For Myles Hildyard, a British aristocrat, the Second World War was an adventure like no other. He joined a local military unit in the late 1930s and saw action throughout the entire war, stationed in the Middle East, North Africa, Crete and western Europe in the cavalry and tank brigades, and as an information officer. His experiences are documented in It Is Bliss Here: Letters Home 1939–1945 (Bloomsbury), a startlingly honest, funny and compelling collection of letters to his family. Some of Hildyard’s escapades are so extraordinary that they wouldn’t seem credible in fiction. For example, he and a friend were left behind in German-occupied Crete, wandered nonchalantly away from the prison and hid in the mountains and villages until they could find a boat and escape through the Greek Islands. Hildyard often reports on the archaeological sites he visits and on the books he’s reading: “I read a great deal of Virginia Woolf during the battle [of El Alghelia] . . .” The most charming quirk in this collection is the author’s obsessive reports about every opportunity to have a “bathe” (presumably a swim) and how much a good dip raises his spirits no matter what the circumstances. In some ways, Hildyard had a blast during the war, travelling, sightseeing and forming crushes on handsome soldiers. But although those years must have been some of the most dynamic of his life, it’s sobering to note how many good friends he lost along the way.