War, Wine and Valour: Commemorating 75 years since VE day and the end of WWII.
History in the making, experienced and survived by a courageous yet sensitive young school boy who risked life and limb to defend the principles of democracy.
This intrepid autobiography was written by Douglas Baker after having agreed, at the invitation of the Imperial War Museum, to give a series of personal interviews to tell his story, as at that time he was one of the remaining survivors of World War II.
Not another run-of-the-mill rendering of war stories, this is the story of a 16-year-old youth who began his journey to manhood when he volunteered to fight on the war front in the desert of northern Africa, as well as in Italy, against the inhumanity of Hitler's fascism.
This is a virtual pause resister with its vivid description of all manner of war, including friendships forged for life, the loyalty of comradeship on the front lines of the Battle of El Alamein, the biting sandstorms, the betrayal of cowardice, and the challenges and inspiration of the walking wounded.
Ronald Pickup, a renowned British actor, delivers a brilliant, action-packed reading for this abridged audiobook. He captures an authentic portrayal of the passion and playfulness of youth, the psychological challenges of men at bay, the terror of war and the unexpected humor, as artfully described by Douglas in his own words.
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A Fresh View of the Desert War
In many ways, yes. I found listening to the relaxed tones of Mr Pickup, many details in the book sank in which in my excitement I had not really absorbed while reading.
I should say, however, that despite what audible says, this is not unabridged: the audiobook contains many of the best stories from the book, but much is left out, so you need to read the book as well!
The one that springs to mind is "Quartered Safe Out Here", by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman books, who served in Burma. This also was written many years after the event.
What distinguishes Douglas Baker's book, however, is that not only did he possess an incredible memory, but he kept diaries throughout the war (which you were not supposed to do!) and the result is an incredibly graphic account of many manoevres and engagements.
There are several: the redoubtable Ali, Shorty the water carrier, Bully, and Marcia, the astrologer: as well, of course, as the author himself.
My favourite scene in the book is the author, I imagine with his head between his hands, struggling to keep his sanity amidst endless and heavy bombardment. His description of his efforts to hand on to his identity under the most incredible stress is instructive as well as very moving.
I have only given four stars for the performance. This is not because of any shortcoming in Mr Pickup's rendition, but solely because I was fortunate enough to know the author and when I read this book I have my own mental image of him saying the words.
Mr Pickup, quite rightly, doesn't try to be Douglas Baker, and reads his words with great sensitivity, and gives the story great respect and care.