On the Home Front World War II


When we think of times of war, we tend to think of soldiers on the battlefield, ships and submarines or battles in the air and so we should, but whilst this was going on people were at home trying to bring up children in as normal a life as possible.  Can you imagine it though?


I’ll draw here on my own parents.  My father, at the outbreak of war went along to the recruiting office to enlist.  “Sorry they told him, we’ve got you down as a reserved occupation.”  Some years before, between jobs, he drove a bus and had a PSV license.  They decided that they might need him for ‘special duties’.  So he joined the Auxiliary Fire Service instead.


He had a younger brother in the navy and a brother in law in the merchant navy both of whom were later killed, whilst my mother had two brothers to worry about, one an Eighth Army Sergeant and one a C.P.O.  in the submarine service, her other brother was a farmer and therefore reasonably safe.  They also had two children, my older sister and of course me.  


For a good part of the war she had her army brother’s wife living with us, as living in a small village near the coast and worrying daily about her husband, she didn’t want to be alone.  But mum and dad, and millions of other people just carried on as near normal lives as possible.  I remember being tucked up in my nice warm bed and read stories at night, though I only remember waking up in my own bed on one or two occasions. I have more memories of waking in our Anderson shelter, where at the air raid’s warning, I had been plucked from my bed and taken to its relative safety.  I also remember when I was a bit older, in the middle of the night, making my mum stand in the doorway of the Anderson and shoot down the enemy aircraft with my toy gun.


What must have been going through her mind?  She had just taken my sister and me from our beds, she had closed the back door, would she ever open it again, or would there be no house left?  How much sleep did she have? I don’t think she ever missed a warning.  My aunt would never come down to the shelter, another worry for mum.  Would she still be alive in the morning?


She would go shopping, I wonder if she ever thought as she budgeted her ration coupons that the shop she was in might not be there tomorrow. Many weren’t.  But life went on.


Birthdays and Christmases looking for presents.  What could they buy? Very little.  My mum and dad used to make ours.


Then dad, going out sometimes during a bombing raid fighting fires, knowing mum was at home on her own with my sister and me to look after.

I often wonder how he felt when he freed a small boy and his younger sister he found trapped behind a load of furniture in a recently bombed building.

The little boy, no tears as he put his arm round his sister just said, “Thanks mister, we knew you’d come.”  I wonder if he thought then of his own children, my sister and me?


Yes, life went on.


Roger Stapenhill


When Life Went On