Blackout, Austerity and PrideBlackout, Austerity and Pride – Life in the 1940s is a book written primarily from actual experience.  It tells how an alert and intelligent boy, effectively orphaned at the age of 13, sets out to gain a foothold in life.  Aided by some resourceful women, he unites a thirst for knowledge with a growing passion for places and buses and a strong sense of duty.  The autobiographical elements are deftly woven into a more general background narrative of wartime and post-war life.  The work gives interesting, thoughtful insights into a wide range of topics, including, evacuation, life in the blackout and popular songs, the then universal use of bus services, the absolute overall authority of government, yet a strong presence of municipal pride.  It embraces some long-lived consequences of the Great War, in the form of cripples, spinsters and the unemployed as a background to his childhood; then in his teens, service in the army, GIs in Britain, taking in both good and adverse views of them, ammunition dump clearance, all-in wrestling, the hopes engendered for post-war reconstruction, courtship and attitudes to sex.  It brings in adult education in its heyday and universal suffrage when it was still appreciated as a hard-won right.  It turns to the thrill of holidays in France in 1947 and 1948, when the Continent had been for years unknown save as a battlefield to be bombed and slowly fought across.

Fordson tractor with members of British Women's Land Army; 1940s
Fordson tractor with members of British Women’s Land Army; 1940s

The narrative and 98 illustrations take one to many parts of Britain: to Yorkshire, Lancashire, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Doune, Aberdeen and Aberchirder; to Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Norwich, Clitheroe, Letchworth, Ardnamurchan, Chester and post-war London.  Near its close, the book introduces the impressive functioning of a government department using methods that now seem antediluvian.

Passport photo of the author, summer 1947
Passport photo of the author, summer 1947

Finally, the reason for including Pride in its title is its depiction of a time when an inherent concept of duty to a Britain which still defined itself as Christian, was the conscious sentiment of many citizens.  The book may bring back nostalgic memories of such nearly forgotten history and loyalties.  Or from a different viewpoint, it provides the reader with sound evidence of how greatly life has improved in the last sixty or so years.