From the list on the British Army.
Who am I?
In 2003-4 I spent a year in the British Army between school and university. Ten years later, having become a journalist, I returned to investigate what a decade of war had done to the institution I knew as an adolescent. In the years I spent researching and writing The Changing of the Guard I read reams of non-fiction. However, novels retain an ability to hit wider – or harder truths – and some of our greatest writers have fictionalised British Army life. Here is a selection of British Army novels, well-known and less so. They take in conflicts ranging from the First and Second World Wars through to Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.
Simon's book list on the British Army
Discover why each book is one of Simon's favorite books.
Why did Simon love this book?
This is the one First World War novel in which the characters actually talk like soldiers – i.e., they swear. It therefore provides a powerful counterpunch to our usual notion of what the trenches sounded like.
The scalding language survived intact due to the book’s complicated publication history. Initial release in an anonymous volume available only for subscribers meant that Manning, an Australian who had served on the Somme, could sidestep the mores of his time.
The result was lines like this: "“Fuckin' slave drivers, that's what they are!” said Minton, flinging himself on the ground. “What's the cunt want to come down ‘ere buggerin’ us about for, ‘aven't we done enough bloody work in th’ week?”” A bowdlerised version – “Her Privates We” – later followed, but the unexpurgated original is the one to read.
Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and T.E. Lawrence all praised Manning’s work.