‘The English are peculiar’ - wartime guide given to US personnel in Britain covers cricket, weather and fry-ups

USAAF men during the war (at Shipdham?)

USAAF men during the war (at Shipdham?) - Credit: Archant

It covers everything we hold dear - from a hearty English breakfast, to the Great British weather and even a leisurely game of cricket.

The English and their Country, which was given to American servicemen and women in England during th

The English and their Country, which was given to American servicemen and women in England during the Second World War. Picture: Imperial War Museums - Credit: Archant

For many of the 1.5m American servicemen and women who came to Britain during the Second World War, it was their first time leaving US soil.

So, with cohesion in mind, the British Council published The English and their Country in 1944, a pamphlet explaining the eccentricities of their new neighbours.

In its opening pages, the book, which has now been republished by the Imperial War Museums, calls the English a 'puzzle'.

'The English have been called mad, hypocritical, impossible, ridiculous, cunning, simple and many other terms that, taken together, cancel each other out,' he said.

'The English are peculiar, and their island is, in its physical features, climate, history and products, like no other territory of equal size.'

It goes on to describe us as a 'compound of the characteristics of many other peoples'.

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While Norfolk and Suffolk don't get a specific mention, the nearby Lincolnshire fens are described as 'melancholy' and 'damp' – and Americans are warned they will find 'people in tune with their landscape', without 'laughter in their eyes'.

It also says that locals don't talk to strangers, are only serious about cricket and stamp collecting and fall asleep after Sunday lunches.

'Enter a village inn and the company of farmers and workers will ignore you,' it says. 'Address them, and you will get a word in reply; no more.

'They will volunteer nothing, and you will have no free talk with them until they have known you for some weeks and have learned who you are, where you come from and what you are doing in their village.'

The English weather is of course mentioned, with the pamphlet warning that 'sometimes in one small corner the weather changes three or four times a day'.

Other oddities explained include whether Englishmen shoot grouse, keep children in the nursery and drink sherry before dinner – as well as the importance of minding one's own business.

A copy of the original pamphlet will be published by Imperial War Museums, the nearest of which is in Duxford, on Thursday, October 20.

• Do you have an unusual historic item which would make a news story? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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