The Last of the Greatest Generation
“Censored” is a fascinating and rare glimpse into the daily life of a WWII artillery officer through over 100 letters and extracts from his diaries. The letters were written to his mother from the time he was called up in 1939 until demob in 1946.
These are rare wartime documents with superb descriptive writing, made more remarkable by the fact he was only 20 when he started writing them. He kept up the flow of letters to his anxious mother even when in battle, and long after the battle was over he would describe it in detail.
The letters begin with his signing up for duty, building new camps for the troops, officer training classes, mock battles, the daily grind of being a soldier until he is finally sent overseas in 1942. Many of the letters are very humerous and insightful.
He made the most of his time in the war by taking advantage of the opportunities to travel, sight-see and study. His optimism of survival is hard to imagine. In many of the letters it is difficult to believe a war was actually going on as he engaged in a pre-wartime social life of going to concerts and operas, wining and dining a rotation of Italian signorinas and throwing parties. His active social life is interspersed with tales of various humerous mishaps and antics that transpired during his time on duty, as well detailed descriptions of war and his changing living conditions.
In 1942 he was sent to Kirkuk, Iraq to guard the oil wells. Then he drove thousands of miles across the deserts of Iraq, Palestine and Syria until he reached Cairo. He fought at Enfidaville, Tunisia, then landed on the beaches of Salerno, Italy in one of the greatest invasions of Italy. He fought at Monte Cassino and up through Italy during the Italian Campaign. These events are all described in minute detail.
He taught himself Italian and was fluent enough to be the battalion's translator. Towards the end of the war he was given the job of monitoring the olive oil black market. His knowledge of German put him in charge of a German generals' POW camp in Italy where he played bridge with the colonel.
This is a must read for the history buff and an entertaining and informative historical memoir.
Censored is a must read for anyone interested in knowing more about WWII and the intimate everyday details of an active-duty English soldier's life. The letters, written by the author's father, are chock full of details that bring humor and insight to what otherwise could be another dismal story of war.
Sher Davidson, Author
Under the Salvadoran Sun
This book is a great history lesson in an "easy to read" format. I'm not usually attracted to "primary source" books as they can leave you lost without explanation of frame of reference etc., however, Ms. Hewins has provided context and diary entries in addition to the richly drawn correspondence from her father. The letters reveal an apparently well-educated, shrewd young man of only twenty, strategizing his way through the scary and treacherous waters of war-time Europe. Pat Holder was wise beyond his years and an inspiration to any young person who finds himself facing challenges they could never have imagined. Pat seems to intuitively navigate to places that keep him safe but always moving forward. Brilliant and inspiring!
Christine Green 6/29/2020
Excellent, well observed and articulate dispatches from many of the European theatres of WWII.
Arthur Holder (1918-2016) was detoured from a career in the British civil service when he was sent to Officer Training in 1939 after WWII had begun.
On the way to his first posting to Kirkuk, Iraq, via Cape Town he wrote his mom that he was getting a grand tour courtesy of His Majesty King George. His enthusiasm about new adventures is tempered with some realism as he tells her that he has some reservations about the "horrors" that may be in store. He was a master of understatement, describing bombed out London in detail, concluding that it had undergone a "certain amount of aerial activity." He makes interesting observations of historical figures like Monte, DeGaulle and the King as they pass through his story.
Yet his maintenance of a "cheerio" attitude doesn't prohibit him from describing the conditions under which he and his men are engaged, whether from a hole in the ground in Tunisia, a bombed out barn or cave in the mountains of Italy, or plagued by fleas, flies, mosquitoes and illness. Holder had curiosity and an enormous capacity for observation of the cultures into which he was thrust under terrible conditions. These qualities and his writing skills, tempered with a little naiveite due to age, result in authentic letters that show compassion, love for his family including the dog, and sometimes explicit (considering that he is writing to his mom) descriptions of the chaos and devastation that is going on around him.
Readers will find these regular informative dispatches written as Holder and his companions make their 6 year long progress from Iraq to Cairo, to Tunisia, to Tripoli, to Salerno, to Naples, to Monte Cassino, to Rome , Florence and Vienna enlightening. Historians should find such a comprehensive experience a great resource. Thanks to Rosalie Hewins for persisting in her labor of love. Brenda : June 2020
"Censored is a collection of letters and diary entries that tell the story of one British officer's experience of WWII. This personal account of WWII humanizes a history often perceived in broad strokes. Arthur Edmund Holder (Pat to his friends and family) writes unreservedly and humorously about his experiences in training, and his tours through the Middle East, North Africa and Italy. I found his letters to his family and diary entries provided nuance to my understanding of WWII and certain ideologies that were intertwined in some of the most personal understandings of the war? Izzy Mumm, Bookseller at Off The Beaten Path Bookstore, Steamboat Springs, CO.
Realistic perspective of WWII via the eyes of a British Army Officer
Censored is a book about a young British Captain, Arthur (Pat) Holder who was an artillery officer during WWII. The book was compiled by his loving daughter, Rosalie Hewins, from numerous letters sent back home to his mother and relatives. These letters give the reader a "ringside seat" from which to view the day to day joys and tribulations of an army officer who places his life on the line every day. It also provides great insight into the significant lifestyle differences between the Middle Eastern and Italian people as seen through the eyes of a young man observing the ravages of war on its people. There is also some humor, as Capt. Holder was quite the ladies man...who relished the opportunity to develop relationships with Italian women while comparing their social and romantic viewpoints vs their British counterparts.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to "relive" the challenges of WWII...or any war, for that matter, through the eyes of those who put their lives in harm's way.
Dr. Frank Ragonese May 2020
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
War is uncivilized, cruel and ugly, but Officer Holder managed to bring a sense of civility, resourcefulness and optimism to his time in the military. He strived to make the best of a bad situation. I found his observations of the American soldiers to be interesting as well. I enjoyed these letters very much and I'm sure they will be a welcome addition to the Imperial War Museum in England. Betty C. May 2020
CENSORED is an enjoyable personal wartime memoir
Censored is an interesting, fascinating narrative of one man's experiences as a WWII British artillery officer. I learned many things that I never knew, such as the occupation of Iraq in order to keep the Germans from claiming the Iraq oil fields, and a myriad of details such as the use of Diesel engines in some of the German bombers. Because the letters were written to his mother and family members, Pat's continual optimism keeps the horrors of war to a minimum. Details such as his appreciation of "care" packages sent from home, including treats and warm clothing are mentioned through the narrative.
What makes the book interesting to me are insights such as his visits to the Pyramids and to other cultural sites. And, he spent much time perfecting his knowledge of the Italian language. Since he was already fluent in French and German, he was a valuable asset to the allies.
His description of life on the home front is full of instances of creative procurements of booze and food for his mates as he learns the craft of artillery warfare. Two years of training led to tours in Iraq, Syria, Trans-Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Italy.
Vicious fighting in Italy, chasing the German army up the spine of the Apennines is described in detail. The need to spend days winching artillery pieces through the mud show the grueling efforts behind the campaign. This section is a sobering true-life account of a sometimes very tough mud-slogging journey through the mountains of Italy, harried by a grim German counter-offensive and plagued by the soaking, freezing weather.
I found the book an easy to read, well edited, fascinating narrative of life on the home front; a soldier's views and opinions of army service life; and his experiences during WWII campaigns.
Dennis Eaglestone July 2020
Rosalie Hewins had the foresight to cherish and publish her father's WW2 letters. Her father candidly wrote about the pulse and danger that Britain was in, and conveyed it beautifully in his endearing, heartfelt and personal letters to his mother. This is a must read which stands out from other books of this genre.
I recently read Censored. I am not an avid reader but have always had an interest in military history, so found this book particularly appealing. It showed a wholly different slant on most "war stories", not usually found in films, books or news-reels of the time. It dealt with the experiences of one young man on his journey halfway round the world and back to Europe as a member of the British Armed Forces at a time of great danger. Whilst war is generally portrayed as horrendous and unnecessary, this book deals with the many and varied opportunities and experiences afforded to Arthur "Pat" Holder from 1939 until 1946 during his service career. It reveals that without the outbreak of WWII, his outlook on later life would have been very much different. I found the book a very easy read, conveniently broken down into relatively short chapters, most suitable for bedtime reading. A true travelogue, interspersed with a soldier's view of army active service during the Second World War. Pat S. Baldwin May 2020
Censored provided a fascinating picture of a historic time seen through this officer's eyes. How wonderful it would be to have known this person who was so full of love for opera, piano, symphonies and dance etc. He was a gourmet who appreciated fine living despite not always being able to experience it. Amazingly, he also found time to love the ladies, languages and learning in general. Pat was truly a Renaissance man.
I just finished my summer book "Censored". I couldn't get enough of it and was sad to see it end. It's about a WW2 Artillery Officer from Britain who is posted to the Middle East, Africa and Italy for 6 years. It begins with his training in England and leads up to the time he is sent by ship to Iraq to guard the oil wells. Pat knew the war would drag on so he tried to enjoy his life as much as possible in between battles behind the guns, all the while applying for transfers to less dangerous posts and ultimately landing a job as an olive oil inspector near Florence for a short while. He billeted with an opera singer in Florence. He wined and dinednumerous Italian girls and enjoyed a dizzying social life of opera, dancing and concerts. At the same time, he taught himself Italian and also kept up his German language skills which enabled him to be posted in charge of a German POW camp at the end of the war.
We learned of all his travels through the many letters he wrote to his mother, who sent him clothes and knitted him socks: sent him care packages with home-baked cakes and cigarettes. By the end of the war he had a nice little business selling cigarettes which his mother supplied at a rate of 500-1000 a time.
He roasted in the deserts, froze in the Italian mountains, picked fruit from the lemon, almond and fig trees. He had a narrow brush with death in Tunisia but was lucky for the rest of the war.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and didn't want it to end. It's a very good read, a great travel book, and entertaining. I couldn't wait to read the next letter to find out where he was going next. "Censored" has something for everyone's interests. I highly recommend it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I grew up in Nottingham, England listening to the stories my father recounted of his humorous antics during WWII. I was always, and still am, fascinated by them. He never talked about the battles - just the fun stuff. I had always intended to publish the letters and originally started transcribing them in 1993 but got distracted. Finally in 2018, 2 years after his death, with all the original letters in my hand and determined to get them published, I started working on editing and transcribing them again. As I typed, I relived the war through his eyes and words. I was there with him - my dear father who is no longer with us.
Following in my father's footsteps, I have had a lifelong interest in travel, history and foreign languages. I am intrigued by cultural differences among different societies, just as he described in his letters.
For the history lover, this is a great book of historical non-fiction.