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Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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I've just got around to re-watching the film of Alan White's book "The Long Day's Dying". I first read the book decades ago, and was surprised to find that they'd filmed it, and that the film was a cult classic. The film was released in 1968, and starred David Hemmings, Tom Bell and Tony Beckley, with Alan Dobie as their German prisoner.  Alan White (who'd served in the SAS during WW2) wrote the book as a protest against the heroic image of warfare presented by the likes of John Wayne on TV.His novel pieces together things that either happened to him, or to people that he knew well, back in the day.  (Curiously, I suspect that  may know the son of one of those men.) John, Cliff and Tom Cooper are three soldiers behind enemy lines in Normandy. They're very highly trained craftsmen in the arts of war; not you average cannon fodder. Their task is to watch a hill for enemy activity, and report anything suspicious to their sergeant when he returns for them...  except that he doesn't return. And then they spot the German reconnaissance party coming over the hill, and start laying boobytraps in its path. As with the book, there is almost no dialogue, except that one can hear the character's thoughts. It's almost balletic. At one point, to the surprise of the three Brits, they find that they've been taken by surprise by a German officer (played by Alan Dobie) Who is standing behind them with an automatic weapon in his hand (FWIW a Mauser C36 "Schnellfeur Pistole") One armed man against three disarmed? Poor bastard - he doesn't  stand a CHANCE! And sure enough a few minutes later., the German is unconscious with a Sykes Fairbairn  "Commando" knife sticking out of his face. Hitler's command that "these men are DANGEROUS" and should not be taken prisoner was in fact an accurate assessment of the situation. If you've not read the book, or seen the film, I commend both very highly. Not "a heroic tale of derring do" but a glimpse inside the mind of a highly skilled special forces soldier. Sorry if I seem to have given away (some of) the plot.. but this is not a story about "What Happened", it's about "how the people involved dealt with what happened." (Or to be boringly technical, "It stresses the Ideographic, rather than hermeneutic content".) Interesting that the three Special Forces guys are equipped with the truly dreadful Mk3 Sten gun. But at least (unlike in so many films) they don't hold it by the magazine like total amateurs.Left hand goes underneath the receiver, and wraps around the pierced area just ahead of the ejection slot.(Keep your fingers AWAY from the slot - too many men over the years lost fingertips because they didn't keep 'em out of the hole!) One of the urgently needed upgrades incorporated into the Sterling SMG was the addition of a small strip of metal just ahead of the ejection slot to keep your fingers out, Hold a sten by the magazine, and there's a danger that you'll be left with the mag in your left hand and the gun in you right hand, with a six inch gap between them....


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