WWII GI’s tips on manners


Don’t laugh at how they talk. Don’t make fun of their money. And don’t imply that they would have lost World War I if it weren’t for us Yanks.

Those were a few of the tips given to GIs stationed in England during World War II. They appear in a reprint that I bought recently. “Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942” was issued by the War Department in Washington.

Most of the U.S. troops stationed in England before the invasion of Europe had never been abroad before. Sometimes, their remarks and attitudes irritated the British, who had been fighting Hitler since 1939.

A few highlights from the booklet:

— Don’t re-fight old wars. If you’re from an Irish-American family, don’t think of the British as persecutors. Don’t compare British soldiers to the Redcoats we fought during the Revolution, either. Remember that the British and Americans are much alike. We speak the same language and believe in representative government.

— The British are reserved, not unfriendly. England is a small, crowded country where people guard their privacy. They are shy, and not given to back-slapping. If they don’t talk to you on a bus or train, they simply don’t want to seem intrusive or rude. Be aware of their slang: “bloody” is a swear word; “bum” is a term for a person’s backside.

— English money. The British like their system of pounds, shillings and pence. “They won’t be pleased to hear you call it ‘funny money.’”

— Don’t be a show off. GIs are paid more than any soldiers in the world. British troops are touchy on that subject, and “they won’t think any better of you for throwing money around.” Don’t belittle them or steal their girls.

— Don’t boast. Don’t tell a Britisher that “we came over and won the last one.” Britain lost nearly 1 million men in World War I; America lost 60,000 men in action. “Remember that crossing the ocean doesn’t automatically make you a hero. There are housewives in aprons and youngsters in knee pants in Britain who have lived through more high explosives in air raids than many soldiers saw in first-class barrages in the last war.” To date, Nazi bombs have killed 60,000 British civilians.

— Hardships at home. Times are tough. To help the war effort, British houses haven’t been painted, parks and gardens have gone untended and trains have grown grimy. Food, clothes, cigarettes and gasoline have been rationed.

— Don’t knock the king. Personal rule by the king ended nearly 1,000 years ago. Today, he reigns but does not govern. The British love and respect him.

— Getting along. Yes, the British drive on the left side of the road, drink warm beer and enjoy cricket, soccer and rugby. Just remind yourself that such things “belong to England, just as baseball and jazz and Coca-Cola belong to us.”

And finally, “It is always impolite to criticize your hosts, and militarily stupid to criticize your allies.”


Article posted automatically from www.PathfinderOnline.co.uk, the UK's first historical military online magazine.

Comments welcome!

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