In February of 1977, a disgruntled fan named Stephen Gard wrote to legendary comedian Spike Milligan with a number of complaints about his recently published, autobiographical account of World War II, Monty. Milligan, who had been wounded in action as a lance bombardier during the Battle of Monte Cassino, responded with the following letter.
(Source: The Spike Milligan Letters; Image: Spike Milligan, via The Guide.)
28th February, 1977
Questions, questions, questions. If you are disappointed in my book ‘MONTY’, so am I. I must be more disappointed than you because I spent a year collecting material for it, and it was a choice of having it made into a suit or a book.
There are lots of one liners in the book, but then when the German Army are throwing bloody great lumps of hot iron at you, one only has time for one liners. In fact, the book should really consist of the following:
“Christ here’s another”
“Where did that fall?”
“My lorry’s on fire”
“Oh Christ, the cook is dead”
You realise a book just consisting of those would just be the end, so my one liners are extensions of these brevities.
Then you are worried because as yet I have not mentioned my meeting with Secombe and later Sellers. Well by the end of the Monty book I had as yet not met either Secombe or Sellers. I met Secombe in Italy, which will be in vol 4, and I am arranging to meet Peter Sellers on page 78 of vol 5 in London. I’m sorry I can’t put back the clock to meet Secombe in 1941, to alleviate your disappointment — hope springs anew with the information I have given you.
Another thing that bothers you is “cowardice in the face of the enemy”. Well, the point is I suffered from cowardice in the face of the enemy throughout the war — in the face of the enemy, also in the legs, the elbows, and the wrists; in fact, after two years in the front line a mortar bomb exploded by my head (or was it my head exploded by a mortar bomb), and it so frightened me, I put on a tremendous act of stammering, stuttering, and shivering. This mixed with cries of “mother” and a free flow of dysentery enabled me to be taken out of the line and down-graded to B2. But for that brilliant performance, this letter would be coming to you from a grave in Italy.
Any more questions from you and our friendship is at an end.