Monday, 13 May 2013

This month's reads - Commandos & Yank nightfighters

While still not much goes on except the usual World of Tanking I am keeping myself busy with my overhaul of my attic man cave and also by doing a fair amount of reading. Strange to think that in times gone by this time of year would have been sunny airsofting weather...But instead we continue to see dismal rain.

Ah well, at least I have two very exciting books on the go at the moment - one and audio book and one a traditional hardback. The first is the story of the birth of the Commandos during World War 2 and the second the story of the American 417th Night Fighter squadron which flew British Beaufighter aircraft.

Both are stirring recounts of the action of the members of these very different - but none the less very specialised - units. The focus of the retelling singling out individual members of the units and their exploits based on memoirs.

Commando by James Owen
While today we associate the term Commando with the Royal Marines the origins of the WW2 Commandos were to be found in the army, only later was the role transferred to the Marines.

This is the tale of mishap and misadventure in the tradition of British amateurish trial and error - as the early history of this famous formation was characterised by ludicrous failures. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the modern reader will no doubt - as I did - smuggly shake their head at the head smacking naivety of some of the first operations.

Were some of the outcomes of these inept mission not so tragic the almost slapstick quality of their execution would make the whole thing comical. Sadly some very fine men lost their lives for very little accomplishments and the whole idea of Commandos, initially, hung in the balance.

Strangly enough, while NOW we can see the merit of Special Forces I did end up with a lot of sympathy with the British military establishment and their suspicion of independent forces like the Commandos. Units like the Commandos syphoned off the creme de la creme of the army's middle ranking officers and men and bearing in mind the initial wastefulness of badly planned operations there is a real argument that these talented men would have been better utilised in the infantry.

Left: The Commando monument, Lochaber, Scottish Highlands

But in the end the amateurish organisation of the Commandos was replaced by a far more professional leadership and the force started to undertake the famous - though still costly - operations that they are famed for.

James Owen's book is full of colour and atmosphere, not least because of the characters that were involved. There are 'cameo' appearances by famous names like Lord Lovat, Randolph Churchill, David Sterling and even David Niven! Though be prepared to cringe your way though the early 'schoolboy errors' in operations, they really are toe curlingly awful (though to be fair nobody had done this sort of thing before).

Book: Commando: Winning World War II Behind Enemy Lines
Author: James Owen
Price: £16.99
Format: Audiobook
Duration: 14 Hours
Available from: Audible.co.uk

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I will relate my thoughts on the second of this month's reads tomorrow...

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