Tuesday 9 June 2020

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Warriors For the Working Day by Peter Elstob

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Warriors for the Working Day by Peter Elstob- another book in the Wartime Classic Series by the Imperial War Museum.

In April 2020 IWM published 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.

Warriors for the Working Day is generally recognised as Peter Elstob’s greatest work. Originally published in 1960, it sold nearly a quarter of a million copies and remains one of the finest fictional depictions of life in a tank during the Second World War.

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’.

Follow @I_W_M on TwitterElstob on Goodreads, on AmazonBuy Warriors for the Working Day

About the Author
Peter Elstob (1915 – 2002) was born in London but educated in New York and New Jersey when his family moved to the USA as a result of his father’s work. He spent a brief period at the University of Michigan and a short stint in the RAF. In 1936 he volunteered as a pilot in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and published his first novel in 1939, The Spanish Prisoner, based on his experiences in Spain. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he attempted to re-join the RAF but when he was turned down, volunteered for the 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, where he served across Europe and in the Middle East.

After the war, Elstob pursued a variety of ventures – he co-ran the Arts Theatre Club in London, founded an artistic and writer’s community in Mexico and attempted a trans-Atlantic balloon flight in 1958. However, his main success was the beauty mask, Yeast Pac, which he and his partner developed and marketed successfully for many years. He wrote several novels and a number of well received military histories, including Hitler’s Last Offensive (1971) about the Battle of the Bulge.

About the book
Warriors for the Working Day follows one tank crew as they proceed from training in Aldershot to the beaches of Normandy, and on into the heart of a newly liberated Europe. Closely based on Peter Elstob’s own wartime experiences as a tank commander and radio operator, the novel brilliantly evokes the particular horror of tank warfare – the intense heat and the claustrophobia endured by so many, yet often overlooked.

Life within a British tank was very precarious as they were noticeably inferior to German armour, and were nicknamed Ronsons (cigarette lighters) by their crews as they lit ‘first time, every time.’ The novel also examines battle exhaustion in a way that a 21st century reader will recognise, with men and officers able to experience a certain amount, before fear becomes an overriding obsession.

I think it takes a special kind of courage to sit in a metal machine that is clearly going to be a target for the enemy, but perhaps more so when you are sitting in a tin cup that is known to catch fire when hit by enemy fire. Just think of the feelings of claustrophobia and constant fear of imminent death, perhaps more so than the foot soldier who could possibly leave the area under fire.

The pressure, stress and trauma magnified by the fact the crew knew they were in inferior equipment compared to the German tanks. The British tanks were nicknamed 'Ronsons (cigarette lighters)' - they lit up and caught fire every time they were hit. It automatically puts the men in a position of weakness, one they were very much aware of, which in itself had an impact on morale and their mental health.

Elstob also examines the battle fatigue the troops suffered from. In the 21st century the world is more attuned to the mental health issues that arise from being in combat, although one could argue that veterans in particular are still not given the aftercare they so desperately need.

The author accurately depicts the tipping point between exhaustion and becoming so fatigued that the men in question become reckless - it almost becomes death via warfare and tank. It's an introspective and reflective piece of writing based on Elstob's own experiences, and one we can all learn from going forward.

Buy Warriors For the Working Day at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Published in Paperback April 2020 - £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

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