INSTRUCTIONS FOR AMERICAN FORCES IN BRITAIN is a reissued version of a guide which was published by the US War Department and Department of the Navy after America’s entry into the Second World War.
The official advice in the guide was aimed at military personnel serving in Britain. Some of the advice now sounds funny but, at the time, it had a serious purpose: the US government was worried that American servicemen, who were paid considerably more than their British counterparts, might behave in a way which aggravated their war time allies.
As a result, the guide discourages US servicemen from drawing attention to their pay, or stealing the girlfriends of British soldiers. In addition, attempts are made to prepare US servicemen for the reality of life in war time Britain.
In a diplomatic spirit, the guide draws attention to British achievements. The fact that the British have endured bombing is emphasized and, in a rather quaint turn of phrase, readers are told not to regard the British as “panty-waists”. The War Department also praises the sacrifices made by British women in uniform (“When you see a girl in khaki or air-force blue with a bit of ribbon on her tunic—remember she didn’t get it for knitting more socks than anyone else in Ipswich.”)
However, the advice also contains some statements which, even if true, were precisely of the sort which would might have caused friction with their British hosts (“The whole of Great Britain—that is England and Scotland and Wales together—is hardly bigger than Minnesota”).
Other advice from the book:
- To say: “I look like a bum” is offensive to their cars, for to the British this means that you look like your own backside
- British beer can “make a man’s tongue wag at both ends.”
- Almost before you meet the people you will hear them speaking ‘English”. At first you may not understand what they are talking about and they may not understand what you say.
- The great wild moors of Yorkshire in the north and Devon in the southwest will remind you of the Badlands of Dakota and Montana.
- Britain may look a little shop-worn and grimy to you The trains are unwashed and grimy.
- The English do not handle the ball as cleanly as we do, but they are far more expert with their feet.
- Cricket will strike you as slow.
- The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.
- Stop and think before you sound off about lukewarm beer, or cold boiled potatoes.
- Soap “… is so scarce that girls working in factories often cannot get the grease … out of their hair.”