The British Empire Library

A Plain Russet-coated Captain

by John Day

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Roy Henry (Colonial Police - Malaya, Sarawak, Fiji, Hong Kong -1948-67)
This autobiography is an account of the author's three careers, the first portion dealing with his service as a young Regular Royal Marine Officer during and just after the Second World War. Its second part is virtually a sequel to Malayan Patrol as it deals with the later part of the Malayan First Emergency.

As a young Royal Marine Officer in the Second World War, John Day describes his training, followed by sea service, in the Arctic and Mediterranean. He then took part in 'Overlord' landings in Normandy when he commanded a Troop in the Special Services Brigade led by Lord Lovat; this is described in great detail, leading up to him being seriously wounded on the eighth day of landing. Later he rejoined his Marine Commando and he recounts events as a junior Officer involved in the liberation of Holland and the invasion of Germany.

After the war he resigned from the Navy and embarked on his second career with the Malayan Civil Service, which was to last for seven years. He served mostly in the field as an Assistant District Officer and, on his second tour, as a District Officer. Again, he describes in remarkable detail the day-to-day tasks of an Administrator in a territory at war with a ruthless internal enemy.

His third career was with MI5, which he set out in two chapters to comment upon but, eventually, he reduced to a postscript advocating responsibility for and oversight of the service.

This is an autobiography of an Officer of varied careers; one is left with the feeling that he somewhat regrets abandoning his first choice. The reader cannot be but impressed with his memory for detail; could he have been a dedicated diary scribe?

British Empire Book
John Day
The Author


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