Table of ContentsPrevious ChapterNext ChapterBookshelf


If many of those I served with, of the partisans or of ours, are not mentioned in this book, or are mentioned only in a phrase or two, that is not because their merit was the less or their comradeship and courage lacking. There were narrow limits on the picture I could draw, imposed as much by the need to select what I would write as by the strangeness of the subject to English eyes; a full and proper record would have risked tedium and too great length. At Base there were several faithful ones who never flagged nor cried for relief and recognition of their good service; we were grateful to them and realized their loyalty to a general cause which sympathy and circumstance had made especially our own. They were rare, and their work cannot be praised too highly. In the Field each of us had his few intimates whom the proximity of long months and isolation from other Englishmen made precious and personal beyond the barriers of rank and duty. For me there were Brandreth and Armstrong, Serdar, Mark, Weinzieri, Enis who was killed in ambush during the December offensive; of the commissioned, Irwin, Howe, Jeffries; and a few others. Each was brought to grips in his own way with the daily difficulties of partisan life; and this book is about them as much as about myself. In any case I owe them my thanks and admiration.

The picture I have wanted to give is personal, not political : of people rather than of opinions. Loyalties that were tested alike in the heat of battle and the chill clarity of life in occupied territory seemed to ask no political justification. This was especially true in circumstances where human nature showed itself capable of touching the extremes of baseness and sublimity; and where, on our side, so much depended on each man's setting the general good above his own. We were friends together; and the inspiration of the partisans, when they had time to think of that, was as old as the history of human courage and good comradeship. Yet for the use of those who look for political and military background — and because English witnesses were few — I have traced this in outline. Accordingly the narrative is interrupted in Part One at Chapters IV and X, at Part Two in Chapter VIII, and at Part Four in Chapter II. These chapters may be read or skipped at will.

By the middle of 1943 partisan resistance to the Germans and their allies had grown from the dimensions of a mere nuisance to those of a major factor m the general situation. In many parts of occupied Europe the enemy was suffering losses at the hands of partisans that he could ill afford. Nowhere were these losses heavier than in Jugoslavia.

The Germans, with their Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian allies, had invaded Jugoslavia in April, 1941. The resistance of the Royal Jugoslav Army had lasted for ten days. But within ten weeks of capitulation the people of Jugoslavia had begun to organize iheir own resistance.

In the beginning there had been two resistance movements in Jugoslavia, the chetniks and the partisans. The resistance of the chetniks had lasted only until the autumn of 1941, their leaders then going over to the enemy or returning to passivity.

The partisans had continued to resist, though with heavy losses to themselves. By the middle of 1943 they had grown from a large number of small and loosely organized fighting groups into a power­ful irregular army. They had liberated large areas of their country. Their troops were battle-toughened and their leaders practised in command. On five occasions the enemy had tried to annihilate them in large-scale operations; but from each of these offensives they had emerged stronger than before.

They were in contact with the Western Allies through liaison officers dropped to them by parachute. I was one of those liaison officers. My party and I dropped into Central Bosnia in the summer of 1943.

That is when the story begins.

Table of ContentsPrevious ChapterNext ChapterBookshelf