The Sharp End of War


Those of you who listened to the first Lardy Oddcast will have heard Nick Skinner mention that one of the key influences on "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum" was the book "The Sharp End of War" by John Ellis. Inspired by Nick's words, I quickly Googled the book and managed to buy an 'as new' hardback copy for just 1p, plus £2.80 p&p.

I'm now three quarters of the way through it, and can understand exactly where Nick is coming from:  it's an excellent examination of the experience of the fighting man in World War II. It's not about strategy, tactics or weapons but only about what the soldiers had to go through, what they had to endure.

The chapter headings give you the book's contents:  the physical setting; combat/infantry; combat/artillery and armour; casualties; discipline & morale; relaxation; and attitudes. 

I've just finished the section on the rations that the troops had to put up with and, having enjoyed a day of fine wines and dining, can only sympathise absolutely. I don't think I've ever eaten 'bully beef' and I don't think I ever want to:

Such was the case in Eritrea, where bully beef was the staple item. During the day the tins often became too hot to handle and when opened they spewed out their contents, a revolting oily liquid containing a few strings of gut-like meat.

This book is thoroughly recommended. My only real criticism is that it only covers the Allied troops' war experience, saying nothing about troops from the Axis forces or Soviet Union. Information on them would have been nice as a comparison, but then the book would have had to be three times the size!

I'd advise anyone interested in WW2 history to get a copy as soon as possible.