Sunday, September 2, 2012

Quartered Safe

So I am reading Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser.  Fraser wrote the Flashman series, and this is a memoir of his life as British enlisted man in a nigh forgotten corner of WWII.  Burma.

He was a member of the Black Cat division, the 17th.  His regiment came from Cumberland in north England, and he tried to faithfully reproduce their accent in the dialog.  Fascinating.  "Est seen a coody loup ower a yett?" is Cumbrian for "Have you seen a donkey jump over a gate?"  You get used to it pretty quickly.

They called him 'Jock' because that what you do to any Scot that ends up in your unit.

It's not a history.  Just a recollection of some events 50 years after the fact.

His reference to the Japanese was 'Jap' and that applied in plural as well as the singular.  While US forces usually added the S to the plural: Japs.

In the fighting he carried a Lee Enfield, naturally, and had the old style sword bayonet.  Though other members had the shorter pig-sticker style.  His company commander had one of these bayonets and it ended up bending at a 90 degree angle inside a Japanese soldier, making extraction difficult.  When Fraser was promoted to lance corporal and section leader they issue him a Thompson submachine gun which he detested.  When he was able to he dumped the Tommy gun in a river and went back to the Enfield.  He hated the Tommy as it was inaccurate at range and rusted too easily in the monsoons.  Monsoons are something Westerners would not believe unless they are in one.  It's an astounding amount of water coming down, apparently.

His biggest consternation was leading men much older than him.   I know how he feels.

His biggest beef with the modern world is the touchy feeliness of modern people.  Stiff upper lip, there!  The Londoners didn't need counselors for the psychological health after the Battle of Britain you Silly-Mary.

His division arguably fought in the last set piece battle of the war at Pyawbwe.

He never got injured by enemy fire but suffered from dysentery, malaria, and spongy white waterlogged skin and accompanying sores.

His admiration of the Gurkhas was unparalleled.  Short little deadly whirlwinds with a large crooked knife.  They'd drop their rifles in jungle encounters.  Not to runaway, but to attack.


Old NFO said...

Having been in monsoons, he is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! and Gurkhas are unbelievable!!!

Tam said...

Isn't it a wonderful book?

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Indeed! And the author's outlook is pure George V, not this modern claptrap.

Stretch said...

I've read the book several times. I transcribed his loving description of the SMLE to print and frame next to my No.4 MkII.
Mr. Fraser was the consummate gentleman. We had a short correspondence of some 4 or 5 letters. His answers were prompt, personal, and typed on a manual typewriter.
If you've not done so do read:
The Steel Bonnets
Mr. American
The ... heck, read everything he ever wrote!