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George MacDonald Fraser

The Complete McAuslan

Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Readers of Fraser's memoir Quartered Safe Out Here will know that the author ended his service as an infantryman in the Burma campaign by going to an officer selection board in India for his second attempt to obtain a commission. On this occasion he was successful and was posted to the Gordon Highlanders stationed in North Africa.

Although this book is classed as fiction it is semi-autobiographical. It purports to describe the experiences of a Scottish subaltern, Dand MacNeil, in a fictional Highland regiment. It starts with the selection board, which provides plenty of scope for comedy, and concludes with the narrator's demob and return to civilian life. In between we get a view of gegimental life in the immediate postwar era. This volume is an omnibus collection of all the stories Fraser wrote on this theme.

Although this is a Highland regiment, most of the soldiers ('Jocks') are Glaswegians, whose dialect is rendered phonetically (a glossary is provided). There is a full cast of characters, both officers and rankers. The eponymous McAuslan, who figures in many though not all of the stories, is described as the dirtiest soldier in the world. He is illiterate and disorderly, spending a lot of time on detention in the guard room. However he has his own strong idea of fairness, which leads him to choose courtmartial for a disciplinary offence he perceives as unjust rather than accept the routine punishment he is offered. In spite of his numerous shortcomings as a soldier he doesn't lack courage and took his part in in hand-to-hand fighting at El Alamein during the war.

As readers familiar with Fraser's books would expect, these stories are never dull and they provide a vivid glimpse of a kind of soldiering which is almost as outmoded today as that of the Napoleonic wars. Anyone who enjoys this author's writing, of whom I am one, won't want to miss this.


%T The Complete McAuslan
%A Fraser, George MacDonald
%I HarperCollinsPublishers
%C London
%D 2013
%G ISBN 978000651371
%K fiction
%O ebook edition, downladed from Amazon 2921

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