Popski's Private Army

Popski's Private Army

4.16 (43 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

This is an account of military adventures in the Middle East and Italy during World War 2. Its author makes an unlikely hero: a Belgian-born Russian, educated at Cambridge, he had spent most of his working life in the Egyptian sugar-refining industry, but only found true fulfilment during the war. Feeling himself to be an outsider, he desperately wanted to be accepted by the British army when war broke out in 1939. He enthusiastically lists his talents: "A good deal of technical and administrative experience - a few languages - some knowledge of most European countries and of the Middle East - I could fly a light single-engined plane, sail a small boat, drive a truck in the desert". It was not, however, until 1942 that the British army found a way to exploit these talents to the full: they created the smallest independent unit in the British army of just 23 men and put the author in charge. Provisional titles such as "No 1 Demolition Squadron", "Desert Raiders", and "Jebel Rats" were all rejected in favour of "Popski's Private Army", employing the nickname by which the author was always known to his comrades. Their role in the Middle East combined reconnaissance, intelligence work, and sabotage: "I would, I decided", writes Popski, "employ my unit in spreading alarm and despondency, a much-derided policy". A policy which they continued on crossing into Italy in 1943, where they operated behind enemy lines.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 460 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 34mm | 299.37g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • index
  • 0192852388
  • 9780192852380

Table of contents

Part 1 Alone: defeat of the Levant; play with the desert; overtaken; left out; an elderly subaltern; gate keeper; muddle; mountain air; my own plans. Part 2 The senussis: Wadi Buma; country life; Obeidi conference; ways of life; spread of alarm; settlement in the Jebel; vindication of Sa'ad'Ali; escape from panic in Cairo; hide and seek. Part 3 Jake Easonsmith: Drake and Morgan; Bufalo Bill; the oryx; rescue.show more

Review Text

Most welcome reprint of one of the earliest and best autobiographies to come out of the war against Hitler. Vladimir Peniakoff, nicknamed Popski, was an engineer of Belgian nationality and White Russian origin who worked in Egypt from 1924 and got to know the western desert intimately. He collected a few dozen friends and soldiers, whom bureaucrats tried to call Number One Demolition Squadron. Renamed Popski's Private Army, they did invaluable work behind the recognized desert fighting line, alongside the Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service, in reconnoitring the Axis enemy and unsettling his rear areas by subterfuge. They moved on into Italy in 1943 to work with such resistance forces as they could find. Peniakoff saved Ravenna from Bombardment, and held a victory parade - while German troops were still in the city - in St Mark's Square in Venice. He fought a clean war, well; his book is as lively and as original as himself. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

43 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 35% (15)
4 51% (22)
3 12% (5)
2 0% (0)
1 2% (1)
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