A fascinating history of Naafi from the First World War to today

Canteen Army tells the extraordinary story of Naafi – The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes – a quietly fantastic retail operation that has seen action in almost every theatre of war over the last century.

Beginning with the origins of regimental canteens, through the First World War, World War Two, Suez, Korea, Cyprus, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan, Canteen Army charts the impact that Naafi has had on every aspect of military lives and British culture. It describes how Naafi was never willing to be just a spectator, and maintained the highest standards under shellfire, rocket attacks, air-raids and in the galleys of Navy ships on the high seas.

A Naafi canteen operating in Berlin a few months after the end of World War Two.

Using diaries, exclusive interviews, news archives, letters, and company records, Canteen Army takes a lively journey to tell the story of how Naafi has worked alongside the remarkable men and women ensuring Britain’s survival in the Second World War, and its continued security since then. There are vivid descriptions of what life was like working this vast retail operation, which operated thousands of canteens, pubs, cafes, shops and hotels from the deserts of North Africa to the freezing wastelands of Iceland.

Naafi was also responsible for ENSA, the much-ribbed entertainment branch, which chalked up countless wartime shows around the world, featuring stars like Gracie Fields, Arthur Askey and George Formby.

Those who have served with the British forces know what a remarkable job Naafi do in both war and peacetime. The men and women of the institute, while sharing the dangers of their comrades in uniform, provide the small luxuries that make life in a war zone more bearable. From the Dunkirk to the battle of the Falklands, Nathan Morley’s Canteen Army brings to life the far-reaching history of this much-loved institution.“Where our armed forces go Naafi is never far behind. They provide a wonderful service. They build morale. They are there when it matters.” – Michael Heseltine