First In, Last Out: An Unconventional British Officer in Indo-China

First In, Last Out: An Unconventional British Officer in Indo-China


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This is the astonishing tale of two episodes in the life of Colonel J P Cross, jungle fighter and linguist extraordinaire.

As a young officer at the end of the war against Japan in 1945, he took part in counterinsurgency operations against the Vietminh at a time of chaos and confusion. Sent to the area to help disarm the defeated Japanese, Cross found himself commanding a battalion of the very same troops against the Vietminh.

That period provides the backdrop to Cross’s experiences as British Defence Attache to Laos between 1972 and 1976. His mastery of the languages of the region allowed him rarely accorded access to high Laotian political circles.

Allowed to wander at will even by the Communists, he was in the unique position to survey the subterfuge and rivalry surrounding an overlooked yet fascinating sideshow to the Vietnam War. A remarkable man, J P Cross provides an absorbing account of his life amidst the cut and thrust of Laotion politics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784382209
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 06/12/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

In 1970, The Economist described J P Cross as ‘one of those gifted, dedicated eccentrics that the British Army has the habit of spawning.’ In his career spanning 40 years, Colonel Cross commanded a rifle company during the Malayan Emergency and the Border Scouts in Borneo, directed the British Army Jungle Warfare School and recruited Gurkhas for the British Army in Nepal.

Hew Strachan is Professor of International Relations at the University of St Andrews and was formerly the Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 8

Glossary 9

Dramatis Personae 10

Foreword Hew Strachan 14

Antescript 17

Part I Cochin-China 1945-46: 'When the water level fads, the ants eat the fish … 25

1 Black Flags of Surrender flew… 26

2 …and a Blacker Hatred Grew 44

Part II Laos 1972-76 : …when the water level rises, the fish eat the ants' 53

3 The Hyphen between Indo and China 54

4 A Boy in a Man's League 80

5 The Test 103

6 The Acorn Grows 130

7 Table Companions are Easy to Find … 155

8 …but Death Companions are Rare …176

9 Malice in Blunderland 198

10 From Hanoi with XXX 219

Postscript 240

Looking Back: 70 and 40 Years Later 242

Index 247

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