15 April 2009

New & Notable - 15th April

Penalty Strike The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander 1943-45
by Alexander Pyl'cyn (Stackpole Books)
The focus of this book are the author's vivid memories of service as a company commander in a Red Army officers' penal battalion on the Eastern Front 1944-45. During this time, he and his unit participated in the 1944 Soviet summer offensive Operation 'Bagration', the Vistula-Oder operation into eastern Germany, and the final assault on Berlin.

Alexander Pyl'cyn was a platoon commander and later a commander of an officers' penal company. He was a senior lieutenant having a degraded regiment commander as a second-in-command. He and his company had to carry out the most difficult and dangerous operations in order to break through the enemy defenses. With more than 80% of the men lost his company succeeded in completing their missions. The horrors of war, the hand-to-hand fights with a desperately struggling enemy are described in this book along with a story of a strong feeling between the young officer and a hospital nurse Rita. Thanks to Alexander Rita was appointed a nurse in the penal battalion. She saved dozens of soldiers, carrying them from the battlefield under enemy fire. It was Rita who saved Alexander Pyl'cyn from death, when he was badly wounded near Berlin. She became his wife in the last months of the war.
Available from:

Hurricane Pilot: The Wartime Letters of W.O. Harry L. Gill, DFM
Edited by Brent Wilson with Barbara J. Gill (Goose Lane Editions)

Harry L. Gill was born in Devon and attended Fredericton High School. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Moncton in 1940 at the age of 18 and was among the first to pass through the British Commonwealth Air Training Program. . After flying training he was posted to 607 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
In February 1942, Mr. Gill’s squadron of Hurricane Fighters attacked the German warships Scharnhorst and Gniesenau during the infamous “Channel Dash”. Mr. Gill’s bravery and flying skill in that action won him a Distinguished Flying Medal. In June of 1942, he traveled with his squadron to India to shore up Commonwealth defences against the Japanese. On Jan. 17 1943, at age 20, Harry Gill was shot down and killed in action. He lies buried in Maynamati Commonwealth War Cemetery in Bangladesh.

Drawing extensively on Gill's correspondence with his parents and his siblings, this very personal account of war shows how Gill was transformed from a small-town boy to a mature fighter pilot serving in a global war on another continent. His letters depict the enthusiasm of youth, a strong sense of humour, his plans for the future, and this continuing attachment to home.

Available from:
Goose Lane Editions

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