“Two minutes later, a man called Chamberlain who did Prime Minister impressions spoke on the wireless; he said, “As from eleven o’clock we are at war with Germany.” (I loved the WE.)
“War?” said Mother.
“It must have been something we said,” said Father.”
You are barely a page into the first volume of Spike Milligan’s famous war memoirs, when you realise that this is not your routine war journal. Well, it would not be, given the fact that Spike Milligan was one of the world’s greatest comics (he was a part of the legendary The Goon Show). That is not to say that Adolf Hitler and indeed other historical characters have no role to play in this delightful little book, which is barely about a hundred and fifty pages. Oh yes, and there is a lot about the Second World War as well. But unlike other books about the conflict, this one is going to leave you in splits.
Yes, war is a serious matter. People die in it. And Adolf Hitler was a formidable person. But then in the hands of Spike Millighan, everything and everyone just becomes part of one marvellous or another sublime pun. And this book is just packed with them. The humour is often dark and is not for the faint of heart, for Milligan does not shy away from using expletives – a character describes the evacuation at Dunkirk (oh yes, the one on which that hyped film is based) as “ It was a fuck up, a highly successful fuck up.”
The story in basically Milligan recounting his days in the army during the World War. It is a diary of sorts written in first person. But of course, Milligan would not make it a grim, gritty narrative, would he? No sir, this is a book that is determined to make you laugh. And it will. Again and again. You might sometimes feel guilty laughing at the way in which something so important in historical terms is treated as an out and out farce, but you will notice only after you have recovered from yet another giggling fit. Whether it is parade, training or surviving an air raid, Milligan just keeps the gags coming so much so that the book at times feels like one sublime (if occasionally profane) stand upcomic session. You might not end up learning a lot about the Second World War through it – although there are some clever hints about life and military culture – but you will end up laughing a fair bit.
What better reason to read a book? Read this one and discover that in the hands of Spike Milligan, even war can be a laughing matter!
Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall by Spike Milligan is available on Amazon.