Top positive review
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What a superb read
on 12 May 2014
The book is largely made up of diary entries until about 3/4 of the way through. Don't let that put you off. The style is interesting and I was absorbed all the way through.
As a war memoir the book is arguably without parallel. Very likely the best book of this kind I have ever read and I am left with the opinion that Stanley Chistopherson is one of the most remarkable men to have served in this remarkable regiment ever - never mind in WW2.
The book is also a social statement. The Sherwood Rangers, which SC was commissioned into from the Inns of Court regiment in 1939, was probably one of the snobbiest county yeomanry units in the UK prior to the war and I was amazed to find that, as they travelled to Palestine (complete with their horses - which wasn't unique as a number of cavalry regiments stayed on horseback at the start of the conflict) they brought with them their servants. I don't just mean individual batmen for the officers; I'm talking about a variety of servants from their estates, from grooms to butlers.
Also packed was cricket and other sporting equipment and that's probably not so unusual but many also packed sporting guns which were used often to bring in a few birds or rabbits to supplement the dinner fare in the officers mess. So many of his early entries refer to the quality of lunch or dinner and the many hotels and restaurants the commissioned ranks dined in during their posting to Palestine and junkets into Egypt and elsewhere.
The diaries which were used to compile the book read like editions of Boys Own in a very "Jolly good old boy" style. Effectively this is a story of weekend soldier (Territorial Army officers) from privileged backgrounds. Complete amateurs going to war but keen as mustard in a way that only people from that particular social strata of the time could be. They learned in several ways: through their application to duty and instruction in every way possible and also by being thrust into the van of battle, time and time again, from El Alamein to VE Day, arguably more so than any of their contemporaries and by suffering almost 100% officer casualties from lieutenant to colonel as well as earning more battle honours than any other yeomanry regiment which took part in the war.
If you're into wartime memoirs or are remotely interested in the British military this book is an absolute must. I found it to be a revelation, as well as intensely interesting and I've read hundreds of books on the subject.
Money well spent.