The British soldier's pocketbook
Date of publication: June 2006
Publisher: The National Archives
The reprint of the guide issued to British servicemen entering Germany offers a tantalising insight into the complexities facing the Allied forces 1944.
This soldier’s pocketbook from 1944, and the tale of its creation, reveal a fascinating moment of history: a snapshot of prejudices, expectations, assumptions and fears. It was created in conditions of secrecy to prepare British and Allied soldiers for entering and occupying Germany – but at a time when even victory was not guaranteed. What would they face? How would they be treated? How would they manage a population they were used to thinking of only as ‘enemy combatants’?
Part practical guide, part everyman’s history of the German people, part propaganda tool, it is an instantly absorbing window on an uncertain time. It shows how the Allied civilian and military command wanted to condition the ordinary serviceman’s thoughts about what he would encounter. Today’s reader will find here opinionated comment and crude stereotype, but also subtle insights and humour – intentional and unintentional. The pocketbook says as much about the mindset of its British compilers as it does about the German people or about the Nazi regime that eventually the soldiers would topple.
An illuminating Introduction, drawing on the National Archives’ unique original records, reveals the intelligence community’s misgivings and disagreements about the content of the pocketbook as it went through its various stages.
• Foreword by Charles Wheeler
• Introduction by Ed Hampshire
• Facsimile reprint of ‘Germany: A Pocketbook for Soldiers’