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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 1 February 2014
I was struggling to find a book for my Kindle app the other night and came across The Machine Gunners which was my favourite book as a child. I constantly had the book on loan from the school library. I must have read it at least five times as a child due mainly been so well written for boys of a certain age and my fascination with anything to do with the Second World War.

Reading it as a adult it was still every bit as good as what it ever was and in no way read like a child's book. I have re-read other books from my childhood recently and they were very hard to get through as they were after all books meant for a child. However The Machine Gunners spans generations and is equally a good read for an adult as what it is for a child.

Forgive me I do not normally do book reviews as I am sure you can tell from this review so I will try my best here..

Excellent well written and superbly constructed story with many ups and downs and facets such as the perils of the blitz during the war, wartime life, schoolboy antics, excitement, guns, rebelling against the system etc. It really is a very good read.
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on 6 June 2001
this is quite possibly on of the best books i have ever read! Westall is an excellent writer and this book shows that he is a master story teller. the detail is extraordinary, the story line deep and intruiging and the characters are a stroke of pure genius. Chas Mcgill , the main character, is incredibly realistic and one which many can relate with. Chas' quest for war souveniers leads him to discover a German machine gun. He sets up a dugout with the machine gun planted in it. Here he helps defend Garmouth from bombing raids. This novel is an excellent example of Westall's fine story telling talent and is a book for all ages, as we see children not only enjoying themselves but being independant and seperated from the adult world.
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on 1 October 2013
This gripping book is the story of what happens when a group of teenagers in North-East England take the (Second World) War into their own hands. The great thing about this book is the authentic feel of it - the boys (and token girl) have the same friendships and rivalries and difficulties at home and school as any teenager has, but this is all played out against a backdrop of bombing raids, death and destruction and the threat of imminent invasion. This leads to a mix of excitement and emotion, as well as plenty of down-to-earth humour.

The fact that the author grew up himself during the war lends the story much credibility, which is something lacking in some more recent stories set in the war years.

My only slight criticism is that reading the book was rather like watching an action-packed film. There were quick changes in terms of scenes and characters which could be confusing if you weren't paying attention! Then again, I am not in the target group for the book.

All-in-all it's a great story that touches on some very important themes. Due to the realism, I probably wouldn't give this to children under 10, even those with an advanced reading age, but it's an excellent book for children of 10 or 11 upwards and makes a nice change from magic, superpowers, mutants, dystopia and other current teen book trends.
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This was one of my favourite books as a child. I read and re-read my copy until the covers fell off, and even after reading it so many times I never failed to be thrilled by the story, excited and tense, even knowing the ending.

Chas McGill is a young boy growing up during the bombing raids of WW2. Like all young boys his age he is fascinated by the planes and plays imaginary war games with his gang. One day Chas discovers an extraordinary thing that turns his games into a reality and not only allows him to 'do his bit', but also makes him question what war is actually all about.

Westall wrote another book about Chas, Fathom Five, and although it is good, this for me will always be Westall's standout book. He also made Chas the subject of short stories, 'The Haunting of Chas McGill', which if you enjoy this, and I can't imagine that you won't, you will surely want to read to know what happens to Chas.

Westall also compiled a fascinating book in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum called 'Children of the Blitz'. He wrote The Machine Gunners mostly using his imagination, but when it became popular found that he was receiving letters from people who had grown up in the war who had had real life experiences like Chas'. Intrigued, he did some more research, and this book is a collection of first hand accounts of such episodes, which is fascinating and highly readable.
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on 14 July 2000
This book is totally captivating. With the Nazi aircrafts raining bombs on the town of Garmouth every night, there are many war souvenirs like bullet casings and nose cones of aircrafts. However, Chas Mc Gill finds a working machine guns that he extracts from a fallen aircraft with live bullets. This is a stunning tale of survival during war times packed with irresistable adventures. Chas and his friends build a secret fortress to fight the Germans and they have many interesting and smashing encounters along the way. They take care of a kind Nazi soldier, help their orphaned friend and have barrage balloons falling on them.The writing is superb throughout and the pace is sustained very well. Although there are some obscenities, I feel it adds realism and life to the story. The ending is poignant and extremely touching. I rate this as one of the best books that I have ever read.A fascinating and smashing read! I HIGHLY recommend this to everyone!
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on 31 August 1999
Machine Gunners is a story about a boy named Chas, which has the second best collection of war souvenirs in Garmouth. Then he finds a crashed Nazi plane which has a huge machine gun on it. In the end he wrenches it off, little does he know its still got live ammunition. He then builds a fort, tries to shoot down a plane and gets in trouble with the police. It has exciting bits too. A Barrage balloon falls on top of him, he finds a dead Nazi pilot, hides an orphaned friend, goes out in air raids and fosters a live Nazi! I think it's a FANTASTIC book. There is some swearing in it, but it makes it more realistic. It's one to put on your bookshelf!!
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on 8 May 2015
“Chas McGill had the second best collection of war souvenirs in Garmouth and he desperately wanted it to be the best”
Chas is fourteen, living with his Mum and Dad in the Tyneside town of Garmouth. Whilst the war is sometimes a schoolboys dream of fun - getting souvenirs, missing school, periods of excitement - it is also quite terrifying, especially the air raids that mean he and his family have to spend the night in the Anderson shelter. When he discovers a crashed plane, complete with machine gun, he decides to take it as a prize and enlists his friends Cem and Clogger to help him. Later, with Audrey and Nicky and Carrot-Juice now part of the gang, they decide to use the heavy gun to help defend their town, first from a German pilot (Rudi, who they later befriend) and later from a supposed invasion. This is based on Westall’s memories of the time period and it clearly shows, a well-told story that is immediate and real and often quite brutal. From the body of the gunner, his eye missing, in the downed plane to the realisation that a schoolfriends house has been totally wiped out by a bomb, from the casual way people deal with the realities of war to the camaraderie that it engenders, this doesn’t pull any punches but works all the better for it. Even with his parents, whilst Chas always thiought of his father meaning safety - ‘large, solid, bristly-faced, smelling of tobacco’ - he comes to realise that grown-ups can’t keep kids safe and that his dad is just a ‘weary, helpless, middle-aged man’, a sequence that is both beautiful and heartbreaking (and echoed by Nicky who, having already lost his sea captain Dad to the war, then loses his Mum when their house is blown up). When Rudi is discovered, the mutual animosity between them - created by their perceptions of each other, rather than reality - is well played, as is the thawing as they come to appreciate each other. The air raids are vividly described, the characters all ring true (Westall dedicates the book to his ‘mother and father, who were the mother and father of the book’), with the grown-ups (teachers, ‘our John’ with his cry of “Where you going now?”, policemen, parents) given as much space as the children. Surprisingly dark at times, funny at others and with an abrupt ending that works perfectly, I really enjoyed this and would highly recommend it.
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on 9 September 2015
Tonight I am both delighted and nostalgic. My 10 yr old son listened with utter enthralment during the first two chapters. He then pleaded & bleated for a third, but we are already way past his bedtime.
He is a competent & eager reader but his reaction to Westall's timeless classic has been unique. I purposely delayed exposure to co inside with the WW2 topic at school and I am so glad I did.
I must shout out to my year 5 teacher Kath Houlton from St Winifred's Primary who first introduced me to Chaz and his Machine Gunners. It has been a privilege to share this timeless classic with my sons. And of course praise to Robert Westall.
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on 15 November 2014
A great read if your child enjoys war stories. My 11yr old son finds stories of war and grim life too distressing at the moment so we didn;t finish the book. We did read some of it together and I enjoyed what we did read and recommend it if your child likes this genre.
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on 25 June 2003
This Book Contains incredable characters.As Chas McGill Finds a German Plane that had crashed into the old towm hall. Containing a German Gunner and a shining black Machine Gun. And Chas thinks he can become partof the World War 2. As Nickys house gets bombed and his mother dies, Chas decides by help Nicky build a Fortress so Nicky can stay there and look arter the Machine Gun.
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