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Somalia is one of the world's most desolate, sun-scorched lands, inhabited by fierce and independent-minded tribesmen. It was here that Gerald Hanley spent the Second World War, charged with preventing bloodshed between feuding tribes at a remote outstation. Rations were scarce, pay infrequent and his detachment of native soldiers near-mutinous. In these extreme conditions seven British officers committed suicide, but Hanley describes the period as the 'most valuable time' of his life. With intense curiosity and openmindedness, he explores the effects of loneliness. He comes to understand the Somalis' love of fighting and to admire their contempt for death. 'Of all the races of Africa,' he says, 'there cannot be one better to live among than the most difficult, the proudest, the bravest, the vainest, the most merciless, the friendliest: the Somalis.'