by: Darren Baker [ ]
Originally published on:
This book tells of the life lived by Peter Crichton during World War Two. It covers the highs and the lows of his days during this time and was only shared with the public after he died and his son found an audience for his fatherís life. This story follows him from signing up to demobilization.
The following portion of the introduction is as provided by Pen and Sword.
Peter Crichton seized the outbreak of the Second World War to escape his journalistic job in London. Ever adventurous and somewhat impetuous he quickly transferred regiments to the 4th Queenís Own Hussars who were destined for North Africa. In no time he found himself fighting a desperate and ill-fated rear-guard action in the mountains of Northern Greece. One of only 180, out of 600, of his Regiment to be evacuated, he was soon involved in the brutal battles of Alam Halfa and El Alamein.
While the 4th Hussars recovered and re-trained, the Author found time to play polo and fall in love. By a twist of fate, he was ordered to deploy to Yugoslavia where he was attached to Titoís partisans as they fought their way North, island by island, hurrying the Germansí withdrawal. After four and a half yearsí absence, he reached London on VE Day, 1945, surprised but grateful to be alive, unlike so many of his contemporaries.
Although he wrote up his experiences with admirable clarity and modesty, his papers remained unpublished until Robert, his son, decided to bring them to a wider audience. The result is an action-packed and graphic memoir of unusual breadth.
This offering is a hard backed book from Pen and Sword and authored by Peter Crichton. It is a shame that the book was brought to print by the authorís son after his father death; a shame as the book is one of those rare titles where you find yourself reading more than was intended at each sitting. This book is presented to us over 227 pages of good quality paper. The book is text for the most part but there are a few pictures in it that creates a break for the reader.
The contents of this title are laid out as follows:
List of Maps
Chapter 1 - Introduction to the Regiment
Chapter 2 - The Journey to Egypt
Chapter 3 - the Greek Adventures
Chapter 4 - the Germans Attack
Chapter 5 - Guarding the Bridge
Chapter 6 - The Colonel's Runner
Chapter 7 - Escape from the Peloponnese
Chapter 8 - The Return to Egypt
Chapter 9 - War in the Desert
Chapter 10 - The Battle of Alam Halfa
Chapter 11 - The Tide Turns
Chapter 12 - The Battle of Alamein
Chapter 13 - Cairo Life
Chapter 14 - Introduction to the Partisans
Chapter 15 - The Battle of Brac
Chapter 16 - A Strange Affair
Chapter 17 - The Capture of Ston
Chapter 18 - An Italian Holiday
Chapter 19 - The Liberation of Split
Chapter 20 - Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Chapter 21 - Zadar
Chapter 22 - The Capture of Pag
Chapter 23 - A New Life
This offering begins with a short forward by the authorís son; I suggest you read it as something about it set me up for his fatherís story nicely. Peter Crichton's story begins as you would expect in some ways in that it tells the story of an officer in the British Army prior to going to war and the tales of hunts, parties, polo and horse riding. The first line of the first chapter hooked me good as it seemed an unusual starting point "The Colonel was livid with rage. His knuckles showed white as he gripped the arms of his chair behind his desk".
The first part of this title shows you a man enjoying the luxuries of being an officer, but continues by building up the readersí interest in his life and the way he has written about the actions he took. His time in Greece showed him just how unforgiving war could be fighting against the Germans. On the lighter side his conflicts with the Luftwaffe take on an almost funny aspect in the way he has written about it. His tales of shooting at Panzer III's with machine guns will likely draw a wry smile from the reader as he tells of them harmlessly bouncing off them.
North Africa is the next sphere of operations for Peter Crichton. Even here facing Rommel over the shimmering sands there are moments of light heartedness. Events such as performing a duty for Sir Miles Lampson who had confiscated all of the shotguns in the regiment after they had been used for an impromptu poaching duck shoot on his water before being sent to Greece, another is the day a Robin landed at his feet and spent some time helping to eat his rations. I do however get the feeling reading this section that the author was becoming a little down hearted at the tide of events that followed Rommel's arrival in North Africa. I suppose this part of the book comes to a natural close with the authorís departure to join the partisans in Yugoslavia; I get the impression that leaving the 4th was hard for the author, but it got him away from a new CO with whom he strongly disagreed and had little respect for.
The authorís time with the Partisans is a mix of action followed by periods of keeping yourself out of the grip of the enemy with your arse chewing the grass. If I am honest it was this segment of the book that I least enjoyed and I cannot clearly explain why that was because truth be told it is possibly the most daring do section of the book. With all of this said it is a section of the story that needs to be told and who better to tell that story than the person who lived it.
The book really comes to a close with the demobilization of the author with the highs and lows of that time. I would like to add that the authors note at the start of this book does come to mind at the stories end "In memory of the author's friends in the 4th Hussars whose companionship he missed until the day he died.
As many of you know by now I really enjoy reading the stories of war as told by those who fought in that conflict regardless of which side they were on. This book authored by Peter Crichton is one of those period life stories that is a gripping read regardless of whether the area being covered is action or otherwise. I found myself reading far more of the title than I had intended at each sitting as it kept dragging me along to read a little more every time. I will say that the time spent fighting with the partisans failed to grip me but I cannot clarify why that was and your opinion may differ. Regardless I feel that this is one of the books that those with a like interest need to read.
Darren Baker takes a look at a book from Pen and Sword titled 'To War with a 4th Hussar Fighting in Greece, North Africa and The Balkans'; this covers the actions of Peter Crighton during world war two.
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