Civilians into soldiers is an examination of British Army life during the Second World War. Drawing on a wealth of official records and servicemen's personal testimonies it explores the ways in which male civilians were turned into soldiers through the techniques by which they were inducted into military culture. Newlands argues that their bodies were central to this process. Using strict physical regimes, the military authorities sorted men into bodily types that reflected their cultural assumptions and sought to transform them into figures that they imagined to be ideal. However, soldiers' bodies were often far from ideal and served to frustrate these designs. While recruits were willing to engage in practices and routines that they found desirable they also resisted the army's demands by creating subversive bodily cultures.
This book follows the chronological experiences of army personnel, from their recruitment and training to their confrontations with wounding and death, tracing the significance of the body throughout. It analyses the extent to which the British Army organised compliance and relied on consent to achieve its objectives, the ways in which resistance was manifested and experienced, and what can be drawn from these instances by way of larger observations about wartime society in general. By examining soldiers' embodied experiences it also illuminates broader issues of gender, class, national identity and emotional life. As such, this study makes a major contribution to military history, medical history and the social and cultural history of Britain in the Second World War.
Civilians into soldiers will appeal to academics and students interested in British social and cultural history, military medicine and war studies.