In the Face of the Enemy: A Battery Sergeant Major in Action in the Second World War by Ernest A. Powdrill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I borrowed this from the library and liked it so much that I bought my own copy. I found it very interesting because it is unusual for an other rank to write a memoir. Especially one where the author was a battery sergeant major who also had access to the battery clerk’s notes. So, much of the 1944-45 campaign is very well documented with grid references for gun positions, ammo expenditure and times of moves. It is a fantastic reference book for WW2 operations of a Royal Horse Artillery battery in self propelled guns.
There is also some of the human element to it as well. I was especially moved by the mystery of Gunner E T Jones who disappeared in the middle of a battle between the authors casualty evacuation runs. Gunner Jones was never found and is commemorated on the memorial for the missing at Bayeux.
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This is an excellent history of a small unit action set in the wider context of the war, and well explained for those not steeped in military history or the second world war.
IWM caption : THE DIEPPE RAID, 19 AUGUST 1942 Lt Col The Lord Lovat, CO of No. 4 Commando, at Newhaven after returning from the raid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The author starts with setting the background, explaining the grand sweep of the war and the events that lead to the formation of the commandos in mid-1940 and then a high-level overview of the commando training and the early operations so that you understand what commandos are all about, and the strategic context that lead to the assault on Dieppe in late summer 1942.
The build up to the attack is well covered, based heavily on the account by the embedded journalist that accompanied 4 Commando. After that the assault narrative splits into two, one for each of the groups that landed, and based on a mixture of accounts and interviews with various survivors of the operation.