School: Rhetoric, Reality, and Revisionism
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This chapter asks what is included and excluded in the military memoir. We consider this question not as an issue of factual accuracy and the exposition of ‘truth’, but rather, taking our authors’ lead, we explore how these claims to truth which all memoirs make sit in relation to an awareness all military memoirists share about the demands of convention and genre. We discuss self-censorship, and the efforts authors make to balance a need for veracity with a need for operational security, and the need to protect groups and individuals, particularly the relatives of others described in a text, from detailed information about events and occurrences which may be too traumatic to know. We examine official state censorship and the interventions made by the Ministry of Defence and branches of the armed forces, which of course have an interest in what their serving and former personnel publish. We also explore the less formalised interventions of military institutions. We ask how authors’ accounts of inclusion and exclusion, and the stories behind the publication of particular books where this has been an issue, sit alongside arguments about the validity of these books, and question what this might mean in turn for the role of the military memoir in the reproduction of state and wider public narratives about the meaning of war. We also raise the idea that as well as absences within each published memoir, there are absences across the genre of the contemporary British military memoir.
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