When I tell you that Milligan, legendarily, had the words “I told you I was ill” inscribed on his tombstone, you understand the sort of person you’re dealing with.
Most war movies, histories and biographies deal with the act of fighting, either to indicate how events unfolded or show acts of bravery. Less well covered is the fact that large parts of the British army spent years doing nothing but moving around England after Dunkirk.
That is the part that this section of Milligan’s memoirs covers. He has a range of other titles that detail his later activities in North Africa and Italy. As such, this is a short work (144 pages).
At first I wasn’t sure if he was simply spinning a yarn, such is his inherent zaniness, but as the general boredom of army life is laid bare you get to see the truth through his eyes — he was a man who could make any situation funny, and it’s probably what kept him sane.
It’s read by the author in his usual style, which is to say fast and exuberant. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was on fast-forward. This made it a little hard to keep up at first, but I soon got used to it.
It’s an entertaining insight into what went on in wartime Britain, for men who hadn’t yet been called into battle.