It was not until nearly two decades after the Second World War that Britain’s young men could choose to lead entirely civilian lives.
Conscription continued after the War, with about 2.3 million young men completing two years of national service in the Navy, RAF or army (where most of them served), before it was ended in 1963. While national service became an integral part of post-war British life, we know little about the effects it had on men’s lives, how their experiences varied, and how the men who did National Service remember this part of their lives.
This project, called National Service Life Stories: masculinity, class and the memory of conscription in Britain, will fill this gap in our historical knowledge.
Funded by the Leverhulme-Trust, the research team of Professor Peter Gurney, Dr Matthew Grant and Dr Joel Morley have conducted more than 100 oral history interviews with ex-national servicemen from across Britain in order to understand how military service shaped their working and personal lives, and their understandings of class, masculinity and national identity.
The project also examines how the men remember their national service, and their feelings about how it has been under-represented in popular culture since.