#BlogTour #BookReview Mailed Fist by John Foley @RandomTTours

thumbnail_mailed fistWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Mailed Fist by John Foley. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the Imperial War Museum for my advance review copy.

Mailed_Fist_CoverAbout the Book

In April 1943, newly commissioned John Foley is posted to command Five Troop and their trusty Churchill tanks Avenger, Alert, and Angler – thus begins his initiation into the Royal Armoured Corps. Covering the trials of training, embarkation to France and battle experience through Normandy, the Netherlands, the Ardennes campaign and into Germany, Foley’s intimate and detailed account follows the fate of this group of men in the latter stages of the Second World War.

‘If this book can be said to be a history of anything, it is a history of Five Troop. Not of the squadron, or of the regiment. If anybody wants to know what happened in other troops, or in other squadrons, it’s all recorded painstakingly in the War Diaries and lodged in a Records Office somewhere.’

Format: Paperback (176 pages)    Publisher: Imperial War Museum
Publication date: 21st April 2022 Genre: Modern Classics

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Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

Mailed Fist is the latest in the Imperial War Museum’s excellent Wartime Classics series comprising new editions of books from the Second World War. All the books in the series have an introduction putting the work into its historical context.

Mailed Fist is a fictionalised memoir closely based on the author’s own experience as a troop commander from April 1943 until the end of the Second World War.  The author gives us a ‘fly on the wall’ insight into what it was like to command a troop of three Churchill tanks, as well as what it was like for the five-man crews who operated them in cramped, dirty and very basic living conditions.

There’s a lot of humour in the book such as Foley and his fellow officers’ attempts to scupper the daily orderly report they’re required to complete, his attempts at doing his own laundry and how the ‘Love Affairs of Trooper Cooper’ lighten the task of censoring his troop’s letters home.

Periods of inactivity are punctuated by hours of intense fighting, attempting to destroy German artillery, support infantry attacks or take up defensive positions in towns vacated by the retreating enemy. When it comes to the serious business of battle, based on firepower alone the Churchill tanks are no match for the German Tiger tanks but sometimes ingenuity can overcome seemingly impossible odds. Often Five Troop are literally in the ‘fog of war’ as smoke bombs confuse not just the enemy but their own side. Unfortunately, not all of Five Troop will come out of these encounters unscathed. Besides physical wounds, there are psychological ones as well. An episode I found particularly chilling is when, bivouaced for the night, Foley overhears tank crew members talking in their sleep, reliving episodes from the battle they’ve just fought.

Foley comes across as a dedicated, level-headed and steadfast leader of his troop, prepared to muck in where required and aware of his responsibility for keeping up morale (sometimes at the expense of his own dignity). I really enjoyed seeing the camaraderie between the members of the troop, each with their nickname.

The story is peppered with army slang. For example, we learn that a ‘brew up’ is something more deadly than stopping to make a pot of tea (although a more heartwarming occasion involving tea occurs when Five Troop reach Eindhoven).

At the end of the book Foley muses to a comrade, ‘I was just thinking… Do you think anybody would want to read a book about what we’ve done?’ The answer to that is an unequivocal yes.

In three words: Authentic, immersive, fascinating

Try something similar: Warriors for the Working Day by Peter Elstob

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About the Author

John Foley (1917–1974) served in the British Army from 1936 until 1954. He attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and passed out from officer training in 1943. Foley became a troop commander in the 107th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (King’s Own), and was awarded an MBE for his service in North-West Europe. Later Foley worked in public relations and was an author, broadcaster and scriptwriter. He died in 1974.

#BlogTour #BookReview Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood @RandomTTours @I_W_M

Mr Bunting at War BT PosterWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood.  My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the Imperial War Museum for my review copy.

Mr_Bunting_At_War_CoverAbout the Book

George Bunting, businessman, husband and father, lives a quiet life at home in Laburnam Villa in Essex, reading about the progress of the war in his trusty newspaper and heading to work every day at the same warehouse where he has been employed for his entire adult life. Viewed with an air of amusement by his children, Mr Bunting’s war efforts subsist mainly of ‘digging for victory” and erecting a dugout in the garden.

But as the Second World War continues into the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain rages in the skies and the bombs begin to rain down on London, this bumbling ‘everyman’ is forced to confront the true realities of the conflict. He does so with a remarkable stoicism, imbuing him with a quiet dignity.

Format: Paperback (256 pages) Publisher: Imperial War Museum
Publication date: 21 April 2022 Genre: Modern Classics

Find Mr Bunting At War on Goodreads

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Publisher | Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

I have enjoyed every book I’ve read in the Imperial War Museum’s Wartime Classics series but Mr Bunting At War is my new favourite and I am offically in love with Mr Bunting. As with all the books in the series, it has a fascinating introduction examining the historical context of the book but it does contain a spoiler so I would recommend reading it after finishing the book.

Mr Bunting has a quiet stoicism and a detemination to put on a brave face for the sake of his family. ‘However disheartened he felt, he always remembered to pull himself together as he reached home. He looked upon it as a duty.’

I loved all the little details of domestic life in the Bunting household – Mr Bunting’s perpetual war on waste, his love of a good sausage roll, his incomprehension at his daughter Julie’s vegetarianism, Mrs Bunting’s meticulous approach to laundry. Although the book has plenty of humour, especially in the Bunting children’s gentle teasing of their father, it doesn’t shy away from depicting the terrible impact of German bombing raids on London and surrounding areas.  The destroyed houses and businesses, the streets littered with debris, the loved ones wounded, missing or dead. There are moments of hope, such as the wartime wedding of Mr Bunting’s son, Ernest, but also moments of great sadness.  I was moved by the way Mr and Mrs Bunting face up to things when adversity strikes, each drawing on the strength and support of the other. ‘We’ve got to go through the dark days together. It helps when you’ve got somebody.’ Oh dear, I think I have something in my eye.  In a way, their determination to carry on, even in the face of personal tragedy, exemplifies the courage of a nation whose freedom and very existence is threatened.

Yes, the book could be viewed as a propaganda piece intended to maintain public morale – there were plenty of films made during the Second World War designed to do just that – but who doesn’t need something uplifting during a time of crisis, something to raise the spirits and keep hope alive? And now that Europe faces a new aggressor, there’s something prophetic about the observation, ‘All the warnings of past years, all the unheeded prophecies, were now the facts of the moment, a nightmare made true and visible’. And I found myself agreeing with Mr Bunting’s observation, ‘It was a pity there weren’t more people like himself, particularly on the Continent. The more Buntings, the fewer Hitlers he considered’. I have a feeling there are quite a few Mr Buntings in Ukraine at the moment.

It will be pretty clear by now that I loved this book. It made me laugh, it made me cry and above all it made me marvel once again at the courage of those who lived through the Second World War and found the strength to carry on.

‘He was not brilliant, nor heroic, but there was one thing he could do – endure.’ This for me summed up the charm of Mr Bunting, the earnest, dogged and steadfast hero of this wonderful book.

In three words: Eloquent, tender, moving

Try something similarMrs Miniver by Jan Struther

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About the Author

Robert Greenwood (1897 – 1981) was a novelist and writer. His first novel depicted the family and working life of the eponymous Mr Bunting (1940). His next novel, Mr Bunting at War (1941), continued this story in the first two years of the Second World War. Mr Bunting at War was made into a film the following year entitled Salute John Citizen (1942), which proved tremendously popular at the box office. Greenwood’s other novel about the war was The Squad Goes Out (1943), which depicted the work of a voluntary ambulance squad during the London Blitz. Greenwood wrote eleven novels in total as well as a number of short stories, including Mr Bunting in the Promised Land (1949) which tells the story of the Bunting family in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. He died in 1981.