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Churchill's Colonel:

Churchill's Colonel:

Charles Barne
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Anthony Barne started his diary in August 1939 as a young, recently-married captain in the Royal Dragoons stationed in Palestine. He wrote an entry for every day of the war, often with great difficulty, sometimes when dog-tired or under fire, and sometimes when things looked black and desperate, but more often in sunshine and optimism, surrounded by good fellows who kept one cheerful and helped one through the sad and difficult times'. His diary ends in July 1945, by which time he was commanding officer of the 4th Hussars, having recently visited Downing Street for lunch alone with the Churchills. The diaries have an enormous scope covering time in Palestine and Egypt before he joins the Eighth Army, describing the retreat back to El Alamein, the battle and its aftermath. He ends the campaign commanding his Regiment. He often graphically details the physical realities of war: the appalling conditions in the desert, the bombardments of the Regiment from the air, the deaths and serious injuries of fellow soldiers. In 1943, he flies down to Rhodesia to see his wife and infant son before returning to Cairo to join Churchill's regiment, the 4th Hussars.

Arriving in Italy in 1944, he recounts the campaign as the Allies push north. The tone of the diaries varies wildly: often witty, sometimes outrageous but also poignant and philosophical. The voice and attitudes are entertainingly dated, but are delivered with warmth, a charming turn of phrase and a keen eye for the absurd.

This bloody book was so exasperating that I almost threw it out of the window a few times, so crushingly officer public school upper class tally ho and jolly hockey sticks. The Diarist nearly sent me into apoplexyisms when he mentioned his batman, King, who was a first class man, very tidy and with a bit of training would make a good Butler for (him) after the war !

Lt Barne joined the Royal Hussars in 1927 and was allowed the privilege of wearing his spurs from his first year in Sandhurst yet another reason to hate him. He spent a lot of his time partying with the Jumbos, Stilton Cholmundy 's and fFaker Smythes, when not playing polo or out hunting in India. All his friends eventually became Lord this or Count that being officers of the highest echelons, treating the Army like some great exclusive gentleman's club.

Our hero starts his diary on the outbreak of war where he is looking for a role and a path to advancement.

He is found a place away from the regiment running military ports and subsequently marries, has his wife out to accompany him in another round of social whirls. That is until he is posted back to the mother Regiment with the hope of getting his own squadron and perhaps even the command of the Regiment. His writing is very much un P.C., the mentions of wops, wogs and the like flow like the mess whisky. However once he gets into battle and is blooded we see his fellow socialites being killed and wounded causing him a lot of heart ache for he is a most loyal friend and has had many scrapes with these officers. One then decides that perhaps he is not too bad an egg after all and once he commands a squadron we discover that his old fashioned values included the love of his men, the love for their lives as well as his being privileged to play his part for his beloved country.

Slowly and surely this man grows on you, you find that you realise that his war was almost 100 years ago when the world was a different place and people like him had privilege but they knew it as well as the burden of duty that was placed upon them. The diary becomes less and less about the war and more and more about the sociology of the officer class during these times and its a great read because of this. The pages are full of funny skits as well as pathos but in the end I realised that I was a better person for reading and understanding Churchill's Colonel. I am so glad that his diaries were transcribed and turned into this years most suprising and thought provoking book.

Five mushroom heads and definitely my book of the year 2019.

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