This WWII training video on 'How To Behave In Britain' is a hefty swig of nostalgia — and all that comes with it

Analysis

VIDEO: A World War II training film on 'How To Behave In Britain'

Oh, the 1940s, the glory days of military training videos: Back when PME's were produced with a Hollywood director's panache, and a cast of leading men were brought in to break down fourth walls with a devilish wink and a nod to the camera before dispensing some sage advice, like how to crack a tank.

While not every pearl of wisdom from retro military training videos withstands the test of time — see the Navy's 1967 video: How To Succeed With Brunettes — a recently resurfaced clip from a 1943 training video starring Burgess Meredith of Rocky fame seems to stand up in a few parts, but not all (more on that later.)


The clip, How To Behave In A British Pub, made the rounds online this week after Daniel Holland shared it on Twitter:

The clip's popularity is hardly surprising. It plays much like a World War II-era documentary special, with the former Army Air Corps captain guiding American G.I.'s through the dos and don'ts of British pub etiquette.

"Oh wait, before we go in, let me tell you a bit about an English Pub," says Burgess, who's probably best known for his role as Mickey Goldmill in the Rocky films. (Sadly, he doesn't tell the audience that they're gonna eat lightning and crap thunder at any point in the video.)

"It's not like a saloon, more like a club," he continues. "A club for men and women who haven't a great deal of money and don't drink for the sake of drinking, but for the company."

From the get-go, the message is clear: This might not be the place to get completely shit-housed drunk during your few days away from "the war" — though, we can assume this video is probably being made because that's exactly what American troops did anyway.

Burgess continues with his tour of a British watering hole:

"Now these pubs are open for a couple hours in the middle of the day, and again in the early evening," he says. "And men and women after their days work, and they work long and hard hours, come in for a bitter or a mild — oh, that's beer, to you, and incidentally the beer isn't cold in England. No, they don't like it cold and they haven't any ice, see, so if you like beer, you better like it warm. What's that? The difference between bitter and mild? I dunno, I dunno, one's bitter and one's mild, better find out for yourself."

As the audience follows Burgess into the pub, another American soldier arrives and, well, acts like a complete jackass, doing everything you probably shouldn't do, anywhere. He's immediately abrasive and mocks a pair of Scottish soldiers for their kilts; interrupts a board game between two other patrons; and then makes a big show of his wealth by waving his cash around; before he vanishes with a poof into a cloud of smoke.

"I done that, sure," Burgess says. "Had to get rid of that soldier, he was too bad of an example."

The rest of the video plays out like you'd expect: Burgess orders a beer, takes his time chatting with people, gets invited to a game of darts and politely declines, saying he'll watch first to learn how to play, then offers to buy the others a round — you know, generally just behaving like a guy enjoying leave, and not being an asshole.

The clip is just a small portion of a much longer instructional film entitled How To Behave In Britain, and while some of the lessons remain timely, other aspects don't hold up — like when Burgess refers to a black soldier as a "colored boy," and visibly ties himself into knots explaining to viewers that the Brits in 1943 are a lot less racist than most Americans at the time.

WW2 Training Film for US Soldiers | How to Behave in Britain | 1943 youtu.be

In a later portion of the film, Burgess and a fellow soldier, who is black, exit a train, at which point an elderly British woman, who is white, stops the two men and thanks them, inviting the black soldier to tea.

It's at this point that Burgess turns back to the camera and with a furtive look to his left and right explains to viewers that this sort of interaction "might not happen at home," where African-Americans were still subjected to legalized racism and segregation under Jim Crow laws.

"Now look men, you heard that conversation, that's not unusual here," Burgess says. "It's the sort of thing that happens quite a lot."

"Now let's be frank about it, there are colored soldiers as well as white here, and there are less social restrictions in this country. An English woman asking a colored boy to tea, he was polite about it, and she was polite about it. Now, that might not happen at home, but the point is, we're not at home, and the point is too, if we bring a lot of prejudices here, what are we going to do about them?"

Few things are as sure to ruin that warm fuzzy feeling you had watching the scene in the pub like the ugly truth that white soldiers had to be reminded not to be too racist abroad. The subtext of the video is obvious, though delivered without a sense of irony: save that bigotry for back in the States, once we've finished defending the world against fascism and tyranny.

It's too bad we can't divorce How To Behave In A British Pub from the feature-length training video, with its silly and lighthearted tips for how to not be a schmuck at a bar, or the hilarious cameo by comedian Bob Hope, who shows up to steal Burgess' money. But like history itself, we can't — or rather, we shouldn't — cherry-pick which portions we choose to remember: If you're gonna take a swig from that mug o' nostalgia, you have to take the bitter with the mild.

In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

Read More Show Less

An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.

This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.

Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less

It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.

But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.

Read More Show Less

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.

Read More Show Less