The Real 'Dad's Army': The War Diaries of Col. Rodney Foster Paperback – 10 May 2012
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The entries could have come straight from the Dad's Army script (Times)
From the Back Cover
'The extraordinary thing about this book is that it is the real thing. Readers can finally find an authentic insight into this extraordinary time' Jim Perry (co-creator of Dad's Army), The Times
Here, for the first time, is the inside story of the Home Guard, the ragtag army of older and not-so-able-bodied younger men who defended Britain in the Second World War. Keeping a secret diary chronicling his service in south-east England, Colonel Rodney Foster wrote from barns, churches and makeshift officers' messes, recording the everyday, comic and chaotic details of wartime life: soldiers scared to train after dark or just skipping onerous duties; constant aerial bombardment; manoeuvres sabotaged by incompetence, makeshift equipment or lack of interest. It is a wonderful story of one family's life on the front line as well as of the men who had so little yet were ready to give their all to beat the enemy.
'Entertainingly terse and grumpy. An enjoyable record of six long years on the home front. If you lament the demise of the stiff upper lip, this is the book for you' Dominic Sandbrook, Evening Standard
'Amazing, a delight to read, a book worth special attention. Worthy of being in Dad's Army . . . An insight into life as it really was in those dark days of World War Two' British Army Rumour Service
'Could have come straight from the script of Dad's Army' Sunday TelegraphSee all Product description
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Colonel Foster is an exemplary diarist. His entires are brief, lucid and to the point; they have room for the wider view of the war as it unfolded but also for the trivia of everyday life. A picture emerges of daily exposure to danger, the stress of regular air raid warnings, the bombs and explosions, the death of acquaintances; but also of domestic life when the housemaid is suspected of being a spy, when the writer stands next to a rear-admiral in a half-hour queue to buy fish, when a journey can only be completed by borrowing a gallon of petrol, while on another drive to an emergency hospital, "I did the 28 miles in 1¼ hours."
Unwittingly, perhaps, the Colonel provides a telling self-portrait. Clearly he was a man of principle, devoted to his wife and daughter, a willing helper of deserving causes, a prickly team member, and a prejudiced patriot - among those who come in for recurrent criticism are Winston Churchill and most of his cabinet, Field Marshall Montgomery, General Eisenhower and most Americans. British servicemen who consistently damage his fence are not excused.
We can only be grateful that these diaries, having disappeared after the author's death, resurfaced in a car boot sale. Anyone wishing to understand what life was like for civilians in the front line will find a clear and accurate account. I should add that much of it made difficult reading for one who was born in Folkestone, experienced some of the later months but mostly escaped as an evacuee in Wales. So I was not there when my school premises were damaged. Unfortunately, as a photograph of wrecked houses on page 113 shows, my parents stayed on and paid with their lives.
This is a remarkable record of the Second World War, which melds the routine of daily life with the death and destruction of the war, mostly within viewing distance from his lounge. One aspect that he clearly articulates, is the incredible acoustic background to living on the front line that was Hythe. The noise of exploding bombs, torpedoes and mines, together with the constant crash of gunfire and the whine of piston engines driving planes and vehicles to war (never mind the constant and irritating damage to his garden fence by careless army drivers!) is indelibly printed upon the pages. This is not a cover to cover read but it is certainly a very fine one.
Whilst the title suggests a focus upon the Home Guard the story is much wider than that, encompassing everything from air-raids, vehicle accidents and plane crashes, to the Girl Guides, shopping queues, drunken soldiers and allotments. The passing vignettes on the tragedies of the people he knows hides immense loss for so many.
How sad that Rodney Foster cannot inform and inspire us in person. He has though, left us the next best thing. His perspectives are so practical yet moving; the very routine makes it fascinating. A Lost Generation now rediscovered!
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