#BlogTour #IWM Mailed Fist by John Foley

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Mailed Fist by John Foley, it’s another novel in the Wartime Classics series by the Imperial War Museum. Mailed Fist will cost £8.99. It is published by IWM and can be pre-ordered at their online shop here: Mailed-Fist-(IWM-Wartime-Classic)

Based on the author’s own experience with the British Army, Mailed Fist is reprinted in a new edition including an introduction from IWM, putting the work into historical context and shining a light on this fascinating experience of the Second World War.

About the Author

Major John Foley (1917–1974) was a British Army officer, author and broadcaster. He served in the British Army from 1936 until 1954 and attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and passed out from officer training in 1943. Subsequently, Foley became a troop commander in the 107th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (King’s Own).

He was awarded an MBE for his service with the unit during the North-West Europe campaign. He then became a military reporter and later worked in the Directorate of Public Relations at the War Office.

About the book

In April 1943, newly commissioned John Foley is posted to command Five Troop and their trusty Churchill tanks Avenger, Alert, and Angler – thus begins his initiation into the Royal Armoured Corps. Covering the trials of training, embarkation to France and battle experience through Normandy, the Netherlands, the Ardennes campaign and into Germany, Foley’s intimate and detailed account follows the fate of this group of men in the latter stages of the Second World War: If this book can be said to be a history of anything, it is a history of Five Troop. Not of the squadron, or of the regiment. 

If anybody wants to know what happened in other troops, or in other squadrons, it’s all recorded painstakingly in the War Diaries and lodged in a Records Office somewhere.

Review

To get the real gist of where Foley is coming from in this largely biographical and only lightly fictional story about Five Troop and his experiences with said troop, is the fact he doesn’t present it as an experience of the regiment or squadron. It’s more a band of brothers excerpt – one small moment of many between a few.

I think that in itself is indicative of what Foley wanted to share with his readers. The comprehension and acknowledgement of individuals in the vast numbers of participants. Small moments of brotherhood and bonding, of acceptance and survival.

One of the most poignant and prophetic sentences in the book is the author referencing the finishing touches being made to the atom bomb – ‘starting a chain reaction which hasn’t finished yet.’ He couldn’t have been more correct, we have lived in the shadow of this destructive invention and the consequences of its potential ever since. I think our current situation right now, dealing with a megalomaniacal dictator, who wouldn’t think twice about becoming a continuation of said chain reaction.

It’s a piece of war literature that has faded into the background, like many others of great importance – I can only commend the Imperial War Museum for reprinting and introducing all of these important works to new generations.

Buy Mailed Fist at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:  Imperial War Museum pub date 21 April 2022. Buy at Imperial War Museum.

#Blogtour #IWM Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood, it’s another novel in the Wartime Classics series by the Imperial War Museum. Mr Bunting at War will cost £8.99. It is published by IWM and can be pre-ordered at their online shop here: Mr-Bunting-at-War-(IWM-Wartime-Classic)

Written in 1941, the novel itself is very much of its time and thus extremely patriotic in its depiction of the reaction to the Blitz, as well as showing Mr Bunting’s own fears.

Both the book and the film were propagandist, depicting an ordinary family living on the outskirts of London and ‘sticking it out’ during the Blitz. However they also importantly demonstrate the significance of the home front in the wider narrative of the Second World War; a microcosm of suffering and sacrifice, and an illustration of the resilience it takes to make it through. – Alan Jeffreys, 2022

About the Author

Robert Greenwood ((1897 – 1981) was a novelist and writer. His first novel depicted the family and working life of the eponymous Mr Bunting (1940). His next novel, Mr Bunting at War (1941), continued this story in the first two years of the Second World War.

Mr Bunting at War was subsequently made into a film the following year entitled Salute John Citizen (1942), which proved tremendously popular at the box office. Greenwood’s other novel about the war was The Squad Goes Out (1943), which depicted the work of a voluntary ambulance squad during the London Blitz. 

Greenwood wrote eleven novels in total as well as a number of short stories, including Mr Bunting in the Promised Land (1949) which tells the story of the Bunting family in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. He died in 1981.

About the book

George Bunting, businessman, husband and father, lives a quiet life at home in Labournam Villa in Essex, reading about the progress of the war in his trusty newspaper and heading to work every day at the same time to the warehouse where he has been employed for his entire adult life.

Viewed with an air of amusement by his children, Mr Bunting’s war efforts subsist mainly of ‘digging for victory’ and erecting a dugout in the garden. But as the Second World War continues into the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain rages in the skies and the bombs begin to rain down on London, this bumbling ‘everyman’ is forced to confront the true realities if the conflict. He does so with remarkable stoicism, imbuing him with a quiet dignity.

Review

I kinda think this is an interesting one, especially when you read the introduction. Given the timeline of Britain first being in the so-called Phoney War, ergo becoming perhaps a little complacent and thinking that everything would be an easy ride, then entering the Second World War in earnest with the subsequent losses and difficulties – it puts this story into perspective.

Essentially a propaganda piece to keep moral high and present the kind of enduring, strong and fearless family, who live duty to country before all other things – what could be more convincing to the readers. In the first year of engagement the in country fatalities were higher than out of country. The importance of people left at home keeping everything running and support systems in place was paramount to the defense strategy.

Even taking all of the above into consideration, the story of the Bunting family and very much Mr Bunting, is also one about coping mechanisms. Often Mr Bunting reacts with denial to the events happening around him. Living in a bubble of self-deception is a way of keeping the trauma, the fear and the reality of their situation at bay. 

Keeping a stiff upper-lip and a ‘everything for my country’ stance is perhaps also the only way to keep the pain of personal tragedy from breaking an individual.

Buy Mr Bunting at War at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:  Imperial War Museum pub date 21 April 2022. Buy at Imperial War Museum.

#BlogTour To All the Living by Monica Felton

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour To All the Living by Monica Felton.

In September 2021, IWM will publish another novel in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim, bringing the total number of novels in the series to eleven. Each has been brought back into print to enable a new generation of readers to hear stories of those who experienced conflict first hand.  

To All the Living by Monica Felton is published by IWM and can be pre-ordered here at the online IWM shop: www.iwmshop.org.uk/pg/114/IWM-Wartime-Classics 

About the Author

Monica Felton (1906 – 1970) was a feminist, socialist, historian, peace activist and a pioneering proponent of town planning.  She went to University College, Southampton and then did a Phd at the LSE.  In 1937 she was elected a member of the London County Council representing St Pancras South West.  During the Second World War she served in the Ministry of Supply, an experience she reflected in To All the Living.  In 1942 she became a Clerk of the House of Commons. 

After the war she became involved in town planning, serving as Chair for the Peterlee and Stevenage Development Corporations.  However, she was fired from this post after taking an unauthorized trip to North Korea on behalf of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in 1951.  On her return from this trip she accused American troops of atrocities and British complicity.  There was a media and establishment backlash and even accusations of treason. As a result she became increasingly isolated in Britain and moved to India in 1956.  She died in Madras (modern day Chennai) in 1970.

About the book

First published in 1945, To All the Living takes place in a munitions factory throughout 1941 in Blimpton, a place ‘so far from anywhere as to be, for all practical purposes, nowhere.’   The novel gives a lively account of the experiences of a group of men and women in the factory from both a top down and bottom up perspective, detailing the triumphs and tragedies of a diverse list of characters.  It is wide-ranging in the themes it touches on, including class, sexism, socialism, fear of communism, workers’ rights, anti-semitism and xenophobia.  Much of it was based on the author’s own experiences in the Ministry of Supply in the first years of the war, and it is one of the best depictions of factory life during wartime, providing the reader with a fascinating insight into this vital aspect of Britain’s home front.

Factory work, as depicted in the novel, could be exhausting and repetitive, with workers often receiving low pay.  Initially work was on a voluntary basis which meant there was always a shortage of labour.  As the war progressed, conscription for women was introduced in December 1941 to help stem the shortages.  By 1945, 6.7 million women were contributing to the war effort out of a population of 48 million with a further 2.5 million in the voluntary sector.  Only the Soviet Union mobilized a higher percentage of women for the war effort and the novel reflects the experiences of a tiny proportion of these women.

The work undertaken by women at munitions factories will also be explored in IWM’s new Second World War Galleries with personal items belonging to a worker at the Leeds based Blackburn Aircraft Factory on display for the first time when they open in October of this year.

Review

Griselda Green becomes the face of munition factory workers, especially the women. The fragile balance of power, being the cog in the wheel of destruction and the crossing of boundaries when it comes to relationships, and whether the ideology contradicts and dampens said relationships.

Felton was a Jane Fonda of her era. A woman with an ideology, which was in direct contradiction to what the majority considered to be patriotic, hence the accusations of being a traitor to her country and people. A woman synonymous with fighting the injustice she perceives by the US and the complicit British.

I think it’s fair to say that her own experiences during the war, which is probably what started her drive towards her political, economic and social ideologies. The injustices, the underlying sense of betrayal and abuse of power by the top echelon – the system seeped in the archaic rules of the patriarchy. All this and more is reflected in this story. 

It also captures a part of wartime that is usually glossed over as the focus tends to be on action at the front, destruction and spydom, despite the fact the munition factories and workers were part of the integral structure of the war fight. I can’t repeat enough how much I love the fact the Imperial War Museum is bringing all these important books back to the forefront of people’s minds.

Buy To All the Living at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Imperial War Museum; published in Paperback 23rd September 2021 – £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

About the Imperial War Museums – IWM 

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, which will open extensive new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries in autumn 2021; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.