Homefront Yorkshire 1939-45 (ePub)
No event in history had such a profound and long-term effect as World War Two, it's consequences still helping to shape the modern world. With our trade routes harassed by U-boats, our skies darkened by the Luftwaffe and our beaches imperilled by the threat of invasion, the period from 1939 to 1945 was a frightening one for ordinary civilians. But the people of Yorkshire responded to the challenge with incredible fortitude, camaraderie, determination and good humour, the tireless efforts of armies of civilians keeping the British lamp of freedom trimmed. This unique compendium of many never-before-published personal reminiscences from the Yorkshire home front paints an astonishing picture of life in the war torn county. It records the tender and sometimes hilarious adventures of boys and girls, the selfless grind of workers in the mines and factories, the exhausting labours in allotments and fields and the bravery and dedication of the emergency services and other dedicated professionals who just put on their tin hats and worked on. Consigned to the memory banks for nearly seven decades, these stirring remembrances reveal the wealth of ingenuity and invention and the passionate bulldog spirit that kept our hopes alive during our darkest hours, the author also touching on the less heroic aspects of the period.
Well-known writer and raconteur Len Markham has here gathered together stories of individuals from all walks of life in order to illustrate the reality of life on the Home Front during World War II. And these, as the author remarks in his Introduction, "reveal a collective dynamism that with trademark Yorkshire humour kept the home fires burning." Many are given at first-hand, and have never before been published. Each is unique. They bring to life days spent toiling in the factory or down the pit; the dangers of driving a steam locomotive at night; the selfless dedication of nurses; the ARP volunteers braving wrecked buildings and the work of the Womens' Land Army out in the fields. There is also the ingenuity of those who could make clothing out of parachutes and shopping bags from barrage balloons!Stephanie A. Jefford
The author pays tribute to some of the great names of the day, like Leeds-born family doctor Will Pickles, the former naval man who became famous as a pioneering epidemiologist, and plucky Amy Johnson, Hull's flying ace and "Queen of the Air." We also hear about a man in a category of his own, Walter "Dillinger" Denton of the Hull trawler fleet, one of the more colourful characters of Old Hessle Road, whose exploits are recounted in some detail (see pp. 69-71).
All aspects of life in wartime are explored. There's nostalgia, and humour, too, but Markham is careful not to idealise the past---the darker side is brought out and discussed, from the looters descending upon the many "open-to-the-sky" houses, to the prowlers lying in wait for the unwary during the Blackout.
There are in addition interesting sidelights upon issues relevant to the bigger picture, such as the politics of race within the visiting United States forces (see pp. 89 and 140) and the treatment of Axis POWs--Italian as well as German. We discover why several Germans found themselves on trial for their lives and, by contrast, the manner in which others demonstrated true heroism during the crisis at Holmfirth in 1944, events passed over in silence for decades because of wartime censorship, but which can now, in the fullness of time, be revealed.
Rich in incident and anecdote, this book will naturally have great appeal in Yorkshire, and it stands as a fitting testament to the indomitable spirit of those of the WWII generation, living or dead.