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on 1 August 2017
GMF must have 30 plus, mainly fiction, books on Amazon. What makes this account of the Burma war special is that he can write, he knows how to tell a story and he was actually there. With the exception of John Masters and a few others that is a rare combination. There are many participants who can't write well and many good writers who weren't there and a lot of historians who were neither.

I like his coverage of the boring and the mundane because it illustrates the bond that existed with his section's band of brothers. I also like the accounts of company level engagements which together overcame the Japanese in Burma, eventually routing them. It was a brutal rifle and bayonet war in which the Japanese were eventually completely outclassed.

The account is of its time and reflects the language and attitudes of that time. I personally like GMFs refusal to fall into line with the PC brigade and start saying things that he knows to be untrue for fear of causing offence. Some reviewers seem to find it hard to understand that these soldiers despised the Japanese, but they did because they knew about their behaviour, war crimes and atrocities. Sat in front of a computer in 2017 is a long way from 1945 Burma.

I particularly liked the passage in which GMF describes the understated compassion and heroism of one of his mates who in the middle of a battle goes out alone into no-mans land at night to find somebody left behind. He contrasts this with modern society's tendency to bestow the accolade
of 'hero' on the likes of sportsmen.

The best bit about this book is that it explains the bond between the men on which victory ultimately depended. Read this book and you will understand why they won.
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on 8 February 2018
A personal account of his wartime experience in Birma, by none other than the writer of the Flashman novels. MacDonald Fraser fought in the War's last campaigns, enlisted as private in a Cumbrian regiment. Based on Flashman's engagingly cowardly character, I half expected this book to be full of confessions of how fearful the author was, and to what lengths he went to avoid risk. In fact, he seems to have done well, and the experience seems to have agreed with him.

This is definitely an interesting book. I personally liked Fraser's dismissive attitude of modern pc nonsense & sensibilities (contrasted with the toughness and grit of his own generation) a lot - what an eloquent defense of the stiff upper lip! What I liked less is that half the book is written in phonetic Cumbrian. A few pages of that would have been quite enough to get the idea, I think. Overall verdict: highly recommended.
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on 19 February 2016
I bought this book primarily for my (late) father a few years ago (aged 93 then) who had endured the Burma campaign as a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Engineers during 1944 and 1945.

The same as the author, Dad marched the road back from Imphal towards Rangoon as part of General Slim's "forgotten fourteenth army". He was proud of that and believed Slim to be the finest allied general of the war - far superior to Monty in Europe and he thought the supreme south east asian commander Mountbatton (El Supremo) to be a "posturing fop". He would say that Slim "knew and loved his soldiers" - hence their nickname of Slim as "Uncle Bill". Mountbatton only "played to the gallery".

Dad was unable to read for himself at this time, so I spent a few hours day by day, reading this book to him. At the end of the first day, I looked up from the book and saw Dad was quietly weeping - big tears silently rolling down his cheeks and a far off look in his eyes.
"You know what, Pete" he said. "That took me straight back to Burma. He's described it oh so well,"
Much has since been written about the Author's uncompromising view of Japan and the dropping of the bomb and how we now tend to a revisionist view of those terrible war years.
My father talked about the fall of Singapore and what was the fate of so many British and Commonwealth soldiers in their ensuing captivity and how the doctors and patients were murdered and the nurses in the Singapore Alexandra Hospital were raped on the corrugated iron roofs of the hospital - deliberately and in full view of the captured soldiers. The bayoneting of allied prisoners tied to trees for Japanese bayonet practice. The deliberate murder by the Japs of patients and doctors in the forward hospital during the fight in the "Admin Box" during the second Arakan campaign. All of these horrors became known to every allied soldier who was fighting the Japanese.
I learned of his eternal hatred for a race that could do these things to other human beings in the name of their Emperor and he would have no truck with todays modern historians who "put a different slant on what really happened".
He was of that time. "You were not there" is all he would say.
In his opinion,the Author was perfectly entitled to write his views which he (Dad) agreed with wholeheartedly.
Having read and re-read this book, (together with many others about the Burma campaign) I tend to agree with the author.
Do read this book yourselves and try to see it through the eyes of someone who had been there.
Its one of the best books I have ever read about war from a private soldier's perspective.
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on 9 June 2018
This must be quite the best exposition of what it is like to be a "Grunt" at war. Fear, fatigue, boredom, horror, hunger but through it all humour and the incredible stoicism to 'see it through'. A particular gem is the author's brilliant prose in describing the 'British stiff upper lip' as a contrast to the modern predilection for 'Counselling' and the out-pouring of emotion which is fuelled by the sadistic desires of a shameless Media. It should be required reading for all young journalists who ceaselessly ask "how does it feel". A warrior might reply "how do you think it feels, stupid?" This book certainly makes it plain. It's a classic.
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on 1 October 2017
This is a gritty story of what men at war are actually like, in a bygone era. It's only 70 years ago and there's still people (including Frazer) and the culture he fought for has been eroded, to the point where revisionists feel they can tell McDonald Frazer what he *should* have done. This is but one story from many that will illuminate the reality of strife, of war, and may suggest why there is such support for the post-war inventions (you know, the NHS, the welfare state, etc.). Read it; you'll see where McAuslan comes from, and you'll see what an army is like, especially when it's got its back to the wall as the British were in Burma for a while.
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on 11 March 2018
Excellent story, well told. Especially liked and agreed with comments on page 140 I believe regarding the idea that people today appear to need counselling after some life changing experience. The authority's would be still at it today if this was done following WW2. There were also some pertinent remarks towards the end of the book about measuring actions taken then by todays standards, especially by persons not ever being in those situations. Thoroughly enjoyable, read it with the voice of Jimmy Nail (Auf Wiederstein Pet) in your head.
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on 13 December 2017
A great book giving readers an insight into the mind of someone from a generation which has passed on. The writer comments on how soft we are in the 1990's when this was written compared to his generation who had to suffer during the depression years and knew from their fathers what to expect going to war. He's a man's man and paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be part of a small section fighting its own war in Burma not just against the enemy but with the climate as well.
My fathers uncle was KIA in Rangoon so for me it was a book worth reading to get a glimpse of what he went through before he was killed just before the end in June 1945.
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on 12 April 2017
I've only read the first Flashman book, but after reading this it's clear why Fraser had such a good eye for the British Empire and the British Army in Asia - he was there for the end of it. He gives brilliant descriptions of going into battle, the way memory is fallible, his comrades in the unit, and the joy of going on leave in Calcutta. Initially I was a bit irritated by how some sections segued into 'back then, we had none of this counselling malarkey', but I think it's important to remember that this isn't journalism: it's the memoir of a perceptive, opinionated old man looking back on his life, reflecting on what he remembers and on how things have changed. Highly recommended if you want some insight into what WW2 was like for a young British soldier (and some exciting battle scenes).
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on 13 June 2016
Great writing as ever by GMF, he chose the tricky option of writing some speech in dialect, and got away with it, it made the memoirs even more real. I would thank him and his publishers for the map, a bit lo-res, but you get the idea. I hate books that dont have a map (if relevant). I'm a bit of a map geek and followed his exploits on google maps too, enjoying both the story and the country's obvious development over the years, but the arid dry, then jungle areas will always remain tho. I read The General Danced At Dawn many many years ago, and now intend to dig it out and re-read it, i recall there were quite a few stories based on this books history. I'm sure there was a Selection Committee story, can't wait, and i've already got the book!
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on 13 December 2012
Another rare and fantastic insight into the world of the British army soldier in Burma in WW2. A frank and unapologetic story is told by Fraser of his experiences as a young soldier in that theatre near the war's end but with plenty ferocious battles left to fight.

One of the aspects of the book that made me warm to it the most was the human side to the story which implants the reader into the action. The way one gets to know and love the characters in Fraser's section mean it is truly difficult for the section to lose a man, you feel that loss to a degree having been expertly shown that character's development since Fraser joined the section.

Another is the way combat is told through the eyes of the grunt on the ground. There is not much room for philosophy etc, just a kill or be killed mentality any soldier facing a desperate and suicidal enemy would adopt. The combat is fast paced and feels like a whirlwind which starts and ends quickly, accurate to the intense madness that combat really is. The loss of human life and members of the section seem to happen in an instant and this is an honest and accurate telling of what Fraser himself experienced in those sad moments.

I believe that this military classic should be read by all children in the UK from 11 plus. It shows the cameraderie and bonds that form and develop between ordinary men in desperate times who invariably in peace would never have come across one another. In addition the sharp horrors of war and the immediate sense of loss are portrayed enough to prove why humanity should avoid an event such as this ever again.

It is therefore a very worthwhile read for ALL!!
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