‘When in Doubt Brew Up’

Discussion in 'General' started by Charley Fortnum, Feb 25, 2017.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    ‘When in Doubt Brew Up’:
    By Deborah Montgomerie - New Zealand Journal of History, 48, 2 (2014)

    LET US START WITH A STORY. It is 1941, or maybe early 1942. Trevor and Red, two infantrymen, are bivouacked in the North African desert waiting for a German attack. The pair keep watch from their slit trench, waiting for dawn and wondering if warm food will be brought into the line. Sure enough, before long some beans appear for breakfast. After that there is nothing to do but smoke and wait for something to happen, listening to the gunfire in the distance. ‘Silver Fern ... Only the best, that’s all. What a godsend that parcel was.’1 But New Zealand tobacco, like New Zealand memories, needs to be carefully husbanded. The war, like the day described in the story, is seemingly endless: ‘Go easy on it boy. We don’t know how long it’s got to last. We’d better roll racehorses.’2 The men’s future is alluded to in their hope that might be worth eking out some cigs to smoke tomorrow. Their past is conjured in a brief fantasy about sitting in a pub back home with a schooner of beer or a rum and raspberry.

    Eating and drinking are simultaneously expressions of people’s most basic needs and the occasion for some of their most complex cultural interactions. Food, the sociologist Ian Carter reminded us in his essay ‘Eternal Recurrence of the Trivially New’, is a double-coded cultural symbol.3 Food is a biological necessity but it is also an area of our lives where we exercise choice, choice shaped by both our personal likes and dislikes and wider cultural norms. Carter takes part of the title of his essay from Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s phrase ‘eternal recurrence’ was tagged to the essay to capture the individualistic, here- and-now-ness of food’s cultural significations. The second phrase of the title alerts us to the tendency to treat the details of foodways, food experiences and food memories as trivialities – part of the background noise of our lives and our history. This article looks at the way food stories and food imagery were used in the memoirs written by New Zealand soldiers who served overseas in World War II. Like Carter, I am interested in the eternally recurrent aspects of the cultural meanings attached to food culture, arguing that soldiers told food stories as a way of alluding to their bodily needs and those other eternally recurrent aspects of military life, boredom, institutionalization, and the possibility of death. I am also interested in food and food stories as a way in
    which soldiers could draw attention to relationships, both to other soldiers and to the people they left at home. Self-reliance and choice are other themes of the stories. Their food stories allowed them a means to present themselves as independent and self-governing, like Nietzsche’s Übermensch, ‘standing free, lonely and defiant against the world’.

    Continued Here (with photographs):

    There are some 'theory' parts (like the above) which are - frankly - badly written, but there are also some very interesting details and memories later in the essay.
  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Another look at the Kiwis - and a really good one so far:

    ‘As a matter of fact I’ve just about had enough’;
    Battle weariness and the 2nd New Zealand Division during the Italian Campaign, 1943-45.

    by Ian Clive Appleton


    By the time that the 2nd New Zealand Division reached Italy in late 1943, many of the soldiers within it had been overseas since early 1941. Most had fought across North Africa during 1942/43 – some had even seen combat earlier, in Greece and Crete in 1941. The strain of combat was beginning to show, a fact recognised by the division’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg. Freyberg used the term ‘battle weary’ to describe both the division and the men within it on a number of occasions throughout 1944, suggesting at one stage the New Zealanders be withdrawn from operations completely.

    This study examines key factors that drove battle weariness within the division: issues around manpower, the operational difficulties faced by the division in Italy, the skill and tenacity of their German opponent, and the realities of modern combat. Critical to understanding the links between these factors and the weariness that manifested itself within the division are the words of the participating soldiers themselves.

    Three key outcomes of battle weariness are examined in some detail. Exposure to long periods of combat meant that a large number of the New Zealanders were at risk of becoming psychological casualties. Indeed, casualties diagnosed and recorded as exhaustion and neurosis, consistently reached over 20% of those wounded during the period in Italy. Declining morale became an issue for the leadership of 2nd New Zealand Division. Internal censorship of outgoing letters within the division was summarised at the time and these summaries provide an insight into a widespread gloomy outlook that featured throughout 1944. Not only did the letter writers reflect on the poor conditions they faced in Italy, but news from home appears as a significant driver of frontline morale. Lack of discipline – both in and out of the line – caused real concern to senior officers, and at times reached levels that appear to have become institutionalised. Three topics are explored: looting, the use of alcohol, and cases of combat refusal.

    This work then examines how the underlying issues driving weariness were addressed through the restructuring of the division, the replacement of long serving men, the use of new technologies, and a period of relief out of the line with an extensive training programme. Finally, the division’s performance during the final offensive in Italy in April 1945, is examined, to gauge the success of the changes made.

    CL1 likes this.
  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    While we're on the Kiwis, this documentary has been knocking on for a good while, but as it has a lot from veterans it's worth a watch:

    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
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