This was the first of seven volumes of Spike's war memoirs but it is also a comedy classic in its own right. First published in 1971, the book is peppered throughout with Milligan's gags, one-liners and surreal comic invention
Paul Merton's delivery of the gags, characters and Goonish events of the story vividly bring to life the experiences of the 22 year old Spike Milligan from call up through basic training in the early years of the war.
In part one, the young Milligan is called up but, owing to overexertion while trying to impress the girls from Catford Labour Exchange, arrives to join D Battery, 56th Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery in Bexhill on Sea three months late: I'll make up for it," he tells the Battery Sergeant Major, "I'll fight nights as well!".
Young Milligan is called up, but arrives late to join his unit.
Young Milligan is called up, but because he was trying to impress the girls from Catford Labour Exchange, he arrives late to join D Battery, 56th Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery, in Bexhill-on-Sea."
In part two, the battery endures those military meals" served by a team of cooks suspected of working for the Ministry of Bacteriological Warfare. At the same time Spike takes his first steps into show business when his newly formed band becomes the hottest jazz combo working in the Bexhill area.
Spike takes his first steps into show business.
Spike takes his first steps into show business when his newly formed band becomes the hottest jazz combo working in the Bexhill area."
Spike recounts the barrack room japes and pranks that went on after lights out, and recalls the marvellous army eccentrics he met. They included Gunner Octavian Neat, who would appear naked in the barrack room to ask: 'Does anybody know a good tailor?'.
This fourth episode recounts the chaos that ensues in a training exercise when Gunner Milligan omits the vital word practice" from the announcement of an invasion fleet in the Channel."
Spike is posted to Hailsham, where the Signal section indulges in a 'lie-in' contest. They amuse themselves during tours of duty with the first seeds of The Goon Show.
In the final episode, the battery is finally posted overseas. Spike enjoys an intense last minute affair with a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force before the long journey from Liverpool to Algiers, where he is billeted in a prisoner of war camp lying unused because the allies had so far failed to capture any Germans.