“My brother officers. Are they human?” Thus reads the first journal entry of twenty-three-year-old John Verney, graduate of Eton and Oxford, lover of modern art and literature, who has, almost on a whim, joined a part-time cavalry regiment of the British Army in 1937. At the outbreak of World War II two years later, Verney arrives in the Middle East and there learns, almost in spite of himself, to be a soldier. In 1943, he becomes a parachutist and leads a “drop” into Sardinia to attack German airfields. His adventures there―two weeks wandering through enemy territory, his capture, and his eventual escape―are brilliantly told.
Woven into the fabric of this narrative of a young man growing reluctantly to maturity and coming to terms with military life, are Verney’s thoughts and feelings about his wife, Lucinda, and the child he has never seen, and his longing to return to them.
“Delightful reading.”—The Economist
"Throughout Verney’s work, the action is secondary to his deft descriptions of places and a wide and varied cast of characters . . . The sketches of comrades-in-arms in peace and war are well drawn."—Times Literary Supplement
“This book is unclassifiable: commentary, autobiography, satire by turns: but it is wholly readable, wholly successful. The author stands spokesman for a whole generation.”—Daily Telegraph
“This short, witty book is a triumph.”—Observer
"One of the best memoirs of the Second World War."―The Independent
“An exciting writer.”—Raymond Mortimer, Sunday Times
“[Going to the Wars and A Dinner of Herbs] have charm and high literary quality and are testaments to the art of self-deprecation and a world in which memoirists drew attention to the people they knew rather than to themselves. Verney had, at times, a taxing and dangerous war, but to read his accounts of it, one might think he was merely an observer. They are marvelously entertaining reads, not least because they open up to us a world that has just passed from view; and they speak to us in a voice we understand, but that is no longer entirely familiar.”—The New Criterion
“An absorbing, thoughtful, deftly written, and deeply personal story . . . an extraordinary account.”―Midwest Book Review
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John Verney (1913–1993) was a writer, painter, and illustrator. An assistant film director, officer in the North Somerset Yeomanry, and newlywed at the outbreak of war in 1939, he subsequently served in the Royal Armoured Corps and the fledgling Special Air Service. He fought in Syria, Egypt, Sardinia, and Italy. His other military adventures in Italy are told in his book A Dinner of Herbs, also published by Paul Dry Books.