For more than seventy-five years, the British have been spinning myths about the Second World War. This was the conflict, we say, that made us who we are today. In 1939 we were a nation of country squires, slow to anger but steadfast in our defence of fair play and common decency. When Hitler attacked us we were completely unprepared and completely alone, but we stood up to him nonetheless. We survived only because of our ‘bulldog spirit’ and our genius for ‘muddling through’.
The generations who actually lived through the war usually take all this with a pinch of salt: they know that it is only half true and omits quite a lot of inconvenient and contradictory detail. But later generations seem more determined to accept these myths at face value. For the