Browned Off and Bloody-Minded The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-1945 Alan Allport

Publication date:
12 Mar 2015
Yale University Press
424 pages: 235 x 156mm
22 b-w illus.
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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.

More about this title

Alan Allport is assistant professor of history at Syracuse University. He lives in Syracuse, NY.

'A welcome social history that tracks the views of the British soldiers, reluctant and otherwise, who were called up in the Second World War.' –Sue Baker, The Bookseller 

'...he has distilled a mass of wisdom, and gathered all manner of truths under one roof, with skill and judgement.' –Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

'The stories of these brave but bewildered civilians in uniform are as illuminating as searchlights in a dark age of traumatic war.' –Iain Finlayson, The Times

'Browned Off & Bloody-Minded is a deeply researched, well-written and perceptive book that tells the story of the citizen-soldiers who either joined up or were called up to fight, and of how their mores both affected the British Army and were affected by it, even long into peacetime.' –Andrew Roberts, Literary Review

'...achieves that rare goal of being both unputdownable and rigorously researched.' –Victoria Harris, TLS