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York at War 1939–45 (Paperback)

P&S History > Social History WWII World History > UK & Ireland > England > Yorkshire & Humberside World History > UK & Ireland > Towns & Cities in World War Two

By Dr Craig Armstrong
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Your Towns & Cities in World War Two
Pages: 128
Illustrations: 80 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526704726
Published: 2nd February 2022



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York has often been overlooked when it comes to Britain’s wartime experience. The city was not though to have many industries of great wartime importance and it was not a part of the initial evacuation scheme. Yet this does not accurately reflect the wartime contributions of the city, as several of its large confectionary factories were converted to wartime use, while it was also a key rail hub, forming a vital link in the national network.

Unbeknownst to the people of the city, York had been selected as the latest target in the Luftwaffe’s Baedeker Raids. In a short, sharp, blitz raid in the early hours of 29 April 1942, more than 3,000 houses were destroyed or damaged and almost 100 people killed while others were left seriously injured.

Wartime York had a particularly close connection with the RAF as the city was surrounded by airbases. People became very used to seeing the uniforms of men and women from Bomber Command and the city was to prove very popular with airmen seeking relaxation. Places such as Betty’s Bar became infamous as airmen of almost every Allied nationality came to blew off steam. The nearby presence of the airfields also meant that the people of York and the surrounding area were witnesses to tragedies when aircraft crashed on their return to the bases.

As I have said previously, this series published by Pen & Sword, Your Towns & Cities in World War Two is one of my favourite series. The authors they get to write for these towns and cities are excellent and succeed in writing so comprehensively about local history during the war with the war outside enveloping the story. What I love about these books is that we get the local story of a town and its citizens living through a world war, and how the war affects them in their town.

In particular, this book concentrates on Civilians, The Blitz and the Military service of people from York which is fascinating but I actually think the conclusion in the book sums up the whole book. We learn more about Warrant Officer Harry Coates and how his death affected his family and those around him. This in my opinion summed up the war in which York was affected in small ways during the war, but for some of the people of York, the war brought huge effects and consequences. This is a really good book and one that nicely fits into the Towns & Cities series.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

About Dr Craig Armstrong

Born and bred in Northumberland, Dr Craig Armstrong is an experienced historian,with a special interest in the history of the North East of England and Scotland. He works as a freelance author and has taught history at both Newcastle University and Northumbria University.

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The Great War touched every single town and city in Britain, barely a community escaped unscathed and the city of York was no different. Despite a long and tumultuous history, the seemingly brief period between 1914 and 1918 left as indelible a mark on York and its people as any period in the preceding millennium. Karyn Burnham explores what everyday life was like in York during the Great War and reveals how life changed as troops flocked into the city, Belgian refugees were welcomed, enemy 'aliens' were incarcerated and Zeppelins rained terror from the skies. Using contemporary publications,…

By Karyn Burnham

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