MARK OF THE LION by Kenneth Sandford


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Charlie Upham, the subject of this glaringly hero-worshipful biography, was the only British soldier to win the Victoria Cross twice during WW II. He was also grimmer and more picturesquely foul-mouthed than perhaps any non-com on record in fact or fiction. He swore at officers and enlisted men with equal felicity and with a gas-blue flame that could melt the glasses off a company commander's face. A boiling conviction that he was right and his teachers obsolete in their thinking about infantry tacticssent him to the bottom of his class when in training, but he persisted, and many a line officer learned to eat his steel hat. Upham, though, was obsessively modest about the genius of his military intuition because he was always right. This, coupled with steel-lion courage that shed fear like a raindrop, carried him through exploits that excite wonder and admiration. Sandford's rich background material on British campaigns, in Greece and Crete, on German prison camps, and on individual battles has a cumulative effect of great force. Until you get to know Charlie better, the tone seems a bit sticky at first- but as the incidents collect Upham becomes a character of intractable outrage and persistence involved in some enormous folly not of his own making. Those two Victoria Crosses, and this book, verify a big legend made out of little bullets and a man whose anger rose into a ""face like a bayonet charge"".

Publisher: Washburn