Tuesday 2 June 2020

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Patrol by Fred Majdalany

It's a pleasure to take part in another BlogTour for a WartimeClassic - this time it's Patrol by Fred Majdalany.

In April 2020 IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle.

Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

About the Author
Frederick Majdalany (1913 – 1967) was the son of a Manchester based Lebanese family. His original first name was Fareed, which he changed to Frederick or Fred. He was also known as ‘Maj’. He worked as a journalist, drama critic and theatre publicist pre-war. He volunteered in 1939 and was commissioned in 1940, serving in North Africa and Italy. He was wounded at the Battle of Medjez-el-Bab, returning to the battalion five weeks later with the rank of captain, later promoted to major, and commanded a company. His unit landed at Taranto in September 1943, where he was awarded the Military Cross during the Italian campaign.

In October 1944 he returned home to become an instructor at an officer cadet training unit, which he later commanded, until demobilization in November 1945. After the war Majdalany resumed his career as a journalist and also worked for the BBC on historical scripts for radio and TV. He published novels and military histories, all of which were very well received. He was also involved with International PEN. He died in 1967.

Follow @I_W_M on TwitterBuy Patrol

About the book
Set in 1943, Patrol is a short, intimate novel following a small group of men on a night-time patrol in the North African desert. Major Tim Sheldon, close to battle exhaustion, is unexpectedly asked to carry out the mission and this atmospheric, tense novel puts this so-called minor action centre stage, as over the course of the day and during the patrol itself, Sheldon reminisces about his time as a soldier, his own future, and what it means to confront fear.

Patrol was a bestseller when it was first published in 1953. Clearly autobiographical, it is based on Fred Madjalany’s own experiences in Tunisia as part of the North African campaign, in particular his command of a night patrol and his time in hospital when wounded. The fictional battalion in the novel is based on 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers into which Madjalany was commissioned in 1940. Infantry battalions such as this were constantly in action with little respite, and the officers were very young by peace time standards.

The stress of battle aged them considerably. Madjalany’s wife Sheila Howarth wrote, ‘I believe in Patrol he was writing his epitaph’. He suffered a stroke in 1957 and died ten years later when the specialist commented ‘the war killed him.’

This campaign by the Imperial War Museum to republish wartime classics is one that is both timely due to certain anniversaries and of great importance. All of the classics were written during or just after the Second World War. Unfortunately they are among many forgotten books of historical and literary importance that are out of print.

It may be a fictional account, but that is something readers may forget, because this semi-autobiographical story really takes you on a realistic account of how the cog turns, the way mental health deteriorates under the constant barrage of being under fire and what it's like to be a dispensable part of the machine.

On a side-note I just wanted to mention how valuable the introductions by Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums), are. He not only gives the stories context by giving readers the historical background, he also gives readers a real insight into the minds of the men behind the experiences. I think it gives the read an element of both brutal honesty and complete empathy before you even get started.

I think Majdalany describes the frustration, torment and tragedy of warfare, whilst showing the courage and perseverance of the soldiers in the midst of it. Critiquing the ludicrous decision making of the hierarchy and upper echelons, which ultimately only ever impacts the foot soldier or the men on the frontline. It is a scathing commentary on the lackadaisical attitude towards the lives of the men on the lower rungs of the war machine.

Buy Patrol at Amazon Uk  or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Imperial War Museum; Published in Paperback April 2020 - £8.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy from the Imperial War Museum. Buy more Wartime Classics.

Read my reviews of these Wartime Classics: From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron, Battle by David Piper and Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle

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