Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Multitudes of Americans in England"

Spotted in the pages of the British Weekly (a Christian, Free-Church newspaper) from 1943: a short article by Lynn Harold Hough, an American Methodist minister, written after a visit to wartime Britain.

Just now there are multitudes of Americans in England. One meets American officers and men in the ranks everywhere. You see them on the streets, in the hotels, and in the clubs. And they are receiving a most hearty welcome.

Indeed, there is something winning about the way in which your English friends say to you: ‘What can we do to make your American soldiers feel at home among us? We cannot entertain them in the fashion which would have been possible in pre-war days. But if they will take us as we are, and accept such food as in these times of rationing we can offer, we will be glad to have them in our homes.’ And from the American you are apt to hear: ‘I am receiving so many invitations that I cannot accept them all.’

To be sure there are problems. Our soldiers are paid at a higher rate than the British. And sometimes the glamour of the American soldier—a very attractive person—and of the money he has to spend, causes English girls to show more interest in him than in the British Tommy.

Then there is the colour problem. These American Negroes, with their soft voices and gentle ways, are very interesting to the British, who are eager to serve them in their canteens and to welcome them in their homes. The white soldiers from south of the Mason and Dixon line—and not they alone—are a bit astonished. And sometimes more than that.

One asks rather searching questions about the nature of democracy as one confronts this problem.

Interesting: and not simply because I'm the son of one of those "glamorous" American soldiers.

Lynn Harold Hough, "Thoughts in War Time England", British Weekly, 14 January 1943, 197.

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