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Fighting for Britain?

Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War

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Wendy Ugolini and Juliette Pattinson

This edited collection focuses on the negotiation of national, geographic and cultural identities during the Second World War among the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Adopting a four nations approach, it contributes to our understanding of how pluralistic identities within the multinational state of Britain informed the functioning of Britishness during the conflict. In particular, it explores the ways in which Wales, Scotland and England related to the overarching concept of Britishness and analyses the relationships between Britain and the island of Ireland. This volume addresses wartime Britain as both a site of cultural contestation and of shared experience, exploring what «fighting for Britain» meant for those who served in the British armed forces as well as for those who did not fight in active combatant roles.
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Welshness, Welsh soldiers and the Second World War

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On the heights of El Rhorab, looking out through the Fondouk gap, and on the rocky hill that stands over Hammam Lif facing blue distances across the sea, two marble stones were raised later bearing the names of those who fell in battle, with the Regimental crest and motto ‘Cymru am Byth.’ Rupert Brooke wrote that where he fell would be ‘for ever England.’ So to the 3rd Battalion the hill tops by Fondouk and Hamman Lif are marked as ‘Wales for ever.’

— maj. l.f. ellis, Welsh Guards at War (1946)1

The Second World War is often thought of as a time when Britishness peaked. Some historians have argued that propaganda, bombing, the threat of invasion, the shared sacrifices of serving in the forces and enduring rationing all created a common sense of purpose amongst the British people, bringing together its different nations and regions. That sense of solidarity also cut across gender and class lines in a war where everyone was ‘in it’ together. This was a feeling that the state was only too keen to encourage and it helped ensure that the news and popular entertainment were dominated by the ‘shared national predicament.’2 Such perspectives ← 65 | 66 → have also been adopted by Welsh historians. John Davies’ seminal history of Wales argues that the war ‘did much to strengthen Britishness. At the same time, it seemed to be a death blow to Welshness.’3 Similarly, K.O. Morgan suggests that ‘Culturally the second world...

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