I’m afraid this is not one of my best interviews. That is to say, it was a good interview, but I had problems with my dictaphone and much of it was lost. After this, I moved into the digital age, but it was very annoying because he was both fascinating and unusual: although he came from a privileged background, he served in the ranks. He also wrote one of the best wartime memoirs I have ever read.

Alex Bowlby

Date of interview: 29th November 2002

J: Obviously most of your wartime memories are in the book. I was wondering a bit about your background. I know you didn’t want to become an officer to start off with, but how you were born and brought up?

A: I was born in Hampstead[?]

J: You were born in London, just up the road?

A: Yes. Turpex Road[?], NW. I failed two war office selections.

J: Why did you fail them?

A: Well there was an imaginary pond and someone fell into the imaginary pond and the question was how was I going to rescue him. Didn’t have a bloody clue! I just went forward and the officer said: This is crap. You’re in the pond. And that failed me. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t after a commission. When I got to service battalion

J: Why was that?

A: Well, I was an officer type but – it infuriated my first Sergeant — simply because [tape cuts] didn’t interest me, being an officer, telling people what to do.

J: What was your background though?

A: I would describe it as upper middle class. I remember once saying that to somebody. “Oh he said, “Not ordinary middle class then. We’re quite a posh family and I’m the maverick. We married into the aristocracy left right and centre. The Bowlby women have been fantastic. [tape cuts]I remember actually being staggered changing trains when “Captain Bowlby to report to and one of the posh Bowlbys is a regular. They do nothing except look after their estates and go to war.

J: Where are the estates?

A: Well there’s an enormous estate in Scotland which was sold. And then they got another one. I’ve never visited that. I haven’t visited any of them. But the side we were nearest to – I’m head of this family actually because I am left in line because I’m the eldest son of the eldest son

J: So you have other brothers and sisters do you? [tape cuts]

J: And what did your father do?

A: My Grandfather was manager of a merchant bank called Earlang[?] it not longer exists. But it was a very potent force in its day. My father had a choice of doing something he was really good at which was writing history. He wrote an account of Stonewall Jackson campaign, which got him his BA. And instead, he was studying German in Germany in 1914 and a friend of his jumped on the nearest train, got back to England and got himself killed in [?]. My father didn’t jump and he got himself POW for four and a half years. His brother was killed in the Cato after the Monns. He was one of the posh Bowlbys, in the lifeguards, killed in 1915.

J: Presumably you were packed off to school were you?

A: Yes, I was very happily placed in a day boarding school. My father decided I wasn’t learning enough, thought my mother had too much sway [tape cuts] run by an old Oxford friend of his. Very different set up indeed [tape cuts].

J: Did you enjoy school?

A: The second prep school made me terribly over-conscientious boxing because the first school up against a much better boxer but I was a better fighter and I hit him on the nose and the nose began to bleed and they had to pull me off! I was in a frenzy. But at my second prep school I was again a finalist and I hit this chap and the whole school went “Oooh! And I just didn’t finish him off. I was afraid of retaliation. And I’ve never been afraid of it since. This was indoctrination by this headmaster. When I went to Radley, to begin with it was fine, because the assistant housemaster [tape cuts] and he went off and joined the RAF and was shot down over Berlin. I felt aggrieved because [?] and then my history master – history was the only thing I was very good at – great long waiting list, and when Eastbourne [?] someone had to lose their house, three houses separated, he was senior housemaster [tape cuts] the Assistant [?] very very nice chap [tape cuts] should have [?] and they ganged up on him and he lost his house and he lost his reason for living and he killed himself. And it had a devastating effect on me. And [tape cuts] he said “Stuff and nonsense, get on with it! And that provoked an absolute hatred of every bloody thing and after three weeks, it had the effect that I didn’t grow. I didn’t put on the last four years I didn’t put on any weight at all. I weighed eight stone eight, which for my height was all wrong. And when I left the army I was ten stone and without that…

J: So all the time you were in Italy you never lost or gained weight?

A: I would say I gained all the time. I started off being eight stone, eight in the army and ended up at ten stone.

J: When did you first go to Radley?

A: 1938.

J: And left to join the army in 1943?

A: 1942.

J: You left of your own accord? You said I’m not saying at Radley any more?

A: I wish I had. No. I left when it was time for me to leave.

J: So you were seventeen by then?

A: No, eighteen.

J: It’s a funny time of year to leave in the middle of winter? Isn’t that the middle of term in November?

A: No. It was the end of the summer. [tape cuts] papers arrived and my medical the Radley thing had made me very ill [tape cuts] won’t have any trouble. Thought it was just a joke and he said go upstairs and fill the bottle, and as I passed the room, an officer came out and said “Where are you going? And I explained and he said “Come back to see me. And he was the recruiting officer for the Rifle Brigade. And my Godfather had won four DSOs, all in the same year in 1918, and I mentioned his name and it went down very well [tape cuts] won the Olympic mile in 1912 so he was [tape cuts] He was wounded [tape cuts].

J: Well you don’t need to run an Olympic mile to win a DSO.

A: No, but it’s nice to have it on your CV.

J: So you were accepted by the Rifle Brigade and then tried to become an officer or pushed to become an officer?

A: Yes. Pushed is right really. Then I got into trouble because a friend of the family, he was a Staff Colonel, I used to go and have dinner with him and he thought it was a load of nonsense, this [tape cuts] and complained. I was hauled up before my own CO and told I was a disgrace to the Regiment, trying to curry favour to get a commission and all that crap. I got kicked out to the 68th, Battalion which was an absolute revelation because everybody was so nice.

J: In the 68th Battalion?

A: Yes. They were all cockney. And I became an honorary cockney.

J: This was training in England with the 68th Battalion [tape cuts] most of them were young men like yourself presumably?

A: Yes.

J: And they all accepted you?

A: Yes. It was marvellous. It was the first time ever that I felt absolutely at home with the people around me. I never did at Radley.

J: Presumably all your contemporaries were rushing off and becoming the officers they were expected to be?

A: Oh yes.

J: And how did you find the training?

A: Well I wasn’t dead keen on it and the officer in charge decided to liven me up and he threw a thunder flash in my face on the night before we had live ammunition exercises which wasn’t very clever because you can lose eyes and things. And the first parade next day was how to jump on top of barbed wire and the rest of the two would go over you using your back. And I knew who would be number one! As I fell on the wire I felt the jabs in my arms, and I was mainly concerned to show this officer that I wasn’t [tape cuts] that was alright most of the day and then we were crawling about a wood in the evening and my arm began to hurt. I thought well I’m not going to [tape cuts] got back to the barracks and I couldn’t get my shirt off. Somebody cut it off and my arm was as big as my thigh! Passed out and I came to with a very worried looking orderly looking at me and I said, “What’s that? He’d got an injection thing. He said “anti-tetanus. So I thought oh I’ve got tetanus and I passed out quite comfortably again!

J: Did you have tetanus?

A: No. Septicaemia.

J: That’s serious.

A: Yes. And to my delight, after spending a day between the sheets having much better food, the officer came round to apologise and said I’d missed the rest of the battle corps. I had a leave as well!

J: So you made a quick recovery?

A: Yes. Within two or three days I was fine. I went off on leave while the poor sods were having live ammo being fired at them! I had a habit of in another training camp we had a Sergeant who, he hadn’t the face, and one I was still in the 60th and we had a general inspection, so I was [?] came back and shouted “You poor sods and they all roared with laughter and said “You’re on a fizzer because Carlos[?] put you on a fizzer because you’ve got a dirty [?] in your cupboard. The General didn’t go round our mess. He went down the Sergeant’s mess. And he opened this cupboard and put this Sergeant on a charge for dirty mess. And we went up together! I seemed to have a certain to try and do me down doesn’t do any good.

J: So what did going on a fizzer involve?

A: Going up before the Company Commander.

J: Just getting ticked off?

A: No, no no. You got if you were an ordinary rifleman you got CB (confined to barracks) which meant the barracks was on a slope and we were on the bottom and you weren’t allowed to leave the barracks until the bugle blew and I had to run like hell in order to be there on time because the Military Police Sergeant was a sod and I only just made it. The thing was that the poor Sergeant couldn’t face us any more and he asked to be removed. And he was.

J: Sounds like you didn’t take it hugely seriously.

A: Well, no. Certainly not.

J: There was no part where you thought I should get my head down because this will improve my chances or anything like that?

A: Oh never! I was a free spirit. Once I’d got rid of being in a wasby[?] platoon under the [tape cuts] he became head of Christies.

J: How long did your training last?

A: A year.

J: Can you remember where most of it was? Were you moved around much?

A: Yes, we moved from Yorkshire down to Sussex [tape cuts] And then I was posted to a rifle brigade [tape cuts]

J: Before your training you were assigned to a Regiment were you?

A: Yes, the 60th. That began it. And then I was posted back to a rifle brigade. I was equally happy because again I got the same cockneys around me [tape cuts] in fact I broke down in tears when I was told I was going abroad and got ticked off by the Major and discovered when he took the draft out that he’d become notorious because when his carrier had been blown up and his driver killed, he was sitting there and saying “I want my mummy! To skip a bit, the one thing that [tape cuts] I was determined to get clear in the book which is not clear in the edition you’ve read, that there was a mutiny because Montgomery left the battalion behind and the punishment was that the regulars [tape cuts] sent home on leave and only when they got to England they didn’t dare do anything in Tunis because they were scared stiff. In the mutiny they were threatened by [tape cuts] machine gun regiment from another division surround the camp and they retaliated by getting six pounders out! Oh God! But I mean if I’d have known I saw them arrive in squares, you may remember in my book, and they were furious. All the NCOs had disappeared from the square. And they took over “Where’s the fucking [?].

J: I know one of the people who were sent back.

A: Do you really? Good God!

J: [tape cuts] said the best thing about the war was at the beginning when he’d been a lad growing up in the 30s, he’d accepted the social order, the way it was. He thought he was destined for the life of a market boy or whatever, and he realised at the end of the war that he could do whatever he wanted. He was there right through to the end of Tunis and then he was sent home.

A: We were in trouble because of what I had [tape cuts] go down well with the [?] there at the time was now number two at the War Office.

J: Is this when the book first came out?

A: Yes. He had to take a paragraph out.

J: You’d get away with it now.

A: That’s what I’m doing. Because it was really extraordinary, my luck in finding out things. Because the two things I found out I joined the terrior[?] SAS and who should [tape cuts] quartermaster who was ranked as Major then turned out to be the RSN at the time of the mutiny so I got it all from him. When I went back to check up he said “I think you must have got me muddled up with somebody else. I think it was so and so. It wasn’t, but he said Montgomery should never have done it to us. But my problem with the second part of further recollections is that it’s short. So I’ve added a third or fourth chapter with my own experiences after the war: how I discovered the truth from the RSN to I discovered that our new CO had had a nervous breakdown but kept in command and I discovered that from a former Company Commander who was military attaché in Rome. And he made himself felt, because our first action was a disaster for us. We were up against a very experienced

J: Which was when you joined it?

A: Yes. In Italy our first real action was against a very experienced German Regiment. And they closed right up on us so as to avoid the protective flank that was coming for us [tape cuts] position and the next day the CO called us together [tape cuts] he called us “Gutless swines. I think he was having his breakdown then I think.

J: One of the things which came across very well was just how terrifying the whole thing was. Did you ever feel you ever got used to it?

A: Well, the thing was that when I was on that patrol when I tripped over the wire and thought that’s it because I thought it was a boobytrap and the Commander came up, grabbed me and said are you alright. Enormous sort of bond there, and I became a pretty good rifleman, prepared to go and shoot Germans which I hadn’t been before. When he was killed all that fell away.

J: Good officers and good leaders and good Sergeants were everything?

A: Yes.

J: Presumably that’s just luck of the draw isn’t it from a rifleman’s point of view?

A: Yes. He in a way knew what was coming because we had a tête a tête [tape cuts] you get used and used again [tape cuts] and this was so true. I thought you might like to read a bit of Alex at the Gothic Line [tape cuts]

J: I can’t remember when you first got out to Italy?

A: We came via Egypt and landed in [tape cuts] asked him the address of the [?] de Goala[?] in Italy. I know the place, the town, I don’t remember the exact he’ll probably know it. I got in touch with [tape cuts] Colonel who was a wonderful help to me [tape cuts]

J: I’m really anxious to get in touch with all parties, I must say.

A: I think that that would be an ideal place because they go back every year to, I think mainly to the Gothic [tape cuts]

J: And it was as big a battle for them as it was for us I suppose.

A: And his Regiment was a superb outfit [tape cuts] insisted on eating the same rations as the chaps at the front! Which was not very popular with the staff!

J: Yes these big magnanimous gestures are all very well but

A: It made a difference.

J: I thought that was one of the interesting things, that there was this mixture of crack Panzer divisions and people who had effectively been press ganged from Eastern Europe and presumably?

A: Jackoman[?] killed our officer for no good reason.

J: [tape cuts] were you aware of this at the time, that the opposition that you were up against was of varying quality?

A: Oh yes, indeed. We came up against the same the two biggest battles we had were against the same regiment who were they were a typical German outfit. They were raised in Sicily, just from barracks, and they had the most hideous losses and still kept fighting, and this is a sign of a fantastic I think they had something like 600 men killed or wounded by air action and they recovered and they were reinforced and they went on giving us a terrible time [tape cuts] all their Generals were excellent.

J: With Cesserin[?] right at the top?

A: Yes.

J: He must have thought he’d been born to fight the British I should thing. He’d been right in it from the Battle of Britain to the

A: Yes.

J: Mind you, he did a bit in Russia as well I think.

A: He did. [tape cuts] after several starts, the road to Stalingrad. My God! It’s a bramble bush. I mean I’ve never read anything like it!

J: Have you read the Anthony Beevor books?

A: Yes. I think there are several things wrong with the Stalingrad one. He doesn’t mention anything about [tape cuts]

J: No he doesn’t actually, you’re absolutely right.

A: The description of the follow through is terrific. Wonderfully written. But his description of the infantry fighting is he can’t quite make it. A cavalry officer

J: A cavalry officer who saw no action as well.

A: Yes. Another thing that He quotes without saying where from, “The Germans hated hand to hand fighting. Well they may have hated it but they were damn good at it!

J: There was a lot of that in Italy?

A: Not a lot. There was a Canadian versus paratroopers which went on for a fortnight in a town and the Canadians taking heavy casualties

J: Against German paratroopers?

A: Yes.

J: Have you studied the whole campaign at length subsequently?

A: Yes, I have.

J: [tape cuts] it would be interesting to sort of because at the time you can’t possibly have that overview of what’s going on that you do in retrospect at all.

A: I felt sorry for the Generals working out where everybody was, because in these mountains and things how they did it I don’t know.

J: But it must be interesting reading about it subsequently, seeing where your part fitted in?

A: Mmm [tape cuts] bit about it at Arezzo[?] because we were up against this crack troop and after we’d had a go, they bombed the place! It was slightly the wrong way round!

J: Presumably there was quite a lot of that sort of thing happening was there? On the whole the relationship between the RAF and the army seemed to have been working reasonably well, but there must have been quite a lot of times where

A: We never had any air support, ever.

J: Did you not?

A: No.

J: So as far as you’re concerned that wasn’t the case then. Because there were plenty of planes out there.

A: Yes. Including American. Only time we got shot up was by Americans. They were notorious.

J: American pilots?

A: Yes.

J: What for shooting the wrong people?

A: Yes. At Casino

J: I have to say you’re not the first person to say that to me.

A: No.

J: I wonder why that was?

A: They were badly trained.

J: Badly trained pilots or controllers?

A: Navigators. [tape cuts] someone who flew spitfires, knew something about the training, and that was the reason they set out to blast Casino, which of-course made it far more difficult to get at. 37 of them bombed a town 12 miles behind the lines, which was full of reserve troops. They dropped a couple of bombs on Mark Clark’s headquarters and everybody thought that was deliberate!

J: Probably was! Mark Clark seems to be an extraordinary figure.

A: I couldn’t get hold of his diaries but I got hold of

J: They’re extraordinary.

A: I got hold of someone who got hold of them In Africa the First Armoured Division, the Americans, with Rommel, they didn’t know what to do. A long line they came out and put it out of action and the poor General in charge was sent back home. So they rebuilt the whole thing and Mark Clark’s idea was to actually instead of attacking Mingano[?] directly was to go to the side where the Germans had high ground on both sides and it would have been a disaster. Fortunately he had a very good eye for staff and they just sort of jumped on him [tape cuts]

J: That episode about Rome and threatening to shoot any English soldier who came it was absolutely extraordinary and I can’t understand how he got away with it really.

A: I think Alexander was a bit soft on him.

J: But not a particularly soft General. He was a good General wasn’t he, Alexander?

A: [tape cuts] wouldn’t say he was outstanding. He lost control of Mark Clark totally. He could have told him to shut his mouth. [tape cuts] Montgomery was a perpetual nuisance to everybody. In Sicily he grabbed Patten’s road and you can imagine Patten flew back to North Africa and got Montgomery off his road in 48 hours. I was re-reading “Overlord which is a marvellous book

J: That’s the Max Hastings one isn’t it?

A: Yes.

J: [tape cuts] guys who are actually twins, identical twins, who survived not only North Africa but Sicily and D-day right through to the end. They ended up not only in the same Regiment but in the same Company. They were very lucky, and still both alive today.

A: Are you still in touch with the rifleman?

J: Do you want me to put you in touch with him?

A: Yes, I’d like that.

J: OK. I’ll send you his address. He lives near Guildford. He’s self-published a memoir. [tape cuts] claims to have not really felt frightened or apprehensive, just [tape cuts] he was fairly bullish about the things he did didn’t seem to bother him too much. And I’m sure it’s the case that some people take it worse than others. I think that’s why I empathise with your book so much because I’m sure I’d be pretty much the same.

A: Well I always wondered what would have happened if I’d killed a German. I wasn’t sure which way I’d go. Because there’s something in me, like that boxing match, when I see blood, I can be a right so and so.

J: But as far as you’re aware you never did.

A: I never fired a shot! I had various targets but for various reasons I held my fire which was terribly lucky. In that instance where the patrol came back — we were told they were all in and to fire without warning — and [tape cuts] he left it until we could have wiped out. And I took the first pressure on my Tommy gun [tape cuts] “We got a bit lost! The next thing I remember was lying on a bed and I was shaking all over and I wanted to get hold of the chap who had said I would have killed him! We could have wiped the lot of them out.

J: These things must happen so it just shows you how precarious the whole business is. These things can happen so easily.

A: [tape cuts]we swoppedbattalions. A chap who had been Sergeant Major of our [tape cuts] my company and [tape cuts] had some fun with him and his my Company Commander who was not heroic and knew it and didn’t care. He asked for extra support [end of side A]
they thought we were Germans. There was dead silence around company HQ and there was a silence and [tape cuts] and the Company Commander was behind a table with a gun like this and behind the door was the Sergeant Major thinking he had got the best place. And then they said “Come in quick, we’re surrounded by Germans. We said “We’re not and went upstairs and there was a very shaky signaller and I said, “There’s nothing to worry about. They went out, the Sergeant Major and Company Commander on patrol, and I saw them creeping back, and instead of challenging them from a distance, waited until they were about and they jumped like that and the Sergeant Major “Why didn’t you challenge us before. I said “I wanted to make sure you weren’t Germans. Well the same chap, to my astonishment, chose me to be his guard on a patrol against 200 paratroopers holding out, and he was jumpy as bollocks [tape cuts] patrol to a farmhouse and there were no dogs, which was a bit suspicious. Suddenly a window opened and a farmer appeared and this fellow had got his Tommy gun and was going to shoot and I knocked it up and said “It’s the bloody farmer! I was delighted by this.

J: It seems at that stage that there were an awful lot of people who were pretty windy.

A: He was windy from day one.

J: Did you find that a lot of people grew bomb happy, windy, whatever you want to call it. Or was it all sorts? You happily admit that you were bomb happy but you still stuck it out.

A: Yes. We had people in our platoon who should never have been in it.

J: Why, because they were just not fit for

A: Yes. And they were three of them were sent to France as being perfectly fit. They all deserted. And it was a bloody shame.

J: So many people seem to have deserted in Italy, more than Do you think that was because the fighting was particularly hard and terrifying or do you think it was because

A: There was a lot of warmth[?] between the Italians and the military and each person had to go back to.

J: So it was easier to desert there than elsewhere?

A: Yes.

J: I suppose if you desert in Africa there’s nowhere to go is there?

A: Well there were a lot of desertions there. You could go back to Alex and Cairo but it would have been the death penalty [tape cuts] because there were so many.

J: But you never seriously thought about it yourself?

A: No [tape cuts] small mortar was aiming at my trench and one, two, three Blew my parapet in, but that was all. I was ready to run then! Of-course one of the really screams of [tape cuts] sixth platoon which we’d been in in Tunisia [tape cuts] and the Germans had [tape cuts] one section, company, been killed, and the rest wounded, it wiped out the whole platoon. And in the middle of it this chap very gallantly got out of his slip trench and said “Sixth platoon, come to the help of your friends. And I happened to be in a slip, looking up, somebody had found a natural hole looking out, and we just grinned, nobody moved.

J: So what were you by then?

A: We were four platoon. So we’d got the cover!

J: Which part of the rifle brigade were you? Just the rifle brigade?

A: The rifle brigade is all one. Only the Irish troubles kept it going. [tape cuts] in Wellington’s time [?] everything by numbers Minister of Defence [tape cuts] 95 Sutherland Highlanders commanded by that mad man he was in Parliament and he made such a bloody fuss about the whole thing. They got away with it. But we had a dear old Admiral fighting our case but he didn’t succeed. And then the trouble started in Ireland so I happened to watch the telly on Bloody Sunday and it has been no surprise to me what’s come out because now that the senior land defence has admitted that the paratroopers disobeyed orders. And I’m waiting to see what their CO says after that. He’s still a Lieutenant Colonel!

J: What happened to you after the war in Italy petered out didn’t it really. You just stayed right to the end did you?

A: Yes, we were the first we were the lead battalion of the Eighth Army. Which was exciting. Cruised into Austria and got a tremendous reception. I remember two Australians broke down [tape cuts] the reason we got such a good reception was Tito was coming in the other side of town! But in between times sacked an SS HQ courtesy of Alex Bowlby. This same Sergeant Major who I knocked his gun up, picked me out and said “Bowlby the partisans say there’s a lot of stuff in a big cellar and want you to go and I took one look and put the word round and we had open scout cars It was a market day! And what was so marvellous was that years afterwards a graduate came teaching from Trieste and her parents remember that day very clearly. And the thing was that in the middle of the sale [tape cuts] arrived with an Allied Military government Colonel and we got shot out of town! With orders to separate Tito and the [?] which we weren’t too keen on. They were great days.

J: It must have been a relief.

A: That the war was over? Yes.

J: You’d survived.

A: Yes. When I heard it I didn’t join in the drinking. I was concerned about the dead. That’s why I wrote the book really.

J: What happened to your Irish friend? The chap who became the truck driver?

A: I attended a couple of reunions and he wasn’t there but someone said he worked in Dagenham making cars. And I turned up and I saw his spitting image. Went up to him and said [tape cuts] he said, “No I’m his twin. But he knew where he was. He was managing a pub and he came and had lunch. My mother was over the moon with this sort of thing!

J: This was just after the war?

A: Yes. And we kept up until the sad thing was that we had to leave our house which had been in the family for 80 years. I went down to warn him but he’d left the pub and he hadn’t bothered to tell me because he thought I’d be there to kingdom come. And then when the book was published The People gave me a whole page and I thought he’ll see it there. And there was a strike in that part of London. It was really unbelievable.

J: So you lost touch?

A: Yes.

J: And he never got in touch with you about the book or anything? Never saw it?

A: As far as I know. He was much older than me and he’d be gone by now. I talked for an hour with a chap who joined our platoon fairly late [tape cuts] she died of cancer. I’m not sorry because it’s been a wonderful marriage. So wonderful that my grief is not [tape cuts]

J: still see anyone from those days?

A: No. The chap I saw quite often was our despatch rider [tape cuts] along with eleven other people from luckily for him he was treated well and treated in a [tape cuts] psychiatric support. [tape cuts] come and see me and I sensed that this was going to be [tape cuts] prepare [tape cuts] our best NCO [tape cuts] who came to see me [tape cuts] was a lorry driver at night and he couldn’t. every time he drove at night he kept on seeing the image of this chap lying in a pool of blood [tape cuts] and I [tape cuts] on the edge of the thing and I sensed immediately some kind of change. He wrote a week later admitted that he had changed and he now saw the NCO as the idiot that he always was. I realised I’d done the trick and I saw him several times [tape cuts]

J: When are you publishing the next one?

A: If Cassells [tape cuts] when it’s coming and refer back to that book, to my recollections [tape cuts] they have republished the recollections twice and the last time was only at the beginning of this year, so there’s a good chance that they will take it.

J: Are you pleased with the book?

A: Yes.

J: Did it take you a long time to write?

A: I’ve really forgotten [tape cuts] came out. [tape cuts] all in my head. Once I’d learnt to write it took me 13 years to get [tape cuts]

J: Do you have children?

A: [tape cuts]wife in Rome. We split up [tape cuts] near Paris two or three times a year. We thought we’d work it out, because when she left her flat to look after her parents they were getting on and the idea was that – that was about ‘75 — and I would go over there, and her parents are still going strong! Father is 90 in February. And I’m going to do what I did when my father was 75: give him a cake with 90 candles on! It’s cat and dog with the wife always winning. It’s so sad. I would like o see just once him winning. They’ve cooled down a bit now. After one terrible row, my girlfriend said, “If you don’t stop I’m going outside to sell tickets. He won the [tape cuts] militaire for shooting down an aeroplane and they were both very active in the resistance and her father was caught and killed. Have you read that book by [tape cuts] strange name beginning with “O.

J: About the whole French experience? I’ve read “To lose a battle by Alistair Horn. Trouble is you forget what you’ve read and what you haven’t. Sounds like probably not.

A: One thing I don’t forget is what I read. I forget their names.