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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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Northern Ireland’s War

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The Belfast writer Sam McAughtry was prompt to volunteer for military service when war came in 1939. He grew up in a fiercely Loyalist working class district, Tiger Bay, in the north of the city where there was a strong local tradition of joining the British forces and also the Merchant Navy. ‘There were no pacifists in Cosgrave Street’, he wrote later. ‘We thought highly of the Crown forces. When World War Two was more than a year off the men of my district joined the Territorial Army in hundreds. The annual bounty of eight pounds or so helped, of course, but the men would have joined anyway.’1 Sam McAughtry had ‘a good war’ and saw active aircrew service over North Africa and the Mediterranean but he also encountered what often seemed to him unthinking prejudice about where he was from at some of his postings in England: ‘Oddly, coming from a district which had provided so many men for the King’s colours, nobody had ever mentioned the fact that in the armed forces all Irishmen were Paddies, all the way up to and including officers.’2 He learned to shrug this off but at one point a fellow Belfast recruit called Burgess was wrongly blamed for a fire in an aircraft hanger. A court martial loomed and McAughtry made it known he was willing to be a witness for his comrade. A Squadron Leader assigned to investigate the charge ascertained their origins and then put a question to...

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