Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library

Demobbed: Coming Home After World War Two

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    What happened when millions of British servicemen were "demobbed"-demobilized-after World War II? Most had been absent for years, and the joy of arrival was often clouded with ambivalence, regrets, and fears. Returning soldiers faced both practical and psychological problems, from reasserting their place in the family home to rejoining a much-altered labor force. Civilians worried that their homecoming heroes had been barbarized by their experiences and would bring crime and violence back from the battlefield. Drawing on personal letters and diaries, newspapers, reports, novels, and films, Alan Allport illuminates the darker side of the homecoming experience for ex-servicemen, their families, and society at large-a gripping story that's in danger of being lost to national memory.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17016-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-12)

    The letter, found amongst Cyril Patmore’s belongings by the Metropolitan Police, was undated, but was sent around July 1945. By then Patmore’s wife Kathleen must have already told her husband, who’d been abroad on active service for three years, that she was expecting the baby of an Italian prisoner of war. ‘By now I’m wondering if you are caring to get any letter from me,’ she wrote, ‘but I feel I must keep on writing until I see you again or you tell me not to.’ The letter didn’t make it clear whether she yet knew that Cyril had been...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Now This Bloody War is Over
    (pp. 13-49)

    It was the dehydrated potatoes that started it. The crew had been promised real, honest-to-goodness spuds for lunch. They had peeled them lovingly the night before. But someone had blundered in the galley. Now they were being served up a runny goop looking, one of them complained, ‘like rice pudding’. The men weren’t happy one bit. Then there was the corned beef. They didn’t like the look of that either. They were always having corned beef. Wasn’t it time to do something? Take a stand?

    The morning of 6 October 1945 had started off normally enough for the officers and...

  7. CHAPTER TWO So, You’re Back Then
    (pp. 50-80)

    The Firth of Clyde, a warm summer evening in June 1945. Corporal H.A. Wilson returns home from Greece after four years overseas. ‘The ship slowly edged its way round Gourock and came within view of the mainland,’ he wrote in his diary:

    I gazed in silent wonder at the fresh greenness, the hedged fields, the velvet hills, and although my heart was as dry as dust I felt something stir within it. Yet I could only gaze and gaze as if I had never seen the country before. And all the others lined up at the rails and gazed too;...

  8. CHAPTER THREE My Faithless English Rose
    (pp. 81-106)

    Jock Cairns was drunk and angry by the time he got back to the house of his in-laws at 10.45 p.m. on 1 March 1945, but as witnesses told the police afterwards, no one thought he was capable of violence. After twelve pints and five double gins, it was a wonder that he could even stand. But barely fifteen minutes later, two people were going to be dead.

    After almost a year with the British occupation forces in Italy, Jock, a sergeant in the 697th Artizan Works Company, Royal Engineers, had been looking forward to his leave when he had...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR What the Hell Has Happened to This Country?
    (pp. 107-132)

    In February 1946 one ofPicture Post’s readers offered ‘a little advice and information’ to servicemen like himself newly returning home for demobilisation. ‘First of all,’ he wrote, ‘they should have replies ready for the following topical remarks’:

    (1)Did you have a good time, old chap?(This is asked with a frowning sort of look which saysI know you can’t tell me in front of the ladies!)

    (2)By Jove! You are lucky to have seen a bit of the world at the country’s expense!

    (3)You are looking jolly fit, old chap, but then of course you...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Clocking On
    (pp. 133-158)

    On the night of 11 September 1943, as the minesweeperHMS Circelay offshore of Salerno, Italy, taking part in the furious naval bombardment of the Allied invasion beachhead that had been established so precariously two days earlier, Royal Navy coder K.B. Huntbatch wrote up his daily diary entry as usual. His concerns that night had nothing to do with the furious battle raging within a few miles ofCirce, however. Huntbatch was thinking about the future:

    I’m afraid I want to do too many things, I am too moody. My greatest desire is to be a farmer in England,...

  11. CHAPTER SIX They Made Me a Fugitive
    (pp. 159-185)

    March, 1946: Maccabi House, Hampstead. A group of forty three people, most of them obviously ex-Forces – their tanned, muscular bodies squeezed awkwardly into brand-new demob suits – have assembled at this, the London headquarters of the international Jewish sports organisation, to discuss the re-emergence of an old and hated enemy. Veterans of Oswald Mosley’s antisemitic British Union of Fascists (BUF), banned in 1940, have begun to reorganise now that the war is over as the ‘British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women’. Though Mosley himself is keeping a low profile for the time being – he has only just been released from house...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Something Has Gone Wrong Inside My Head
    (pp. 186-210)

    HMSGoodall’s war ended at exactly 19.35 hours on the evening of Sunday, 29 April 1945, in the frigid waters of the Kola Inlet which snakes between the port of Murmansk and the Barents Sea nine miles to the north.Goodall, a 1,100-ton Captain-class frigate, had just left Murmansk earlier that Sunday as part of the Nineteenth Escort Group, its task to protect the twenty-seven merchantmen of the homecoming convoy RA-66 which was about to sail en route for the Clyde. For almost four years British sailors had been navigating the perilous 1,400-mile journey from Scotland to the Kola Peninsula...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 211-221)

    The story of ex-Corporal Simmons appears in T.H. Jubb’s poem ‘Demobbed’, published in a 1947 edition ofThe Adelphi. Arthur returns from the Second World War dreaming of cosy autumn evenings in a comfy chair, his son Bert tucked up in bed and Gladys curled up at his feet with hot cocoa and ‘a brisk fire in the sitting-room grate’. But he is in for a few nasty surprises. First of all, there is a crash-course in the realities of 1947 austerity. A penny railway journey now costs threepence; newspapers are twice their prewar price, and half the size. At...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 222-247)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 248-259)
  16. Index
    (pp. 260-265)