George MacDonald Fraser

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George MacDonald Fraser OBE FRSL (2 April 1925 – 2 January 2008) was a Scottish author who wrote historical novels, non-fiction books and several screenplays. He is best known for a series of works that featured the character Flashman.

See also: Harry Paget Flashman (Flashman book series)


Quartered Safe Out Here (1992)[edit]

  • I must emphasise that at private soldier level you frequently have no idea where you are, or precisely how you got there, let alone why.
    • p. xv.
  • ...a reluctance to recognise that today's safety and comfort were bought fifty years ago by means which today's intelligentsia find unacceptable, and from which they wish to distance themselves.
    • p. xxiii-xxiv.
  • You cannot, you must not, judge the past by the present; you must try to see it in its own terms and values, if you are to have any inkling of it. You may not like what you see, but do not on that account fall into the error of trying to adjust it to suit your own vision of what it ought to have been.
    • p. xxiv.
  • ...the standard arm was the most beautiful firearm ever invented, the famous short Lee Enfield.......She's a museum piece now, but I still see her on T.V. newsreels, in the hands of hairy, outlandish men like the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan and capable-looking gentry in North Africa, and I have a feeling that she will be loosing off her ten rounds rapid when the Kalashnikovs and Armalites are forgotten. That's the old reactionary talking: no doubt Agincourt die-hards said the same of the long bow.
    • p. 29-30.
  • ...only those who have been really dry know that there is no drink like chaggle water, brackish, chlorinated, with a fine earthy silt at the bottom, pure Gunga Din juice. We hated it and would have sold our souls for it.
    • p. 32.
  • Another discovery was that the size and importance of an action is no yardstick of its personal unpleasantness. A big operation which commands headlines may be a dawdle for some of those involved, while the little forgotten patrol is a real horror.
    • p. 46.
  • Certainly no general [Slim] ever did more with less; in every way, he was one of the great captains.
    • p. 54.
  • Brewing up is not merely a matter of infusing tea; making the fire comes into it, and when you have lit and maintained fires in the monsoon, you have nothing more to learn. That came later; at Meiktila it was a simple business of assembling bamboo slivers, igniting them (no small thing, with Indian “Lion” matches which invariably broke and sprayed the striker with flaming phosphorus), and bringing about a gallon of water to the boil in the section brew-tin.  This was a jealously-guarded article, about a foot cubed, made by cutting a compo ration tin in two and piercing the rim for a handle of signal wire.  The casting in of the tea leaves from the section box was the crucial thing, followed by the ceremonial dropping in of two broken matchsticks to attract stray leaves; remove the tin from the heat, invite the guests to scoop out the brew with their piallas [“mugs” in Urdu], and tea was served, each man adding sugar and condensed milk to taste.
    • p. 77.
  • There are few sounds as menacing as a bayonet being fixed.
    • p. 109.
  • [Regarding the 'Advance to Contact'] The simple truth about war is that if you are on the attack, you can't do a damned thing until you find your enemy, and the only way to do that is to push on, at whatever speed seems prudent, until you see or hear him, or he makes his presence known by letting fly at you.
    • p. 120.
  • Putting a grenade into a bunker had the satisfaction of doing grievous bodily harm to an enemy for whom I felt real hatred, and still do.
    • p. 127.
  • Not that lance-jack [lance-corporal] is any great eminence; it is an appointment, not a rank, and is the worst dogs-body's job in the Army, as Hitler and I could tell you.
    • p. 135.
  • No one underestimated Jap: he might be a subhuman creature who tortured and starved prisoners of war to death, raped women captives, and used civilians for bayonet practice, but there was no braver soldier in the whole history of war, and if he fought to a finish...
    • p. 141.
  • We all have kindly impulses, fostered by two thousand years of Christian teaching, gentle Jesus, and love thy neighbour, but we have the killer instinct, too, the murderous impulse of the hunter...
    • p. 175.
  • No doubt newspaper reports and broadcasts had encouraged us, civilian and military, to regard him [the Japanese] as an evil, misshapen, buck-toothed barbarian who looked and behaved like something sub-Stone Age; the experiences of Allied prisoners of war demonstrated that the reports had not lied and reinforced the view that the only good Jap was a dead one.
    • p. 186.
  • A Gurkha subaltern whom I met later told me that commanding a platoon of them was like leading a group of perfectly-disciplined ten-year-olds, and I believed him.
    • p. 195.
  • ...armchair strategists can look at the last stages of a campaign and say there's nothing left but mopping-up, but if you're holding the mop it's different. The last Jap in the last bunker on the last day can be just as fatal to you personally as the biggest battle at the height of the campaign, and you don't look or think much beyond him - wherever he is.
    • p. 201.
  • Only very young soldiers and head-cases object to boredom in war-time.
    • p. 212.
  • [Re the Piat anti-tank weapon] Like many British inventions, it looked improbable, unwieldy, and unsafe - and it worked.
    • p. 295.
  • "Gravity, muzzle velocity, density, intensity, one for his nob, and bullshit baffles brains! There - into the breach, old Whatsit, and if all else fails we'll fix a bayonet on the bloody thing and charge! Fire at Will, he's hiding in the cellar, the cowardly sod!"
    • 'Captain Grief' witnesses the Piat firing.
    • p. 305.

The Light's On At Signpost (2002)[edit]

  • Certainly we tend to be resistant to change, on the whole, but that is because we have learned the hard way that change for its own sake is not a good idea, and that if something works more or less satisfactorily, it is best not to alter it without long and careful thought.
    • p. xx.
  • But not half as angry, I dare swear, as our forefathers would be if they could see the betrayal, by worthless politicians, of the country they worked so hard to build, and the surrender of the precious freedoms won by better men at Gravelines and Trafalgar and Waterloo and Flanders and Alamein and in the skies above Kent.
    • The Europe Fiasco. p. 68.
  • One way or another, the question whether Britain remains a free nation or becomes the vassal of a totalitarian Europe will be settled soon, and those who oppose our further integration would do well to remember, and proclaim as widely and as loudly as possible, the unashamed dishonesty that has characterised the pro-European movement from the beginning. Not since Lenin and Hitler cast their obscene spells has there been a political campaign so blatantly deceitful. In 1972 we were assured it was merely a Common Market, and that no political union could be envisaged: it is now shamelessly admitted that this was untrue, that political union was the aim from the start.
    • The Europe Fiasco. p. 71.
  • What matters above all is sovereignty, the right to make our own laws......the right to remain independent of the unworthy, undemocratic, unprincipled, authoritarian, bureaucratic rabble of Brussels.
    • The Europe Fiasco. p. 72.
  • First, I hope to see the British public resist the propaganda onslaught of the pro-Europeans, in which the broadcast media, led by the BBC, have shown themselves willing tools of the government, and vote a resounding "no" in the referendum, if and when it comes.
    • The Europe Fiasco. p. 72.
  • I never said, and don't believe, that all Germans are Nazis. I'm just pretty sure that they're all Germans, and that is the point.
    • The Europe Fiasco. p. 75.
  • Does he [A N Wilson] really believe that there is no nostalgia for the triumphant days of the Third Reich among that proud and valorous race, or that they have forgiven and forgotten that in two great wars the English-speaking people beat the hell out of them, humiliated them, conquered them?
    • The Europe Fiasco. p. 76.
  • For some reason which escapes me, there seems to be a feeling now that we have a moral duty to interfere in foreign disputes, and tell other countries how they should govern themselves, especially if so-called democracy is thought to be in danger.
    • The Day of the Pygmies. p. 91-92.
  • That political correctness should have become acceptable in Britain is a glaring symptom of the country's decline.
    • The Truth that Dare not Speak its Name. p. 104.
  • ...the leaders of an independent Scotland will be only too happy to trade away that independence in return for admission to the fleshpots of Brussels for themselves and their families, goes without saying; they have the example of Westminster to copy.
    • To Scotland, with Love. p. 124.
  • Few things infuriate the ordinary citizen more than liberal attitudes to crime and criminals. And not only infuriate, but offend against justice, common sense, and fair play. The ordinary citizen is neither a brute nor a sadist; he is humane (as most liberals are not), he is compassionate when it is called for, leans over backwards to be fair, and is ready to give a second chance. But he knows the difference between right and wrong, and has an instinctive sense of the difference between right and mere legality. He believes that wrongdoing should be punished with appropriate degrees of severity; deep in his understanding lies a feeling that eye for eye and tooth for tooth is not without merit, and that the punishment should fit the crime.
    • Crime and Punishment. p. 142.
  • The stark truth, of course, is that they have not abolished the death penalty at all. They have merely transferred it from the guilty to the innocent - and incidentally ensured that many more violent deaths occur.
    • Crime and Punishment. p. 146.
  • ...after careful observation of our own children and their playmates at the toddler stage, that you will see in the nursery every crime in the book except sexual assault: GBH, attempted murder, theft, blackmail, extortion, lying, fraud, false pretence, menacing, putting in fear, robbery with violence, conspiracy, mayhem - the whole Newgate Calendar is on show, and if sex and high treason are exceptions it is only because the little blighters haven't got round to them yet.
    • Crime and Punishment. p. 154-155.
  • Whoever said that Russia was an enigma inside a something-or-other inside something else, was dead right. I don't understand the place yet.
    • Pictures of Russia. p. 176.
  • They [women] cannot march as far or as fast as men, or endure the front-line ordeal as well, or drive a bayonet into an enemy with the same force, or tackle bare-handed an opponent far more muscular and brutal than they are. Some may be trained to shoot well, but whether they will do so in action with male callousness (and eagerness) is doubtful. Courage doesn't come into it. Women are if anything braver than men, but the notion of a female teenager fighting hand-to-hand with a Panzer Grenadier or a Japanese White Tiger - or a Royal Marine - is ludicrous.
    • The Defeat of the British Army. p. 181-182.
  • War is men killing each other, often at close quarters, and doing their damnedest to stay alive. And until you have done that, against a capable enemy, you don't have any idea of what it's like, honestly. Mr Spielberg may splash the screen with gore, and publicists may declare: "You are there!", but you're not. You're snug in a cinema watching a load of crap performed by actors. Hand-to-hand fighting is different, and it's no place for a woman. (It's no place for anyone, including me, but for a woman least of all.)
    • The Defeat of the British Army. p. 182.
  • ...and I haven't got to the bloody Japanese yet, with their poisoned stakes and booby traps and nasty habit of using prisoners for bayonet practice and no-surrender valour and fighting ability to match our own...almost.
    • The Defeat of the British Army. p. 184.
  • It is a habit of great countries of imperial pretensions to take the future for granted, as the Romans did in Trajan's day, and as Britons, with a few far-sighted exceptions, did at Victoria's jubilees, and Americans do now.
    • Special Relationship. p. 194.
  • He [Anthony Crosland] and his Socialist fellow-theoreticians did a terrific job in degrading scholastic standards in the name of equality, which meant dragging down the good to the level of the mediocre.
    • Dumbing Down, Down, Down... p. 247.
  • [re Princess Diana's death] I wondered at the time, what had happened to the moral fibre of the island race - the stiff upper lip, if you like - to make them behave like professional mourners howling for hire. The Prime Minister was proud. I was ashamed.
    • Dumbing Down, Down, Down... p. 251-252.
  • But with today's mammoth papers the poor boobs have to write at ten times the length their subject is worth, and apart from over-padded news we have the curse of modern journalism, the proliferation of the commentary, the background exposition, the in-depth analysis, the "think-piece", all adding up to an indigestible stream of crap which no one wants to read, and no one, to judge by the mechanical repetition and weary rambling, wants to write either.
    • Dumbing Down, Down, Down... p. 253-254.

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