Whicker’s War by Alan Whicker,
Harper Collins, £18.99.
This beautifully written book, poignant
with humour and pathos, uses the recent
two-part television series as the starting
point to telling the story of Alan Whicker’s
war. Throughout Whicker’s 40 years in
television, he remained steadfast in his belief
that his books should not be about himself
but about those he encountered. However,
as part of the 60th anniversary of the
invasion of Italy, he was at last persuaded
to recount his experiences during the Italian
campaign of 1943-1944.
Alan Whicker joined the Army Film and
Photo Unit as an 18-year-old army officer.
He had first heard about the new film unit
whilst having lunch with his uncle, a city
banker, and another guest, a senior officer
in Whitehall, the latter of whom had
wondered whether young Whicker
might be interested in directing sergeant cameramen
‘It sounded like adventurous suicide –
but it was stylish.’ His initial thoughts
concerning the danger of the role proved
correct – by the end of the war, of 40 officers
and sergeant-cameramen, eight were killed
and 13 were badly wounded. In total, the
unit earned two Military Crosses, three
Military Medals, 11 Mentions in Despatches
and an MBE.
His Italian campaign began in Sicily at the
beginning of July 1943 and “666 days of fear
and exhilaration” followed, during which
time, mainly in the company of the British
Eighth Army, he witnessed the often
painfully slow Allied advance through Italy
against a professional and determined
Wehrmacht, ably led by Field Marshal
The book is full of fascinating anecdotes
and recollections, from the filming of the
battered body of Mussolini after his
execution to the meeting of military
luminaries, such as Montgomery. The
highlight must surely be when he reached
Milan, before the arrival of the British army,
to be greeted by some Italian partisans who
eagerly informed him that the Germans
would only surrender to an Allied officer.
As the only officer in town, he had little
choice but to negotiate the surrender of the
garrison of heavily armed SS troops. This
insightful, articulate and moving account
of his fascinating war comes thoroughly
Being Freddie: My Story So Far by
Andrew Flintoff, Hodder, £18.99.
Andrew Flintoff’s post-Ashes memoir
provides a fascinating insight into the
mentality required to become a successful
modern day sportsman. It tells the story
of a cricketer whose England career began
disastrously with a lack of runs which,
compounded by weight and injury
problems, dented his fragile confidence.
However, through a stubborn singlemindedness
and a natural talent, his efforts
to come back from the cricketing wilderness
were to be memorably rewarded in the
summer’s triumph over England’s greatest
cricketing foe, Australia.
His all-round ability, charisma and
sportsmanship lit up an extraordinary series.
This book, however, fails to reach the high
standards he set over summer. In his attempt
to closely guard his privacy, he leaves the
reader with little insight into his life beyond
bat and ball.
The influences of his parents, wife,
child and friends are touched on with the
somewhat predictable line that they give him
the support he needs. That, and the fact that
he plays chess and has nine GCSEs, is about
all the reader will learn about Flintoff’s life
away from the pavilion.
Flintoff is thankfully more illuminating
when on the subject of the characters within
the game, from the coaches and players to the
sports psychiatrists and fans.
The influence of his ‘mental coach’ Jamie
Edwards after the disastrous first Test loss is
emphasised, and his recollections of each
game make interesting reading as do his
disparaging remarks towards former England
captains Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch.
The cricketer he has least time for is the
Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, who played
for Lancashire with him in 2000. Ganguly’s
aloofness clearly aggravated Flintoff, who
writes: “He turned up as if he was royalty – it
was like having Prince Charles on your side.”
Given that England are playing India in
this winter’s series, the body language
between both players could be interesting.
No doubt this book will still interest avid
cricket enthusiasts, but it feels premature.
Flintoff fans will be hoping that his
performance in the Ashes series is end
of the beginning of his career, not the
beginning of the end.
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