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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.

 

With reviews of books that cover these topics

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Escape Artist

The Incredible Second World War of Johnny Peck

 

Peter Monteath

 

Pen & Sword, 2018

A biography of a very interesting Australian soldier, whose compulsive escaping in the North African, and Balkan/Italian theatres led to his becoming a full time organiser of other escapers and also a partisan. Monteath is very  good at  setting the context of every military action, although one sometimes wonders if his wandering off piste is also driven by a desire to pad out the narrative.  The author goes in some detail into the setting up of the SOE and other branches of the UK’s security services.

 

The action is far and wide: unusually for such biographies this volume contains several very useful maps, so that the reader can, for the most part, follow Peck’s peregrinations. As with other biographers, Monteath is greatly aided by the fact that Johnny Peck wrote an autobiography (Captive in Crete), and indeed large chunks of some chapters are (judging from the references) regurgitated from this. The author appears to have trawled the archives in both the UK and Australia, so it is sometimes frustrating for the reader to see that, for weeks at a time, Peck’s movements and actions remain a mystery.

 

The book is reminder of firstly the bravery of many of the local communities in Southern Europe, and secondly the dreadful revenge that the Germans exacted on communities when there were events of sabotage and resistance.

 

In his Cretan wanderings Peck comes up against a legendary figure – Patrick Leigh-Fermor, and one who deserves to be – John Pendlebury (google him and you will be struck dumb by his qualities and achievements).  

 

Overall a great yarn.