Fall of an Empire Through Conscripted Eyes
Retired journalist Peter Saunders has written The Unknown Conscript, a military fiction book set in 1955 about a young British conscript who was sent to Cyprus during the turbulence of the 1950s when Cypriot rebels fought against the then-colonial power of Great Britain.
"The Unknown Conscript highlights the sacrifices of a forgotten generation of young British men who were called up to serve in the armed forces during the only period in British history when there was universal conscription in peacetime," said the publishers Woodfield Publishing.
While many of these unwilling conscripts endured a dull and uneventful two years in uniform, this was by no means the case for all of them. Some, like the characters in this story, found themselves "involved in ugly conflicts in far-flung trouble-spots at the fringes of Britain’s fading empire."
After a sheltered childhood in a shabby Midlands town suffering austerity and hardship in the wake of five years of war against Nazi Germany, 18-year-old Michael Croft discovers that he is hopelessly ill-prepared for the consequences of receiving his call-up papers. After undergoing the rigours of 1950s-style basic training, Michael and a bunch of fellow conscripts are posted to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where a violent terrorist campaign is being waged to oust the British.
He and his pals do their best to stay out of trouble, but there will be tragic consequences before their tour of duty is completed.
The book is based on Saunder's own experiences of being a national conscript.
"The majority of National Servicemen served in the army, and that is why I have set my novel in an infantry battalion which is eventually sent out to face bombs, bullets and street riots in the Mediterranean," said the author in an interview.