an excellent introduction and postscript. This was Baron's first novel - he probably regarded it as his best.
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on 19 August 2010
Read the book when a young man 50 years ago and felt the urge to read it again.Brilliantly written novel based on the personal experiences and research of the Author on the preparations leaning up to D-day and the difficult push into France from the soldiers perspective in the face of tough resistance from the German army.
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on 28 November 2008
I read this book in my early teens, and it totally changed my view about warfare. Before, I was consumed with the adventure and excitement of war. As I read it, the awful reality of what it means to ordinary soldiers was revealed. Barron spends the first part building up familiarity with the characters, so that, as the story progresses their individual injuries, and sometimes deaths, hit home hard. I can't say whether it has the same impact today with 24/7 news and reports from front-lines, but it totally changed my attitude in the 1960s.
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on 31 May 2011
Written not long after the war, when memories were still fresh, and based on his own experiences, Alexander Baron produced what is, for me, the definitive novel of life in a line battalion of the British Liberation Army of 1944. His characters are real, and their experiences are utterly believable. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what the war in Western Europe was like in the drive towards Germany. This latest edition has an extremely informative foreword by Sean Longden, which explains how Baron came to write the book, and where his inspirations came from.
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on 11 April 2011
The ring of truth sounds through this book.
No heroics, lies or propaganda,just the stark reality of the sacrifice of the brave but callow youth of our country.
Like all young conscripts,they had no choice,and no real understanding of what they were fighting for.
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on 18 April 2012
What a find! I first heard about this book on BBC Radio 4 and thought I would give it a read. I was not disappointed, this book is a little gem. It tells the story of ordinary men training for war and then facing battle. Give it a read you will not be disappointed.
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on 18 August 2010
I could NOT put this book down. A bit like "Band of Brothers" or "Saving Private Ryan" except they are all BRITISH soldiers and it was written straight after ww2 ended.

Its mostly based on fact, and from what I read it seriously felt like fact. I even dug out my D-Day landing maps, and could have started sticking progress pins in if I had any.

The way he writes is at times beautiful and at others disturbing, and I could picture everything so clearly... I think this is why I got so immersed in it.

I was rather sad to have finished the book (I will probably read it again sometime) and am very pleased it was re-released.

Probably a good book to send to a squaddie abroad.
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on 13 October 2012
This novel is short, effortlessly written, endlessly subtle, but packs intense emotional impact. Having read widely on this period, and lost family in the battle described, I suspect Baron's novel, based closely on first-hand experience and the experiences in particular of 5th Wiltshires, is the most accurate description of the British Army in Normandy, their preparation, culture, and leadership, and the grinding attrition they endured. Having been a private soldier, and writing at length about combat, Baron adds two new dimensions to the officerly and staff based background to Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh's war trilogies.
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