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September 24 , 2008

Not Quite the Gentleman: A Fisherman's War


Incarcerated in a punishment cell by the Germans, Sgt Frank W Clarke of the Norfolks is slipping into insanity. He is saved only by dreams of the beautiful American Red Cross nurse who has vowed to marry him - and by harking back to his fishing diaries written before the War. Clarke is a victim of the sadistic Major Bach who is determined to turn the British NCO into a traitor. The Sergeant fights Bach using all the canny qualities of the angler; patience, introspection, determination, ingenuity and self belief. The soldier's diaries take him back to the Munster Blackwater, the Boyne, the Liffey, the Bandon and other Irish rivers and loughs. The diaries embrace the Norfolk Broads, the Kennet, Hampshire Avon, Derwent, Bure, the Alne and the Wensum in late Victorian and Edwardian times. The reminiscences of Sgt Frank W Clarke (7852) of the Norfolk Regiment provide an insight into the rigid class system that ruled before the old officer class perished in Flanders. An ordinary soldier's story - told by his loving grandson - reveals at platoon and section level Clarke's small part in one of the most significant battles ever fought by the British Army. "Not Quite the Gentleman" is a testimony to a lost generation now finally gone, but whom we should never forget and remember with pride. Most people who met Frank Clarke thought he was just a fisherman - but his diaries revealed there was more to this man. Clarke fought ferocious warriors as a mercenary in Africa, entertained black boxer Jack Johnson in the city of James Joyce, bowled 'reverse swing' - before it was officially inventedm, played rugby against future Irish President Eamon De Valera, led a bayonet charge at the Battle of Mons in 1914, saw the Angel of Mons while lying wounded in a field, experienced the love of two women - one who died on the Somme, one who saved his life, escaped down the Edith Cavell network - but was betrayed then tortured in a PoW camp, saved Irish soldiers from Roger Casement's ill-fated Irish Brigade, stole a German fighter plane in an escape attempt, chose life over death as he lay dying of dysentery, and overcame adversary in a final twist to his War. "Not Quite the Gentleman" is a humble fisherman's story.

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