Interrupted Journey by James Wilson

Arrow, 1963, 190 p. First published 1958.

Interrupted Jurney cover

A group of soldiers on a more or less routine trip in Cyprus during the “Emergency” is ambushed by EOKA members. The fighting scenes that ensue take up almost half the book and are vividly described with the individual British soldiers’ characters well delineated but in the end only the officer, Captain Giddings, survives the encounter – and that more by luck than judgement. His empathy with and understanding of the Cypriot rebels and their families (amongst whom he finds himself in the skirmish’s aftermath before he makes his final escape) marks this out as a thoughtful exploration of an incident from the retreat from Empire even if he is later instrumental in the arrest of the chief suspect.

The ongoing story is illuminated by Giddings’s memories of his time on Cyprus a decade or so earlier during the Second World War. The dynamics of military life are also well portrayed but these are seen through the lens of Giddings’s lack of true suitability for the role. (He is in truth a bit of a misfit all round.)

Pedant’s corner:- radiator grill (grille,) staunch (stanch,) swop (swap,) “the band were playing” (the band was playing,) “stach away” (nowadays it’s stash away,) waggon (wagon,) “he had been mislead” (misled.)

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