This memoir was first published in Denmark entitled “No Man’s Land” but when translated into English that title, for some reason, was changed to ‘Merry Hell!”, not, in my opinion, a very inspiring choice. Dinesen (1892-1979) was in Denmark when war broke out, and despite efforts to get to the war with the French Army, the French Foreign Legion and the British Army he was continually frustrated by officialdom who would not grant the necessary visa for him to get into France or UK. So he made it across to the USA where he tried again (for the American Army) and failed again. Finally he looked in on the Canadian HQ in New York and was given a warm welcome and advised to try for either The Princess Pat’s or, if he liked the idea of wearing a kilt, The 42nd Royal Highlanders of Canada, The Canadian Black Watch. So he was trasported in a group of fourteen to Montreal where, on 26 June 1917, he enlisted in the The Royal Highlanders (Princess Pat’s were not recruiting at the time) issued with a kilt and, handicapped by a limited knowledge of English, spent some time wondering why the regiment was named after a black watch. The first hundred or so pages describes all this and his training in Canada and in England till finally, on 15 March 1918, he arrives in France. His battalion was in 7th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.This is certainly a rousing tale the way it is told with Dinesen frequently resorting to a sort of running commentary when describing the fighting. The action in which he won his VC near Parvillers in August 1918 during the course of prolonged hand-to-hand fighting through enemy trenches is written up with great gusto and makes a suitable climax to the book
MERRY HELL! A DANE WITH THE CANADIANS
The experiences of a Dane who, after trying for the French, British and American armies finally managed to enlist in the Canadian Black Watch and arrived in France in March 1918. A rousing story of the fighting on the Western Front culminating in Dinesen being awarded the VC in August 1918 during the Amiens offensive.
Thomas Dinesen, VC
Usually despatched Next Day
2004 N&M reprint (original pub 1930). SB. 254pp with 15 illus