::"Rommel?" "Gunner Who?"


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Spike Milligan's second volume of war autobiography, "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?": A Confrontation in the Desert, was published in 1974, with Jack Hobbs credited as an editor. This book spans events from January to May 1943, during Operation Torch, the Allied liberation of Africa in World War II. (The preface to the earlier book states this will be a trilogy, but ultimately he writes seven volumes.)

As before, the book is in an unusual format freely mixing multimedia formats, with narrative anecdotes, contemporaneous photography, ridiculously non-contemporaneous steel engravings and illustrations, excerpts from actual diaries, actual letters, and rough sketches, along with absurd memoranda from Nazi officials (sometimes called "Hitlergrams"). A map is included.

In a later volume, Milligan wrote, "I wish the reader to know that he is not reading a tissue of lies and fancies, it all really happened". In retrospect, the reader is left in some doubt – for the Prologue to this volume reads:

"I have described nothing but what I saw myself, or learned from others of whom I made the most careful and particular enquiry.
Thucydides. Peloponnesian War.
I've just jazzed mine up a little.
Milligan. World War II."<ref>Spike Milligan, "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?", Michael Joseph Ltd. 1974. p. 11</ref>

Some details, such as a facsimile clipping announcing the death of a comrade (an atypical somber moment in the book) can be assumed factual. Moreover, much other information is apparently intended to be accurate:

"Around the main lagoon were dotted smaller lagoons and around the fringe, what appeared to be pink scum. In fact it was hundreds of flamingoes. This vision, the name of Sheba, the sun, the crystal white and silver shimmer of the salt lagoon made boyhood readings of Rider Haggard come alive. It was a sight I can never forget, so engraved was it that I was able to dash it down straight onto the typewriter after a gap of thirty years."

On the other hand, speaking of the dedication to "brother Desmond who made my boyhood happy", Norma Farnes, editor of The Compulsive Spike Milligan said "Desmond and I roared with laughter over this fantasy. They used to argue like hell.<ref>Norma Farnes, editor, The Compulsive Spike Milligan, Fourth Estate, 2004. p. 185</ref>

"Rommel?" "Gunner Who?" sections
Intro  Summary  Critical review  References  

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