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Rifleman: A Front Line Life
Rifleman Front Cover I met Victor Gregg in December 2009, just after his 90th birthday. I was researching the war in the Western Desert and was keen to meet anyone who had been there. We were introduced by Tom Bird who had been his company commander at Alamein. At the end of our first meeting Vic gave me a memoir he had written for his grandchildren. In it he describes the first 70 years of his life. Inevitably, after such a long period, his memory for precise dates is not always 100% accurate, but his recall of events is vivid, honest and gripping.

He tells how he left school at fourteen and spent his teenage years knocking around Soho. Then he joined the Rifle Brigade, signing on for 21 years. 1940 found him in the Western Desert seconded to the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). At Alamein he fought in the Snipe action where the medals won in the action included a VC awarded to the Colonel, Vic Turner.
In September 1944 he parachuted into Arnhem, where he was captured. He was sent to a labour camp outside Dresden and managed to sabotage a soap factory. For this he was condemned to death. The night before his execution the Allies bombed the city. Vic's prison received a direct hit and the blast blew him to freedom. He survived the firestorm and spent a week working with the rescue forces. Then he escaped to the east and the Russian army. The bombing of Dresden was a major event in Vic's life; it took him thirty years and a painful divorce to come to terms with it.

After the war, Vic's life continued to be colourful and parts of it read like a cross between The Italian Job and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. He became a communist and driver to the chairman of the Moscow Narodny Bank. The Russian embassy sent him on mysterious errands and he was recruited by shadowy men from the British security services. His passion for motorbikes led him to travel extensively to bike rallies behind the Iron Curtain, where he became involved in dissident politics. By one of life's more farfetched coincidences he was reunited with Major Albert Jünger, the German officer who had sent him off as a POW from Arnhem. Through Jünger, Vic became involved with Wehrmacht veterans in East Germany and served as a link between them and the Hungarian People's Democratic Forum. In August 1989 the 70 year old Vic was invited by the Democratic Forum to be one of the guests of honour at a rally in Sopron, near the border with Austria. Vic was asked to be one of a small party that was to make the first cut in the wire that divided East from West, and a few weeks later the Berlin Wall itself was breached. Vic had played a small part in its downfall.

Vic is very honest about the effect that Dresden had on his life and marriage and writes about it in a very moving way.

When he left the army this is what his commanding officer wrote about him:

During an exceedingly colourful career, this gunner has served long and continuous periods in active operations with front line units. He is an individual of great courage, capable of applying himself best to a task when the need is greatest.
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Rifleman, A Front Line Life
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