A Quick Guide to England for Second World War American Service Personnel

American officers from Oregon, New York and Chicago take tea in a house in Winchester, Hampshire in 1944. <a href=http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205201157>Photo Credit</a>
American officers from Oregon, New York and Chicago take tea in a house in Winchester, Hampshire in 1944. Photo Credit

The normal Englishman isn’t rude but shy, said a pamphlet published in 1944 and scheduled for re-publication by the Imperial War Museum.

That’s what the visiting American soldiers were advised by the British Council in an attempt to charm them.

Hints in the leaflet, written by Thomas Burke, said many traits of Englishmen were influenced from overseas, large regional variations within a small portion of land, and the differences in landscape.

Three or four times per day the weather can change, that’s why there are so many conversations about the weather, it pointed out. As for the stiffness of Englishmen, that’s a cover to hide shyness.

In addition, the Englishman is very passionate while simultaneously hesitant about exhibiting feelings, sentimental, romantic, warm-hearted but uncomfortable with enthusiasm and sensitive but conditioned to mask it.

There is also information about the differences between those who live in the north and south. Northerners are frank in their speech and manner while Southerners appreciate the good life.

Although an Englishman is heroic and patriotic at heart, he is visibly serious only about small things such as his car, dog, gardening, racing, and cricket.

Even though there are many aspects of English life unsatisfactory to foreign eyes, an Englishman can’t defend them, and no attempt is made to do so. He prefers to agonize and grumble. It is a portion of individualism, The Telegraph reported.

A museum spokesperson said the information was designed to assist the 1.5 million American armed services members to cope with the culture shock being posted to England, illuminating the frank contradictions and not-so-logical customs.

The museum hardback edition of The English and Their Country: For Overseas Forces is available starting October 20.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE