Author Topic: The Private War of Jacket Coates  (Read 2650 times)

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Offline Shec

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The Private War of Jacket Coates
« on: December 19, 2004, 08:07:36 »
The Private War of Jacket Coates by Lt. Col. Herbert Fairley Wood, 1966.     I found this obscure yet delightful little book in a bargain bin when I was in university during the 70s and it still occupies a place in my personal "library".   Written by the retired head of the Canadian Army Historical Section it is the humorous fictional Korean War memoir of a Canadian soldier.   While all unit names, etc.,   are fictional they are obviously based on the reality of the day and chronicles the campaign.

Jacket Coates is a WW2 infantry vet who joins the Canadian Army Special Force that was raised for Korea in 1950.   The opening sentence reads " I was always one to rally to King and Country during an emergency and in August 1950 the emergency was that I was broke."
Coates knows the score and all the tricks.   He knows how to keep your uniform tickety-boo without working too hard at it,he knows all the fieldcraft tricks for keeping yourself alive, comfortable, and effective, he knows how to avoid fatigues, he knows how to get a pass, he knows how to wangle the best job in a unit which in his opinion is as the OC's driver which enables him to wield considerable influence.    In short he knows how to push the envelope without getting charged.     These tricks he passes on to a young recruit while dodging both the RSM, an old comrade from WW2, and his arch enemy, the Provost Sergeant.   But for all his scheming and malingering he wins the Military Medal for his bravery during a battle that sounds like Kapyong.

His journey takes him from the recruiting centre to Wainwright to Fort Lewis Washington to Korea and home again.   In fact I loved his description of Wainwright as a place that he will always remember by the taste of its dust in his mouth - I can relate to that.     If you can find this book read it, its hilarious.

« Last Edit: December 19, 2004, 08:19:20 by Shec »
From the cold water of Fish Creek, into the sunken road at Rumilly, onto the beach at Normandy, and across the wastes of the Sinai desert, the silver gate has gone and is still ready to serve.


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Re: The Private War of Jacket Coates
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2004, 17:17:24 »
"Jacket Coates" is dedicated to Sergeant Fred Azar of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, who was the senior clerk in the Army Historical Section's clerk when LCol Woods worked there and fairly obviously the model of the novel's protagonist. Sgt Azar retired from the army sometime in the late 1960s, but I had the privilege of meeting him in 1982 when he was employed by the Canadian War Museum in the War Art Collection. During his remarkably comprehensive tour of the warehouse where the Great War paintings languished, Fred hauled out a rack built of chicken-wire and two-by-fours that held about a dozen paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings, including "Flowerdew's Charge". "Hey, kid," said Fred, "Didja ever see five million dollars all in one place?"

My copy of Jacket Coates (which I will not lend even to my brother) is autographed by Sgt Azar!

Offline Michael O'Leary

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Re: The Private War of Jacket Coates
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2004, 17:32:31 »
From my ever growing database of quotes and anecdotes:

        My turn with the clerks finally came. Knowing what it does to sedentary soldiers, and in spite of the fact that I was in civvies, I crashed to attention. The pencil-pusher across the table jumped and looked impressed.
        "Your name and most recent employment?"
        "Coates, J. W., waiter." I hoped he wouldn't ask how long I had been waiting, or where.
        I have always been one to rally to king and country in an emergency, and in 1950 the emergency was that I was broke.
        During World War II I was always told that the Army would make a man out of me and train me for a place in the community as a good citizen. I got in by Iying about my age and got out because the fighting had stopped, and in the process I became a man, I guess, but I have never blamed that on the Army. As for the good-citizen bit, I have always felt that freedom to criticize is a fundamental right of any citizen. But this belief, suppressed as it was while I was in uniform, has done nothing but provide me with a wide experience of bad working conditions. - Herbert Fairlie Wood, The Private War of Jacket Coates, 1966


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