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For you, Tommy, the war is never over

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This article looks at the enduring influence that the ephemera and aesthetics of World War II had on the British punk movement, particularly its impact on impressionable male minds. It maps the popularity of toys, games and magazines during the 1970s and early 1980s and proposes that whilst many punk bands were avowedly anti-war, they retained an awe of the military hardware, scale, personalities and stakes of the conflict. In examining why that might be the case, the author talks to some of those involved in both the production and consumption of cultural materials related to World War II. An attempt is made to navigate the observation that an essential duality was at work. That is, while the overwhelming repudiation and rejection of militarism and conflict in punk was genuine, so too was the impact of the images, residues and vernacular of the war and these became essential formative tools in the creative and intellectual discourse of that generation. The first part of the article will look at the prevalence of World War II-based imagery, the second at how that impacted on the punk movement in terms of lyrics, artwork and attitudes. That phenomenon is examined in relation to British identity, class identity, political identity and male identity, though these have not been structured as separate lines of enquiry due to the extensive degree of overlap.
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Keywords: British comics; Commando; World War II; action man; airfix; punk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent

Publication date: February 1, 2014

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  • Punk & Post-Punk is a journal for academics, artists, journalists and the wider cultural industries. Placing punk and its progeny at the heart of inter-disciplinary investigation, it is the first forum of its kind to explore this rich and influential topic in both historical and critical theoretical terms.
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