So You Want To Be A Gurkha? by Chris Darnell
This is a thoroughly engaging military memoir. Chris Darnell continues to provide well written narratives that go well beyond the expectation of a pleasant diversion. Note should be taken of this author and it is recommended that any new offerings be acquired.
This specific book provides an instantly recognisable trajectory of growth for a newly commissioned officer taken on by one of the most celebrated military units in British history. If you aren’t able to empathise with the predicaments or connect to the unforeseen kindness of senior officers and support of much wiser and experienced NCO’s, then chances are very good that you did not serve. For many on the forum these instances will be met with an immediate comparison with personal recollections, both fond and rueful, regardless of time or branch of service.
This story resonates on many different levels. Col. Darnell has the sterling ability to find the humour in situations that at the time would have been anything other than funny. And, his clarity of writing places the reader wholly within the event. This is not easily accomplished and he makes it seem effortless. Of equal importance, he does not gloss or excuse the lapses of judgment that placed him where he really did not wish to be. And, the true warmth of feeling and regard for his riflemen and fellow officers is not something that one can fake. One is left with the distinct belief that it would have been a pleasure to serve with Darnell.
It may be appropriate to add a special note of thanks that the book does not ride the back of grand events or “heroes”. Given the nature of the unit the temptation to peg the story to other’s actions or record might have been overwhelming to a lesser author. Several leading lights of legend were still very much in evidence at his entry to military life and the wearing of borrowed or reflected plumage a not uncommon occurrence. Darnell provides a landscape where these people exist in context. They are a part of the story, not the main point of the story.
The public archetype of “Johnny Gurkha” is acknowledged and dealt with skillfully. Darnell leaves us with specific individuals whose abilities, traits, quirks, perspectives and humanity provide a connection that might be missing for those who did not have the honour to serve with them. Nicely done.
All in all a satisfying read.
Three and a half mushroom heads
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