Demobbed Coming Home After World War Two Alan Allport

Publication date:
15 Oct 2010
Yale University Press
280 pages: 229 x 152mm
16 b-w plate section
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Snapshots of gaiety and celebration - the street parties, the victory speeches - are how some people today think of Britain in 1945. But the years following the end of World War II were far from a 'golden age' of pride and self-confidence. The country was troubled though triumphant, subject to continued rationing and political change. Wracked by social disorder, austerity and disillusion, Britain was exhausted - and it was the return of those men who had fought for their country who seemed to be a root cause of the trouble.

Demobbed is the real story of what happened when millions of ex-servicemen returned home. 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 labour force. Civilians worried that their homecoming heroes had been barbarized by their experiences and would bring crime and violence back from the battlefield. 'Problem veterans' preoccupied the entire country. Alan Allport draws on their personal letters and diaries, on newspapers, reports, novels and films to illuminate the darker side of the homecoming experience for ex-servicemen, their families and society at large - a gripping tale that's in danger of being lost to national memory.

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Winner of the Longman–History Today Book of the Year Award

Alan Allport is a postdoctoral lecturer at Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, NJ.

"Demobbed is a detailed and sympathetic examination of this difficult story ... [it] manages to wear its erudition lightly and has a pleasing, easy style." -Roger Moorhouse, BBC History Magazine

"Millions of men – who in many cases had been away for years – returned to their families in 1945. But was it a happy homecoming? A new book tells their stories." -Daily Express

"After Belsen and Hiroshima silenced the world, the bells began to ring again. Suddenly it was summer in England and millions of ex-servicemen who had been uprooted from their lives and families to serve their governments in war were demobbed and returned home"-Birmingham Post

"Alan Allport has done a singular service in exposing at last some of the realities of the demobilization experience… a powerful and pioneering study of a topic which takes the familiar story of the war and reminds us how war messes up the lives of all those affected by its inexorable demands."-Richard Overy, Literary Review

"Insightful portrait of the men who returned home after the second world war…Refreshingly free of jargon but also remarkably moving." -Dominic Sandbrook, Financial Times

"Impressive study... This is a sympathetic study of an important part of recent social history." -T.B, Contemporary Review