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Rifle Training For War (1940) | Spike Milligan's copy

Rifle Training For War (1940) | Spike Milligan's copy

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Captain Ernest H. Robinson

CASSELL & Co. Ltd, London, 1940

An original WW2 British small arms manual, dating from 1940, covering shooting with the .303 Lee Enfield MK III Service Rifle. This rifle training handbook was first published just after the start of WW1, intended for the volunteers of Kitchener's new army who were being recruited late in 1914. The 1940 revised edition is almost identical, but as it was aimed at the L.D.V. the new illustrations showed Home Guard members rather than WW1 servicemen. It includes full details of the theory and practice of rifle fire. It is illustrated with drawings and diagrams showing how to use the Lee Enfield service rifle. The book came from the Imperial War Museum Library collection with a label attached to the rear cover autographed by Spike Milligan:
‘Compliments of Spike Milligan’. Presumably the book was donated to the IWM at some time by Spike Milligan.

Spike Milligan (1918-2002): Terence Alan Milligan KBE, known as Spike Milligan, was a British-Irish comedian, writer, poet, playwright and actor. The son of an Irish father and an English mother, Milligan was born in India where he spent his childhood, relocating to live and work the majority of his life in the United Kingdom. Disliking his first name, he began to call himself "Spike" after hearing the band Spike Jones and his City Slickers on Radio Luxembourg. 

During the Second World War Milligan served as a signaller in the 56th Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery as Gunner Milligan, 954024. The unit was equipped with the obsolete First World War era BL 9.2-inch howitzer and based in Bexhill on the south coast of England. Milligan describes training with these guns in part two of Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, claiming that, during training, gun crews resorted to shouting "bang" in unison as they had no shells with which to practise. The unit was later re-equipped with the BL 7.2-inch howitzer and saw action as part of the First Army in the North African campaign and then in the succeeding Italian campaign. Milligan was appointed Lance Bombardier and was about to be promoted to Bombardier, when he was wounded in action at the Battle of Monte Cassino. Subsequently, hospitalised for a mortar wound to the right leg and shell shock, he was demoted by an unsympathetic commanding officer (identified in his war diaries as Major Evan "Jumbo" Jenkins) back to Gunner. After hospitalisation, Milligan drifted through a number of rear-echelon military jobs in Italy, eventually becoming a full-time entertainer. He played the guitar with a jazz and comedy group called The Bill Hall Trio, in concert parties for the troops. After being demobilised, Milligan remained in Italy playing with the trio but returned to Britain soon after. While he was with the Central Pool of Artists (a group he described as composed "of bomb-happy squaddies") he began to write parodies of their mainstream plays, which displayed many of the key elements of what would later become The Goon Show (originally called Crazy People) with Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine. 

Milligan was the co-creator, main writer and a principal cast member of The Goon Show, performing a range of roles including the Eccles and Minnie Bannister characters. He was the earliest-born, longest-lived and last surviving member of the Goons. After The Goon Show Milligan moved on to television with Q5, a surreal sketch show credited as a major influence on the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Milligan wrote and edited many books, including Puckoon (1963) and a seven-volume autobiographical account of his time serving during the Second World War, beginning with Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1971). He also wrote comical verse, with much of his poetry written for children, including Silly Verse for Kids (1959).


In good condition. The card cover is in good condition, with general signs of wear and use and a few marks. With Spike Milligan’s autographed label securely attached to the rear cover, ‘Compliments of Spike Milligan’. The binding and hinges are good and secure. The text and illustrations are in good condition, with a few marks and some Imperial War Museum ‘Withdrawn’ ink stamps.

Published: July 1940
Khaki card covers, red titling
Illustrated with diagrams and drawings
Dimensions: 105mm x 135mm
Pages: 84