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What leads a man to join the Army? To fight and perhaps die for his country? To enjoy a semi-monastic life among his comrades? To belong to a regiment in which he can take pride? To obey orders? Or simply to escape from poverty into a secure environment. An in-depth study of the character and spirit of soldiers, rich in narrative and anecdote. This poignant account of military lives takes as its starting point interviews with Chelsea Pensioners, whose army service spans the 20th century and who have seen action from World War I to Korea. Ziegler is fascinated by the values that war veterans share, and which the army inculcated in them: self-discipline, acceptance of risk and pain, patriotism, and solidarity with their fellow soldiers. Of course there is sometimes bigotry, narrow-mindedness and even blinkered stupidity. The author also addresses the question of whether army values are still admired in contemporary British society. But above all, this book celebrates the lives and attitudes of soldiers and comes to an understanding of the ethos that means so much to them.
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Fascinating, in-depth study of the character and spirit of soldiers. Rich in narrative and anecdote, this involving, poignant and important book takes as its starting point interviews with Chelsea Pensioners whose lives in the army span the 20th century, and who have seen action from the First World War to Korea.

About the Author

Philip Ziegler is the author of London at War, the biographer of, among others, Diana Cooper, Mountbatten, Harold Wilson and Edward VIII, and a historian of the Black Death. He is a skilled and sensitive interviewer and regards this book as the most important he has written.


"Intensely moving, humbling, heartening - this is a handsome book" * The Times * "One of the most experienced and versatile biographers of his generation" * Observer * "The great virtue of this book is that with Ziegler's help, nice remarkable men who might otherwise have remained unchronicled, have written their dispatch and each has a gripping tale to tell" * Evening Standard *

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