Friday, January 04, 2008
The Home Front
There is a discussion on a forum that I'm on at the moment about diaries and books from and about WW2 which are centred on The Home Front. This has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember and I have a huge collection of original magazines and books from the period along with modern publications on the subject too. I also have the two series that were on TV on video - The 1940s House which is the official version and The Wartime Kitchen and Garden which is my favourite of the two and which I had the foresight to video week by week thank goodness as it was never issued as a video or DVD. Heaven knows why not as there is a great deal of interest in the period as is obvious from all the re-enactment groups and railway 'wartime weekends'.
I thought it might be quite interesting to share some of my collection on here, I'm not sure where this is going so it might be long or short:) Most of the photos are a bit faint and fuzzy so clicking on them will make them clearer especially where there is writing.
This is where it all started, in 1975 we were living in Saffron Walden in Essex and on a visit to a rather nice secondhand shop(looking for a high chair I think)I came across a large cardboard box full of wartime Woman's Illustrated magazines, about 250 altogether, I parted with £5 and DH staggered out carrying the box. The magazines dated from 1939 to early 1946 and apart from a few gaps it's a complete run of the wartime issues and absolutely fascinating stuff it is too. The further into the war they go the more inventive are the recipes and the make do and mend articles. There never seems to be any doubt about the final outcome even in the darkest days.
Once I had these collector's fever bit and I acquired more and more over the years. This photo shows the inside pages of three others - Everywoman April 1943, Mother & Home August 1941 and Woman's Friend & Ladies Companion for Nov 16th 1940.
Food was an ever present challenge to the ingenuity of housewives, ration quantities varied slightly during the war but an average per person was
4oz/100g ham or bacon
1s/2d worth of meat(this is in the old money before decimal currency came in) - the cheaper cuts of meat provided more, sausages weren't rationed but the contents were a mystery to everyone which was probably just as well!
2oz/100g cooking fat
80z/225g sugar (this had to cover baking, jam making etc as well as general table use)
3 pints milk
12oz/350g sweets every 4 weeks
This, you understand,was per week! Other foods, including tinned meat and fruit, dried fruit, dried pulses, were available on a points system. Everyone had 16 points per month. The photo shows the identity cards and ration books belonging to my husband and mother-in-law, rationing didn't end until 1954 and I remember quite clearly going to Mrs Connor's corner shop with our ration books. When rationing began in 1940 everyone had to register with a butcher, a grocer and a milkman and that was the only shop/deliveryman you could use for these items.
Some of my cookery and other household books - stewed tripe with celery anyone?
I like this little set of leaflets issued by the Women's Electrical Association, they combine my interest in the Home Front with my passion for anything set out in seasons.Each of these cards gives several recipes, a make do and mend item and various other hints to do with fuel/electricity and food production .
I particularly like this rather battered looking book. It obviously had a good deal of use and inside....
...were all these handwritten bits and pieces that are a really personal contact with someone's life. Especially the note:) Do click on it and read it.
These are some of the wartime diaries, all are well worth reading. They are all written by women who come from various backgrounds and the insight into their daily lives is fascinating. Mrs Milburn is a well to do middleclass housewife with a POW son, Nella Last is from Barrow-in-Furness which was once had a great shipbuilding industry, she is the wife of a self-employed carpenter. This is the book that Victoria Wood's TV drama 'Housewife, 49' was based on. Betty is a widowed, ex- theatrical dresser living in East Anglia and a practical, down to earth, let's get on with it type. Katharine Moore is married teacher and a pacifist. These books give a wide variety of experiences of the war but the one thing they all have in common is the complete confidence that we would eventually win.
The photo at the top some of you may have seen before, it's one of me at a Millenium New Year party where we had to come dressed in period costume of some sort. My suit, fox fur and handbag are all genuine. The gas mask case is my own bit of 'make do and mend'. Johnny came as 'One of the Few' so we had to have this photo taken together:)