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Voices of the Second World War (Paperback)

A Child's Perspective

Military > Biographies P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History WWII

By Sheila A Renshaw
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 158
Illustrations: 16
ISBN: 9781526700599
Published: 2nd November 2017



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Voices of the Second World War: A Child’s Perspective is a collection of first-hand accounts from people who experienced the Second World War from all over Europe: stretching from Russia to the Channel Islands, and Norway to Malta.

While some children appear to have been hardly aware of the war, for those who lived through bombing, occupation, deprivation, starvation and fear, the memories remain with them even today.

The accounts have been relayed according to their perspective at the time and the contributors were happy to share their experiences and memories, keen in the knowledge that they were being documented as personal chroniclers of one of the twentieth century's most catastrophic events.

As featured on World War II Today

WW2 Today

This is a collection of children’s recollections of their memories in the Second World War. The ages of the children varying from the youngest aged 2 years old, through to 15 years of age, and coming from a number of countries. Ranging from the UK to Europe, and of course including Jewish children. It makes interesting reading with both humorous and serious stories of how each one reacted at the time. I did wonder if the memories from the younger children were because it had been written down at the time, or if it was the many depravations they had put up with that made them remember it so vividly. Perhaps they naturally remembered, unlike me my earliest memory was being packed of to my friend’s house who only lived in the same street. I was to sleep the night, and I remember my dad coming at night to say there would be a lovely surprise at our house in the morning. I went home in the morning to find my mum sat up in bed with a new baby. No one asked me did I want a sister, at the time I was just 6 years old.

Doncaster & District Family History Society (Doncaster Ancestor)

I guessed this book might be harrowing but written from a different point of view considering the childrens' recollections, I thought it might have a matter-of-fact slant. I wasn’t disappointed.

From the content’s page, we instantly see where each child was originally based so this acts as an overview of specific locations WWII touched and highlights which location was greatly affected and which was not.

Renshaw’s motivation to write this book was based upon her own recollections and to record and remember the children affected by theirs. I’m glad she did. It’s Historians like her who educate us all.

Some of the recollections are lengthy, some brief, some from teenagers and others from children as young as 2 years old! Separated into bite-sized accounts, they give their thoughts unclouded by political views which makes this read even more interesting because the majority are recalled with innocence.

Some of the children considered the time exciting, others – usually the older ones able to understand more – terrifying but overall the innocence is clear.

This book also behaves, perhaps unintentionally, as a useful societal research tool – possibly for writers looking to read real-life situations to aid their fiction scenarios.

Readers who grew up during this era are especially likely to find some similarities with their own memories as there are some amusing and not-so-amusing accounts stirred up.

Ultimately, it’s a red well worth your time.

For the Love of Books

Some three dozen stories here for historians to remember how war affects the innocent young and to help our understanding of what our ancestors endured.

Bristol & Avon FHS

Featured in

Cumbria Family History Society

"The book is well written and neatly ‘topped and tailed’ with a thought-provoking introduction about the immediate impact of war on the lives of children."

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Society

"It is an interesting book to read and it can be picked up and put down without losing the thread of any of the narratives."

East Yorkshire Family History Society

I recommend this book to everybody. Although some of the accounts are tough to read, I think books such as this one should be read to (and by) children, with their parents supervision if they are very young, as a way to help them connect to history, and by adults, because we must remember what happened (and what is still happening in many places) and work hard to avoid it in the future.

Read the full review here

Author Translator, Olga Nunez Miret

There is no doubt that most accounts of the second world war concentrate mostly on adult activity and behaviour. Sheila's book takes a very different perspective - that of the child, and the result is, unsurprisingly, totally different. The memories of the people who contributed to this remarkable and hugely enjoyable book are fascinating and at times heart-breaking, because children are the ones who suffer the most.

Books Monthly

A book to read to get another perspective on that terrible tragedy that was the Second World War.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

A wonderful book full of informative stories by those who were evacuated during the war.

Amazon Customer, January 2019

A fascinating book with stories which if they weren't written here would no doubt soon be lost forever. Personal accounts from a perspective that hasn't been written about much. Highly recommended.

Amazon Customer, March 2018

An interesting collection of memories from WW2 experiences from over both UK and Europe. It was a pity that the short reviews near the end of the publication and written by various others couldn't have been included in a slightly more expanded publication. Nicely put together and a good read.

Amazon Customer Review, Green Woodpecker

As featured in

Civil Defence Association

Sheila A. Renshaw has compiled a fascinating book featuring more than 25 children from all over Europe and their first-hand accounts of the Second World War.

Evergreen, December 2018

There are nearly 40 authors of this book, 26 of them telling stories mainly of four to six pages, and the rest making shorter contributions, sometimes only a few lines. All were children or teenagers during WW2, ranging from two to seventeen years old at the start of hostilities, living across Europe in Britain, Germany, Russia and elsewhere. By the time they met Sheila Renshaw, they were adults, most living in southern England. Renshaw recorded their stories over several years and decided to publish them before they passed out of living memory.

Some stories are commonplace—rationing, gas masks, air raid shelters—and others are eventful and even tragic. All are told in a terse, matter-of-fact style with little dramatisation or comment. They tell us ‘what I did in the war’ but not what it felt to be a child during WW2. Or perhaps that is what they are telling us. Six years is a long time in the life of a child, and most were too young to have remembered peace. War was their normality, and they accepted it as it happened.

Historical Novels Review

A fascinating set of youthful accounts.

Evergreen, June 2018

I found the book so compelling that I read it in one sitting. It's essential for anybody researching this period - particularly those who didn't pay enough attention to the stories of their grandparents.

WDYTYA?, April 2018 - reader review: Rhonda Wilson


Hampshire Life, March 2018

★★★★★ Amazing book, so interesting to hear of war time experiences through the eyes of children, especially when one of them is my late Auntie. I thoroughly recommend this to everyone.

See the review online here.

Amazon, Mrs. Josephine Packham

Click here to listen to author interview

Note: set cursor to 2:11:13

BBC Radio Solent, 30/1/18

Read it for: An interesting collection of memories from the generation which grew up during WW2.

Your Family History, January 2018

About Sheila A Renshaw

Sheila Renshaw grew up in an RAF family and the joined the WRAF after leaving school, later receiving a commission and marrying an RAF pilot. She travelled extensively with the services and brought up a family of two daughters.

She was inspired to write this book having talked to a neighbour who lived in the U.S.S.R. during the Second World War and who had never told her story to anyone before as she didn’t feel anyone would be interested. Amazed at what she'd heard, Sheila began to wonder how many other stories were out there waiting to be told...

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