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Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (1971)

by Spike Milligan

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Abolutely hilarious and well written memoirs of Spike Milligan's time in the service (Part 1 at least). I love it, cannot wait to read more, he certainly has a talent for painting a vivid and often funny picture with his words. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 6, 2014 |
The first of Milligan's volumes of war memoirs is undoubtedly funny, and recounts the beginnings of his days in the British Army during the Second World War, where he would eventually meet the likes of Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers, leading to the eventual birth of the Goon Show. All that, of course, comes later, as there's still a war on to make the best of... ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Dec 13, 2013 |
Unique. ( )
  psiloiordinary | Jan 20, 2013 |
I remember watching Spike Milligan's television programmes (Q6, Q7, Q8 etc) as a teenager during the late 1970s. Even then, although there were moments in every programme that were absolutely hilarious, most of it struck me as really rather silly and anything but amusing. My father, generally hard to please in matters of comedy, would be convulsed while I sat watching and wondering how someone so intelligent could be so easily amused. I have always had the same reaction to The Goons - occasional brilliance largely submerged by fatuous drivel.
It was, therefore, with some hesitation that I picked up this slim volume of Milligan's recollections of his experiencse during the Second World War. I wish now that I had waited a bit longer. As with his television programmes and The Goons there were some absolute gems in this book. However, these were the exceptions cast among long periods of utter inanity. Sadly, the book wasn't even particularly well written, and I think that penguin Books would have been wiser to apply far stricter editorial scrutiny to this work.
I bought all seven volumes of Milligan's memoirs together on a special offer but now I just feel that, rather than waste valuable shelf space, I need to palm them off on the local hospice charity shop. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Oct 5, 2012 |
The only reason this isn't a 4-star read is that it wasn't long enough! Either that or my anticipation of future volumes in Spike Milligan's war memoirs had me getting ahead of myself. This first volume covers the beginning of WW2 up until his unit landed at Algiers in 1943. In it you will find plenty to chuckle over: dry-witted British humour, uproariously funny barracks-room humour (cue indulgent eye-rolling), and the mere presentation of situations that make you laugh at their absurdity. A prime example of the latter is the tale of D Battery's 9.2 howitzer, which they were supposed to train on but for which they did not have any ammunition. So when they practised firing, instead of firing a round they would have to shout "BANG!" in unison. And if you like so-horrible-they're-funny wisecracks, you will find those in abundance. "Can you play 'The Maple Leaf Forever'?" a Canadian officer asks Spike's band as they play at an army dance. Spike replies, "No sir, after an hour I get tired."

Speaking of music, Spike also spends part of the book talking about his beginnings as a jazz musician, playing in bands with his army comrades and even getting a chance to play with other talented amateur musicians on a BBC recording. There's also a great story about how they smuggle their instruments on board the ship taking them to Algiers, and another about stealing a double bass, whose introduction is footnoted with ""I haven't mentioned this before because I've been waiting for the original owner to die." What a rascal! There are many such antics in this book, which is really to be expected since he's writing about men in their 20s and younger.

But all levity aside, Spike does not shy away from the real impact of war. He writes movingly about visiting his family on leave and realizing just how deeply the war has affected them, and he details two rather gruesome incidents involving injuries to personnel: one accidental (involving a smoke shell jammed in a gun) and one deliberate (involving a Tommy gun). And in his introduction he notes that the friends he lost to the war were always in the back of his mind as he wrote.

Now that I've read this one I can't wait to start the second volume, entitled "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?" which looks to be a bit longer than this one. If you like British humour, particularly The Goon Show and others of that ilk, or WW2 memoirs, or even jazz music, this is worth a look. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 4, 2012 |
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I dedicate this book to Norma Farnes, my manager, who puts up with me
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September 3rd, 1939. The last minutes of peace ticking away.
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At Victoria Station the R. T. O. gave me a travel warrant, a white feather and a picture of Hitler marked "This is your enemy." I searched every compartment but he wasn't on the train...
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In this, the first of Spike Milligan's recollections of life in the army, our hero takes us from the outbreak of war in 1939, through his attempts to avoid enlistment and his gunner training in Bexhill to the landing at Algiers in 1943.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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