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World War Two
on the home front

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This section is about the lives of ordinary people on the British home front in World War Two. It is specifically not an encyclopedia of facts, although some facts are included as background. It is about personal experiences seen from personal recollections, and it covers a large number of topics in a large number of pages, as shown in the side menu.

World War Two poster of Winston Churchill

World War Two poster of Winston Churchill whose name never seemed to be far from the lips of everyone around me. Photographed in the Museum of Nottingham Life.

The section started as my personal recollections of the home front in London. I was born in 1939, three months before the start of the Second World War, and I grew up in Edgware, north London, in the midst of the blitz. So, as a young child, I knew nothing but war, and my recollections of it are very clear. Fortunately the recollections of many of my contemporaries are equally clear and the website has benefited enormously from contributions from website visitors.

Because the section on the World War Two home front covers so much, it would be impossible to provide a complete overview of it concisely on one page. So the side menu must speak for itself. However, below I do give an overview with links of the topics which are likely to be of particular interest to visitors.

A frequently heard war-time cry

Pray to God, we shall win in the end, when the lights go on again all over the world, and when our lads come marching home.

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The home front - a way of life

War was a way of life in my childhood. Rationing and shortages were a way of life. Bombs were a way of life; blackout was a way of life; air-raid shelters were a way of life; as were sirens wailing; searchlights piercing and flitting over the night sky; row upon row of 'For sale' notices against houses; and buildings that were there when I went to sleep no longer being there the next day after the night's air raids. This was simply how people lived and I never questioned it. As a child, I knew nothing else.

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Suffering and hardship

Some people on the home front suffered dreadfully - my paternal grandparents were bombed out, my uncle was killed on active service and my aunt was disabled for life - and there were many more like them.

Also the emotional cost in stress for the women at home was enormous, not having their menfolk to talk to, to ease the tension. Even those men who were not called up into the forces were often up all night on ARP duty, but I was too young to remember that.

Personally, I never did suffer. I suppose with the values of today, things can't have been anywhere near ideal, but I didn't notice that. I was too young to understand the seriousness and reality of what was happening around me, and I never remember feeling hungry in spite of the rationing and shortages. I just assumed that how I was living was how everyone was living and presumably had always lived. Yet, although I didn't understand with my emotions, I certainly did observe and remember. Hence all the pages in the side menu.

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The end of the war - a brief time of respite

Street Peace Party for Brook Avenue, Edgware, Middlesex at 
	the end of the Second World War in 1945

Street Peace Party for Brook Avenue, Edgware, Middlesex at the end of the Second World War in 1945. Names, where I remember, are as they sounded to me at the time. Left to right:

 Back row Leatrice Less, -, -, -, - , -, Sylvia Less, -, -, -, -
Middle row: James Mather, Marion Lewis, -, -
Front row: Stephen Newing, -, Pat Clarke (me), -, Bernice Coleman, Corrine Less, -, -, -, Annette Samuels, Betty Samuels, -

In the background is the shed for housing the trains of Edgware Tube station which was a terminus.

There was a brief period of relaxation and celebration once the war ended. This was in 1945 and I was five years old. There were numerous street parties.

Brook Avenue where I lived in Edgware had its own street party. It was held in the garden of the flats at the start of the road.

Women at Street Peace Party for Brook Avenue, Edgware, Middlesex at 
	the end of the Second World War in 1945

The women who organised the Street Peace Party for Brook Avenue, Edgware, Middlesex at the end of the Second World War in 1945. I remember very few of their names. Back row 2nd from right: Mrs Newing and on her right Mrs English (who was Scottish). Far left: Mrs Potter. Front row: Mr and Mrs Less.

Note the absence of young men. The only man in the photo would have been too old or ill to be drafted into the forces, but would have done his fair share of fire watching.

I can remember very little of it, except that we children had to dress up and there was precious little available to dress up with. As the photo shows, most of us just wore home-made hats. I am third from the left in the front row of the picture and my mother made my hat by covering a custard tin. The brim was made of cardboard.

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After the war - its continuing impact

The rationing and shortages continued for some years after the war. and the men who had been fighting overseas were slow to be repatriated back to Britain. So life on what had been the home front was still hard.

Consequently, in these pages I have found it impossible to separate my recollections of the war years from the years immediately afterwards. One reason must of course be that I was so young at the time, but another was certainly that although the general feeling among the adults seemed to be of hope that the future would bring better things, life was still difficult. So all my experiences during the 1940s and into the 1950s seemed to be dominated by the war or its effects.

In fact the Second World War had made such an impact worldwide that things never did return to the norms of the 1930s.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo showing what life was like, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.