- David Piper
This book is a novel from the Imperial War Museum’s ’Wartime Classics’ series. My copy is an uncorrected bound proof, and I found many spelling problems and skipped lines. I hope that these will be corrected before the final version is printed. The author served with the Indian Army during the Second World War and was a prisoner of the Japanese for three years until 1945. The story is based around his wartime fighting experiences.
The plot follows twenty-one-year-old Alan Mart, fresh from University, joining the Indian Army, learning its ways, under the guidance of Acting Captain Sam Holl. As the War progresses and their training is for desert warfare, military personnel will not be surprised to hear that they are deployed to Malaya, complete with desert dress and desert colour on their vehicles. As the Japanese advance, there are some vivid descriptions of actions, the way men reacted and of the fears and uncertainties they experienced.
The writer describes life in the training camp in great detail, portrays his characters in a way that makes it hard to warm to them, empathise with their experience, and to care for them in a personal way. I am sure his experiences with the officers and men could have been described in a way that makes the reader feel that these are genuine people for whom they care. However the Indian soldiers are pretty much dismissed, apart from the problems of communicating with them, and the British Officers come across as boorish, insensitive, soft and inexperienced.
Once the story moves to Malaya, the descriptions of the chaos of battle, loss of commanders, joining up with random Australians, and other events are well written, and you can tell are written from experience. They will no doubt chime with many readers, as will the end of the book, which certainly depicts the futility of war as mentioned in the blurb on the back of the book.
Two mushroom heads.