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on 13 December 2002
Before there was Python, there were the Goons. And before the Goons, there was Spike Milligan. In the six-book series that begins with "Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall", Milligan charts his own odyssey through World War II.
There's plenty of Milliganesque lunacy here, many many laughs, and not a little pathos, all told in an unabashedly sentimental and frequently endearingly naive tone. From the first page, where "a man named Chamberlain who did Prime Minister impressions got on the radio and said we were at war with Germany" to induction, training and eventual departure for North Africa, Milligan captures the essential unpreparedness and paradoxically indomitable spirit that infused the British war effort. The results are touched both by Milligan's own manic humor and the black depression that was its counterpart, and against which he struggled for much of his life.
A warning- Milligan's prose is addictive. You will not be able to stop with "Hitler", but will be forced into the continuing story in "Rommel? Gunner Who?", "Monty: His Part in My Victory" and "Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall". It just gets more loony, but it's a must-read.
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on 22 February 2003
I'm usually not one to read autobios, but since it is Spike Milligan I made the exception. It was funny, just as I expected it to be, but there were parts that were very moving and sad; as should be expected I suppose for a WWII novel. His accounts of the absurd are always dead on hilarious, and I found myself reading a passage over and over and just cracking up.
I knew that Spike suffered from depression, and I think in parts it was very apparent. The places that are especially poignant are when he relates a humorous tale, and then explain how he visited the place years later, and how the memories are too much for him to bear. In one particular paragraph he laments: "Oh, Yesterday, how you plague me!"
I love Spike Milligan and his comedy, and have read several run-of-the-mill internet bios on him but his own biography really brings him to life. A great read!
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on 22 January 2010
If there was a nobel prize for comedy then this would surely have bagged the honour for Milligan. There are many many books, films , documentaries that focus on the bravery and valor of the men who fought in the second world war. This tells the story of the conscripts and threw the eyes of a genius in comedy circles. Gunner Milligan reveals ,and revels in, the absurdity of taking young men from normal civilian life and trying to train them for war. The japes, capers and general pissing about make this probably a more honest account of conscription than anything else you will ever read. Beautifully written (and ever more beautifully told on audiobook)it jumps seemlessly from hilarity to heartfelt sadness and within it one catches small glimpses, possibly, of where spike's manic depression came from. The only draw back to this book is how often the comedy in it has been copied and so you get the feeling that it isnt "fresh." But when the imitators are monty pythoon, ricky gervais and pretty much every successful comedian and comic screen writer since Milligan first exploded into public view, then you realise that you are reading something to which you owe a great deal. If Monty Python has ever made you smile, if the Simpsons make you laugh and if Kenny Everett holds a fondness in your heart then you owe it to yourself and you owe a tribute to the genious of Sir Spike Milligan. Buy this book and then start the collection of all seven books of the rather oddly named "trilogy."
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on 7 February 2002
Anyone who has listened to the Goons will know that Spike is one of those rare people who has an innate knack for comic writing.
`Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall' is the first volume of Spike's war memoirs and I read this plus the second volume (Rommel? Gunner Who?) in a single sitting.
In the first volume, Spike puts his own unique spin on his experiences in WW2 starting from training at Bexhill-on-Sea (and not a batter-pudding hurler in sight!) to his posting in North Africa and manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely sad at the same time. I don't normally go for `war stories' but this is a genuine telling-it-like-it-is tale modified by Milligan's unique genius.
It's a good read in its own right, but any Goon fan will immediately notice the genesis of Goons-type humour in Spike's exchanges with his mate Harry Edgington (we dont' encounter the `other' Harry until the end of book two!)
For best results, read in conjunction with `Rommel? ...' but don't do it in a public place - you'll probably laugh too much!
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on 8 August 2006
I wont linger here, just read the lengthier reviews here. This is truly a hilarious book, from an hilarious and beautiful man.
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on 16 January 2002
I've never been a big fan of Audio Books, but to hear Spike read through his memoirs makes the whole experience so much more personal.
These books stand out like nothing else I've ever read.
I've never had such heart felt love for any book, as I do for this entire marvellous series.
Constant spirit lifting hilarity just keeps you laughing for hours on end. Not to say that it doesn't have moments that bring home the harsh reality of what these boys were facing.
To hear Spike reading some of the sadder moments, is truly heartbreaking, but to hear the way he talks of his beloved band of brothers, you can feel the fondness he has for each and every one of them...(well...okay..not all of them..)
Through some of the more hysterical parts of the books, Spike's fits of giggles just add such a spark to this work, and make you feel just like he's sitting reminiscing with you.
I can't praise this entire series highly enough.
If Spike ever tickled your funny bone in any way, then this will tickle you silly.
Buy it,you won't be disappointed.
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on 18 January 2008
OK I admit it, I had bought this book a few years ago before I read it, I always had something more interesting to read , or so I thought! Last year at the end of a frenzied read of books by Phillipa Gregory I was looking longiningly at my book case, wondering 'what next?'. I have read and enjoyed Puckoon, (the only book, I must add which I have read more than once...about five times at last count), and I also enjoyed the Looney and other Milligan works, but I thought that the war memoirs wouldn't be for me. How wrong I was. Once I got into the book I couldn't put it down! Spike brings his experiences to life and I found I was laughing along with him. I have promised to loan the book to my friends, but have so far not been able to bring myself to part with it, there are so many bits I like to read over, and over again!!! This really is a 'must read' not only for Milligan fans but also for those of us who want to know what it was really like during WWII!
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on 25 November 2008
The 1st volume of Milligan's war memoirs,starting in September 1939,and going up to his landing in North africa in January 1943.It is very funny indeed,lots of loopy stories and jokes which,I suspect,illustrate the reality of military service and war better than most histories.
The underlying tragedy of mass killing comes through too-the story is finely balanced between pathos and humour.
This is the best of the seven-volume Milligan war biography by far.Buy the first three in the series(the best)and get the other four second-hand or through a library:the decline in quality from the earlier to the later volumes is very noticeable.
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This is an utterly surreal, joyous and irreverent look at Spike Milligan’s time as a young soldier in WWII. This book takes us from the outbreak of war through to the beginning of 1943 when Milligan arrives in Algiers. In between there is receiving his call up papers, endless training – none of which he appears to have had any aptitude for – and his first steps into ‘Show Business’ when he teams up with fellow jazz fans to play at dances.

As Milligan himself states in the introduction, many terrible things happened in the war, but humour helped him cope. The names, whether made up or real, are straight from a Waugh novel – Battery Sergeant-Major ‘Jumbo’ Day for example could easily have been a character in “Men at Arms”. Everything is taken with humour and Milligan is full of wonderfully bad puns – when he finds that, during a romantic tryst in a lorry, somebody drives off with them on board, he returns to his friends who ask where he disappeared to, replying, “I got carried away...”

I am amazed it took me so long to get around to reading Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, but I am truly glad that there are many more books to read.
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on 24 May 2013
Milligan introduces us to that period in his life when, reluctantly, he was transformed from a young, budding, Jazz trumpeter to a (reluctant ) soldier. All on account of an Austrian ex-corporal called Adolf Hitler. There is nothing profound in this portion of his memoirs. Any reference to his artillery training is at best flippant and frequently a savage lampoon. However he waxes lyrical on his musical activities and what I will refer to as his romantic attachments. (We don't want to shock the children.)
This is an entertaining read. It is an excellent example of the Milligan style, not at all profound, irreverent and taking a swipe at pomposity at every opportunity. It will revive memories in the minds of the older generation of such exitements as the Black Out, Food Rationing, Anderson Shelters to name but a few.
This review will probably be considered superficial and lacking in gravitas. Yes, it is. Milligan has given us a minor masterpiece of humour, In The Irish Style. This book is fun. It is entertainment. Read it!
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