10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Brilliant Piece of War Reportage,
This review is from: The Road Past Mandalay (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
John Masters is a fantastic writer, as shown by his post-war career. But here he concentrates on his wartime experiences, and brings them to life as well as any of his novels. Although he details his other employment the book concentrates on the famous Second Chindit operation, which he began as brigade major of 111th Brigade. But following the death of Wingate and the promotion of the brigade commander, 'Joe' Lentaigne, to take over, Masters was appointed to command the brigade.
With Wingate dead the Chindits found themselves supporting the American-Chinese forces under 'Vinegar Joe' Stilwell, a noted Anglophobe - indeed, misanthrope - who told Lentaigne the Chindits were a 'bunch of lily-livered Limey popinjays'. He then fought them until they were so exhausted that to Masters everyone seemed to move like sleepwalkers in slow motion. 'A Cameronian lieutenant fell headfirst into a weapon pit and two Japanese soldiers five yards away leaned weakly on their rifles and laughed, slowly, while the officer struggled to his feet, slowly, and trudged up the slope the shells fell slowly and burst with long slow detonations and the men collapsed slowly to the ground, blood flowing in gentle gouts into the mud.'
Finally, after a bitter series of signals, Masters' demand for medical examination of 111th Brigade was agreed to. Over three days all the remaining 2,200 men were examined, of whom those judged fit for service in any theatre amounted to 118. Masters added his own name to the list and
asked, with bitter sarcasm, for orders from Stilwell for the remainder of his brigade. Stilwell sent them: 111th Company, as he now called it, would guard a Chinese artillery battery. When they arrived at their new task the friendly but puzzled American liaison officer said that they did not, really, need guarding much. 'I wasn't going to let the Chinese get away with that nonsense', wrote Masters. 'When a major of Chinese artillery gets a brigade commander of the Regular Indian Army assigned to protect him, he's damn well going to be protected.' They dug positions; when begged to leave, they dug deeper. After 10 days someone tired of this nonsense and 111th Company was finally permitted to leave Burma. Masters 'scrambled into a C-47 and, not knowing or caring where it was going, fell asleep'. 'The Road Past Mandalay' is surely the best memoir of campaign.