Blackout, 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.
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.
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.