Richard Overy

‘So You’re Back Then’

Demobbed: Coming Home After World War Two


Yale University Press 259pp £20 order from our bookshop

So much historical attention is devoted to the dramatic moments of combat in the Second World War that we are inclined to forget that in an age of mass armies, the mobilisation and demobilisation of millions of young men and women was in itself an extraordinary story. A large fraction of the (predominantly male) population was taken away, put in uniform, trained to fight and kill, and then, after years of an unreal existence of bored camp life, interspersed with moments of acute drama, fear, danger and loss, unceremoniously dumped back into civilian life almost as if nothing had happened. The dead were generally honoured as fallen heroes; the living returned without memorial.

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