By Alan Allport
(Yale University Press, 395 pages, £25) This excellent book looks at the everyday experiences of ordinary British soldiers during the Second World War. The world that Alan Allport has discovered is far removed from the heroics shown in movies and TV programmes. It is a world of mindless tedium and low-level resentment about the pointlessness of drills. “We are blancoing our belts, while the Russians are beating the Germans,” complained one soldier in 1942.
Allport divides the history of the Army into three – the highly mmotivated pre-war reegulars and terrritorials who saw ser vice until the Fall of FFrance, training and equipping hunddreds of thousands of ‘unwwarlike’ recruits in the UUK.
FromF 1943 onwards, men were increasingly seeing service overseas. Fighting in Burma, Italy and France brought new sets of problems that the Army did not always successfully deal with. In particular, how did you motivate men longing for home, but forced to remain abroad for years at a time?
Yet for all their grumbling, the vast majority of men enjoyed their soldiering: “We wouldn’t have missed it for the world” is a common comment in interviews with old soldiers. This comprehensive and well-written book explains exactly why.
Simon Fowler is a professional
writer and history researcher