Masculinities, Heroic Self-Fashioning and Popular Culture: Orde Wingate, David Lloyd Owen and Representations of War

  • Simon Browne

Student thesis: Phd


This doctoral thesis explores the cultural circuit connecting popular culture, personal testimonies, and the memory of the Second World War in Britain, by examining two army officers and the special forces units which they commanded: Orde Wingate of the Chindits and David Lloyd Owen of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). The thesis charts how narratives of masculine heroism shaped, and were shaped by, personal and popular narratives of warfare. Chapters one and two examine the strategies of self-fashioning adopted by Wingate and Lloyd Owen, analysing the ways in which both officers constructed and projected identities as heroic men. Chapter one maps the discourses of heroism that shaped their masculine subjectivities, highlighting the repertoire of imperial heroic exemplars which inspired them, with Wingate influenced by Oliver Cromwell, Gordon of Khartoum and the biblical Gideon, while Lloyd Owen celebrated Lawrence of Arabia. Chapter two explores the influence of ideas of social class and race on Wingate and Lloyd Owen’s self-construction as exemplary leaders, revealing tensions between both officers’ fantasies of elite leadership and the prevailing discourses of the ‘People’s War.’ Chapter three moves on to explore wartime representations of the Chindits and the LRDG. Press reports of the Chindits described cheerful, stoic, temperate heroes, while celebrations of the LRDG expressed an alternative national tradition of romantic adventure. Chapter four provides the first detailed study of the response to Wingate’s death in 1944 in Britain and Palestine. British commentators largely followed Wingate’s own self-representation as a Christian, imperial hero. In contrast, Jewish commentators lauded a hero of Zionism, referencing Gideon, and often criticising the government’s Middle East Policy. Chapter five concludes by exploring representations of the LRDG and the Chindits in British comics between the 1950s and 1970s. Focusing on the longer ‘picture library’ format, the chapter complicates recent scholarship on the Eurocentric nature of the British remembrance, to highlighted the persistence of a familiar narrative template - heroic Britons battling racialised enemies in exotic settings - through the 1960s and into the 1970s. In contrast to films, imperial settings and themes retained a significant place in British comic books, although the Christian militarism which had influenced Wingate in particular so strongly diminished.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlexia Yates (Supervisor) & Max Jones (Supervisor)

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