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Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of…
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Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II (1992)

by George MacDonald Fraser

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3791728,461 (4.27)26
  1. 20
    Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester (superdubey)
  2. 20
    Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945 by William Slim (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: George MacDonald Fraser praises Slim very highly, and for the commanding officer's perspective on GMF's soldier's eye view, you can't do better than Slim's self-effacing memoir.
  3. 00
    With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge (chrisharpe)
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Author's memoirs of serving in Burma in World War II. He tells of his experiences on the front lines, some harrowing. Conversations among the soldiers are recounted in the Northern England dialect of most of his unit. ( )
  NoTalentHack | Nov 19, 2016 |
A book which has jumped right to the top of my Favourites list, this World War Two memoir from the author of the Flashman books shares many of the winning qualities of that peerless series of novels. It is extremely well-written, full of adventure, pathos, interesting locales and heart-in-mouth moments – and, most surprisingly, it is extremely funny.

I don't want to quote from the book (mostly because the examples are so numerous that I cannot chose between them, but also because they are best experienced when immersed in the rhythm of Fraser's wider prose), but little moments such as the 'victory' password on the night patrol and the sergeant trying to convince Fraser to become a 'sniper-scout' had me crying with laughter. You get a real sense for the banter and camaraderie of Nine Section, the group Fraser served with (the Cumbrian dialect, which Fraser writes these encounters in, is not too obstructive if you just let it flow). And that eccentric Captain Grief, a real gem of a character introduced late into the story, is an interesting chap, though I wouldn't want to sit next to him on the bus. The book's natural humour is heightened by Fraser's Flashman-esque (and seemingly effortless, damn him) quips and asides, making for a giddiness in my reading experience which has scarcely been matched save for the Flashman books themselves.

In fact, Quartered Safe Out Here felt like a Flashman book in all but name, though with one crucial difference. Whereas Harry Flashman was a complete coward (or had 'a coward's courage', as he might have termed it), the young Fraser was genuinely brave and tough; the Japanese of World War Two were notoriously fierce and cruel fighters but met their match in this teenage Scot and his Cumbrian comrades. Furthermore, Fraser – and this will come as no surprise to anyone who has read Flashman – is not afraid of giving us his undiluted opinions, and he writes eloquently about the changes in British values from his day to modern times. Only occasionally curmudgeonly, such passages do a great service to the book by gently jostling and challenging the reader; it is this balance between intellectual provocation and exquisite storytelling which has always been my gold standard for a brilliantly entertaining read, and Quartered Safe Out Here is matchless.

I always seem to struggle with writing positive reviews, at least when it comes to originality. Maybe it's my naturally cynical disposition, but give me a bad book and I can write for hours, whereas I often find it a struggle to convey my impressions of a book that I quickly fall in love with, as I have here. And that's because every time I'm responding to the same things: beautiful prose and artful storytelling, pathos, adventure, humour, intelligence… and it's always hard to wax lyrical about those things without sounding like a bore. So I suppose there's always a simple way to end such reviews: just read it – start today if you can – and thank me later. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
GMF is an entertainer, and these are a lively set of war memoirs. The final year of the XIV Army campaign in Burma is our larger framework, and I got the clear and informative story that I was looking for. Well worth the read, and remember that these were the author's salad days, whose loss he regrets. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 11, 2013 |
I don't know why George MacDonald Fraser waited until 2007 to publish his memoir of his experiences as a young British soldier in Burma toward the end of World War II, "Quartered Safe Out Here." He was probably much too busy writing his Flashman novels and other books. But if the passage of more than half a century made his memory a bit foggy about some of the details, it did give him the advantage of perspective, and many of the best passages in the book were made possible by the perspective of an old man in the 21st century looking back at what it was like being a soldier in the 1940s.

There is, for example, his commentary on what British soldiers were fighting for and what they weren't fighting for: "They did not fight for a Britain that would be dishonestly railroaded into Europe against the people's will; they did not fight for a Britain where successive governments, by their weakness and folly, would encourage crime and violence on an unprecedented scale ...

"No, that is not what they fought for - but being realists they accept what they cannot alter, and reserve their protests for the noise pollution of modern music in their pubs."

Later he writes about the morality of dropping A-bombs on two Japanese cities to end the war, a question, he says, that never occurred to soldiers in the field. He considers the possibility that he could have been one of the many Allied soldiers who would certainly have been killed if those bombs hadn't been dropped and the fact that, in that case, his children and grandchildren would never have been born. "And that," he writes, "I'm afraid, is where all discussion of pros and cons evaporates and becomes meaningless, because for those nine lives I would pull the plug on the whole Japanese nation and never even blink. And so, I dare suggest, would you. And if you wouldn't you may be nearer to the divine than I am but you sure as hell aren't fit to be parents or grandparents."

In truth, Fraser really didn't see that much action in the war. The major battles happened elsewhere. Yet his memoir, due to his writing skill and a lifetime of thinking about those events, make it excellent reading. ( )
1 vote hardlyhardy | Nov 5, 2012 |
This World War II memoir, published long afterwards in 1992, is most interesting for the English accents and mannerisms from the north border region (Cumberland), in particular the back and forth banter among the working class front line soldiers, often very funny. And that's about it really, the war scenes in Burma are interesting but not particularly dramatic. It seems honest though, he tries hard to present the 1940s as they existed (for him). The audiobook version helped with the accents, though I often had trouble understanding what was being said. ( )
  Stbalbach | Dec 29, 2011 |
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Epigraph
You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out here,
An' you're sent to penny fights an' Aldershot it,
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.

Rudyard Kiping, Gunga Din
Dedication
For Jack, Andrew, Harry, and Tom, some day, the tale of a grandfather
First words
It is satisfying, and at the same time slightly eerie, to read in an official military history of an action in which you took part, even as a very minor and bewildered participant.
Quotations
Wrap up all my care and woe,
Here I go, swinging low, Bye-Bye Shanghai. Wont somebody wait for me, Please get in a state for me, Bye-bye Shanghai.Up before the colonel in the morning. He gave me a rocket and a warning:

"You've been out with Sun Yat Sen, You won't go out with him again!"

Shaghai! Bye-bye.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0002726874, Paperback)

George MacDonald Fraser's recollection of the war in Burma.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

George MacDonald Fraser?beloved for his series of Flashman historical novels?offers an action-packed memoir of his experiences in Burma during World War II. Fraser was only 19 when he arrived there in the war's final year, and he offers a first-hand glimpse at the camaraderie, danger, and satisfactions of service. A substantial Epilogue, occasioned by the 50th anniversary of VJ-Day in 1995, adds poignancy to a volume that eminent military historian John Keegan described as one of the great personal memoirs of the Second World War.… (more)

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