Magazine article The Spectator

The Good Soldier

Magazine article The Spectator

The Good Soldier

Article excerpt

WAR AND SHADOWS by General Sir David Fraser Allen Lane, (10.99, pp. 336, ISBN 0713996277

To those who read this absorbing book, it will be clear how David Fraser became a distinguished general and military historian and a notable biographer. On his father's side, he came from a family with a long military tradition and also with a conspicuous independence of spirit, most evident in his uncle, Alastair Saltoun, whom he rightly describes as both eccentric and lovable. Those who knew Lord Saltoun will instantly recognise the description. Once, suddenly accosted in the corridors of the House of Lords, to be told of the problems of fortifying English castles in the 13th century, he showed an enthusiasm equalled only on the same day in the same place by his implacable determination to put right an injustice suffered by engine drivers in an industrial dispute. He was indeed a lovable man. His grandfather, on his mother's side, was Cyril Maude, the actor manager, determined, in the face of considerable opposition from his family, to go on the stage. I like particularly Maude's friend, Miss Bidder, aged 100, who believed in fairies. She saw them like a cluster of small electric bulbs but could not see them in the daytime. Of course not, says Fraser!

From childhood he had the opportunity to meet a whole host of important people, including Marshal Joffre and General Geyr von Scheppenburg, later commanding the Panzer Group West in Normandy, opposite the Guards Armoured Division in which Fraser served.

He was fortunate, too, that his father was, in pre-second world war days, the military attache in both Brussels and Paris. He therefore had the experience, very rare for a young man in those days, of living on the continent and of travelling extensively in Germany and elsewhere. This background led him, as he states very clearly, to oppose and, indeed, be ashamed of the appeasement of Munich and particularly the phrase `Peace with Honour'.

Much later, he was one of the few who saw that the alliance with the Soviet Union in 1942, though a strategic inevitability, would have consequences for Central Europe and parts of Germany which were likely to be catastrophic. He was not one of those who believed Stalin to be a benevolent `Uncle Joe'. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.