--> ''At Victoria station the R.T.O. gave me a travel warrant, a white feather and a picture of Hitler marked 'This is your enemy'. I searched every compartment, but he wasn't on the train.''
Creator/SpikeMilligan's war diaries, generally known by the title of their first volume, although via TrilogyCreep they would go on to span seven:
* ''Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall'' (1971)
* ''"Rommel?" "Gunner Who?": A Confrontation in the Desert'' (1974)
* ''Monty: His Part in My Victory'' (1976)
* ''Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall'' (1978)
* ''Where Have All the Bullets Gone?'' (1985)
* ''Goodbye Soldier'' (1986)
* ''Peace Work'' (1992)
The first three books were also released in an abridged single volume, cutting out most of the tangents and "Hitlergrams", called "The War Memoirs", and parts 5-7 as "The Peace Memoirs".
In these books Milligan records his experiences as part of the Royal Artillery during and after UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, accompanied by much hilarity and occasional bouts of sorrow and depression. He reveals the sources of much of the humour in ''Radio/TheGoonShow'' and how the key players behind it came together. Although written in a very surreal style and with many bizarre interludes, the narrative depicts real people and events and Milligan was rather offended when one reviewer didn't realise this.
The first book was adapted as a movie starring Creator/JimDale as Milligan. The real Milligan has a cameo as his own father.
!!Contains examples of:
* AmericansAreCowboys: The Americans rarely appear either in the real or spoof segments, but when they do they are basically cowboy stereotypes, such as wanting to put the tanks in a circle with the women and children on the inside.
* AmericaWonWorldWarII: At one point the regiment parades through an Italian village in triumph only to realise the cheering crowds are yelling 'Hail the Americans!'
** One of Spikes comrades suggests "Quick, lets slip it up her and blame them!"
** On the other hand, there is a telling scene where Milligan's heavy guns are directed into a firing position in a boggy field where they sink into the mud under their own weight - the only powerful vehicles nearby that can tow them out belong to the American Army, who generously give their time and help, leading to angst in Jumbo Jenkins that "we've sunk so low as to ask the Americans for assistance". "We ''have'' sunk so low, sir. That's why we need them" replied Milligan.
** Major 'Jumbo' Jenkins inverts this (in truth, a lot of Brits had their own version of this at the time) by challenging a downed American airman: "Who goes there? English, or German?" The airman's reaction is predictable.
* BadassArmy: The 56th Heavy Regiment itself. Milligan reproduces with evident pride (but with no comment) a communication to the regimental commander, praising the regiment for its performance at the Battle of Longstop Hill, in which a captured German officer is quoted as having mistook the regiment for having been much bigger than it actually was, such was the rate of fire the gunners achieved.
* BaitAndSwitchTyrant: Subverted with "Jumbo" Jenkins. At first coming across as a stiff GeneralRipper, he later softens up a little and even plays jazz with Spike and his friends, but still busts Milligan down to the ranks after he suffers combat trauma in Italy.
** The basic issue seems to be Chaotic Vacuum of People Skills. Jenkins isn't vicious, he just doesn't know how to manage people.
* BiggerIsBetter: Milligan's little brother keeps making drawings of [[StupidJetpackHitler Giant Troop-Carrying Submarines and Zeppelins]] and sending them to the Ministry of Defence, which seems uninterested.
* CantHaveSexEver: Edgington, who insists on keeping himself pure for his fiancée despite every opportunity.
* DraftDodging; Milligan averted this trope. He really did put his back out a day or two before his call-up date, necessitating medical treatment and bedrest. This delayed his arrival with his regiment. As Milligan said, claiming you're unfit for military service because you have a bad back rings as true as the lodger, naked in bed with the landlady, claiming the laundry's late.
-->Only in my case... the laundry ''was'' late.
* GagPenis: "Plunger" Bailey.
* GeneralFailure: Major Jenkins, who is loathed by his troops for his devotion to military bullshit and who demotes Milligan from Lance-Corporal to Bombardier for no better reason than that Milligan is more popular than he is. Of course, Milligan admits to being an UnreliableNarrator so there may have been better reasons than that.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: In the first book, when Milligan gets his call-up papers, his Uncle tells him not to open it, adding that the last time he did, "I ended up in Mesopotamia, chased by Turks waving pots of Vaseline and chanting 'Lawrence we love you in Ottoman.'" This is a reference to T.E. Lawrence, and his account in his book ''Seven Pillars of Wisdom'' of how he'd been captured, beaten and raped by members of the Ottoman military during WW1.
* InsaneTrollLogic: "Silence when you speak to an officer!"
* InsistentTerminology: Referring to "World War II" as though it's a place, especially when they get lost while looking for the front lines.
--> '''Milligan (to a Vichy French gendarme):''' Excusez-moi monsieur, [[BlindIdiotTranslation ou est la guerre mondiale nombre deux?]]
* IWasToldThereWouldBeCake: Milligan's mother keeps sending him cake, which Major Chater Jack gets a taste for and soon Milligan's having to eat it as soon as he gets it before the Major can turn up.
* MoodWhiplash: The books are mostly light in tone, especially the pre-battle fatigue ones, but these are war diaries. In particular, the death of Lt. Goldsmith, a direct hit on the Command Post, and random macabre daydreams are sprinkled through the earlier books - the fact that these events often come right after the silliest moments makes them all the starker. It's particularly brutal listening to the audiobooks read by Milligan himself.
* OneSteveLimit: Averted, one of the other Gunners is also nicknamed 'Spike' and is more commonly referred to by the name than Spike himself in the narrative.
* OnlySaneMan: Milligan presents himself like this, which is hilarious in itself when you know the level of nuttiness in his works.
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: After a particularly brutal attack by the Germans, a shaken Milligan enters the OP and says bluntly to Lt Walker "I've never drunk whisky but if you've got some I'd bloody well like some." Walker is taken aback by Milligan's lack of due respect for an officer, but on seeing what state Milligan is in, he says nothing and silently hands over the bottle.
* PointyHairedBoss: Major Jenkins.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Major Chater Jack.
** Lt Goldsmith, who besides being a good officer and highly educated was also (on Milligan's account) witty, literate and kind.
* RunningGag: From the second book onwards, Milligan uses pictures of British soldiers fighting in colonial wars from the Victorian period with captions suggesting they're supposed to be from the war - presumably a spoof on how the British Army tended to be underequipped and technologically inferior compared to the Germans.
** The constant propaganda claim that "the Russians are advancing on all fronts".
** Cold Collation.[[note]]This was an unsatisfying cold meal consisting of a small piece of chicken, some token bits of lettuce and cucumber and a blob of salad cream, which the soldiers are repeatedly given whenever there's no hot food available.[[/note]]
* SmallNameBigEgo: Parodied. Milligan doing something is often followed by a 'Hitlergram' of senior Nazis concernedly discussing what Gunner Milligan is up to, as the entire fate of the war presumably rests on it.
* SpeechImpediment: Played for rather cruel laughs with the officer who pronounces the letter "d" is "g", telling Milligan "I'd like you to have your turn in the miggle of the show." On being asked the name of the band, Milligan tells him it's [[BlatantLies "D Battery Dance Duo with Doug on Drums"]].
* SpotOfTea: Vital to the British war effort. At one point Hitler and Rommel discuss building a tank that shoots tea as bait to make the British troops charge across a minefield.
** At one point, a group of signallers, including Edgington, is caught in an air strike while brewing up. Most of them run for the cover of their three-tonner, but Edgington collects the kettle and mugs first. He also takes his tin hat off and uses it to cover the tea urn.
* StiffUpperLip: At one point while Major Chater Jack is addressing his men, a German plane flies over at very low altitude. The entire battery jumps into a ditch and as they crawl out are greeted by the sight of the Major still standing, calmly lighting a cigarette. He then tells them "Now of course you realise in this situation that you did the right thing, and I the wrong..."
* SurroundedByIdiots: Milligan presents himself as the only one with any knowledge of (or interest in) history and culture, e.g. dragging complaining fellow Gunners on a day trip to the ruins of Carthage.
** Upon seeing the ruins of a Roman aqueduct:
--->'''Gunner:''' Christ, Jerry didn't 'alf bomb that!
** They try climbing it one day, and upon reaching the top Spike mentions how old it is, whereupon his fellows suddenly become afraid that it'll fall over.
* SwitchingPOV: Milligan sometimes includes recollections by old friends and former comrades. His account of his first meeting with Harry Secombe is followed by Secombe's own account of the same incident.
* TanksButNoTanks: One of Milligan's friends mistakes Panzer [=IIIs=] for the much larger Mark VI Tiger tanks at one point.
* TeamPet: Havelock the dog.
* TemptingFate: He seemingly causes a plane to crash by yelling 'I HOPE YOU BLOODY WELL CRASH!' at it.
* TooAwesomeToUse: One of Spike's comrades feels this way about the atom bomb, getting angry that they 'wasted' it on the Japanese. "They should have used something cheaper, like gas stoves filled with shit!"
* TrilogyCreep: Was originally intended to be three books covering UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, ended up as seven and covering the years after the war as well.
* UnreliableNarrator: Although a certain amount is to be expected in a comedy memoir by Milligan, there's an apocryphal story about the making of TheFilmOfTheBook, concerning a scene in which one of Spike's comrades is left behind to guard the wreckage of a crashed German plane, which [[spoiler: suddenly and unexpectedly explodes, and kills him]]. Jim Dale apparently asked Spike whether watching them shoot the scene had [[spoiler: been upsetting]], to which Spike is alleged to have replied "Oh, it didn't actually ''happen''..."
** To be fair, Spike didn't actually witness that scene in the book either. In fact, his preface to the second volume professes that he carefully checked names and dates to try to get the books themselves as near as possible to what actually happened (except the bits that obviously didn't. Or the bits he couldn't possibly relate...)
* VitriolicBestBuds: Milligan and Harry Edgington.
* WallBangHer known here as 'knee-trembling. Often referred to, occasionally actually seen- most of the young adults in the books, especially the first, have casual sex, but the mores of the time mean it's hard to find a comfortable place for it...
* WarIsHell: Being in a Heavy Artillery Battery and hence miles behind the line, there's very little direct danger from the enemy - but of course this makes the individual deaths all the more shocking. The passage after his injury in Italy, where he describes a bloodied and battered infantryman comforting him in the ambulance with his relatively minor injury, but flinching and crying at every noise, is particularly poignant.
* WhatHaveIDone: Played for BlackComedy. The regiment is continually buzzed by an American P-38 Lightning, so after one pass, Milligan shouts at it "I hope you bloody well crash!" The plane then crashes into the sea and explodes. Milligan is momentarily stunned, but any lingering guilt or trauma he may had is not mentioned, and the other soldiers refer to it as "Milligan's aircraft curse" and urge him to use it whenever they see an enemy plane.