Guidance from the Greatest by Gavin Mortimer

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When approaching this book, I initially thought that the author would either be preaching to the converted or throwing pearls before swine. We are living in an increasingly polarised world. The old are often pitched against the young and vice-versa, whether the media is discussing Brexit, the wearing of face coverings or various issues concerning the oxymoron of “social justice”.

Yet this book should delight readers of both sexes – and of all ages. Mortimer breaks his book up into a dozen chapters, dealing with what some might deem old-fashioned traits or virtues – including Stoicism, Integrity, Humour and Forgiveness. Having interviewed plenty of soldiers and civilians over the years, the author has more insight and material to draw upon than most when painting a picture of the WW2 generation. Anecdotes, humorous or otherwise, abound. Comments and quotes from the past cut through the ages. For instance, members of the woke generation, who are fond piling into people online, might learn a thing or two from Churchill, when he posited that, “Anything in the nature of persecution, victimisation, or manhunting is odious to the British people.”

Part of the book addresses the increasing absence of certain virtues that the WW2 generation embody. Veterans are dying – and their laudable values are dying with them. As a result, we are living in the “inane” world of twitter and a pernicious cancel culture. All is vanity under the sun, now more than ever. The shadow of Covid-19 also looms in the background of Mortimer’s comment pieces and the folly that has sprouted from it. Yet the book also rightly asserts that the values and traits of the WW2 generation have not completely disappeared. Keyboards warriors on twitter do not, thankfully, represent the whole of the country. Our politicians, celebrities and self-styled elites may be lacking in moral fibre, but there are plenty of other people across the country – young and old – who continue to exhibit a sense of duty, a sense of humour and a sense of decency. And, to quote Morgan Freeman’s character of the Judge in The Bonfire of the Vanities, “Decency is what your grandmother taught you.”

Guidance from the Greatest was undoubtedly commissioned to be a Christmas gift book – and any book which praises the Queen whilst pillorying Terry Christian is a gift that keeps on giving. I would heartily recommend to anyone under the age of thirty to buy this book – and put it in a Christmas stocking for your parents or grandparents. Before you do so, however, have a read of the book first, as a Christmas gift to yourself. You will hopefully be able to discuss some of the history and humour contained in its pages – and realise that the world does not have to be as polarised as some make it out to be.