London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1956. First edition. Hardcover. This compelling author’s presentation copy of the first edition is inscribed twice by Field-Marshall Sir William Slim with an additional autograph letter from Slim on Windsor Castle stationery. Slim’s personal account of the Second World War campaign in Burma “stands as the best English-language army commander's memoir of the twentieth century.” (ODNB) This unique copy is in very good condition in a very good dust jacket. The pale green cloth binding is tight and square with sharp corners, despite minor shelf wear to extremities and a slight vertical spine crease. The contents are clean with no spotting. The unclipped dust jacket shows only fractional loss to spine ends and corners and some sunning of the red spine panel. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover.
Just below his frontispiece photographic portrait, Slim inscribed, in blue ink, “Slim | F. M. | N.B. The bullet holes in | the photo were put there 24 hrs. | before I got there.” A second inscription, on the front free endpaper recto in black ink, reads “Bill Barroll | To remind him of many | years of good comradeship | and not a little fun. | Bill.” A laid in autograph letter entirely in Slim’s hand on Windsor Castle stationery reads: “9 Aug 1966 | My Dear Bill | How kind of you to ring up and | send your good wishes for my birthday. | I wish you could have been here | but our table only holds twenty. | (Incidentally it isn’t ours but the | Queen’s!) We had only 1/6th Gurkhas | the oldest Hal Hachett aged 83, the | youngest in the 60s. I think yet all | pretty spry. We were a good battalion, | we all decided, not least, I think, | because we were all with the same | wives we had had forty ’n more | years ago. Not bad for these days! | Our love to you both. | Yours ever, Bill (Jr)” Slim’s frontispiece inscription refers to the bullet holes in the wall behind him in the photograph. Both the second inscription and the letter are addressed to William “Bill” Stacpoole Barroll, O.B.E. (1890-1973), whose bookplate is affixed to the front pastedown.
Barroll was a soldier who joined the army in 1914 and served many years in the Indian Army, retiring with the honorary rank of Colonel in 1946. It is likely in the Indian army that Barroll’s and Slim’s paths intersected. Field Marshal William “Bill” Joseph Slim, 1st Viscount Slim (1891-1970) was commissioned a second lieutenant in August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, sent to India in 1918 with the 6th Gurkha Rifles, and was promoted to Captain and transferred to the Indian Army in 1919. In 1941, after being wounded, Slim was temporarily employed on the General Staff at GHQ, at the same time that Barroll was assigned to the Adjutant General’s at GHQ. Both men served in both World Wars, but it was Slim who ultimately achieved fame.
During the Second World War, Slim led the 14th Army in the Burma campaign – the subject of this book. After the war Slim was the first British officer who had served in the Indian Army to be appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Slim was later Governor-General of Australia, whose citizens regarded him for having fought with the Anzacs at Gallipoli during the First World War, where he was badly wounded. The reference in Slim’s 1966 letter to the Queen’s table and the Windsor Castle stationery owe to the fact that Slim’s final appointment, in 1964, was Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle. Slim’s birthday was August 6th and he thanks Bill Barroll for calling him on his birthday and talks about the celebration he had with former battalion mates. The jovial and affectionate tone of both the letter and inscription to Barroll doubtless reflect the bond of shared service. The fact that Slim (whose father was named John) signs “Bill (Jr)” is plausibly a comradely reference to the fact that though Slim and Barroll share the nickname “Bill”, Barroll was born on 1 August 1890, Slim on 6 August 1891, rendering Barroll the “Sr” Bill to Slim’s “Jr.”. Item #005927