This is a unique account of the ways in which British veterans of the Second World War remembered, understood, and recounted their experiences of battle throughout the post-war period. Focusing on themes of landscape, weaponry, the enemy, and comradeship, Frances Houghton examines the imagery and language used by war memoirists to reconstruct and review both their experiences of battle and their sense of wartime self. Houghton also identifies how veterans' memoirs became significant sites of contest as former servicemen sought to challenge what they saw as unsatisfactory official, scholarly, and cultural representations of the Second World War in Britain. Her findings show that these memoirs are equally important both for the new light they shed on the memory and meanings of wartime military experience among British veterans, and for what they tell us about the cultural identity of military life-writing in post-war British society.
Introduction; 1. Motive and the veteran-memoirist; 2. Penning and publishing the veteran's tale; 3. Landscape, nature, and battlefields; 4. Machines, weapons, and protagonists; 5. 'Distance', killing, and the enemy; 6. Comradeship, leadership, and martial fraternity; 7. Selfhood and coming of age in veteran memoir; 8. History, cultural memory, and the veteran-memoirist; Conclusion.
Frances Houghton is Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Manchester. She has contributed chapters to several edited volumes and her work has been published in the Journal of War and Culture Studies.