5 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
In World War 2 we mostly hear about the major wars and events that took place in Europe and the Far East. There was the Campaign in North African and lots of other little theatres of war that were taking place all over the world. Gerald Hanley spent his war in the desolate sun-scorched landscape of sub-Saharan Africa.
The population was the fierce and independently minded and fierce tribesmen of Somalia. They had been ruled by the Italians but after they had been defeated, the administration had imploded and his small group of soldiers were tasked with trying to hold everything together, stop warring tribes from raiding and killing each other.
To say it was tough there was an understatement. They were the last in a long line of supply drops and the men were rarely paid, had very little in the way of rations and the detachment of native soldier that he had under his command were in a constant state of near mutiny. Some of the men found it so tough there that suicide was the only option that felt they had to leave the place.
Yet it was the isolation more than anything which was hardest to bear, at first. Eventually one grew to love it, and those who knew long isolation in those Somali wastes and survived it, will miss it forever. It was the most valuable time of one’s life.
As tough as it was there, it was a place that Hanley grew to love. He learnt so many lessons from the people that he carried forward into his later life. He is humble but firm as they were not the easiest people to deal with, the way that he deals with a guy who has just stabbed someone else is eye-opening, but he did consider them the proudest, the bravest, the vainest, the most merciless, the friendliest. I thought that this was an excellent book. He writes with a passion for the people that he is trying to help and manage there whilst trying to hold his detachment together. Whilst it was utterly different to Naples 44 by Norman Lewis it had a lot of similarities; both books were written by men who had been thrust into situations that they were never expecting. They both took everything that they came across in their stride and used the skills to strike an uneasy peace with the local populations. Very highly recommended.