Imagine the scene, the war is close to ending, the Allies are in Germany and Berlin is surrounded. A small patrol - 2 men in a Jeep - turn down a country lane close to the village of Celle, the occupants are wary, although the war is drawing toward the end there are still enough of the enemy around to be very dangerous. Having been used to the sudden crack of a rifle or the staccato burst of a machine gun, these two soldiers are alert and aware. The driver had his eyes firmly on the rutted road and so it was the passenger - John Randall - who first saw the gates. They were huge and wide open, with a drive curving beyond, possibly to a grand house, perhaps a German headquarters. They decided to take a look. Randall - for the rest of his life - will never forget that decision, one he wished he had never made. The drive led to Hell, or a part of it named Belsen. And that was the place of nightmares, worse than that for the occupants but John Randall will never forget what he saw that day and no would anyone else who came after.
- John Ranfall. M.J.Trow
John Randall is a fascinating person, not spectacular in any way, rather a fairly ordinary lad of his time. He came from a modest and good family, went to a decent school and when war was declared he did his duty and joined the army. He started in the Royal Artillery but quickly became bored witn routine and subsequently volunteered for an ordinary sounding unit; GHQ Reconaissance Unit. This became better known as 'Phantom' and he served in this unusual band for quite some time until once more the need to be adventurous struck him and he joined a fledgling outfit; the Special Air Service. Whatever happened to them?
The book is mostly biography with a smattering of military history included, and I know that sounds trite but it is a most informative and interesting book. Randall and his comrades took part in some of the most daring operations of the war and the tales are well told.
A number of facts leap out, for instance, I didn't know that Robert Mark -Sir Robert, the former Comissioner of the Met Police - had served with Niven in Phantom, along with others who some may recognise.
The book is well-written and there are some good photographs inside, and, young Randall seemed to be a devil with the ladies, however always a gentleman.
A very good book and well worth having.