Free for a Blast, by R. King Clark
Book published by Grenville in 1988, 272 pages. Paperback (N5724)
This book describes the life of a young British Army officer soldiering with the Manchester Regiment between 1934 to 1939, and is largely take up with his quest for an adventurous life in 'the thirties'. It vividly captures the 'Boys Own Adventures' atmosphere of the period, and King Clark recounts his experiemces at Brooklands driving racing cars, as well as flying his Miles Whitney Straight monoplane as far afield as Egypt, Singapore and Bali. In between his adrenalin filled adventures he served as an army officer, and describes his service in Palestine (where he commanded one of Orde Wingate's three Jewish Special Night Squads, the 'SNS' of Israeli folklore, for which he was awarded the Military Cross).
From the rear side cover: At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 Robert (Rex') King-Clark was twenty-five years old. For the previous five years he had beeen serving as a subaltern officer in a line regiment of the British Army commanding an infantry platoon in Yorkshire, Egypt, Palestine and Singapore. Though he took his soldiering - and especially his soldiers - seriously enough, an inheritance when he came of age in 1934 enabled him to channel his surplus energy and enthusiasms, facilitated by the spare time afforded by a lenient Army, into other fields: into touring in exciting cars in Europe and America, racing his single-seater J4 MG at Brooklands and in many other events, and, in particular, flying his Miles Whitney Straight monoplane as far afield as Egypt, Singapore and Bali in the East Indies - and in enjoying the social opportunities these adventures offered.
Rex concedes that this pursuit of fun and adventure may, with reason, appear irresponsible during an era of economic depression. However, on the credit side, King-Clark also took his 'fun' seriously, keeping meticulous diaries, logs and scrapbooks, all supported by fine photographs from his Leica camera.
It is this material that forms the basis for this book - the title taken from the family motto of Clerk of Penicuik and Clark of Paisley, the former dating from 1646. The result is a stylish, humorous and notably readable book, the text aptly and often beautifully illustrated. The whole, in fact, epitomizes a young man's quest for adventurous life in an 'amateur' decade - The Thirties - in which social and monetary patterns were stable, family ties strong, soldiering simple, good manners generally prevailed, 'professionalism' lay in the future, and the world for a traveller was still an oyster to be opened. And, moreover, Britannia ruled the waves'!
Though these off-duty activities form the body of Rex King-Clark's book, soldiering itself is not omitted. The central chapter covers the author's service in Palestine during the 1938 'Troubles' when he commanded one of Or de Wingate's three Jewish Special Night Squads - the 'SNS' of Israel folklore - for the leadership of which he was awarded the Military Cross.
The condition of the book is generally good. The cover has one or two minor scuffs, and slight spine roll along the left hand edge, but the spine itself is tight and intact, and all pages are intact, unblemished and tightly bound. There is light yellowing to the inside page edges throughout.