And No Birds Sang

And No Birds Sang

Farley Mowat

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 1771000309

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Turned away from the Royal Canadian Air Force for his apparent youth and frailty, Farley Mowat joined the infantry in 1940. The young second lieutenant soon earned the trust of the soldiers under his command, and was known to bend army rules to secure a stout drink, or find warm — if nonregulation — clothing. But when Mowat and his regiment engaged with elite German forces in the mountains of Sicily, the optimism of their early days as soldiers was replaced by despair. With a naturalist's eyes and ears, Mowat takes in the full dark depths of war; his moving account of military service, and the friends he left behind, is also a plea for peace.

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yellow as his heart’s blood flowed thickly from a chest that had been ripped asunder by a burst from Paddy’s Thomson. Thrown on his back by the impact of the heavy slugs, he had fallen with his arms outflung in the way of children when they make angels in the snow. The woven gold stripe of a second lieutenant shone brightly on each sleeve. Horses suddenly snorted, and I heard someone say: “... coming in to surrender... what their sergeant says...” Then Alex spoke. “What matter!

against the Germans. But first we had to win our battle with an inanimate enemy. Hour after hour we struggled on, climbing innumerable cliffs and slithering into cactus-filled gullies, with never a sign that human beings had ever been this way before. We were near total exhaustion when, puffing like a grampus, Alex finally resigned the lead to Paddy Ryan, and shortly thereafter Paddy fell over a mule. The mule was sleeping on a path which we soon discovered led to a stone hovel a few

of their medical orderlies was among the handful of uninjured prisoners but he too was helpless for he had neither drugs nor field dressings. One ghastly vignette from that shambles haunts me still: the driver of a truck hanging over his steering wheel and hiccupping great gouts of cherry-pink foam through a smashed windscreen, to the accompaniment of a sound like a slush pump sucking air as his perforated lungs laboured to expel his own heart’s blood... in which he was slowly drowning.

hardly be persuaded to burn and we huddled in our thin tropical clothing under dripping trees and shivered through bitter nights. My section, ever alert for self-serving opportunities, discovered a mountain retreat belonging to the paramilitary Blackshirts, and in it quantities of the famous shirts themselves. These were much thicker and warmer than ours—which explains how it came about that, shortly thereafter, a patrol of the 48th Highlanders sighted a group of armed Blackshirts skulking

in this, his first hour of battle, and for weeks afterwards I was haunted by the guilty conviction that real responsibility for his death was mine—that I had fatally failed him as a man and as a friend. The relief I felt when word finally came through that he was a prisoner, and alive, was indescribable. Tweedsmuir was making plans for a daylight attack on the German positions when a tired and muddy brigade liaison officer arrived on foot—no vehicles could reach our position—bearing new

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