On the Devils Tail.

On the Devils Tail.

Paul Martelli and Vittorino dal Cengio.
ARRSE Rating
3 Mushroom Heads
I was very much looking forward to reviewing this book. I grew up reading Sven Hassel and The Devil's Guard. On first impressions this book had all the hallmarks of the real thing. The story begins with our hero Paul Martelli as a teenager in occupied France late in the war. It follows him into the Waffen SS as a volunteer in the Charlemagne Division. It takes us through his training and on into action of the Eastern Front in the frantic fighting as the Germans were pressed back by the unstoppable Soviet Steamroller.

The book as it stands is an entertaining tale that roles along at an engaging pace. And that is where I start to feel a little unsure of its provenance. The whole book reads like a tale, rather than a memoir, it is heavy on dialogue and has a very similar feel to the now discredited Forgotten Soldier. Martelli himself must have been some guy. He never loses a fight (of which there were many), and regards himself as a very accomplished Soldier. His decision making might however be questionable, joining the German side in 1944 does lead me to that conclusion.

It would be wrong to dismiss the book as complete fiction without evidence. That Martelli served in IndoChina is beyond doubt, there are plenty of pictures to support the fact that he was there. He must have been a difficult man to command, he does not hide his almost universal contempt for his French officers and their conduct of the war. What I did find interesting about the book was the sections detailing life in recently liberated Europe.

I’m sure the book will have a certain appeal to those who look back on Hassal’s books with nostalgia. I’m afraid I’ve got to say I remain unconvinced.

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