One of my more tiresome duties as a son with an elderly mother is making trips to garden centres. Apart from the cafe and the fresh water fish, the places leave me cold. Until this week.
Popping into one of Cheshire's bigger centres, I spent five minutes browsing through the book section. Normally these comprise the memoirs of some minor BBC2 gardening celebrity, coupled with the odd tome on cacti, greenhouse plants and how to grow your lawn until it is the envy of your neighbours. (One upmanship is big in the gardening world)
Sighing as I battled through a section of books on World War 2, I was staggered to find a real gem amongst the usual hagiographies of Churchill, the Spitfire and the early days of the SAS. It was Guerilla Warfare by Yank Levy. Bert 'Yank' Levy was one of the fascinating group of Spanish Civil War veterans who coalesced around Tom Wintringham, and developed the idea for the Home Guard during the Second World War. This was not envisioned as the bumbling, rather harmless outfit of Dad's Army stereotype, but as a People's Army to combat fascism, especially in the case of invasion. Stephen Cullen's "Home Guard Socialism: A Vision of a People's Army" offers in pamphlet form a recent history of these currents.
A former Communist, Wintringham represented a particular brand of English Socialism that burned all too brightly before, during and for a few years after the war, forming the Common Wealth Party and making a considerable reputation for himself as one of the few socialist thinkers on military affairs of any consequence, and to my knowledge the only British socialist with any practical experience to consider such matters.
Yank Levy's approach to guerilla warfare obtained a widespread circulation in the 1940s, and was reprinted by Penguin in 2008, a bargain at £5.99. Oddly it does not appear to be currently available from Amazon, so get down your local garden centre and buy a copy today! For a consideration of Levy's importance in terms of his contribution to combat, do read the appreciation The Combatives Freedom Fighter, by Phil Matthews.