Soldiers, By Richard Holmes Harper

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The Independent Culture

The final work by the great military historian begins with graphic examples of the British soldier's "appetite for alcohol, sex and casual violence… woven seamlessly [with] self-sacrifice, generosity, humour".

Holmes's thematic panorama glitters with fascinating detail from the bravery of padres and the "infinitely variable" use of the F-word to women soldiers en travesti (one used "a silver tube with leather straps" for 14 years) and the "universally popular" colonel who broke plates over his head, then challenged conscripts to follow suit. His secret: a steel plate in his skull.

Soldiers By Richard Holmes Harper, £10.99