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Posted by eleanor

We are from France

Also recently republished, thanks to the Bodleian Library, is "Instructions for British Servicemen in France 1944," as prepared by The Political Warfare Executive and issued by The Foreign Office, London.

This is a primer on bonding with the folk you're freeing from the yoke of oppression. "You are to assist personally in pushing the Germans out of France and back where they belong," begins this little book. "In the process, you will meet the French...."

The news is sobering. "Almost all French civilians (including French children) are undernourished, and many have died from exhaustion and hunger, because the Germans have eaten the food." (And, importantly: "Cigarettes have been rationed to three a day -- when they were available at all.")

But upon meeting British soldiers, the good paysan may dig up a bottle long hidden in the cellar. "A good many people are likely in any case to lack the energy or the mood to do much 'celebrating,' however great their joy at being freed." Disease is widespread, including tuberculosis and syphilis. A French citizen is shot by a German every two hours, and thousands have been deported to concentration camps.

Thus, some rules of conduct. Do not, "through mere thoughtlessness [purchase] in the local shops things which are scarce, so that civilians go short."

Avoid the black market: "Buying on this simply means the poor who need food will not get it." And "don't air the opinion that such and such a foreign country or town or village is very lucky to have chaps like us passing through."

As for those seeking supplies: "If you are questioned on this subject, explain that it is essential to defeat Germany as rapidly as possible, and consequently first priority on shipping of supplies must be given to military needs. At first this results in little shipping for relief supplies to liberated countries; but the civilians must have patience and believe that very effort is being made to bring them supplies as soon as possible."

Soldiers should not give out their own food and clothing to the civilians. It only encourages them to ask for more.

Oh, and bombings in populated areas "have caused some resentment."

And of course, there's the chicks -- or rather, les femmes. "French women, young and old, are far from shy and you will, if you are a man of sense, make them your friends. But do not mistake friendship for willingness to give you their favours. The same sort of girl with whom you can take liberties in England can be found in France, and the same sort of girl whom you would grossly offend in this country would be grossly offended if you were to 'try anything' in France.

"The fathers, brothers and fianc├ęs of French girls will often be unable to protect them because they are fighting the Germans or have been deported to Germany. Apart from any questions of discipline, you are on your honour to behave to their womenfolk as you would wish them to behave to yours. If you do not, you will injure the reputation of the British soldier, by showing a worse example than the Germans, who at the start, at least, behaved with considerable restraint, though they later lapsed. As for the loose women, if you noted the facts on page 12 about the prevalence of V.D., you will see good reasons for avoiding them."