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'Argument of Kings' -Vernon Scannell

Discussion in 'Biographies and Everything Else' started by MichaelBully, Nov 19, 2016.

  1. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

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    I reviewed this book by World War 2 poet and 'serial absconder' Vernon Scannell -first published in 1987, a few months ago, and posted this review on 'Amazon UK'. Checked again and find that copies are avialable for as little as 1 pence & postage ! Have pasted said review.


    " Thought this book was excellent. In a previous auto-biography, 'The Tiger and the Rose' (1971) , Scannell was quite cryptic about his war service, but in this book that appeared in 1987, there was no such reticence in offering his account as a serial absconder.
    Opening with the fighting at Wadi Akarit in North Africa 1942, Scannell used his real name, John Bain , as the lead character. After seeing the horror of the fighting, and British soldiers looting the pockets of their dead comrades, Bain went on the run, was soon captured, then sent to a military prison. The monotonous cruelty of his sentence didn't quite break him, and Bain was returned to Britain to serve in his regiment, whilst the Allies were getting ready for the Second Front.
    The depiction of the ferocity of conflict in the D Day campaign, is incredible,absolutely classic :
    " The fury of artillery is a cold mechanical fury but its intent is personal.When you are under fire you are its soul target. All of that shrieking, whining venom is directed at you and at no one else. You hunch in your hole in the ground, reduce yourself into as small a thing as you can become, and your harden your muscles in a pitiful attempt at defying the jagged, burning teeth of the shrapnel. Involuntarily you curl up into the foetal position except that your hands go down to protect your genitalia...."
    A young braggart who can't wait to kill Germans is screaming incoherently with terror. Bain sees his closest friend killed in action, and managed to get shot in both legs.
    Even his wounds, and having one leg in plaster can't stop Bain from absconding from military hospital, and having a short intense affair in wartime Manchester. Once war ceased , Bain went on the run without waiting to be de-mobbed.
    Found it hard to stop reading. Scannell never condemns the military aims of the Allies, but totally destroys any romance of war . As well as the horror of the fighting, Scannell condemns the petty regulations of Army life, the brutality of the guards in military prison, greedy civilian girls who will fete a war veteran, then abandon him when American GIs appear, a veteran from World War 1 who agrees to offer a spare bedroom to John Bain and his girlfriend but hovers hoping to hear them make love....The War is shown as releasing the worst in people. Only the comradeship shown by the lower ranks of the military to one another evokes any degree of admiration and respect.
    World War 2 is held to be Britain's 'Finest Hour' , and probably was. But Scannell ferrets out the shadow side of the conflict that fell on the British psyche, and his writing on the subject as just as potent as the post World War 1 'disenchantment' literature
     
    belasar likes this.

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