Rogue Heroes tells the true story of Britain's Special Air Service, which changed the nature of World War Two. North Africa seemed to be where the war would bog down with the Allies trying to drive Rommel out. Before David Stirling conceived the idea of parachuting a small band of well-trained men behind Nazi lines, the war was fought as it always had been, with large groups of opposing troops facing off.
David Stirling was a Lieutenant in the Scots Guards when he had the misfortune to be paralyzed from the waist down after a parachuting accident. His back injury meant confinement to bed and hospital and as he lay there, bored, the concept of a special force was born. A small group of elite men could cause great damage to the German airstrips and disrupt their air war. The SAS was the first of Special Forces that are now part of most countries' military.
From this first rough plan, the Regiment was created, and the disruption to the German effort in the air and at seaports drove the Germans out of North Africa. A special force on the ground was added to the parachute actions. Jeeps were airlifted into the desert and the small SAS force would drive out of the desert, blow up planes, ammunition and fuel dumps before disappearing into the sand.
Men who served in the SAS were a different breed, reprobates, patriots, aristocrats and criminals. Each brought devil-may-care daring and determination to the Regiment. They committed and saw horrific violence and it was their single-mindedness that made their raids, guerrilla attacks and feats of espionage so effective.
Rogue Heroes is a book for the general reader; it is not a treatise on military history. The story is fascinating and if a writer had written a fiction with only a few of the exploits of the SAS, it would be unbelievable. It is hard to imagine the courage and nerve it took to face danger and death. A highly recommended account.
In 1691, Henry Kelsey was 24 years old. He had been sent by the Hudson's Bay Company "to call, encourage and invite, the remoter Indians to trade with us." The first white man to see the western prairies and the vast bison herds, Kelsey has been represented to school children and other casual readers of history as a heroic, romantic explorer. The truth is far less intrepid. His success and very survival depended on the goodwill and cooperation of the Indian people. Kelsey came as a passenger, not an explorer.
So begins the story of the region that will become the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Hudson Bay Company had a fur trading monopoly granted by the British government and claim to a vast territory. Instead of venturing out to meet the Indigenous population and bring goods to trade with them, the Company waited for the First Nations people to bring the valuable beaver furs to them.
Bill Waiser has written a book that describes the beauty of the countryside, the extirpation of the bison and the decimation of the people who lived there. Three smallpox epidemics and at least one of measles all but wiped them out. The portrayal of the Indian as lazy and indolent began early. The Cree, in particular, were self-sufficient. They enjoyed some of the amenities brought by the HBC traders but could live without them. When they felt like trading, they came. When they were busy with the lifestyle that had maintained them for generations, they stayed away. The introduction of alcohol and its inherent problems began with the fur trade.
The history of the "opening" of the west is one of exploitation and deceit. Even the employees of the HBC couldn't depend on security. When their usefulness as over, the company would cut them loose. It was a hard life for everyone. For over a century, the main industry was the fur trade. The white folk depended on the Indian for pemmican, a staple of their diet and sometimes the only thing they lived on.
Apart from the story of the people, the prairies and the area that became Saskatchewan have unique and beautiful geographical features. The cliche of the flat, featureless plain is false. There are rivers, swamps, muskegs and forests. Waiser's book is full of colour pictures that prove this and it includes reproductions of paintings, historical maps, and historic photos.
A World We Have Lost is a tome. Don't read it in bed. If you fall asleep and it drops on your face, you risk serious injury. It isn't a book to read quickly. Its pages are filled with fascinating information and the paper is high quality. I recommend this book BEFORE spring is here and there are fewer long evenings for reading.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.