Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A touch of humour at Christmas

Most Christmases I try to find a humorous book to read. This year my choice has been to buy Al Murray's WATCHING WAR FILMS WITH MY DAD (published by Random House [ISBN 978 1 78 089109 5]).

I have always found Al Murray's 'Pub Landord' an amusing character to watch, but his TV series AL MURRAY'S ROAD TO BERLIN showed his genuine interest in and great enthusiasm for the history of World War II (he actually made a parachute jump over Arnhem with a group of veterans as part of the 60th anniversary commemoration) ... and I suspect that his book will go some way to explaining what I suspect might be his obsession.

The chapters are entitled:
  1. Watching Private Ryan : Watching war films with my dad
  2. War, what is it good for? : Absolutely nothing?
  3. You only sing when you're winning : N-N-N-Nineteen
  4. Armchair Generals : Tea, cakes and flanking manoeuvres
  5. Paintballing : ... and you shall know them by the trail of emulsion
  6. Plastic scale-model kits : For when real life is just too big
  7. Action Man : The moveable fighting man
  8. A spot more Monty : For you the tour is over
  9. Interlude : Historiography: A (very) brief history of History in three Hs
  10. None but the brave : Ooh, you're so brave, going on stage
  11. Dumb down, deeper and down : If it's too hard I can't understand it
  12. Two sides to every story : Would you rather be right or happy?
  13. Always use the butter knife : 'Do as you would be done by'
  14. Watching war films with my kids : Seeing things in black and white
My final thought is that if Al Murray is not a wargamer ... then he certainly should be!


  1. Thanks for bringing that book to my attention Bob. I am going to buy a copy as a Christmas treat to myself :-)

  2. Alan Charlesworth,

    It was my pleasure.

    So I have read the introduction ... and if the rest of the book is as good, I have a good read to look forward.

    All the best,


  3. I'll have to turn up a copy. I grew up in a military family, my father a WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam vet, but he generally only had funny stories to tell. When I was very small, I thought everybody’s dad flew bombers, drove tanks or served on ships as I grew up around all these military families. Later I learned that there were a few people that actually did something else – go figure.

    But yes, funny stories about military life abounded and so I discovered the work of Bill Mauldin, the Stars and Stripes irreverent cartoonist. Eventually I collected some of the booklets printed up at the end of WWII and enjoyed them greatly. At one point I found that I was living only 15 minutes from where Bill Maulden was born, but apparently never returned in New Mexico. Our paths cross, but 50 years later and then the trail is somewhat cold, but the books continue to give me chuckles. Those perennial dog faces, Willie and Joe continue to be a truism in any age and in any army.

  4. That is all very well, but I think Al is going to have to work on his webbing - it is coming off at one shoulder and dangling around his waist like an old pair of braces. What would the CSM say!

  5. CoastConFan,

    I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, and like you I was surrounded by people who had lived through one or both World Wars. (My maths teacher at secondary school had served as an infantry officer during 1917 - 1918 on the Western Front.)

    My father served with 6th Airborne Division from 1944 until the end of the war, my maternal grandfather was a reservist who was part of the BEF and was wounded during the retreat from Dunkirk (and later served on troopships in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific), and most of my uncles (and some of my aunts) 'did their bit' in one of the armed services.

    I must admit that there were a fair number of humorous stories told about the war ... but also some pretty grim ones, and as a child I knew a little about how bad the experience could be.

    I know of the Bill Maulden cartoons and the characters could have served in almost any army in the world. Combat soldiers - regardless of nationality - often seem to have more in common with their opponents than they do with some of the people on their own side.

    In the UK the nearest cartoon equivalents that I know of are some characters called 'Two Types' that were created by the cartoonist 'Jon' (William John Philpin Jones). They are representative of the British Officer-class but are still worth looking at as they are also representative of typically British humour.

    All the best,


  6. Martin Rapier,

    I suspect that the one-sided conversation would sound something like this:
    'Murray, you 'orrible little man! Call yerself a co-mead-ian? The sight of you is making my sides split with laughter ... I don't think! Get yerself properly dressed ... then get up that beach and get stuck in!'

    All the best,



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