A new history of the wartime British Army,
from the author of the award-winning
Demobbed: Coming home After World War Two (2009)
More than three-and-a-half million men served in the British Army during the Second World War, the vast majority of them civilians who had never expected to become soldiers and had little idea what military life, with all its strange rituals, discomforts, and dangers, was going to be like.
Alan Allport’s rich and luminous social history examines the experience of the greatest and most terrible war in history from the perspective of these ordinary, extraordinary men, who were plucked from their peacetime families and workplaces and sent to fight for King and Country. Allport chronicles the huge diversity of their wartime trajectories, tracing how soldiers responded to and were shaped by their years with the British Army, and how that army, however reluctantly, had to accommodate itself to them.
Touching on issues of class, sex, crime, trauma, and national identity, through a colorful multitude of fresh individual perspectives, the book provides an enlightening, deeply moving perspective on how a generation of very modern-minded young men responded to the challenges of a brutal and disorienting conflict.
From the same author:
Winner of the 2010 Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award
A London Evening Standard Best Book of the Year 2009
A Scotsman Best Book of the Year 2009
Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times
Susan Pedersen, London Review of Books
Philip Ziegler, Spectator
Taylor Downing, History Today
What happened when millions of British servicemen were “demobbed”—demobilized—after World War II? Most had been absent for years, and the joy of arrival was often clouded with ambivalence, regrets, and fears. Returning soldiers faced both practical and psychological problems, from reasserting their place in the family home to rejoining a much-altered labor force. Civilians worried that their homecoming heroes had been barbarized by their experiences and would bring crime and violence back from the battlefield.
Drawing on personal letters and diaries, newspapers, reports, novels, and films, Alan Allport illuminates the darker side of the homecoming experience for ex-servicemen, their families, and society at large—a gripping story that’s in danger of being lost to national memory.
"Refreshing and fascinating ... an extremely interesting and lively read
which adds greatly to our understanding of the demobilisation process" -
Mark Connolly, Journal of Military History
"Splendidly rooted in its particular time and place, but with lessons
for 21st Century American readers seeking to understand why those returning from the battlefield
have a tough time settling down at home ... insightful and worthwhile" -
Martin Rubin, The Washington Times
"A highly impressive debut, demonstrating great scholarship ...
the most insightful text on the 1940s to have appeared this year" -
Ian Cawood, Times Literary Supplement
"A special and powerful book. It brims with scholarship, insight, detail, and compassion ...
Alan Allport does full justice to a forgotten part of a great generation" -
Peter Hennessy (Never Again: Britain 1945-51)
"A masterful study ... though the research behind the book has clearly been prodigious,
it nonetheless manages to wear its erudition lightly" -
Roger Moorhouse, BBC History Magazine
"Fascinating and disturbing ... a powerful and pioneering study" -
Richard Overy, Literary Review
"A particularly welcome addition to the field ... highly readable" -
Hester Vaizey, The Times Higher Education
"A powerful tale, wonderfully told" -
Peter Stansky (The First Day of the Blitz)
"Wonderfully researched, sensitively written and often very moving,
Demobbed tells an important, underappreciated story that still resonates today" -
David Kynaston (Austerity Britain, 1945-1951)
"Wry, humane, and eloquent ... Alan Allport shows how demobilised troops
sought a return to normalcy and at the same time realized that life would never be the same again.
Their stories linger with us still" -
Peter Mandler (The English National Character)
"A compelling, sobering, and thought-provoking picture" -
Juliet Gardiner (Wartime: Britain 1939-1945)
Available in paperback and Kindle
Order a copy on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk