Report on Experience
By John Mulgan
Published by Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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This autobiography takes a light hearted look at the era between the World Wars and the author’s experiences in the Second World War. Mulgan was a New Zealander who emigrated to the UK prior to World War 2 and he reflects upon the difference in cultures between the two nations. A number of pages are devoted to comments on the then current issues of the day.
He studied at Oxford and recounts some of his experiences there. He compares the academic theorists with the more practical elements of the then society. Oxford at the time was a hot bed of political (student) societies and he gives an eloquent discussion about their various politics.
Eventually, like most men of the time, he was called to arms in the mid stages of the war. He served in the Africa campaign with the 8th Army and had an interesting time in the desert. He recounts his experiences as a Lieutenant Colonel and as second in command of a battalion. He served under various Colonels and he gives a review of their abilities from his position. He considered one of these Colonels so incompetent he demonstrated against him and almost “mutinied” by demanding that the Commanding Officer be removed!
After spending time in the desert with all its deprivations and heat he was sent to Greece. He recounts how Greece was occupied by both the Italians and the Germans and he compares their differing modes of occupation. During the latter part of World War 2 he assisted the Greek Partisans and he comments upon their various political leanings. The British supported the Partisans and Mulgan comments on such support like the parachute drops that he attended. He also comments on how such drops were massive boosts to morale as well as to their fighting strength.
During his stay in Greece he undertook various small actions and he comments upon how the occupying forces responded. The responses to his guerrilla actions normally consisted of burning of villages and the execution of hostages. He contemplates the success of his operations against the lives lost of hostages and tries to balance the cost in lives against the (limited) military successes.
After the war he was employed by the Army to dispense funds to Greeks who had participated with the Allies. He had to document such claims and he dispensed funds accordingly. He recounts a very interesting story from one claimant who had a very fascinating life as a Partisan and these anecdotes constitute the final chapters of the book.
Overall the book gives an interesting reflection of what life was like for a young man just before the Second World War and it comments on how such men participated and survived the War. It is a most enjoyable book is very easy to read as it takes a light-hearted view of the evilness of War.