Soldier at Bomber Command — by Charles Carrington (Leo Cooper, £16).
THIS book at last reveals the identity of the man who induced the Royal Air Force not to bomb Rome, as it had bombed Berlin, in reprisal for the bombing of London.
It was a junior officer named Major Charles Carrington, the author of this book, who feared that such an onslaught might turn the entire cultured world against Britain. He started a chain of communication, too long to recount in a review, which led to the plan being dropped.
This is just one of many intriguing stories which Carrington tells of his war years as the army's liaison officer with Bomber Command. His RAF confreres knew him affectionately and respectfully as "Soldier", hence the book's title.
The book is entertaining, informative and direct. He says of Hore-Belisha, the Secretary of State for War in 1939: "He was surely the most incompetent to hold that office since the Crimea, a caricature of a War Minister."
Through Carrington we see, cleary into the generally esoteric world of military staffwork, with its rivalries between the services. Carrington was impatient with rivalry; as a soldier he understood the RAF's true role of supporting the army better than many senior RAF officers and his advocacy was influential.
He pesents his visit to France in June 1940 as a lengthy appendix. His graphically told• experiences as the British and French armies collapsed under German pressure deserve to have been told in chronological sequence. As an appendix some readers may not give his description of France in turmoil the attention it deserves.
Worried that he had no document to protect himself and his small command in France, Carrington took a piece of OHMS paper, stamped it SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL and in English and French typed on it: "Major C.E. Carrington and his party are authorised to proceed to Rouen on urgent military business." Then he signed it himself!
With modest authority and subtle humour, Carrington describes an aspect of World War II that has been neglected, perhaps because Carrington himself was the only person in a position to tell it. His economic sketches of the many famous .men and the ordinary servicemen with whom he worked are superb.
John Terraine, who wrote the introduction, corrects Carrington on two important points of military history and I must point out another one. He says: "From September 1939 to August 1942 the Army rarely won a battle and was defeated in every campaign..." Not so.
The Australian-British campaign in Syria in mid-1941 and the British campaign in Abyssinia January-May 1941 were total and resounding successes.
The flaws are forgiveable. It was Carrington, under the pseudonym, Charles Edmonds, who wrote the 1929 classic A Subaltern's War about the Great War.
Now, at the age of 90, he has published a book which ranks as one of the best about the second Great War in which he served. Salutations, Colonel Carrington.
John D Laffin is author of over 100 books on military history.