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Vessel of Sadness


 "...a masterpiece" --The Irish Times, Dublin

 "An outstanding piece of writing in which a thread of poetic vision runs through the stark realism of remembered experience in the Anzio beach-head. No one who reads it can fail to feel its impact and to be moved afresh by the senseless horrors of modern warfare." --Blackwoods Magazine

Abacus London 2004

 "A remarkable book indeed, bringing us close to the huge face of war, glaring, mad." --J.B Priestley

 "A picture of courage and futility of courage that somehow goes beyond courage and futility. To seize this in words makes the book a tour de force. Reading it is a memorable experience. --Arthur Wilson, Dartmouth College

 "It is a superb book and a horrifying one. There is no contradiction in putting it that way ... this is a book from the master mold ... A noble book." --C.A.B. Eastern Daily Press

 "Vividness, honesty, and a complete lack of emotional posturing ... A true and compassionate record."  Sunday Times, London

 "How have you said so much and involved me so deeply with so few words?"  Gunnar Myrdal, Nobel laureate

 "Vessel of Sadness goes beyond sensation. It is an accusation." --Richard Church, The Guardian


From the cover of the 1985 J. M. Dent & Sons edition:
"One of the most original, convincing and powerful stories about man and war that has ever been written.
Here, distilled from the experiences and observations of one who fought with them in a British infantry unit, is the mood of those who landed, fought and died at Anzio in the Second World War.
There are no heroes, no victories in the story, for this is faceless, nameless, fragmented war.
Vessel of Sadness is poignant, frightening and perceptive – its theme is universal.
It helps us to understand the nature of man in a world where there is as yet no alternative to the desolations of war."






 "Black, always black. Black. Have you ever looked down into the black hole of a cellar of an Italian house from the street level, in the middle of the night, and called out to ask if anyone was there before you threw a granade in, and the echo of your voice came back to mock you, and there was stillness, and just when you were ready to pull the pin and let the grenade go, to make sure, an enormous noise rose from the bowels of the earth and these same black-clad, hooded women swarmed out of the hole in the ground screaming and howling their heads off, and they knocked you down and ran across you, grenade and all, and disappeared into the night like a lot of black bats roused from a cave. If you have, you know what it is to have been really frightened by women. Black."











"We are red-eyed, hesitant, and trembling. Some of us are detailed to go down into a neighboring wheatfield in an effort to find some of our fellows who are out there moaning. Cautiously, we press our way through the tall crop, searching, feeling in the dark.


It is two a.m. We have done what we can for those we could find in the wheatfield. We are too tense to sleep now, and anyway we are to be committed again at first light. Instead of sleeping we sit in our holes, preparing our weapons, and nod.


"Tell me, Dick. Are we sat outside the Gab Gab gap in the Mejerda Valley, hoping to get into Tunis? Or are we sat outside Rome? Does it matter which? Campoleone? Is it January or May? It's May. Dick died in this same vinyard four months ago. God!"