Instructions for British Servicemen in France, 1944 Hardback
Part of the Instructions for Servicemen series
In 1944 the British War Office distributed a handbook to British soldiers informing them what to expect and how to behave in a newly-liberated France. Containing candid descriptions of this war-ravaged society (widespread malnourishment, rampant tuberculosis) as well as useful phrases and a pronunciation guide (Bonjewer, commont-allay-voo), it was an indispensable guide to everyday life. This small, unassuming publication had a deeper purpose: to bring together two allies who did not enjoy ideal relations in 1944.
The book attempts to reconcile differences by stressing a shared history and the common aim - defeating Hitler.
It also tried to dispel misapprehensions: 'There is a fairly widespread belief among people in Britain that the French are a particularly gay, frivolous people with no morals and few convictions.' Often unintentionally hilarious in its expression of these false impressions, the book is also a guide for avoiding social embarrassment: 'If you should happen to imagine that the first pretty French girl who smiles at you intends to dance the can-can or take you to bed, you will risk stirring up a lot of trouble for yourself - and for our relations with the French.'Many of its observations still ring true today.
For example, 'The French are more polite than most of us.
Remember to call them "Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle," not just "Oy!"' Others remind us of how we recently we have adopted French customs: 'Don't drink yourself silly.
If you get the chance to drink wine, learn to "'take it".' Anyone with an interest in Britain, France or World War II will find this an irresistible insight into British attitudes towards the French and an interesting, timeless commentary on Anglo-French relations.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 72 pages, illustrations
- Publisher: The Bodleian Library
- Publication Date: 01/09/2005
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9781851243358
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by danielibrary
Interesting glimpse into history where the British troops are sensitised as to French customs of the time and encouraged to appreciate the alliance between the two countries during WWII.
Review by gbill
About twice the size of the similar booklet distributed to Americans prior to their deployment in England, but with the same ‘feel’ – a reminder of what the host country had been through, and guidelines to behave as proper representatives of the visiting country. This one also includes a brief history lesson of France and French phrasebook. The sections cautioning against the allure of French women that would likely be on soldier’s minds are interesting, as are the points made that British bombing of the Germans in France had killed civilians, and the naval blockage denied food to them – so that while the French embraced their liberators, there might be occasional unevenness in individual people’s reactions.Quotes:This one from Winston Churchill 8/31/43 as a preface:“You may be sure that France will rise again free, united, and independent, to stand on guard with others over the generous tolerances and brightening opportunities of the human society we mean to rescue and rebuild.”“You will often think that two Frenchmen are having a violent quarrel when they are simply arguing some abstract point. The excitement is all on the surface; fundamentally they are at least as tolerant as ourselves. The French, however, are not tolerant of authority – as the Germans have found to their cost. Their first reaction to a uniform or a regulation is not to obey unquestioningly, but rather to ask whether it is necessary and make disrespectful comments if they decide it is not. This is all part of the Frenchman’s deep belief in the individual. He is convinced of his right to think for himself and voice his criticisms aloud.”“Thanks to jokes about ‘Gay Paree’, ‘French farce’, and ‘Pictures from Paris’, there is a fairly widespread belief among people in Britain that the French are a particularly gay, frivolous people with no morals and few convictions. This is especially true at the present time, when the French have been living a life of hardship and suffering. But the idea of the French living a glorious orgy of ‘wine, women and song’ never was true, even before the war.”“If you should happen to imagine that the first pretty French girl who smiles at you intends to dance the can-can or take you to bed, you will risk stirring up a lot of trouble for yourself – and for our relations with the French.”