e-Book, 172 pp.
(Tina Rhea #13)
ISBN 978-1-55497-385-9 $10.00
This is a ‘War Book’ of an absolutely different type from any which has so
far appeared. It deals with the life of a soldier in the few weeks comprising
the journey on H.M. transport ‘Z.M.123’ from an English port to an ‘unknown
destination.’ ‘Z.M.123' had been a luxury liner in peace-time, but the
Government had commandeered it to serve as a troop-carrier, and nearly four
thousand men had to be accommodated ‘below decks.’ The men were of all sorts;
most of them recruits—not a few leaving Britain for the first time—but
some were old soldiers who had made the voyage before. The curious circumstances of the ship-board life, with its restrictions on almost every normal activity, threw the men together in a way not duplicated even in the
barrack or the trench. And out of the four thousand ‘other ranks’ emerge fascinating
characters whose vivid descriptions will make them live again in the reader’s imagination: Harry, the ex-burglar; Penny, the ‘old sweat,’ and his mythical companion, Smudger; ‘The Perfesser’—the Ex-Schoolmaster with a taste for the exotic in literature ; the Wing-Commander; the ‘modern’ poet . . . nowhere but in a troopship could these oddly assorted persons have been brought together and forced to react upon each other—often with surprising results.
But ‘Z.M.123’ is not any particular troop ship: it is all the troopships which have left Britain, to make the long journey to where the fighting has to be done ; and by generalising his descriptions the author has increased his appeal: for the ship that he paints so vividly and so movingly is the ship on which your son, your husband, your father, went out to Burma, to Egypt, to India. Never has Michael Harrison written with a more compelling touch than in this saga of a troopship.
Already known as the author of many first-class novels, Michael Harrison joined the Royal Engineers at the beginning of the war. A few months later, he found himself en route for the Middle East. Here he was unlucky enough to contract a serious illness, which necessitated his return to England. He was invalided out of the Army.
Thus, to his established literary gifts, Michael Harrison has been able to add the ‘personal touch’ only to be gained by the actual experience of the scenes described. There can be no doubt that this is one of the most unusual works that the war has so far produced, and one which will do much to enhance the author’s reputation. It is, as one of our readers says : "The most vivid reflection of Army life that we shall have for the next five years."