London 1945

London 1945: Life in the Debris of War
Maureen Waller
pub. John Murray 2004
512pp
ISBN 0 7195 6602 9

The cover photograph used shows Londoners celebrating VE Day in May 1945, a time of celebration because five years of deprivation and massive destruction had come to an end.

It was a time of release, and maybe the photograph was taken on the day I was conceived. I was born nine months later. It’s nice to think that my existence is probably the result of a happy passion.

The book is about the transition between war and peace; quite clearly it is the peace which has been hardest to bear. Women, who’d remained behind as their husbands and brothers went off to fight in foreign lands, worked in the munitions factories, produced the food and materials and other essentials, and for the first time in British history, as well as assuming full responsibility for managing the home, gained an unheard of degree of independence.

This was to end when peace came.

It took at least twenty years to pay off the war debt (to the USA), rationing existed for a good number of years into my memory bank, and the communal spirit gradually died.

It is clear though that I benefitted from the war. The coalition government of the war years, through necessity, brought an immense degree of social control into the population’s lives. It was the war effort which enabled the 1944 Education Act and the National Health Service, inaugurated in 1948.

Subsidised health services, including free vitamins, milk and, yeuk, cod liver oil, gave me a head start in life, and my education through to university was largely free, although my parents contributed according to their means.

All parents are expected to make sacrifices for their children. This book is the story of my parents’ generation.

With age comes reflection, and this immensely detailed book is, therefore, timely and any of my readers wishing to know more about where Jakartass comes from would do well to read it.
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Originally published in GoodReads June  22nd 2008

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