Roger Atkinson was born in February 1928, so he was 11½ when World War II started and 17½ when it ended. He was neither a combatant nor bombed out, but he did live in many places in England and Scotland and had a wealth of experiences that reflect social history. He was the child of rather elderly crippled parents. Both of them, in different ways, represented an earlier, almost forgotten yet enormously significant generation numbered in millions – those who had come through the Great War and were then embarking on a second World War. They had few illusions about the privations war would bring, the sacrifices that it would require or, the most difficult of all for the present generation to comprehend, the pride that it would inspire.
Roger’s father, at the age of 30, had volunteered for the army in September 1914 and fought on the Western Front until both his legs were shattered by shell fire in August 1918. His mother, already aged 33 when she met her future husband in 1915, could not marry him until after he came out of hospital in January 1920. She was deemed fortunate to have a man had who returned from the war able to marry her and work and maintain her. The birth of their son, Roger, by Caesarean section, triggered multiple sclerosis in his mother. They brought their son up with pride.
His father’s death in August 1940 and, shortly afterwards his mother’s consignment to a Home for Incurables, was a traumatic time for Roger. ”Blackout, Austerity and Pride”, a memoir, tells of his being made a Ward of Court, his schooling (for a year as a ‘maladjusted child’) at two exceptional schools, his finances, his family, his ambivalent social status, his conscription into the army, his rebellion against the career mapped out for him by his guardian and how he embraced a different profession, as Inspector of Taxes, a field in which he remained for his whole working life. It even tells of that now quaint custom, courtship, culminating in a happy, fulfilling marriage. And it mentions that, although he had attained no university qualification to put after his name, in 1986 he was awarded the Honour of an O.B.E.
Two subsidiary themes run all through the book. Roger’s interest in places and in buses. For most of his life, he was a collector of bus tickets and, for roundly fifty years, an editor of enthusiast magazines in the fields of bus tickets and wider road transport history.
In this book, at the age of 87, Roger has used his memories, some notes and his ability to write interestingly to bring to life a fascinating period in British history: World War II and the years of austerity through to the end of 1952.