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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 8 June 2010
I had to stop reading this book on several occasions, just to absorb the information it was portraying. I am not naive about the nature of war or the affect it has on the people who are ordinary, often unwilling participants. My father was in the regular army and served throughout, initially in the artillery and subsequently as a paratrooper. This book gave me an insight into his character and our subsequent difficult relationship that just filled me with horror and sympathy.

Stories of survival, looting, rape and casual and wilful destruction are not easy to read when they are so close to home. However, there is also humour and a depth of feeling for the ordinary soldier that is both straightforward and heartwarming. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on anti-fraternisation knowing my father was engaged to a german girl when he was stationed in Berlin. As regular army of course there was no de-mob for him.

The simple fact that 80 million doses of benzedrine were given to soldiers to keep them awake enough to fight is startling in itself, and does lead me to wonder whether addiction beacame a problem for some. Although given the the fighting and events of life at the time, this would seem to be a minor problem. Alcohol did become a problem both organisationally and personally.

An outstanding book that brings to life how hard the British and Canadians gave of themselves from D-Day until the end, and a good balance to the overwrought presentation of Hollywood films and the unbalanced view taken between the British/Canadian and American contributions during this vicious campaign.

An outstanding book that does the author enormous credit, and for which I personally have immense gratitude.
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on 11 August 2010
This book brought the grotty, dirty underside of war to the fore.

Although the author isn't the best at delivery and the grammar and construction of sentences leaves a lot to be desired, the subject matter is top notch. For that I give it 4 stars.

Having previously read Stephen E Ambrose's dire 'account' of D-Day (don't bother, it's truly awful), reading this put a smile on my face. The author manages to put across the idea that the 21st Army Group did much more than it's fair share in Normandy and beyond but also, (get this Ambrose fans), backs it up with numerous eye-witness accounts.

The stories of drunken soldiers wondering around causing trouble are superb and the chapters recounting the loss of friends and the difficulties in coping are very thought provoking and, at times, more than a little upsetting.

This is war stripped of its glory and sheen - it's a nasty, grotty, uncomfortable and downright brutal business. This book gives you that and more.
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on 23 July 2014
What a fantastic review of the behaviour of our soldiers. Most of it totally predictable (from an ex-soldier's perspective) but some of it downright shocking, with some hysterically funny incidents like the British and Germans continuing to draw rations from a captured depot and signing for them in the same book.

I have to recommend this as a superb read and a great asset to the bookshelf of any military historian, professional or amateur.
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on 18 June 2004
I have just put this remarkable book down and must say I have never read anything like it. With all the fantastic exposure on television of the Normandy landings and interviews with our veterans, I was moved to find out more of what our countrymen & women had to endure during WW2. From the opening salvos I felt like I was camped in a 'virtual reality' ditch awaiting orders and listening out for those dreaded Panzers. My Grandfather died during the Dunkirk retreat and if you have ever visited the town's cemetary you truly comprehend the sacrifice 'our boys'made for our freedom. It was these young men who were sent over to contiental Europe to eradicate the Nazi threat. Mere boys who were expected to behave like they would in civvy street. Sean Longdens book makes you think what you would do in order to survive and come to the conclusion that our modern day generation really would not have a clue. Me included.
I've seen a few WW2 films over the years and thankfully there is no Hollywood in Mr Longdens book. It's a realistic book about real men and women and what human nature is all about. How refreshing.
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on 19 November 2009
Unputdownable (if that is a word!)Brilliantly researched, this book tells the social history of the British Army. It has everything that most books leaves out: sex, drugs, alcohol, the depths of fear and the heights of excitement. I picked it up from a railway station for something to read on a long journey and when I reached my destination I just wanted the train to trun round and head home so I could keep reading.
The final chapter is stunning,telling how soldiers coped post war, having to deal with the bad memories. On a side point, the chapter is called 'The Sadness Endures' - Isn't that a translation of 'La Tristesse Durera' the title of a Manic Street Preachers song?
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on 24 November 2004
The major points that come from reading this book is that boys went to war, 1000s died and men came back. Very few volunteered and they did what any human would do, they did whatever it took to survive.
For any one with an interest in the British soldier in WWII ( of which their are far too few books ), this is unmissable. This is not Hollywood, this is real.
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on 18 November 2009
This is probably the most comprehensive story of what it was like to be a British infantryman in Europe during WW2. It doesn't tell the story of battles but of the men who fought them. It makes the modern reader realise that the soldiers were just ordinary young men with typical interests shared by men in their teens and twenties: beer,sex and football. The book gave me a solid understanding of how war affected soldiers and how it changed their attitudes to subjects such as politiics and religion.
This is a book that me - and I'm sure many other history readers - have been waiting a long time to read. Top marks for in-depth research (and one of the most comprehensive biobliographies I have ever seen).
Read it!
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on 17 January 2014
An incredibly interesting insight into the personal side of fighting a war. It deals with some sensitive and shocking issues in an open, honest but unsensationalist way that leaves it open for the reader to create a sense of perspective.
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on 9 October 2013
Informative and well written. Covers an era that I did not know a lot about, post D-Day to Berlin. the post war 1945 onward is also good. Having served in BAOR in the early 1970's I have an interest in this period.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2009
brilliant take on d-day, finally someone tells the whole truth about what soldiers did with their down time as well as their time in the line. I ma quite surprised there is any calvados left in france
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