The English GI: a Yorkshire Schoolboy’s Adventures in the United States and Europe

Jonathan Sandler chose to publish his grandfather’s personal memoir of his life from his schoolboy experiences in Yorkshire to life as a young ex-patriate in New York and being drafted into the US Army in the latter years of the Second World War as a graphic novel – this was a fantastic idea as it immediately opened up access of this work to a wider range of readers than a straightforward text memoir would have. Speaking personally I for one am glad that he did, it is rare to find first-hand stories of soldiers who served, as most (including my grandfather) did not enjoy talking about their experiences during the war.

Brian Bicknell’s art style melds perfectly with Bernard’s spare, unsentimental text, creating a work that is an enjoyable yet informative read allowing the reader a view into his experiences in a world that is now gone; from being footloose and fancy free in 1940’s New York, to basic training as a General Infantryman and his harrowing experiences as a member of the 26th Infantry in France. The vulnerability shown in Bernard’s words, specifically during the scenes in France are at odds with so many portrayals of soldiers today.

The copious notes in the afterword give a depth and context to many of Bernard’s experiences portrayed in the book, from life in New York, the fate of his Latvian family, to the stories of some of his friends he met during basic training as well as his post-war life (including a friendship with Roald Dahl that was cut short due to Dahl’s vile antisemitism).

The English GI was a joy to read and is a work that I will return to again to enjoy the company of Bernard and his adventures! It is highly recommended for all readers!

The English GI was published in April 2022 and is available now!

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