Monday, 9 June 2014

World War 2 Anniversary: My Friend My Father by Jane Duncan

published 1966




The next time that I came home to Reachfar, Hitler… was ravening across the face of Europe like a wolf, for it was August of 1939 and when I arrived carrying one small suitcase… they knew that my time with them was short for I was already a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

‘What about your baggage?’ my aunt asked in the silence after the first greeting… ‘What about your clothes?’

I pointed to the small suitcase. ‘In here, mostly… I sold all the rest. What the hell good would clothes be to me?’

[Later, when she is leaving] ‘This is a terrible business,’ my father said. ‘It was bad enough when Jock [her brother] went and his few clothes coming home in a brown paper parcel from Portsmouth. I didna like that, that parcel coming home.’

‘Dad! There will be a parcel from me too with my clothes in it very soon now. You mustn’t worry like this.’…






observations: As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, a
 look at one of the young people whose lives were changed so much by the war.

On the whole, you don’t either wonder or know what actually happened when young people enlisted for the forces. Janet sends her books back to the family home, but otherwise has no accommodation any more, and apparently doesn’t need any off-duty clothes at all. And we’re with Janet’s father entirely: the idea of the parcel of clothes coming back to the family is upsetting and disturbing. But it’s hard to believe nowadays that new recruits would need no other clothes.

Later on – Janet is home on leave in 1942 – her father asks her if she has met any potential husbands. She replies:
‘you can’t tell how bloody they might look when they are out of uniform. It’s different with women. A woman who looks reasonable in uniform is bound to look all right in anything, God knows, but uniform makes most men look better than they really are.’
The book – part of the autobiographical series of now-forgotten 1960s bestsellers I have been pursuing over the past year, click on the Jane Duncan label below to see more – doesn’t really advance the story much, it’s something of a placeholder, going over old ground. But I did enjoy it for the details of real life in the first half of the 20th century.

Both pictures are from the Imperial War Museum’s wonderful collection, which they make available for non-commercial use. The top one shows a WAAF sergeant meeting the then Queen Elizabeth, ‘during a visit to an early training establishment at Innsworth, Gloucester. The WAAFs, with the exception of Assistant Section Officer G H Caffin standing behind the Queen, are wearing 'emergency' uniforms consisting of overalls and berets, which were issued pending the arrival of the WAAF service dress.’

The other WAAF – who looks as though she is sewing a patchwork quilt – is making a pictorial map of an aerodrome.




10 comments:

  1. A timely post Moira, but again not a book for me. Interesting photos.

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    1. Thanks Col. It is an unimaginable time for those of us who didn't have to go through it.

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  2. Moira - It does sound like an interesting look at life at that time and in that place. Such a different way of going about nearly everything to what we do now, isn't it? Sobering to think of how many didn't come home...

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    1. Indeed Margot, so many lives changed forever, some in the worst possible way.

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  3. This one sounds very interesting. The time, the place, family relationships. Maybe I could dip my toe in the water with this one.

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    1. I loved some of the small details of lives at the time. I don't know why I am fixated on these books - I criticize them a lot, but keep reading...

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  4. Moira: I think it is women who think men look better in uniforms because it is formal clothing like tuxedos. Most of the time most men do not pay alot of attention to clothing.

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    1. Good point Bill - I suppose it's situations in which someone else makes the rules, and men like that? Whereas women are the opposite.

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  5. What a horror! To think of those fighting in that war. I know people who lost all their religious beliefs in the midst of that war as all around them was horrific.

    That war cost at least 60 million lives, civilian and military, in Europe and Asia.

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    1. Like all conflicts, it's very sad to contemplate, and those of us who escape such times can only be grateful.

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