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Civilians into soldiersWar, the body and British Army recruits, 1939-45$
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Emma Newlands

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719088049

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719088049.001.0001

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(p.53) 2 Training
Civilians into soldiers

Emma Newlands

Manchester University Press

This chapter investigates the processes by which civilian bodies were converted for military purposes within the first sixteen or so weeks of army life: the phase of basic training. It suggests that there were two key principles to this process. Army instructors had to achieve control over the recruit’s body in order to subject him to the authority of the regime. Thus, men were told what to eat, when to rest, what to wear and how to behave during their free time. Instructors also proceeded to transform the recruit’s body into an effective military machine by making it, fit, ordered and productive. This was achieved through a strict regime of physical exercise, field exercises, team sports and military drill. Soldier’s testimonies suggest, however, that while some men came to identify with the army’s ideals and worked hard to transform their bodies, others found ways of circumventing the army’s rules. In the safety of their barrack rooms both officers and men got drunk, dressed as women and had sex with each other. By drawing on these experiences this chapter therefore considers the dynamics of compliance, resistance and participation in modern regimes of the military through corporeal transformation.

Keywords:   Military training, Drill, Resistance, Masculinity, Sex, Drunkenness

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