This paper explores the relationship between the past and the present through narratives of service inthe Second World War, focusing in particular on the concepts of the People's War and patriotism. It is based on interviews conducted by the author predominantly at the turn of this century and focused on the period between 1940 and 1944. It reveals how the powerful wartime motifs of being 'all in it together' and 'doing your bit' supported composure by supplying a narrative framework shared and readily understood by both interview partners, and one which finds little contestation in other public arenas. 'Patriotism', however, proved a term more likely to provoke discomposure. When the connotations of the vocabulary of the past bear little relation to those of the present, the aspects of experience which they describe have to be reframed. Discomposure has been viewed as evidence of the power of public discourse in silencing memories: this paper argues that it signals the experience of disjuncture and invites further investigation if the interviewer is alert to its implications.