Captives of War. British Prisoners of War in Europe in the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
This is a pioneering history of the experience of captivity of British prisoners of war in Europe during the Second World War, focussing on how they coped and came to terms with wartime imprisonment. Clare Makepeace reveals the ways in which POWs psychologically responded to surrender, the camaraderie and individualism that dominated life in the camps, and how, in their imagination, they constantly breached the barbed wire perimeter to be with their loved ones at home. Through the diaries, letters and log books written by seventy-five POWs, along with psychiatric research and reports, she explores the mental strains that tore through POWs’ minds and the challenges that they faced upon homecoming. The book tells the story of wartime imprisonment through the love, fears, fantasies, loneliness, frustration and guilt that these men felt, shedding new light on what the experience of captivity meant for these men both during the war and after their liberation.
Reviews to date of Captives of War are listed here.
”Pinky Smith looks gorgeous!’ Female impersonators and male bonding in prisoner of war camps for British servicemen in Europe’ in Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War (eds) Juliette Pattinson and Linsey Robb (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)
Female impersonators were a familiar sight in prisoner of war (POW) camps, appearing in theatre productions, at dances, at tea parties as ‘waitresses’ and in auctions to raise money for welfare funds. This essay explores British POWs’ reactions to them, as an insight into conceptions of sexuality and gender during the Second World War. Men in drag provided prisoners with a release from their single-sex society and POWs’ admiration for these ‘women’ enabled them to assert their collective male superiority. However, there were limits to this ‘safety valve’ interpretation of drag. Prisoners’ attitudes towards female impersonators also blurred the boundaries of male heterosexual desire, reflecting a fluidity in attitudes towards male sexuality, more generally, in British society during this era.
This article explores soldiers’ brothel visits in France: their reasons for attending the ‘licensed brothels’ (maisons tolérées) and how their visits varied according to the soldiers’ marital status and rank. It then considers how prostitution in the First World War may have transformed heterosexual behaviour, particularly with regard to the use of amateur or professional prostitutes.
Chapters in edited volumes
”Pinky Smith looks gorgeous!’ Female impersonators and male bonding in prisoner of war camps for British servicemen in Europe’ in Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War (eds) Juliette Pattinson and Linsey Robb (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
‘Punters and their prostitutes: British soldiers, masculinity and maisons tolérées in the First World War’ in What is Masculinity? Historical Dynamics from Antiquity to the Contemporary World (eds) John H. Arnold and Sean Brady (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp.413-430; reprinted in paperback 2013.
This chapter argues that warfare provides gender historians with a unique insight into conceptions of masculinity through the documentation of experiences that may have gone unrecorded in peacetime. By focusing on masculinity as experience, it shows that during this era, there was a diversity of acceptable masculine behaviours and how conceptions of masculinity were informed by a man’s marital status, rank, nationality and race which, at times, superseded patriarchal forces.
Magazines and newspapers
In June 2014, I spoke at the UCL Lunch Hour Lecture series on the visits of British soldiers to maisons tolérées, or licenced brothels, in the First World War. My lecture uncovered soldiers’ reasons for visiting brothels, their reactions to them and the prostitutes, and how they dealt with the potential consequences: venereal disease. I also discussed how it is important to remember this subject as part of the Centenary, since it questions some of today’s dominant narratives of the First World War.
Why British soldiers visit brothels, in their own words.
Drawing upon the testimonies of First World War soldiers, this feature offers an insight into how visiting brothels help them cope with the constant presence of death.
Telling the story in their own words, this article examines why British soldiers visited brothels in the First World War, what happened during their visit (in addition to the obvious) and what consequences they suffered afterwards.