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GREAT BRITAIN: Poor Relations

3 minute read

>The London magazine Time and Tide charged that American Red Cross clubs in Britain, now open only to U.S. troops, encouraged “segregation,” prevented free and healthy mingling of Britons and Yanks. Many a thoughtful American concurred, but wondered how the Red Cross could do otherwise.

>Midlands farmers were told that they must vacate their land for U.S. tank-training grounds. The natural reaction: they forgot that thousands of farmers had previously done the same for British, Canadian, even Polish troops. One softly cursed: “Aye, we went through the blitz . . . but the Americans take the land.” >Sergeant -Michael Pihosh, American, was acquitted of the murder of an ATS private who had been partly undressed, beaten after a drunken dance. The case heightened the concern of many Britons for their women.† Pride & Poverty. These items were significant only as symptoms of a state of mind. In recent months it has become increasingly obvious that the people of Britain are annoyed by the free-spending, free-loving, free-speaking U.S. troops. Worn by a long war, already crowded on an island that is about the size of Oregon with more than 40 times its population, the British are understandably short of temper.

The friction begins at the level where G.I. Joe meets the British common man.

The American wants to be friendly. His way of showing it is by spending his money freely. The Briton, too, wants to be friendly but he cannot follow the American lead because he hasn’t the money. That hurts his pride, and he becomes even more than normally shy.

By such stages many Britons have now come to think of the U.S. soldier as sloppy, conceited, insensitive, undiscriminating, noisy. Recently Stars and Stripes, the U.S.

Army’s newspaper, gave some support to this view by listing the ways in which U.S.

soldiers most often get into trouble: 1) drunkenness; 2) association with prostitutes; 3) failure to observe rules of proper uniforms; 4) failure to salute; 5) unauthorized use or misuse of Government vehicles; 6) failure to have identity cards; 7) failure to have proper passes; 8) disregard for blackout regulations; 9) necking in doorways.

Paris Again. All of these infractions have been committed by British. Canadian, Australian, Free Belgian, Polish, Free French and other groups in Britain. The popular habit of bundling such complaints into a blanket indictment of the U.S. fighting man really means that the trouble is something else.

Informed and intelligent Britons, some in official positions, realize that the Yanks are now doing to England, and specifically to overcrowded London, what the British Tommies did to Paris in the early years of World War I. Then it was the French who were annoyed. Then the Tommies drew more pay than the French soldiers; with it—until the A.E.F. came—they got the lion’s share of French girls, the best wines, the best hotel rooms, hogged the bistros (pubs) and transportation facilities. All of these things are what the British now find most annoying about the Americans.

The end of the war and the departing of the British—and the A.E.F.—more or less healed the sores of France. Responsible Britons think that the Americans’ departure this time will do as much for Britain. In the meantime, they do not forget a fact which is probably more significant than the current irritations in Britain: the closer they get to the fighting fronts, the better do British and U.S. soldiers get along.

† The worried admitted however, that it takes two to make a pair.

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