Spike Milligan was one of the great comic writers of the world. He wrote for radio, stage and screen, and eventually a few novels. This is the first part of a series relating to his involvement in World War 2.
There were the deaths of some of my friends, and therefore, no matter how funny I tried to make this book, that will always be at the back of my mind… they would have been first to join in the laughter… (Preface)
The book records shows some dismay at the world, and how ridiculous we humans are when we really put our minds to it. And for that view, of the joy and horror we are able to inflict on one another, I think it is a must read.
The experience of being in the army changed my whole life. (Preface)
Aside from the death and destruction of war, Milligan’s career in music and comedy also began.
In war survival of the people we care about is always in question. It is shocking how, in basic and safe surrounds, people Milligan knew could die or lose limbs due to the equipment and circumstances.
One of the men on Bofor guns forward was washed overboard…Poor bastard. (p.133)
The book is not long, so it feels to move quickly, and constant expectation of some jeopardy does aid turning the page. Above this however, and over any time pressure and haste from the characters, is the voice of Milligan. It is entertaining, and the reader wants to be entertained.
As far as the Irish were concerned, he was sabotaging the British war effort, and the way he cooked they weren’t far out. (p. 50)
The world is Milligan’s memories. He admits to emblemising some elements for humour, though these seem rather obvious (as above for the Irish opinion). The believability is in the brevity, and the common language he uses. The reader trusts Milligan’s accounts.
A good lesson on why war and fighting makes even less sense than the nonsense Milligan often inspires.