It could have been written yesterday.
Forces TV has gained access to a rare recruiting booklet for the British Army from September 1946 just one year after the end of World War 2.
With its then cutting edge 'graphic art' front cover with 'monumentalistic' and 'futurist' tones, the recruiting booklet is primarily addressed to young men who did not serve during the Second World War.
A notice at the front informs readers that men over thirty who "served during the Emergency and wishes to rejoin" can apply for a short service scheme.
The literature is not only valuable as a historical document but it also offers us a unique insight into the British Army after one of the most painful moments in history.
Rebuilding The Army After Devastation
The booklet starts on an unsurprisingly sombre tone outlining the need for security in the world after the horrors of World War II.
The need for the British Army to recruit broadly after losing so many good men in the First and Second World Wars is clear.
A private on entry can look forward to earning 28 shillings a week – that’s about £55 in today’s money.
If you’re able to make it up to being a Major-General you’ll be paid nearly four times that amount a day - £5 and 10 shillings – that’s nearly £200 in today’s money.
Readers are quickly put in their place however when the book states quite clearly:
“But that is a rank whose remuneration only need concern you in the future...”
The Spirit Of Adventure
By the end of the Second World War Britain was firmly losing the grasp of its once mighty empire.
The Army tried to appeal to young men’s sense of adventure and the need to escape “‘civilian nightmares’ of food, clothing and housing”.
The booklet imagines a young recruit William (‘commonly known as Bill’) joining the British Armed Forces.
We’re helpfully reminded that William could quite easily be “Tom, Dick, Harry, Pat, Jock or Taffy”!
William, perhaps unsurprisingly, immediately takes to the Army “sleeping soundly, enjoying the open-air life and being cured his catarrh.”
It’s touching to see that while the culture and roles of the British Armed Forces has naturally come forward some way since WW2 (recruiters now appeal to the Wilmas and the Harriets not just the Toms and Dicks) many of the same arguments are being put forward in 21st century recruitment videos.
Comradeship Old And New
The bulk of the booklet outlines the wide variety of options available to the young recruits.
The ‘careers for boys’ shows off the then seven-year-old Royal Armoured Corps, the historic Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers.
Smaller Corps including the Army Dental Corps and the Army Catering Corps are sold just as well to young William.
If he manages to make it all the way to the end a full list of jobs available in the British Infantry is made available.
Anything from a Bugler to a Sniper, a Postman to a Batman is there on offer.
Few organisations have such a rich history of traditions and wide-ranging cultures.
Literature like this can offer a snapshot of the British Army at a pivotal time in history and offer an insight into the values of those who participated in it.
As the booklet itself states...
“...above all, soldiering gives the opportunity for Service to the Country and to the cause of humanity and justice in many lands...”
Many Thanks To Forces Network Reader Frank Childs for donating this booklet.