Book Review: Monty: His Part in my Victory by Spike Milligan

Having rather enjoyed the first two volumes of Milligan’s war memoirs, I decided to return to the series. The book picks up shortly after the ending of part two, with Milligan and his comrades celebrating the fall of Tunis, and covers the four month period following this until Milligan’s unit is sent to Italy.

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The war is more or less quiet on Milligan’s front, with the post-victory period being a time of larking about, mischief making and military drudgery. Milligan’s writing rattles along at breakneck speed from gag to gag, and the slim volume flies back entertainingly. There are a few moments where Milligan uses terms and gags that feel dated and bigoted, but for the most part the humour revels in the absurd, the misadventures of the soldiers and the stupidity of some of the officers.

Milligan writes with clear fondness for the time spent with his fellow soldiers and the friends he made. The war feels quite far off apart from occasional appearances from planes, sea mines while swimming and being ordered to move about the North African coast. Milligan plays in a band and most of his engagements are on stage not on the battlefield.

As the book draws to a close Milligan and the others are loaded onto a boat bound for Salerno. He makes a reference to General Alexander warning Churchill that the situation was critical, but jokes that he would only find this out years later reading the general’s autobiography, and by then it was too late to worry.

There is however a sense that the easy living of North Africa is about to be forgotten as Milligan heads back to the war proper. It feels like a good place to end this volume, but it does mean that this is an extremely brief read.

Funny, witty and delightfully silly in places, Milligan captures the sense of young men trying to pass the time and the downtime during a war. It serves as an entertaining look at what life was like for these men, complete with how they talked and saw the world.

Verdict: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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