Desert Raids with the SAS

...from Pen & Sword

Title: Desert Raids with the SAS
Author: Gerald Hough
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-39900-722-1

This is a remarkable read. A 160-page hardback book where author Gerald Hough had found the notes his father, Major Anthony Hough, had left behind, telling his wartime story, of service in North Africa, followed by capture and a time as a POW in Italy, followed by his escape and return to allied lines.
After having joined the army and undergoing ski training in 1940 as part of the Rifles, he tells the story of his voyage south, to his arrival in North Africa. He tells us of his arrival and introduction to the war in the desert, what it was like to be in combat and responsible for the troops he commanded. After a period of constant pressure it is not just the sequence of events but also how he felt, and the pressures on an officer in his decision making. Having come out of the line for a rest he met David Stirling and joined the SAS. More training and then preparations and departure for an operation behind enemy lines, to disrupt the supply lines on the coastal roads. In a precarious position they were discovered by Italian troops, some of his troops killed and he himself was made a POW. He describes being taken by submarine to Italy and what it felt like when they were depth-charged during their journey. Once safely in Italy he ended up in a POW camp at Chieti and he describes the ups and downs of life in camp. While there he made friends with another prisoner and when Italy surrendered and the Allies had landed in Italy, they decided to hide-up as the Italian guards left the camp and before the Germans came to take over. Rather than try to make it through the German lines they were hidden by civilians in the village of Pretoro. He details his time there and then when German troops occupied the village, the need to leave and there is a detailed account of the final walk through difficult conditions over mountains in winter before he finally got over into allied lines. Rounding off the book, author Gerald made the journey to Italy to visit the scenes from his father's story, where he visited the old prison camp and then the village where he was hidden, even meeting the now elderly survivors of the family who had looked after him.
This is a marvellous read, with some very honest record of how he felt, and just how low he felt at times during this story. There were times he came very close to recapture, or when he could have been shot. Once he did get back to safety he was an ill man and needed care to recover. I thought the story was rounded off perfectly with the final element of the book, where author Gerald went back to retrace his father's footsteps. Definitely recommended.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin