First published in 1946, this book is very much of its time but can genuinely lay claim to be a classic. Martin Lindsay was a pre-war regular officer and a well-known explorer and adventurer with designs on a political career. The book takes us from his arrival in Normandy as a replacement officer in July, 1944, through to victory in 1945. The title alone tells us of the enormous price paid by British infantry battalions in the fighting across occupied Europe and into the Reich. The 1st Gordons lost seventy-five officers and just under a thousand other ranks, killed and wounded; in that period. It is easy to see how the British Army faced such a manning crisis in those vital months and reminds us that the casualty rate was, at times, comparable to the worst of the Great War battles.
I recently reviewed Nap Murray’s account of his army service and the two men briefly and happily overlap, because they are very much cut from the same cloth. It is easy to sneer at people of their class and education from this distance, but they have a writing style which is a delight and the colour and descriptions just flow off the pages. People and places come to life and by the end you will feel very much part of the proceedings. Be in no doubt that Lindsay loved his battalion and loved his comrades. It appears to have been mutual.
One of the joys of Pen & Sword is how they continue to bring these old gems to life and give us all a chance to read first-hand accounts of major events written when they were still fresh in the mind and heart. The only disappointment is the selection of photographs which do not include one of the author. The small number provided are fairly generic and quite sterile. The maps, however, are excellent and really useful. The text makes regular reference to them and they become an essential part of following specific engagements. This book really was well thought out when Lieutenant Colonel Lindsay, DSO, put it together when he came home.
After the war the author made it in to Parliament and seems to have had a colourful time of things up until the time of his death in 1981. He gives all the impression of a person who you wish you had known. This book is as fine a testament to the Scottish soldier in the Second World War as you will read anywhere. The cover price is the equivalent of a large pizza. Do the math and do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy. You will not be disappointed.
SO FEW GOT THROUGH
WITH THE GORDON HIGHLANDERS FROM NORMANDY TO THE BALTIC
By Martin Lindsay
Published in soft back by Pen & Sword Military £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 84884 856 6