Spring 1944, the south coast of England. The Fifth Battalion, Wessex
Regiment wait patiently and nervously for the order to embark. There is
boredom and fear, comedy and pathos as the men - all drawn from
different walks of life - await the order to move.
From The City, From The Plough is a vivid and moving account of the fate of these men as they set off for Normandy and advance into France.
The novel is not about the actual fighting alone; the larger part of it
paints a picture of what happens in between battles and before: the
training, the discipline, the boredom; about how the military machine
uproots individuals, throws them together in new environments and forces
them to establish new personal relationships. The novel contains many
living character sketches of seemingly quiet and timid individuals who
grow in stature in the face of danger and hardships; of ‘tough’
individuals who break down under the strain. Baron is also very
perceptive about relations between officers, non-commissioned officers
and the ordinary soldiers and how the maintenance of discipline is more
complex than the mere enforcement of rules and the punishment of
misdemeanour and how officers and NCOs must win the respect of the men.
The novel contains an account of a new ‘hard case’ joining the platoon, a
repeat offender who has seen the inside of many civil and military
prisons and of the battle of wills between him and the platoon sergeant.
The sergeant must not lose face and the respect of the rest of the
platoon by allowing the newcomer openly to flout his orders. But he also
must not ‘pull rank’ and provoke permanent enmity and resentment —
after all some officers and NCOs have received a bullet in the back in
battle situations — and he must also retain the respect and support of
the rest of the platoon. In the end, the sergeant wins the battle of
wills and integrates the awkward soldier within the unit.
From The City, From The Plough - Alexander Baron
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