18 Platoon by Sydney Jary

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18 Platoon is one of the best subalterns books – probably the best – to come from the 2nd World War

An essential read for every Sandhurst potential officer cadet.

Sydney Jary’s account of his experience as a platoon commander in the 4th Battalion The Somerset Light Infantry during the campaign in North West Europe in 1944-45 is of inestimable value to historians and should be read by all young army officers.

Part history, part memoir, part opinion-piece, 18-Platoon is a relatively quick read that takes you through one subaltern's journey from being assigned to command a platoon of British infantry to the end of the war in Europe. His brash methods and thinking clash at first with those of his superiors, but under the guidance of his senior NCO's he becomes a trusted and effective platoon leader. That is part of the value of the book: his stories of leadership both in terms of dealing with his men, but also with his superiors in defence of his men.

Jary talks about the qualities of a good infantryman and argues that virtues such as the ability to endure, keep "a quiet mind" and laugh at the absurd, far outweigh characteristics like competitiveness, aggression and physical stamina in any long term combat situation.  As Jary puts it: he would rather go into combat with a company of poets than former stars of the sports field. What an interesting notion that is.

"18 Platoon is among the best I have read"

Dr John Pimlott
Head of Dept of War Studies

"18 Platoon is one of the best subalterns books - probably the best - to come from the 2nd WW."

General Sir David Fraser GCB.OBE.DL

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