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The Defending Officer’s Dog

Jack Cripps, illustrated by Rose Shawe-Taylor

A Royal Engineer abroad in the Second World War

The Defending Officer’s Dog is a lively, unaffected memoir focusing on aspects of the Second World War seldom in the spotlight.

Royal Engineer Jack Cripps was just 20 years old when he was sent to Kenya in 1942 to train African troops. His vivid account of his years in East Africa, Ceylon and India reveals his resourcefulness, compassion and great sense of fun. The narrative cuts between the sombre and the hilarious, from disarming a berserk askari to rickshaw-racing, from driving a truckload of volatile wet gelignite to bicycling around a crowded dance floor at Lord Mountbatten’s headquarters in Kandy. The backgrounds are vividly drawn: the cedar forests of Mount Kenya, the fleshpots of Mogadishu, the Ogaden desert, coconut plantations in Ceylon, a bridging camp on the Ganges. But the first task he was faced with was building a camp at 6,500 feet.

Hut building

This seemed just up my street. With the help of the Royal Engineers Pocket Book (1936), I got to work making out a formidable list of timber, nails, screws, doors, windows and corrugated iron that we would need for the first phase. On presenting the list at the CRE’s office, we were told unequivocally that none of these things was available. There were, however, plenty of trees and grass for thatch, ‘so get on and build yourself a camp’.

When, as catering officer, he visits a local farm near Nanyuki, hoping to acquire fresh vegetables, he is given carte blanche to exercise the owner’s horses. A few weeks later she also gives him a puppy, a setter-dalmation cross called Mick, whose reluctance to be parted from Jack, even when he is acting as defending officer in a court martial, gives the book its title.

170x120mm, viii + 184 pp
list price
978 1 902173 214