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Asparkling and racy story of regimental life in the 1950s
The Author. John Ogden was first a professional soldier who helped give away the British Empire and then an advertising man who helped build and sustain commercial empires. In 1952 he was commissioned into The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, with whom he served in various parts of the world until he resigned his commission in 1964. He then joined J. Walter Thompson in London, moving, in the 1980s, to Ogilvy & Mather. He now lives in Oxfordshire.
Andrew Roberts writes:‘Ogden’s
ear for the dialogue of all ranks of the British Army protecting West Germany
in the 1950s is at perfect pitch. The psychological insight into the motivation
of his characters is equally superb. Just as its predecessor On Fire examined
the concepts of comradeship and courage, so Silken Dalliance inquires perceptively
into the nature of leadership. The A Military Education trilogy is shaping
up well to become one of the great Cold War novel sequences.’
Review by Maj Matt Hayward, Scots DG
Miles Player is
a young army officer serving in Hong Kong in the early 1950s. When his
regiment is called to the Korean War he finds his real military education
starts. The polo and partying of colonial high life and the arms of his
beloved Kitty are left behind. Nothing could be more real than his new
life with his soldiers and the dramas and feelings they share. As Miles
and his men face the harsh reality of battle we witness, through his eyes,
acts of friendship and enmity, ambition and frailty, courage and cowardice,
and love and betrayal. We also see the caprice of fortune. Yet there are
moments of hilarity and periods of great fun. The intensity of life in
the front line - makeshift living conditions, constant shelling and ever-present
fear - casts Miles' earlier days into sharp relief. And, as he comes face
to face with the impact of the war and his times, he also senses that Britain's
power and prestige are dwindling.
‘I enjoyed On Fire enormously. It presents a wonderfully vivid picture of the experience of Korea.’ Sir Max Hastings
‘An excellent read and a haunting evocation of a long vanished era.’ Professor Gary Sheffield
‘It is years since I enjoyed a novel quite so much and I recommend it unreservedly to readers.’ The Tablet, Novel of the Week
‘A compulsively readable story, the Forgotten War comes vividly alive.’ Country Life
the strength of this novel lies less in its fictional character than the
insights it reveals of military experience in that "forgotten" Korean conflict.
The author's recall of what it was like to be embroiled in the vicissitudes
of attack and counter-attack, and entrapped in meshes of tension, hope,
fear and frustration, is tellingly conveyed. Relations between the Yanks
and Limeys (mutual astonishment), characteristics of the Chinese (always
blowing bugles), the perils of frostbite (losing your skin peeling hands
off an iced-up tank), confused perceptions (mistaking wallowing cows for
enemy snipers) - these and many such snippets, plus the closely textured
account of battle minutiae, all paint a tangible picture of early fifties
Korea. Rather less tangible is the depiction of mess life and the relations
between individual officers. In this respect there is plenty of material
all right, but it is material diluted by its very breadth. The canvas is
perhaps too wide, its figures too many to supply strong dramatic distinction.
What it does do, however, is to give an authentic rendering of the day
to day procedures, difficulties, triumphs, challenges - and sometimes absurdities,
of combatants plunged in an alien terrain struggling doggedly to maintain
a sense of balance and order amidst threat and uncertainty. It is a book
that will undoubtedly strike chords with veterans of the Korean war, but
is also likely to appeal to anyone with an interest in military history
or in the social and political ethos of that period.
And also reviewed on Amazon by By B E Openshaw
I ordered this book after reading a review for its sequel and wanting to read them in the order written. I do not regret buying either. My immediate interest stems from being a National Serviceman 1952-54 as a non-commissioned regimental signaller in the PBI, serving in Kenya and Germany
'On Fire' gives a picture of the longueurs of army life in Hong Kong and Korea, particularly as viewed from the Officer's Mess. Delightful as the distractions may be, the enthusiasm for the combat posting to Korea is well captured by John Ogden. The contrast between the two situations is well drawn, as is the pre-action boredom and hellish contrast of killing and being killed. It is often said that a good regiment is a true family, Ogden certainly brings that to life, especially where commonality of the field dissolves the strictures of rank.
Lust and love have their place, that of the caring chaplain and good officers being more believable than the male and female variety. Ogden has a fine controlled comic line, this is at its best in the field kitchen chapter.
'On Fire' is a good book, it will appeal to anybody with an interest in military life in the 1950s. It is especially readable for NSmen of that period, it explains what the 'prats' where up to ( they pre-date Ruperts) and how right we were to feel sorry for them along with our laughter.