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The Second World War Through Soldiers' Eyes (Hardback)

British Army Life 1939-1945

WWII Women of History

By James Goulty
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781781592984
Published: 16th May 2016

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As featured in Hexham Courant

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'What was it really like to serve in the British Army during the Second World War?

Discover a soldier's view of life in the British Army – from recruitment and training to the brutal realities of combat. Using first-hand sources, James Goulty reconstructs the experiences of the men and women who made up the 'citizen's army'. Find out about the weapons and equipment they used; the uniforms they wore; how they adjusted to army discipline and faced the challenges of active service overseas.

What happened when things went wrong? What were your chances of survival if you were injured in combat or taken prisoner? While they didn't go into combat, thousands of women also served in the British Army with the ATS or as nurses. What were their wartime lives like? And, when the war had finally ended, how did newly demobilised soldiers and servicewomen cope with returning home?

The British Army that emerged victorious in 1945 was vastly different from the poorly funded force of 865,000 men who heard Neville Chamberlain declare war in 1939. With an influx of civilian volunteers and conscripts, the army became a ‘citizen’s force’ and its character and size were transformed. By D-Day Britain had a well-equipped, disciplined army of over three million men and women and during the war they served in a diverse range of places across the world. This book uncovers some of their stories and gives a fascinating insight into the realities of army life in wartime.

By skillfully blending the narrative with first-hand accounts, Goulty has produced a well-written and compelling read.

Journal of the Second World War Experience Centre

An interesting read and one that does well in describing what the experience of serving in WW2 was like for the British soldier.

Read the complete review here.

Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

Made up of five chapters called Call-Up and Training; Life on Active Service; Enduring Active Service; Prisoner of War Experiences and Casualties and Medical Matters the book is rounded off by an extensive bibliography listing a large number of county records, IWM interviews and secondary sources.

There are a few black and white photographs in the centre of the book but you will not be distracted by them, as the text is thoroughly engaging from the start the to finish as you digest personal stories from the mundane every day routine events through to the horror of full blown conflict.

While this is a very personal book, for many it will also prove to be a great resource and reference for the future.

Military Modelling, 4803

As reviewed in

The Northumbrian

The book is well structured with chapters on call-up and training, life on active service, enduring active service, prisoner of war experiences, and casualties and medical matters. Within each chapter are sub chapters and thus in, for example, the enduring active service chapter, there are separate sections dealing with battle fatigue, desertion and self-inflicted wounds; discipline in the field; welfare and entertainment, and so on.

The author has drawn on much original source material and whilst there is perhaps an over-reliance on material from archives in the north-east, I suspect that this doesn’t matter too much as a Tyne and Wear soldier’s experiences would probably be found to be much the same as those of men from say, the Midlands, or Sussex.

James Goulty knows his stuff and more to the point, he also knows how to write engagingly; two essential characteristics of any military history book. I like this book a lot, and as we approach these milestone anniversaries for the conflict - 75 years, 80 years, 90 years etc - and public interest is sparked and sparked again, this book is going to come into its own more and more. This would suit school libraries very well, but it has a far wider audience than that and deserves to do well.

There is a good bibliography and index, but above all, the book has been well-written; it’s interesting and compelling and I for one will be keeping it close to hand for future reference.

Amazon, Old Soldier Sahib

James Goulty has utilised personal testimonies from the Imperial War Museum, Northumberland Archives and interviews he has carried out himself, combined with memoirs, diaries and written accounts from numerous archives including Durham County Records Office, Lincolnshire Archives, Tyne & Wear Archives to ensure first hand testimony in central to The Second World War Through Soldiers' Eyes.

Recollections of WWII

About James Goulty

James Goulty holds a masters degree and doctorate in military history from the University of Leeds. He has a special interest in the training and combat experience of the British Army during the two world wars and Korean War. He has made a particular study of archives relating to the service of individuals during the Second World War, among them the collection held at the Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds.

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