Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts at the Hay Festival on 31 May 2011.
The astonishing life of a young working-class man who fought throughout the Second World War from Alamein to the invasion of Sicily, was captured at Arnhem and as a POW survived the Allied bombing raid on Dresden
Born into a working-class family in London in 1919, Victor Gregg enlisted in the Rifle Brigade at nineteen, was sent to the Middle East and saw action in Palestine. Following service in the western desert and at the battle of Alamein, he joined the Parachute Regiment and in September 1944 found himself at the battle of Arnhem. When the paratroopers were forced to withdraw, Gregg was captured. He attempted to escape, but was caught and became a prisoner of war; sentenced to death in Dresden for attempting to escape and burning down a factory, only the allies' infamous raid on the city the night before his execution saved his life. Gregg's fascinating story, told in a voice that is good-natured and completely original, continues after the end of the war. In the fifties he became chauffeur to the Chairman of the Moscow Norodny bank in London, involved in shady dealings and strange meetings with MI5, MI6 and the KGB. His adventures, though, were not over - in 1989, on one of his many motorbike expeditions into Eastern Europe, he found himself at a rally of 700 people in a field in Sopron at a fence that formed part of the barrier between the Soviet Union and the West. Vic cut the wire, and a few weeks later the Berlin Wall itself was destroyed - a truly unexpected coda to an incredible life lived to the full. This is the story of a true survivor.
'Completely fascinating. This feels like one of the last voices of a vital generation. For the first-hand account of the Dresden fire-bombing alone, this is gripping reading. It has an immediate power throughout that makes war fiction a pale shadow of the real thing.'
'Second World War memoirs are commonplace, but very few soldiers had Victor Gregg's breadth and depth of experience. Rifleman is a thrilling story of a young man in extraordinary circumstances. Yet what makes Gregg's story so enthralling is how he was shaped by his wartime experiences and primed an eventful - and dangerous - life behind the Iron Curtain. Rifleman is an outstanding book that deserves to become a classic.'
Lloyd Clark, author of Arnhem
'Many people performed extraordinary feats of bravery and lived through an astonishing array of campaigns during the long years of the Second World War, yet few can have seen more action than Rifleman Victor Gregg. His hugely entertaining and often moving memoir is as action-packed as any fiction, and yet this is no novel - Gregg's adventures were real. His is truly an astonishing story.'
James Holland, author of The Battle of Britain and Fortress Malta
Publication date: 07/02/2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
|Publication date:||7th February 2011|
|Author:||Rick Stroud, Victor Gregg|
|Publisher:||Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography,|
Victor Gregg was born in London in 1919 and joined the army in 1937, serving first in the Rifle Brigade in Palestine and the Battle of Alamein, and then in the Parachute Regiment at the Battle of Arnhem. He was repatriated in 1946 and now lives in Winchester. Rick Stroud is a film, television director and author. He lives on a houseboat in London.More About Rick Stroud, Victor Gregg