A Question For All Veterans From All Wars - Passage of Information

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by Drew5233, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Hi Drew,

    Interesting question. I was in the first Gulf War, attached of all units to an air defence regt. Most of the time we didn't have maps and therefore had to follow the Wksp EME, who had the map and later the only GPS for all the REME (I'm not going into the officers and maps thing here).

    On the eve of the allied attack into Iraq, for the sweep to the North of Kuwait to cut the route along the Mutla ridge back to Iraq, we were called into a breifing.

    First a large scale map of the operational area was put, with all of the allied units drawn up facing North in a proud stance for freedom. Then the ops offr started to draw on the the Iraqi forces. Remember at this point we did not know how much or how good the 3rd largest army in the world was. So we shat ourselves, having just seen 9 and a half division drawn up against the valiant 1(UK) Armoured Divison, which actually was only 2 tank and one arm'd inf Bn! as that's all we could muster from the whole of Germany and Britain!!!!!!

    Most of our news came from our wives and families back in BAOR and UK, certainly the whiskey in the shampoo bottles did! Nothing like a shower each day to wash off the dust of the day!!!!!!

    The short of it was info was scarce and what we didn't know someone usually made up.
     
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  2. elyncho

    elyncho Member

    Interesting question.

    I was attached to 5 Infantry Brigade in the Falklands and as we made ready to go I remember lots of rumours flying around including a ridiculous one that they were going to use the QE2 as a troopship. We all dismissed it as a load of rubbish - and then sailed on the QE2.

    There was no information at all except what we heard on the BBC World Service. Somewhere between South Georgia and the Falklands we heard how the Invincible had been sunk. The captain announced that we might want to take the news with a pinch of salt because that big flat topped thing we could see about a mile away was showing no signs of sinking anytime soon.

    I remember a veteran saying that his view of the war was limited to what he could see through his rifle sights and I think that is true enough. There was also the WW1 vet who said he'd never known where he was at the time and when he went back couldn't locate his old positions because he'd never seen them at a time when he could stand upright! For the frontline soldier the world is a very small space and you rarely get the bigger picture. General rule was believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.

    I was a radio operator in a helicopter squadron so we had a far better idea than most what was going on where but even so I needed to find out later what I'd actually seen and done.

    In the immediate aftermath there were some stories around about various incidents, including 3 Para's activities on Longden that surfaced again years later to a big media hoohah but disappeared for a while straight after the war - even though there were plenty of journalists around who probably heard the same tale.

    Since then, I've filled in the gaps from a wide range of books, some better than others, and have been back to the islands. That really helped put things in perspective. In one case, a battlefield guide explained how the marines had gone up a hill at this spot. One of the guys in the party said 'no we didn't, I remember that rock', we moved a hundred meters or so to one side and found a trail of 7.62cases. Even the best historians get it wrong sometimes.

    Anyone who is interested in military history is, of course, interested in the stories of veterans but I think from my own experience you need to be wary about how much they knew at the time and how much has been added to the story since. Timelines get confused and details added that couldn't have been known at the time. It makes for a better story, but not an accurate one.

    Tim
     
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  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers Tim

    In the immediate aftermath there were some stories around about various incidents, including 3 Para's activities on Longden that surfaced again years later to a big media hoohah but disappeared for a while straight after the war - even though there were plenty of journalists around who probably heard the same tale.


    American mercenaries?
     
  4. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    Cheers Tim



    American mercenaries?

    more thn likely the 'ears for souveniers' issue
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Secondly did you find out more about your war when it was over in publications and books (The accurate ones) on the whole campaign or did you alreay know what other battalions etc were doing?

    Curious in Leeds
    Andy

    Now for the second part of my question that hasn't really been answered.

    As 99% of you agree regardless of the war you served in you knew very little of what was happening other than what was happening in your immediate area at the time.

    So I'm assuming you learned about the 'bigger events' in your area or campaign ie (Africa, Italy, Normandy etc) after the war. Did you read any books to fill the gaps and if so.....

    What books would you recommend?

    I have read two books that I could relate to about Iraq that I can 100% recommend and both authors were never there. The first happened during my tour the second just after.

    1, The Last Round,The Red Caps, the Paras and the Battle of Majar by Mark Nicol.

    2, The Dusty Warrior by Richard Holmes.

    Again what books would you recommend from your war?

    Over to you :)
     
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  6. elyncho

    elyncho Member

    The story of the American mercenaries on Longden was reported way back in 1982 by the Falklands paper 'Penguin News'. The idea was that Argentinian soldiers trained in the States spoke English with American accents.

    Course, since none of them were ever produced alive, you have to wonder how anybody heard their accents..........

    There were some very strange tales about back then but then again we didn't have Ipods and laptops in those days and had to make our own entertainment :)

    Tim
     
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I believe the duty rumour was they were either shot of pushed off the mountain. Nine Battles to Stanley by Nicholas Van Der Bijl put the story to bed for me.

    Tim-Any good books you've read about your time on the Falklands?
     
  8. elyncho

    elyncho Member

    The new 'Then & Now' by Gordon Ramsey (no, not that one) of the After the Battle team is good, as is Jon Cooksey's '3 Para; Mount Longden' but then again I'm biased cos I contributed to them.

    There are some good books out there and some less good ones - Van der Bijl's is OK but there are a lot of dodgy facts in it. There is also an excellent and very detailed 'Falklands: the Air War' but I can't recall the author. Lots of very detailed info.

    For an overall flavour of the war, I still like either 'The Winter War' by Patrick Bishop and John Witherow or 'Don't Cry for me Sergeant Major' by Robert McGowan and Jeremy Hands. Neither are great military histories but they do reflect the war I saw. Definitely recommended for a bit of light (ish) reading.

    Tim
     
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Drew -
    I know you will forgive me for reminding you that this forum is primarily about WW2 and therefore has very little to do with any activity in either Irag or the Falklands - or perhaps it has been changed while I was away ?
    Cheers
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Drew -
    I know you will forgive me for reminding you that this forum is primarily about WW2 and therefore has very little to do with any activity in either Irag or the Falklands - or perhaps it has been changed while I was away ?
    Cheers

    Thats why I posted it in the Post War (After WW2) section of the forum Tom

    Cheers
    Andy
     
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  11. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Nope, Andy's question is valid and given that it is in the "postwar" section of the forum its not out of context! Proceed chaps!
     
  12. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Gulf War One:Real Voices from the Front: Hugh McManners - GW1
    Main Battle Tank: Niall Edworthy - Scots DG Taking Basra GW2
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Getting back to the original thread question then ....it appears that Gerry Chester and myself were the only two who knew what was going on in the whole of WW2 - which is probably why our respective Brigadier - Kit Dawney made it up to General - well done Kit !
    Cheers
     
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Getting back to the original thread question then ....it appears that Gerry Chester and myself were the only two who knew what was going on in the whole of WW2 - which is probably why our respective Brigadier - Kit Dawney made it up to General - well done Kit !
    Cheers

    I asked Jerry for his thoughts but sadly he hasn't posted on here as yet.

    Did you read any books after the war that you could relate to and consider very accurate then Tom that covered your time in Africa and Italy?

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  15. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Drew -
    Of course I read many books which related to my time in WW2 but in amongst that lot were not too many whom I would agree that even they knew what the BIG picture was - main point of my arguement is that one must go back to the 1928 era to start tracking what the big picture really was all about - with that background then we can move forward and understand what to-day's problems are - and why we have you in the Balkans and Iraq etc - and the chaps in Afghanistan.....

    I am not claiming that only I knew what it was all about but it did help to have some knowledge of what had happened at that time and how our respective Brigadier also was aware that the more we knew - the better we would perform - and save lives...

    Cheers
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Drew -
    Of course I read many books which related to my time in WW2 but in amongst that lot were not too many whom I would agree that even they knew what the BIG picture was -

    Perhaps you could recommend the ones that you think did? That way anyone interested in the Africa/Italian battles you fought in can read the best books available.
     
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Drew –
    First and foremost would be Barrie Pitt’s trilogy of the “Crucible of War”
    followed by Nigel Hamilton’s Vol 2 “Monty- Master of the Battlefield” – then Alan “ Whicker -Whickers War” – the Lt Col. Nicholson’s Official History of the “Canadians in Italy 1943-45”- John Ellis’s “Cassino – the Hollow Victory” - Dan Dancocks “ D Day Dodgers” - John Strawson’s “Battle for North Africa”- Gen.David Fraser’s “Alanbrooke” and the Alanbrooke “Diaries”

    Once you have finished with the BEF- you should start with Barrie Pitts Trilogy on the “Crucible of War” – and go through this list – you are still young enough to read all about it – with this and a few more – it has only taken me 25 years – mind you I had another major problem to study about what happened in the early 60’s
    Cheers
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks for the list Tom

    Ps I've still got 90 Dunkirk books to read and over 2,000 war diaries/files to collect and read yet. I fear I'll never get passed the summer of 1940.

    Regards
    Andy
     
  19. Hi Drew
    (Been visiting down south in Horsforth!)
    Spoke to Dad last night.
    He got very little info on specifics. It mainly consisted of "get in your vehicle and drive so and so"
    When they were out of action in North Africa there were news-sheets posted up, but most of the time it was -'someone said' or 'we did hear'.
    The fact that I'm going to visit Kew next month to copy the war diaries says a lot I think.
    He knew the general area, maybe a town name, but they moved about a lot.
    Specific info, he could only recall two instances.
    "When 150 Bgde got nipped in 1942 we were told to drive west then swing south and go back up the blue following the Milky Way, not to stop and not to pick up anyone... There were DLI hanging all over the wagon when we went through the I-ties!"
    " On the way across to Normandy (D-Day)Capt Souter opened his sealed orders and told up that we were going in early on and they expected 75% casualties... that stuck"
    He said he has learned more in the past few years than the whole time since the end of the War about what happened, where and why. He wasn't really interested when he first came back, and for someone who left school at fourteen the deeper geo-political disaster of the whole League of Nations/Versailes settlement meant nothing.

    Book wise he always said Quartered Safe Out Here was a good read for conveying what he felt, or how he became de-sensitised to everything. As to his own war he is currently reading Bierman and Smith: Alamein War Without Hate. I've had a positive nod so it must be ok and a few "I didn't know that...."
     
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  20. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    To understand what went on around me my first purchase was Norman Scarfe's Assault Division in 1947. The Iron Division, History of the 3rd Division, by Robin Mcnish was also very helpful on Normandy as was Patrick Delaforce's Monty's Iron Sides. Nigel Cawthorne sent me a signed copy of his book because it mentioned the Troop I was with on D-Day, I put in a safe now can't find it. But I have rea George Blackburn's books, the best yet, and as much as I can of all the other fronts of the war.
     
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