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Tag: War Culture

On Reading an Account of the Battle of Britain without Words

Written by Tony Pratley.

The story of the Battle of Britain, when written down, almost always begins with a quote.  It is not a rule, more a convention.  ‘What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.’ Winston Churchill’s famous declaration even introduced the opening title sequence of the film Battle of Britain (1969).  Chroniclers in search of something less common do have plenty of choice.  King George VI, ‘I feel happier that we have no allies to be polite to and pamper.’  Air Chief Marshall Dowding, ‘thank God we are alone now.’  Even Hermann Goering, ‘we’d forgotten the English fought best with their backs to the wall.’ Any one of these quotes will do and it will set the narrative agenda, telling the reader that the story to follow will be about an extraordinary episode in the life of an exceptional nation.   It is an oft-repeated tale – a myth, a ‘memory’, a confection of fact and fiction. Whatever it is, though, is of little concern here. I am more interested in the story-teller.  This is because, since the beginning of the 1990s, there have been more and more occasions when words won’t do.  Such an occasion will be outdoors and involve a crowd numbered in the thousands, and then a Spitfire flypast will do very well instead.

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CFP: ‘Keep Smiling Through’: British Humour and the Second World War

Two-day interdisciplinary symposium – 12/13 September 2019

University of Kent

In conjunction with Special Collections and Archive, home to the British Cartoon Archive

In wartime, as circumstances become increasingly bleak with military losses and civilian deaths mounting, something very distinctive happens to humour. There is an evident demand for an opportunity to laugh: a release from the increased working hours, the separation from loved ones, the dual burdens of work and maintaining a household, the fear of sustaining battle wounds and death. Indeed, war and comedy are intimately connected. In the Second World War, variety shows which included comedy sketches and humorous songs performed for servicemen provided an essential means of respite from both the boredom and the horror of battle, while home front popular culture, in the form of radio programmes, feature films, documentary films, newsreels, cartoons and songs, parodied the conflict and were crucial morale-boosters as the war evolved into a protracted struggle. But it was more than just a coping strategy and a form of escapism; it was also a key element of ‘Britishness’. As Sonya Rose asserts, humour served to define British national character, much of which was constructed in opposition to the humourless Nazis. And of course since 1945, the Second World War has sparked the imagination of scriptwriters. Unlike the First World War, the cultural memory of the later war is replete with stories about the conflict that use humour as a device.

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New Publication: Linsey Robb and Juliette Pattinson (eds.), Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War

Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War. In this new edited volume, Linsey Robb (Northumbria University) and Juliette Pattinson (Head of the School of History at the University of Kent) bring together collected essays exploring British masculinities and male culture during the Second World War. Focusing on combatants, prisoners of war, and civilians, the volume tracks the gendering of war through its varied male experience. The volume also considers how male culture…

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When Propaganda (Studies) Began

Written by Stefan Goebel. It was during the First World War that the modern age of propaganda began. Propaganda has, of course, a much longer tradition, but the years 1914-1918 mark a watershed. Propaganda became a central plank of the war effort, pervading public (and private) life. Moreover, it was during this war that the contours of a new academic subject – propaganda studies – began to emerge. Official propaganda grew from being a sideshow…

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