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Men At War by Luke Turner

Men At War by Luke Turner


Living, Lusting, Fighting, Remembering 1939-1945


As a child, Luke Turner was obsessed with the Second World War. He spent hours watching Sunday war films, poring over stories of derring-do and relishing in birthday trips to air museums. Lying in bed beneath Airfix fighter planes suspended from his ceiling, he would think about the men that might sit in their cockpits, and whether he could ever be one of them.

Now, as an adult who has come to terms with a masculine identity and sexuality that is often erased from dominant military narratives, he undertakes a refreshingly honest analysis of his fascination with the war. In Men at War, Turner looks beyond the increasingly retrogressive and jingoistic ideal of a Britain that never was to recognise men of war as creatures of love, fear, hope and desire. From writers, filmmakers, artists and ordinary men - including those in his own family - Turner assembles a broad cast of characters to bring the war to life.

There are conscientious objectors, a bisexual Commando, a pacifist poet who flew for Bomber Command, a transgender RAF pilot, a soldier who suffered in Japanese POW camps and later in life became an LGBT+ activist, and those who simply did what they could just to survive and return home to a complicated peace. As the conflict moves beyond living memory and the last veterans leave us, we are in danger of missing the opportunity to gain a true understanding of this rich history. By exploring a wartime experience that embraces sex, lust and the body as much as tactics and weaponry, Turner argues that the only way we can really understand the Second World War is to get to grips with the complexity of the lives and identities of those who fought and endured it.




So original and surprising I am all but speechless with admiration - Richard Coles

Beautiful . . . Luke Turner's tender account of servicemen's transgressive private lives, transforms our understanding of the Second World War . . . The mix of memoir, encounters with veterans and historical research is engaging and surprising. It is difficult to encapsulate the tender, forthright sensibility of Men at War; it is a loving, important work - Erica Wagner, New Statesman

Profound, moving and complex, Men at War is a powerful reflection on trauma and love, on humanity in adversity - Brett Anderson 

An intensely personal examination of manliness and sexuality in WW2 by a man who comes clean about his lingering Airfix habit. Turner fearlessly interrogates the war-obsession of 1970s boyhoods and unearths some extraordinary testimonies and stories from the frontlines. This is lovely, tender, subversive stuff - Patrick Gale

Armed with the knowledge of a war aficionado, Turner cements his seat at the table alongside those who might resist his queer narrative of World War II. By liberating these men of their wartime closet, Turner is also attempting to free the war and its effect on Britain from the revisionist clutches of a growing nationalist right-wing political agenda ― The i Paper 

A bracingly compassionate, unapologetically sensual and profoundly personal reclamation of a part of our national heritage that is all too often hijacked. Turner was obviously born to write this book - Lias Saoudi 

Turner explores the quiet and sometimes unheralded heroism of men who resist our existing conceptions of martial valour, and in doing so, seeks to understand his interest in a war in which he did not take part, yet was shaped by in ways that are unexpectedly touching -Tariq Goddard

Men at War is a thoughtful, empathetic and necessary examination of the impact of the Second World War on British culture. By looking at those who fought with honesty, rather than idolatry, it offers a powerful and overdue reframing of recent history - John Higgs

[A] vibrant book . . . By turns eye-opening and moving, this is a refreshing attempt to look again at the war's social and cultural legacy - History Revealed 

  • Details

    Imprint: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

    Publication Date: 25th April 2024

    ISBN: 9781474618878

    Format: Paperback

Notice to European Customers

All European Customers: You may be required to pay a local import tax on or before delivery for parcels entering the EU. Please check your local import rules for purchases from the UK.


Germany and Republic of Ireland: Due to a high return rate of parcels, we are sadly no longer shipping to Germany and the Republic of Ireland. 

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