Monday 30 December 2019

The Children’s War by Juliet Gardiner

I found this book totally fascinating, though it’s an awkward book to read in bed.  It is a heavy and wide hardback.

It is actually the official companion to the Imperial war Museum Exhibition of the same name.  There is an interesting blog post about the exhibition here

I have of course researched this era extensively but I was pleased to be reminded of some things I’d forgotten, be assured about some things that I still know and even to find out a few things I’d not known. 

This isn’t a scholarly work but I did buy the book because another academic mentioned it. It is however extremely well researched and gives a lot of factual information.  There are masses of illustrations and also photographs taken at the time. Many of the illustrations are adverts and posters.  When I used the facsimile War Papers for my research I found the advertisements very informative.  They gave much insight as to what life was like back then. The same was true for the illustrations here. 

The other academic who recommended the book did say that many of the first hand accounts were less reliable as the story-tellers had had too much time to rationalise their experience.   Yes I’ll admit that is normally the case but I actually found it less so here.  The first-hand accounts and the realia gave very similar information. 

Very interesting was a discussion about the General Election just after the war when Churchill was ousted in favour of a Labour government. The Beveridge report in 1942 had promised ‘security to all “from the cradle to the grave” from the ravages of sickness or unemployment’ (200). There was an attack on ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’ (201).

This is a book I shall dip into time and time again. An absorbing and very easy read.         

Thursday 26 December 2019

Just One More Day by Jessica Blair

This was classed in my local library as a family saga. There is quite a bit of romance and in fact brother, Spitfire pilot, and sister WAAF working in intelligence, end up working on the same air base.

Jessica Blair is actually Bill Spence, born 1923. He worked in the RAF as a bomb aimer doing thirty-six operational flights in Lancasters of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Bomber Command. After the war he was sent to Rhodesia by the RAF. No wonder, then, that the descriptions of flying Lancasters sound convincing.

Less flattering reviews on Amazon cite a lack of character development and too much technical information. I dispute the former and would say that the latter suits our purposes very well indeed. I gave a four star review on both Amazon and Good Reads.

It lost a star because of unrealistic dialogue and because I spotted a few things the proof-reader didn’t. Neither of these two points detracts from it being a useful resource in the form of an easy read for anyone interested in what the Schellberg Cycle discusses. It gives us considerable insight into what working for the RAF was like, as part of the crew of a Lancaster or Spitfire and as young WAAF officer.     

It makes us think again about these young men - on both sides of the World War II - who were asked to put their lives at risk because of a dispute between nations.  The story however does not give a German point of view thought the British bombers take pride in being very accurate with their targets and thereby presumably do not harm too many civilians.  

Friday 20 December 2019



Some of the jobs that the girls in the Schellberg cycle had:

·         Air traffic control
·         Working at the Post Office
·         Working in the pharmacy
·         Working at a Kindergarten
·         Working on farms
·         Looking after families so that the farmer’s wife could take on the farm work
·         Playing the organ and writing letters for the vicar  
·         Looking after the family business
·         Working as a housekeeper for a man with an important job  (Hani)   
Which of those jobs would you like the most? Write your letter of application. Say why you would be good at the job.


Camaraderie and duty

The girls continued to feel a strong sense of duty but also enjoyed being with the other girls.  In some roles they worked with other young women but in other roles, such as Hani’s, they were more on their own.  Pretend to be the person who wrote the letter above. Tell the other members of the group why you have a sense of duty and how much you enjoy or miss mixing with other girls.    


After the war is over

The war ends. The men come home. They take back their work. Write a small sketch in which you argue that you should be allowed to keep your job.
Then write a letter to one of your friends about what you think of this.

Hani’s experience

Some points to ponder:  
·         Hani went straight from school to being a house-keeper.
·         She had to learn to cook.  The Gődde’s maid taught her how to cook.
·         She also had to clean and do laundry. Remember they didn’t have dishwashers or washing machines then.  And she was used to having a maid to do all of that work at home.  
·         She would also work in the garden.
Hani keeps a journal. She wants to remember everything so that she can share it with her friends later.  Write an entry for her journal. She probably won’t mention the special class in case someone finds her journal.