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Humor of Farley Mowat “And No Birds Sang”

Farley Mowat is the best-known Canadian author whose autobiographical adventures and stories for more than a quarter century have thrilled and educated many readers. He allows the readers to share his travels since he has traveled the world to record his experiences as an ecologist and nature lover. The story begins in 1939, second September, with the young Mowat painting his parent’s porch when they are on their driveways, who later returns home excitedly claiming the war is ongoing. Farley Mowat was a young, energetic, and eager eighteen-year-old with a desire and passion for joining the Royal Canadian Air Force and becoming a fighter pilot. In a month, he presented himself in the Air Force recruitment process, where he was rejected due to his slim build and young age. Instead, he got a chance to be enlisted in the Hasty Pees second battalion, expecting to be transferred to the active service in the first battalion.

Moreover, he described his multiple battle experiences during the allies’ invasion and took over of Italy. Farley Mowat, in July 1942, was a young soldier eager to fight and reach Europe. His powerfulness enabled him to see the Nazis from Italy struggling desperately to expel, which evoked the war’s terrible reality with clarity and honesty that fiction can only imitate. However, through unforgettable scenes after scenes, he describes the ancient humor and agony of the soldier’s existence on the ferocity of the front, the monotony of ground life, and the camaraderie shared by those who were bloodied on battlefields. The title “And No Birds Sang” came shortly after Mowat’s first battle when everything in the atmosphere was quiet, and no birds sang.

And No Birds Sang book takes us on a journey of different nature, where we tend to travel deep into the soul and at a time he was most worried during his service in the Second World War. Farley Mowat is found as a partially patriotic young man who wants to undertake his task for the king and country and a restless individual who sees war as a kind of adventure. Due to the naivety of youth, Farley and his contemporaries treat the war situation as a kind of youthful joke. They did not consider that war was a messy affair that could lead to their death and displacement of people from their usual places, among other effects of war. Furthermore, in much of the early parts of the book, he faces his frustration with delays in being part of an air force member and then being sent overseas to join his unit in England. Ironically, the worst fear for Farley Mowat was that the war might end before he had a chance to participate and prove his ability to do things.

By the summer of 1943, the allied powers had finished their campaigns in Northern Africa, and their next goal was to invade Italy and move into Sicily to displace the Germans to move the northwest side of the coast. The targeted objective came to be known as “Operation Husky,” designated to create more markets for the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean and assist in eliminating it as an axis base, which would lead to the fall of Mussolini’s government. Farley Mowat, now an intelligence officer, was ordered in July 1943 to head to Sicily and participate in Operation Husky. He later prepares himself and manages to leave the night of July eight with the platoon, though he encounters terrible and rough seas due to an intense wind that blows from the Sahara known as Sirocco.

They tried hard to walk past the wind, which was so tough on them, and they had reached the point of canceling Operation Husky. Fortunately, the wind slowed around midnight of that particular night, and the entire platoon was able to undertake its core operations. After resting and having massive arrangements, they commenced an invasion on the night of the 9th of July towards the western region that the Germans had occupied. According to Farley Mowat, even during the first Sicily invasion, he seems to see things with a growing sense of adventure. A change in the young Farley Mowat was evident only when his fellow army men fell victim, which tended to reduce in number as time passed. We encounter numerous typical Farley Mowat exploits and adventures throughout the book that are presented with his conventional sense of humor.

Moreover, Farley Mowat had the chance to advance to an air traffic control course during his training in England. During exercise as an air traffic controller, he was given a spitfire team to exercise with by calling the airstrikes on the enemy. He eventually calls an airstrike cheerfully when he sees a collection of staff cars and assumes it is a collection of brass hats. Only to discover later that he has just ordered an attack on the King of England who was visiting the training exercise. Farley Mowat describes that the brass hats were not funny at all. During the Sicily invasion, the aircraft landed miles away from the rest of the invasion forces due to a navigation error caused by Farley Mowat, the main landing craft for his unit. The book portrays how Farley Mowat wanders on the way to the Sicilian countryside fighting in their small private on the first day of the invasion, looking for an elusive enemy and their army.

It describes how Farley Mowat and another solder during the early Italian campaign are sent in front of all Canadian troops to ride on a motorbike and explore the area. In a spur of a moment, after leaving the place, they encounter an entire Italian division camped in the mountains, where they trick the more than 9,500 odd Italians into surrendering to them instead of submitting. This further denotes that Farley Mowat unofficially removed all Italian trucks and their drivers in the Canadian army so that the unit could drive rather than walk. The change was inevitable and complete during the winter of 1943 when the first division of the Canadian military was involved in the Orton and the Moro River’s bloody battles.

The young idealistic adventurer who joined the military in 1939 happily undertook his part and perhaps had fun is gone. Besides, in front of them is a cynical and very frightening survivor who has seen numerous of his colleagues fall around him. Finally, the book ends unfinished, suddenly with a shocked and tired Farley Mowat. He just evacuated from the muddy battlefield that has caused the death of numerous friends, all the characters introduced to us in the book. After the end of the battle, Farley Mowat briefly states that he was transferred and promoted to a staff position at the brigade headquarters.

In conclusion, he suggests that the rest of the war for him has passed without significant incidents, claiming the reason behind ending his memoirs. Although it almost seems that the narrator or the character has become fatal, Farley would have survived the battlefield war with minor physical injuries which would have come out unscathed. Growing up like any other human in Canada, I would have liked to have embraced an integral part of him dying hard on that battlefield and eventually becoming a winner. Moreover, through the book pages, I was transported to various distant lands, having a keen sense of belonging as one of the fighters on the battlefield in his adventures and travels.


Greenhous, Brereton. “And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat.” The Canadian Historical Review 61, no. 3 (1980): 404-405.


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