#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.

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Green Hands by Barbara Whitton

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for another book reprinted and published by the  Imperial War Museum.

The Wartime Classics Series was launched by the Imperial War Museum in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle or their experience of war, which doesn’t always include combat.

About the Author

Margaret Hazel Watson (writing under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1921. She was educated at the Church High Girls School in Newcastle, and later sent to St Leonards School in St Andrews. Due to study Art in Paris, her training was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Having volunteered for the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in 1939, she worked as a Land Girl for around a year before moving to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and later joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a driver, where she remained for the duration of the war. Her novel Green Hands is a fictionalised account of her time spent as a Land Girl, detailing the back-breaking hard work and intensity of her experience with good humour and an enchanting lightness of touch. During her time with the ATS she met her husband Pat Chitty and they were married in 1941. After the war, she wrote a number of accounts of her wartime experience and retained an interest in art, literature and horticulture throughout her life. She died in 2016.

Buy Green Hands at Amazon Uk

About the book

It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of ‘lending a hand on the land’, as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high.

Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton’s autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War.

Review

This story is a fictional account based on the real experiences of Margaret Watson, during World War 2. In 1943 the 17000 women who had already volunteered to help on the homefront were supplemented by adding conscription to the mix. This meant single women had to play their part in winning or fighting the war.

I think we can agree that no matter whether they opted to join the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), WRNS ( Women’s Royal Naval Service) – work in a wartime factory or join the Land Girls as a member of WLA (Women’s Land Army) – the propaganda looks and looked different from the reality.

Even now when I look at the posters and literature I can absolutely see the nostalgic feeling, but most importantly the emotions of pride and sense of belonging it would have evoked. The emotional bond and thread it would have created between the men giving and risking their lives for their country, and those left behind doing their part.

If anything at all Bee’s story, and indeed that of her friends, serves to prove how hard it actually was, and that it wasn’t the way it is often portrayed on television. As jolly young women with headscarves doing their bit and making great lasting friendships and romances at the same time.

Instead it was hard labour and environments full of misogynists, chauvinists and sexist men, who were perhaps disappointed at their own homeland role instead of being overseas with their fellow brothers.

I really enjoyed this eye-opening look at an experience that is always made to look romantic, fun and something every girl would sign-up for – the propaganda worked I’d say. It’s important the women played their part and proved equality isn’t or wasn’t a fictional prospect, although they had to return to secondary roles after the war ended, but it is equally important that their roles are portrayed and written about in a truthful manner.

Buy Green Hands at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Imperial War Museum; pub date 10 Sept. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my reviews of these Wartime Classics – Warriors for the Working Day, PatrolEight Hours from England, Trial by Battle and From the City, From the Plough.

Buy Warriors for the Working Day by Peter Elstob

Buy Patrol by Fred Majdalany

Buy Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle.

Buy Trial by Battle by David Piper.

Buy From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron.

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, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; 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.’

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Warriors For the Working Day by Peter Elstob

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Warriors for the Working Day by Peter Elstob- another book in the Wartime Classic Series by the Imperial War Museum.

In April 2020 IWM published two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of  those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle.

Warriors for the Working Day is generally recognised as Peter Elstob’s greatest work. Originally published in 1960, it sold nearly a quarter of a million copies and remains one of the finest fictional depictions of life in a tank during the Second World War.

Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Follow @I_W_M on TwitterElstob on Goodreadson AmazonBuy Warriors for the Working Day

About the Author

Peter Elstob (1915 – 2002) was born in London but educated in New York and New Jersey when his family moved to the USA as a result of his father’s work. He spent a brief period at the University of Michigan and a short stint in the RAF. In 1936 he volunteered as a pilot in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and published his first novel in 1939, The Spanish Prisoner, based on his experiences in Spain. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he attempted to re-join the RAF but when he was turned down, volunteered for the 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, where he served across Europe and in the Middle East.

After the war, Elstob pursued a variety of ventures – he co-ran the Arts Theatre Club in London, founded an artistic and writer’s community in Mexico and attempted a trans-Atlantic balloon flight in 1958. However, his main success was the beauty mask, Yeast Pac, which he and his partner developed and marketed successfully for many years. He wrote several novels and a number of well received military histories, including Hitler’s Last Offensive (1971) about the Battle of the Bulge.

About the book

Warriors for the Working Day follows one tank crew as they proceed from training in Aldershot to the beaches of Normandy, and on into the heart of a newly liberated Europe. Closely based on Peter Elstob’s own wartime experiences as a tank commander and radio operator, the novel brilliantly evokes the particular horror of tank warfare – the intense heat and the claustrophobia endured by so many, yet often overlooked.

Life within a British tank was very precarious as they were noticeably inferior to German armour, and were nicknamed Ronsons (cigarette lighters) by their crews as they lit ‘first time, every time.’ The novel also examines battle exhaustion in a way that a 21st century reader will recognise, with men and officers able to experience a certain amount, before fear becomes an overriding obsession.

Review

I think it takes a special kind of courage to sit in a metal machine that is clearly going to be a target for the enemy, but perhaps more so when you are sitting in a tin cup that is known to catch fire when hit by enemy fire. Just think of the feelings of claustrophobia and constant fear of imminent death, perhaps more so than the foot soldier who could possibly leave the area under fire.

The pressure, stress and trauma magnified by the fact the crew knew they were in inferior equipment compared to the German tanks. The British tanks were nicknamed ‘Ronsons (cigarette lighters)’ – they lit up and caught fire every time they were hit. It automatically puts the men in a position of weakness, one they were very much aware of, which in itself had an impact on morale and their mental health.

Elstob also examines the battle fatigue the troops suffered from. In the 21st century the world is more attuned to the mental health issues that arise from being in combat, although one could argue that veterans in particular are still not given the aftercare they so desperately need.

The author accurately depicts the tipping point between exhaustion and becoming so fatigued that the men in question become reckless – it almost becomes death via warfare and tank. It’s an introspective and reflective piece of writing based on Elstob’s own experiences, and one we can all learn from going forward.

Buy Warriors For the Working Day at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Published in Paperback April 2020 – £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Patrol by Fred Majdalany

It’s a pleasure to take part in another BlogTour for a WartimeClassic – this time it’s Patrol by Fred Majdalany.

In April 2020 IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle

Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

About the Author

Frederick Majdalany (1913 – 1967) was the son of a Manchester based Lebanese family. His original first name was Fareed, which he changed to Frederick or Fred. He was also known as ‘Maj’. He worked as a journalist, drama critic and theatre publicist pre-war. He volunteered in 1939 and was commissioned in 1940, serving in North Africa and Italy. He was wounded at the Battle of Medjez-el-Bab, returning to the battalion five weeks later with the rank of captain, later promoted to major, and commanded a company. His unit landed at Taranto in September 1943, where he was awarded the Military Cross during the Italian campaign.

In October 1944 he returned home to become an instructor at an officer cadet training unit, which he later commanded, until demobilization in November 1945. After the war Majdalany resumed his career as a journalist and also worked for the BBC on historical scripts for radio and TV. He published novels and military histories, all of which were very well received. He was also involved with International PEN. He died in 1967.

Follow @I_W_M on TwitterBuy Patrol

About the book

Set in 1943, Patrol is a short, intimate novel following a small group of men on a night-time patrol in the North African desert. Major Tim Sheldon, close to battle exhaustion, is unexpectedly asked to carry out the mission and this atmospheric, tense novel puts this so-called minor action centre stage, as over the course of the day and during the patrol itself, Sheldon reminisces about his time as a soldier, his own future, and what it means to confront fear.

Patrol was a bestseller when it was first published in 1953. Clearly autobiographical, it is based on Fred Madjalany’s own experiences in Tunisia as part of the North African campaign, in particular his command of a night patrol and his time in hospital when wounded. The fictional battalion in the novel is based on 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers into which Madjalany was commissioned in 1940. Infantry battalions such as this were constantly in action with little respite, and the officers were very young by peace time standards.

The stress of battle aged them considerably. Madjalany’s wife Sheila Howarth wrote, ‘I believe in Patrol he was writing his epitaph’. He suffered a stroke in 1957 and died ten years later when the specialist commented ‘the war killed him.’

Review

This campaign by the Imperial War Museum to republish wartime classics is one that is both timely due to certain anniversaries and of great importance. All of the classics were written during or just after the Second World War. Unfortunately they are among many forgotten books of historical and literary importance that are out of print.

It may be a fictional account, but that is something readers may forget, because this semi-autobiographical story really takes you on a realistic account of how the cog turns, the way mental health deteriorates under the constant barrage of being under fire and what it’s like to be a dispensable part of the machine.

On a side-note I just wanted to mention how valuable the introductions by Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums), are. He not only gives the stories context by giving readers the historical background, he also gives readers a real insight into the minds of the men behind the experiences. I think it gives the read an element of both brutal honesty and complete empathy before you even get started.

I think Majdalany describes the frustration, torment and tragedy of warfare, whilst showing the courage and perseverance of the soldiers in the midst of it. Critiquing the ludicrous decision making of the hierarchy and upper echelons, which ultimately only ever impacts the foot soldier or the men on the frontline. It is a scathing commentary on the lackadaisical attitude towards the lives of the men on the lower rungs of the war machine.

Buy Patrol at Amazon Uk  or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Imperial War Museum; Published in Paperback April 2020 – £8.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy from the Imperial War MuseumBuy more Wartime Classics.

Read my reviews of these other Wartime Classics: From the City, From the Plough by Alexander BaronBattle by David Piper and Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle