Quote of the Day

Regular soldiering with its grumbling rhythm of fatigues and leaves, its alternation of activity and inertia was not up his street, but the war was different. How it was different must be precisely stated; there are few slights more cruel than the careless condescension of posterity. It is too easy to imagine that the war came just in time to give meaning to the lives of a generation of misfits. This was exactly the stereotype from which my father and his generation tried so hard to escape. They hated the prospect of bloodshed; they hated the reality; above all they hated the glorification of it. Their anti-heroism was not just a modish pose, like that of schoolboys pretending to have done no work for an exam; it went down deep. They were wary to the bottom of their boots; they searched out bombast and cant with the professional mistrust of a customs officer; they touched patriotism only with a bargepole; nor did they expect to find personal redemption in battle. Even now most of them do not speak of their experiences, except glancingly as of something it would be affected to avoid speaking of; they are whippet-quick to forestall the boredom of the young by changing the subject. Ordinary veterans of the last war do not go in for pushing pepper pots around to illustrate the dispositions at Alamein; that is for the generals.

Ferdinand Mount, The Man Who Rode Ampersand