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 7 reviews
Thought provoking

War, Wine and Valour - Douglas BakerA nostalgic and thought provoking memoir from Douglas Baker, who was just a lad when his epic tale began. We follow him through his journey from boy to man as he signs up to fight as a soldier in WWII. To say he paints a vivid picture is almost an understatement and disservice. Baker has a remarkable way with words, amazing in black and white typeface, but when read aloud transforming into a living, breathing work of art. You are almost literally transported to the battlefields and trenches, you can hear the boom of shells and rattle of guns, just from the clever yet effortless natural turn of speech that can only come from being a first hand witness and survivor.War, Wine and Valour would make a valuable edition to any GCSE history department, gone are the dull facts found in text books world over, replaced instead by this amazing first person account. Be warned, however, this is not a tale of happy endings, this is real, gritty war in all its horrific, dare I say, glory. There is plenty to empathise with, and you will be caught up in the accounts of the camaraderie and unbreakable spirit of those who fought and in some cases died for King and country. There is an undeniable sense of pride for these amazing men, and knowing that Baker himself was there makes this all the more poignant. He breathes life into his friends and companions, and you feel as if you are getting to know them as well as his account continues, sadly not all were alive in the end. Many of his friends died on the battlefield. Drawing on diary entires from the time, you know without doubt that his head remained full of these memories, good and bad, long after the guns were silenced and the war was won.Baker’s account and description of the state of shellshocked, something that crops up more than once in his accounts, sent shivers down my spine, along with the vivd picture he paints you do wonder how on earth these remarkable men were able to survive such atrocities, and yet clearly many did. I was left feeling like we are a nation gone soft, and although these amazing soldiers laid down many lives for our freedom, we have failed to live up to their awe inspiring reputations. Hearing Baker recount times without food and water, the blazing heat and the genuine hard labour these men endured, does leave one feeling humbled and inferior as well as truly grateful they were there for our country. That is perhaps the thing I feel most inspired by, the fact that this true legend, not someone overpaid to kick a ball, not someone rolling in money because of their good looks, but someone who went to war genuinely not knowing if he would come back alive, has bravely and powerfully recounted with such life, what it was really like to be there. Something we couldn’t even come close to imagining as we sit in our centrally heated homes with plentiful food and creature comforts.

Great listen

I stumbled over this audio book when looking for something about the war. I hadn't heard this kind of reading before but took a punt because personal accounts of war on the front line are rare and should be valued. Interesting guy!

Very informative

A cut above the rest documenting one man's detailed experience.

Great memoirs

I have listened to a lot of auto-biographical audio books and this one ranks among the best.

What a heroic role model !

A riveting picture of the day-to-day history of World War II, maneuvering moments of humour among those of brain-numbing trauma. No less engrossing is the fact that Douglas Baker was a school boy when he chose to enlist, joining others to take a stand for Freedom against enormous odds. Vividly portrayed, his experience is a powerful testament to the fact that one person CAN make a difference.

Amazing war story

Dr Baker's sheer courage and will to sacrifice are an inspiration.

A Heroic Story

“War, Wine and Valour” is a remarkable book for many reasons.First Douglas Baker’s situation was particularly poignant, although of course not unique.  He volunteered into the Natal Mounted Rifles at the age of sixteen. Both his parents had died before he went to war, he had played a part in nursing his mother through cancer.At seventeen, in May 1940, he was fully mobilised and sent up to Kenya from his native Durban for training.Subsequently he fought in Abyssinia, North Africa, and Italy. He was seriously injured twice, the first time at the second battle of El Alamein, and the second time in Italy. He was finally discharged in April 1945.Secondly, Dr. Baker retained a photographic memory well into his eighties, when he wrote this book on the advice of his close friend, Barbara Cartland. He also made full use of his comprehensive war diaries, which are frequently quoted.This enables him to give fascinating detail on a number of levels: his account of training, military manoeuvres, and also views as a well educated young man on the politics of the war both in general terms and also the politics of the army. He frequently gives considered reflections on relations between officers and men. He also goes to great lengths in the different campaigns to help the reader grasp the logistics of mounting the military campaigns.Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this is a great book because of Douglas’s relationships with his comrades, the men he fought with, many of whom he had known as children in Durban growing up. He is unrelentingly candid but also compassionate about courage and cowardice, the social life both in and out of camp, and also the massive psychological struggle to cope with the constant and unending impact of being attacked on the ground and from the air, and by bombardment.PTSD relating to shellshock is now understood much better than it was in the 1940s, and Dr. Baker’s book spells out in a remarkable way the battle to retain sanity, a coherent identity.