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Madness of war depicted in 89-year-old Swanage soldier’s memoirs
FROM mine-hunting with a garden roller, to playing a gramophone in a muddy river behind enemy lines, all the madness of war is told in veteran Brian Guy’s memoir.
The 89-year-old from Swanage has published his book, Cameos of War, a series of sketches recalling his service as one of Monty’s Iron Sides – a sapper serving with the 246 Field Company Royal Engineers.
His book, which is raising money for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA), describes the war from Sword Beach to the German border in Holland, where a mine blast left him with appalling injuries including a fractured spine, and leg “broken into so many bits it was almost impossible to put it back together.”
Vivacious, extrovert with a self-confessed stubborn streak, Brian told the Echo of the “chase across Europe”, adding “It’s just the story of war and all the crazy things you do. Some of it is so bizarre and extraordinary you’d think someone is telling you a tale.”
He recalls pushing a modified garden roller across a live battlefield to uncover the wooden shoe mines which were designed to blow a man’s leg off. And the occasion when he went deep behind enemy lines with a gramophone to play a record of the sound of men preparing to build a bridge from the “stinking wet mud of the river Maas” in Holland. That was something he didn’t talk about for decades for fear no one would believe him.
His memories are not all he took away from the years of war. He still has the steel ball embedded in his head from the nest mine which killed his friend. “It had gone through my mate and killed him before it went into me. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
And there are also the terrible injuries he suffered which left him a year in hospital and severely disabled for the rest of his life. His leg is still plated together with metal stamped with “war office” after he underwent the then rare procedure of a bone graft by the “genius” surgeon Charnley – later knighted Sir John – who pioneered the hip replacement.
The great-grandfather has published 100 copies of his book, which he is selling for £11 – with all proceeds going to BLESMA, of which he is a member.
“They are the best,” he added. “They take care of these young men coming home with missing limbs and they are a great help.”
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