Of the three and a half million men who served in the British Army during the Second World War, very few were soldiers before the conflict or wanted to stay in the armed forces after it. Browned Off and 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. Although generalisations are unavoidable when dealing with such a massive subject, the acuity with which the British-born author, an assistant professor at Syracuse University in New York, has approached his huge number of sources thankfully keeps them to a bare minimum. This is Second World War history writing at its best, and there is as much here about culture and society as about tactics and strategy.
For all that their parents had experienced in the Great War, nothing could really prepare the 1939 generation for what to expect in their struggle with the Germans and, especially, the Japanese. Alan Allport is good at putting the reader into the mind-set of a new recruit during the training