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Thread: IWM novels

  1. #1

    IWM novels

    As the nights draw in (or out, if you're Down Under) you might want some fireside reading. Well, good news: the Imperial War Museum has just reissued some out of print WW2 novels -- and some of them are amazing.

    I'm working my way through them but can recommend the following:

    "Patrol" by Fred Majdalany -- the story of a single nighttime recce in the North African desert, up to and behind enemy lines. A short novel, haunting and troubling.

    "From The City From The Plough" by Alexander Baron -- follows an infantry company through France after D-Day.

    "Warriors For The Working Day" by Peter Elstob -- follows a tank commander through France after D-Day.

    (These two make great companion pieces: the footsloggers and the armoured boys pressing on towards Germany. Great army banter and real verisimilitude backed up with lots of detail. Sitting in a cramped tank knowing an unseen 88 could destroy you in a moment and at any moment is unnerving to say the least.)

    "Squadron Airborne" by Elleston Trevor -- a fighter squadron arrive on a base in the South East of England; the author was groundcrew and captures their side of the story very well: fitters, riggers, armourers, NAAFI, WAAFS and intelligence officers swarming around the pilots and planes to get, and keep, the Squadron Airborne.

    "Pathfinders" by Cecil Lewis -- follows the crew of P for Peter, a Pathfinder Wellington, on a single fateful raid. Different to the others in that it majors on each man's backstory in turn: the navigator is a Kiwi boatbuilder who learned charts and stars and compasses while sailing; the wireless operator is middle class Jewish journalist from London, and so on.

    As one would expect from a series like this, it's a bit of a mixed bag: I struggled with "Green Hands" and "Eight Hours From England" although I can appreciate their historic value as eyewitness accounts and period documents.

    On the whole, though, these are fascinating contemporaneous accounts, often from personnel serving on the front line. War is never glamourised; there is fear and pain and death and uncertainty. Some romance, lots of humour and a genuine sense that this is like it was -- the events might be fictionalised but one gets the impression that in many places only the names have been changed.

    Equally interesting are the stories about the authors: many went on to have interesting careers and varied lives. The forewords, too, are great and last but not least the cover art makes them into a lovely set of books to display together.

    Enjoy!

    https://shop.iwm.org.uk/wartime-classics

  2. #2
    Grand Master AlphaOmega's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this.

    What do you think the rough reading age for these might be? Wondering if the pace may be too slow to drag a teenager away from their phone, or whether it might capture some interest.

    I'd like to read them myself but I have about 100 books I need to get through first, and I'm not making much progress.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaOmega View Post
    Thanks for posting this.

    What do you think the rough reading age for these might be? Wondering if the pace may be too slow to drag a teenager away from their phone, or whether it might capture some interest.

    I'd like to read them myself but I have about 100 books I need to get through first, and I'm not making much progress.
    "Patrol" and "Trial By Battle" would be great for a teenager: short, pacey, interesting. Not too technical (no jargon or highfalutin' philosophy) and an appreciation of what their great grandfathers went through in WW2.

  4. #4
    Grand Master AlphaOmega's Avatar
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    Thanks O, great stuff.

  5. #5
    Master
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    Thanks, bought the Kindle version of Patrol with audiobook add-on from Amazon just now. Will have a listen on my bike.

  6. #6
    Master
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    Thanks Rev-O

    My father was a tank commander in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment and seriously wounded (repatriated as 'dangerously ill') from France in July 1944 - I've ordered 'Warriors for the Working Day' and may follow up with the infantry account of that time.

    ATB

    Jon

  7. #7
    Craftsman
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    By coincidence, the British Library has published some period crime and espionage novels, some written during the war, some just before, some after. I'm still working through them!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JonRA View Post
    Thanks Rev-O

    My father was a tank commander in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment and seriously wounded (repatriated as 'dangerously ill') from France in July 1944 - I've ordered 'Warriors for the Working Day' and may follow up with the infantry account of that time.

    ATB

    Jon
    Glad to be of service. Hope you find it interesting, helpful and dare I say even enjoyable?


    Quote Originally Posted by craggie View Post
    By coincidence, the British Library has published some period crime and espionage novels, some written during the war, some just before, some after. I'm still working through them!

    I do like Peter Cheyney's stuff: a guilty pleasure but, well, just so much fun.

  9. #9
    Master Geralt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rev-O View Post
    ....
    As one would expect from a series like this, it's a bit of a mixed bag: I struggled with "Green Hands" and "Eight Hours From England" although I can appreciate their historic value as eyewitness accounts and period documents.
    ...
    Oh dear. "Eight Hours From England" is my first pick from this series, as it was written by the actor Anthony Quayle based on his SOE service, but thanks for your synopses of other titles. I hope I find him as good a writer as he was an actor!

  10. #10
    Master
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    Thank you, Iíll have a look at these.

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