Sad man that I am, I’ve been reading a book called Anzio by LLoyd Clark, all about the allied invasion of Italy in WW2. It’s just a phase.
By coincidence Channel 4 announced a two part series called Whicker’s War, about the same time I started this book. I missed it on TV but later started watching it on 4OD and was enthralled.
In my ignorance I really had no idea old Alan Whicker was so intimately involved in the whole miserable adventure.
Whicker was a director in an army film unit and essentially captured the whole mismanaged campaign on film. So many historic photos were taken by Whicker himself.
Having grown up trying to avoid watching his interminable travel programmes, where each week he checks in to a million star hotel, then heads out to talk to some lost tribesmen – whilst wearing a dinner jacket, I always took him for a bit of a TV buffoon and a relic from different era in broadcasting.
But who’d have thunk it?
Whicker is masterful in this series. The ‘then and now’ comparisons, using his own 60 year old footage, were compelling enough, but the details – waking during shelling to find a rat sat on his bed and blasting it with his service revolver; moving into new quarters and finding a stack of porn an Italian artist had left behind – gave the story human scale.
Whicker as war historian is so much better and more potent than Whicker as island hopping hedonist. He’s 81 years old.