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I've been musing of late, as I've pondered the general political and economic malaise, that it's only a moment ago that this nation, and her 'dominions' were engulfed in war - and the sort of war that few, possibly none, of us posting on this forum could ever hope to understand fully. And as I pondered, I thought about how we might react, as a society, to a general call to arms, in the same way that the people of this nation did back in the 1940's.

I would never wish anything similar to ever happen again, and I assume that technology and politics will ensure that it will not. There is though, a clear feeling, as you read through archives and journals and records, that somewhere in that era we had the sense of duty, of function and structure to make it bearable. I suspect I'll be reaching for my copy of "The Anatomy of Britain" again before too long.

Can you imagine sitting at home, tuning in to listen to your Prime Minister as he provides an account of progress? With such an investment in the outcome, we would be glued to the spot. I tried to imagine myself in that position, perhaps in the shoes of my father, a babe in arms in 1940. His dad was in Africa before long. Other family members also at war.

It seems so incredibly long ago. A different reality. Utterly separated are we from those momentous times. Only 70 yrs ago. Unbelievable.

I started reading some of Churchill's speeches recently. They are quite interesting in that, technically, they pack in much information - almost like a news broadcast. The phrase "sound bite" probably did not exist then, but the resonance of the phrases is incredibly powerful. These speeches were designed to stir, galvanise and mobilise the people of our nations - what huge responsibility at such desperate times. What stakes. They are only words....

14 July 1941 - this is one of the more direct examples.

"The impressive and inspiring spectacle we have witnessed displays the vigour and efficiency of the civil defence forces. They have grown up in the stress of emergency.

They have been shaped and tempered by the fire of the enemy, and we saw them all, in their many grades and classe - the wardens, the rescue and first-aid parties, the casualty services, the decontamination squads, the fire services, the report and control centre staffs, the highways and public utility services, the messengers, the police. No one could but feel how great a people, how great a nation we have the honour to belong to. How complex, sensitive, and resilient is the society we have evolved over the centuries, and how capable of withstanding the most unexpected strain.

I must, however, admit that when the storm broke in September, I was for several weeks very anxious about the result. Sometimes the gas failed; sometimes the electricity. There were grievous complaints about the shelters and about conditions in them. Water was cut off, railways were cut or broken, large districts were destroyed, thousands were killed, and many more thousands were wounded. But there was one thing about which there was never any doubt. The courage, the unconquerable grit and stamina of our people, showed itself from the very outset. Without that all would have failed. Upon that rock, all stood unshakable. All the public services were carried on, and all the intricate arrangements, far-reaching details, involving the daily lives of so many millions, were carried out, improvised, elaborated, and perfected in the very teeth of the cruel and devastating storm.

We have to ask ourselves this question: Will the bombing attacks come back again?

We have proceeded on the assumption that they will. Many new arrangements are being contrived as a result of the hard experience through which we have passed and the many mistakes which no doubt we have made - for success is the result of making many mistakes and learning from experience. If the lull is to end, if the storm is to renew itself, we will be ready, will will not flinch, we can take it again.

We ask no favours of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction.

On the contrary, if tonight our people were asked to cast their vote whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, "No, we will mete out to them the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us."

The people with one voice would say: "You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst - and we will do our best."

Perhaps it may be our turn soon; perhaps it may be our turn now.

We live in a terrible epoch of the human story, but we believe there is a broad and sure justice running through its theme. It is time that the enemy should be made to suffer in their own homelands something of the torment they have let loose upon their neighbours and upon the world. We believe it to be in our power to keep this process going, on a steadily rising tide, month after month, year after year, until they are either extirpated by us or, better still, torn to pieces by their own people.

It is for this reason that I must ask you to be prepared for vehement counter-action by the enemy.

Our methods of dealing with them have steadily improved. They no longer relish their trips to our shores. I do not know why they do not come, but it is certainly not because they have begun to love us more. It may be because they are saving up, but even if that be so, the very fact that they have to save up should give us confidence by revealing the truth of our steady advance from an almost unarmed position to superiority. But all engaged in our defence forces must prepare themselves for further heavy assaults. Your organization, your vigilance, your devotion to duty, your zeal for the cause must be raised to the highest intensity.

We do not expect to hit without being hit back, and we intend with every week that passes to hit harder.

Prepare yourselves, then, my friends and comrades, for this renewal of your exertions.

We shall never turn from our purpose, however sombre the road, however grievous the cost, because we know that out of this time of trial and tribulation will be born a new freedom and glory for all mankind."
 

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BBC Home Service, Light Programme, Third Progamme, all in a wooden cabinet that whistled and popped when tuning the knob iirc?

How I loved playing with that stirrup pump, and how I hated that smelly old Anderson Shelter! But I cherished the wooden Tommy Gun my Dad made for me, and the wooden tool box he also made containing a few hand tools that he gave me. Totally different society now? Who knows? :rolleyes:
 

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My Mother and Father were directly involved (ATS and RA Captain in Burma). Not sure society is so completely different. My Mother has told me how in her day the older generation were mortified at the then younger generations antics. With their awful (Glenn Miller) music and their appalling moral attitudes (dating before marriage) and poor work ethic. And their poor standard of education, spoken and written English. When war was declared there was real concern that the younger generation just were not going to be up to it.

It all sounds rather familiar, yet that generation came pretty good for us 70 years ago, ddn't it?

Churchills speeches are still available and although I have not listened myself they are apparently works of genius in both content and delivery.

I do worry though that Churchill, great leader that he was would not get elected today. Let's list the things that would stop him even getting selected by a party. Alchoholic, Obese, No further education, Very low achievements in school, Bipolar, failures in Military career, Falls asleep at work, ostentatious demonstrations of wealth (those cigars). Just goes to show, what you want in a great leader is good decision making and leadership - nothing else.
 
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Let's not forget that in 1926 we had the army on the streets breaking the general strike and the prime minister saying "The general strike is a challenge to the parliament and is the road to anarchy". So we didn't necessarily have a harmonious society that all "pulled together" before the war. And of course we had a pretty severe economic malaise from 1929 right up to WWII. People of ethnic minorities were kept in their places, as were the lower classes. Were things "better" then? Did we have more of a "public spirit"? People certainly accepted being told what to by the "establishment" more than they do today.

The war is an interesting one. Our perceptions of WWII are clouded by the representation of it as a "heroic event" by popular media ever since, but I think perceptions were very different and more mixed at the time. My father and my uncles all served in WWII, both my grandfathers served in WWI, and none of them would really speak of it. I remember asking my father about his service, he joined the Navy as soon as he left school and served on MTBs in the channel. I said to him it must have been better to know that he was fighting for a good cause in WWII (beating the Nazis) compared to my grandfather in WWI (supposedly a "jingoistic" war). His reply? "I volunteered for the navy to avoid getting drafted into the army. The cause had nothing to do with it." I think people just did what they had to do, and I think today they would be pretty much the same.

What I do know is that I would find it very hard to do what my grandfathers, father and uncles had to do. One grandfather was wounded on Scimitar Hill at Gallipoli in 1915, returned to Allenby's Palestine campaign in 1917 and then got transferred to the Western Front in 1918. How he survived all that I don't know. My other grandfather, who was in the RHA on the Western Front used to suffer from terrible nightmares and had to stay in on bonfire night. My father at age 18 was tangling with E-Boats in the Channel (and if you've ever read "Battle of the Narrow Seas", that was pretty scary). I just think myself lucky the worst kind of conflict I'm likely to see is watching people arguing about the size of their pensions on an internet forum ;)

Cheers,

Nigel
 
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My Mother and Father were directly involved (ATS and RA Captain in Burma). Not sure society is so completely different. My Mother has told me how in her day the older generation were mortified at the then younger generations antics. With their awful (Glenn Miller) music and their appalling moral attitudes (dating before marriage) and poor work ethic. And their poor standard of education, spoken and written English. When war was declared there was real concern that the younger generation just were not going to be up to it.
Just read that, fascinating post. Agree, attitudes don't actually change that much.

Cheers,

Nigel
 

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Maybe the response would be the same if we were directly threatened, have to wait and see I guess?

Sure there are still some keen youngsters out there who paraded with us on Remembrance Sunday, Royal Marine cadets, A.T.C. and A.C.F., Scouts, Beavers Etc. which was encouraging to note. We will never know for sure unless....? :(:

As I've mentioned before Uncle Alec died in France in 1918 and is laid to rest in a military cemetry in Rouen, pity really as Dad and I never knew him. War is a waste of youth!
 

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I remember sitting in a pub in New Barnet back in 1982, just before
the start of the Falklands conflict. A few of us, in our early twenties
were chatting about what would happen if the conflict should turn
into a war and escalate to the point that conscription was reintroduced.

Looking back and with hindsight it was such a spurious concern and
seems silly but at the time we were quite worried. None of us wanted
to have to join up. We were all of a generation whose parents had
first hand experience of the second world war and had it drummed into
us that war is wrong and to be avoided.

My view would now be moulded by the likelihood of a conflict being a
direct threat to this island we live on. I would not volunteer to go and
sort out a political whim being fought out in some foreign field which
tends to be the case these days.

One thing learnt from the two great wars seems to be that we don't
want wars on our own doorsteps again. A good outcome, in my view.
But we still feel the need to put Johnnie Foreigner in his place from
time to time and I don't want any part in that.
 

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Reluctant Heroes conscripted, or Regular Volunteers? Different types entirely? But with their backs to the wall both performed remarkably well when the balloon went up? :):
 
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I remember sitting in a pub in New Barnet back in 1982, just before
the start of the Falklands conflict. A few of us, in our early twenties
were chatting about what would happen if the conflict should turn
into a war and escalate to the point that conscription was reintroduced.

Looking back and with hindsight it was such a spurious concern and
seems silly but at the time we were quite worried. None of us wanted
to have to join up. We were all of a generation whose parents had
first hand experience of the second world war and had it drummed into
us that war is wrong and to be avoided.
Not so silly, my parents felt exactly the same way. They told me (later) they were quite worried that conscription would be introduced at the time of the Falklands and that I might get called up, which they did not want to happen.

My view would now be moulded by the likelihood of a conflict being a
direct threat to this island we live on. I would not volunteer to go and
sort out a political whim being fought out in some foreign field which
tends to be the case these days.

One thing learnt from the two great wars seems to be that we don't
want wars on our own doorsteps again. A good outcome, in my view.
But we still feel the need to put Johnnie Foreigner in his place from
time to time and I don't want any part in that.
Well said. Our politicians learn nothing from history, and Blair should be called to account for his woeful mishandling of Iraq.

Cheers,

Nigel
 
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Reluctant Heroes conscripted, or Regular Volunteers? Different types entirely? But with their backs to the wall both performed remarkably well when the balloon went up? :):
Indeed they did, thankfully, and we owe a huge debt to them all.

But many suffered terribly - I have some letters from my uncle (RAF pilot) who was killed in WWII, and it's clear he was struggling with depression and disillusionment, questioning the whole war and why they were fighting. All he wanted was for it to be over. But sadly he never made it through.

Cheers,

Nigel
 

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I have nothing but the utmost respect for all those who laid
down their lives or carried out heroic acts at the request of
Queen (or King) and country.

I'm confident that I could not do what many of them have done.
 
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My view would now be moulded by the likelihood of a conflict being a
direct threat to this island we live on. I would not volunteer to go and
sort out a political whim being fought out in some foreign field which
tends to be the case these days.
Totally agree.

I do however feel that we won't get to a situation like we had with World War 2. If war was fought on that scale, particularly with someone of the mindset of Hitler I suspect they would have no qualms about dropping nuclear weapons.

I just read on the beach by Nevil Shute, and have to say that even 50 odd years on it still rings true.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Let's not forget that in 1926 we had the army on the streets breaking the general strike and the prime minister saying "The general strike is a challenge to the parliament and is the road to anarchy". So we didn't necessarily have a harmonious society that all "pulled together" before the war. And of course we had a pretty severe economic malaise from 1929 right up to WWII. People of ethnic minorities were kept in their places, as were the lower classes. Were things "better" then? Did we have more of a "public spirit"? People certainly accepted being told what to by the "establishment" more than they do today.

The war is an interesting one. Our perceptions of WWII are clouded by the representation of it as a "heroic event" by popular media ever since, but I think perceptions were very different and more mixed at the time. My father and my uncles all served in WWII, both my grandfathers served in WWI, and none of them would really speak of it. I remember asking my father about his service, he joined the Navy as soon as he left school and served on MTBs in the channel. I said to him it must have been better to know that he was fighting for a good cause in WWII (beating the Nazis) compared to my grandfather in WWI (supposedly a "jingoistic" war). His reply? "I volunteered for the navy to avoid getting drafted into the army. The cause had nothing to do with it." I think people just did what they had to do, and I think today they would be pretty much the same.

What I do know is that I would find it very hard to do what my grandfathers, father and uncles had to do. One grandfather was wounded on Scimitar Hill at Gallipoli in 1915, returned to Allenby's Palestine campaign in 1917 and then got transferred to the Western Front in 1918. How he survived all that I don't know. My other grandfather, who was in the RHA on the Western Front used to suffer from terrible nightmares and had to stay in on bonfire night. My father at age 18 was tangling with E-Boats in the Channel (and if you've ever read "Battle of the Narrow Seas", that was pretty scary). I just think myself lucky the worst kind of conflict I'm likely to see is watching people arguing about the size of their pensions on an internet forum ;)

Cheers,

Nigel
This really gets to where I was coming from. Thanks.

:)
 

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It certainly seems true that the past is a different country....and like others I found that my father didn't talk much about his experiences in the war until quite late in his life, and even then mostly found the amusing anecdotes to tell.

I wonder how much the national "strength of character" (for want of a better phrase) has altered? Certainly in a similar major war, the instant news available to us these days means that the general public would be better informed about what was happening, and politicians would have to cope with the adverse public reaction to loss of life in both the military and the general public. Imagine Wooten Bassett multiplied many times, every day......

And yet....when the general public have of late had to face up to similar circumstances to those outlined in Churchill's speech quoted above - dealing with the IRA bombs, or the London tube bombings, the general public have exhibited the same phlegmatic approach not to "let the b***ards win".......Maybe we haven't changed quite that much.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
It stimulates all sorts of comparisons and analysis, doesn't it? Genetically we're pretty much the same creatures we were..........though perhaps not physiologically???
 

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Very interesting and thought provoking.

I often heard my Father telling 'funny' stories about the war (he was in the Army) but
it wasn't until much later in life that he talked about how he really felt.

When he was 16 he was a member of the Communist party and actively fought against
Mosley... he even contemplated joining the International Brigade. But times were hard and
he came from a very poor background and was determined to make something of himself.
He conned his way into a business partnership (sleeping partner) owning a Snack Bar.
And then along came the War. He did everything legal to avoid conscription but couldn't
avoid it and served in the Army for 6 years.
He was lucky... he suffered a badly wounded knee early in the war and missed out on
several large battles as a result.

When he was demobbed he found his family had driven his business into the ground and it
took him several years to bring it back to profitability.

For some reason he never resented the 6 years that was taken from his 'planned' life
and seemed to benefit from the experience.

I think what we forget on here is the age of the participants.... how gung ho were you at
18 :confused:... I knew I was going to live forever.

So my Father was a communist... who didn't want to fight.... who had his own business?
He became successful and was always politically active in a number of different political
parties. Yes... he voted Tory in his middle and later years.

The point of all the above :confused:

He wasn't so different from people today.

Idealistic in his early years
Fatalistic during the war
Realistic in later life.

And as for Churchill... he did some pretty despicable things during his premiership
but he rewrote history and we rarely see the real politician now.
 

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Naturally so, with these well educated, deep thinking, highly intellectual types we have on AO. :thumbs:
Now get together chaps, and sort the current mess out before I vaporise please? :):
 
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And yet....when the general public have of late had to face up to similar circumstances to those outlined in Churchill's speech quoted above - dealing with the IRA bombs, or the London tube bombings, the general public have exhibited the same phlegmatic approach not to "let the b***ards win".......Maybe we haven't changed quite that much.
Good points. I worked in London through the IRA bombing campaign and we just carried on, although it was nowhere near as threatening as the Blitz or V bombs. My boss at the time narrowly avoided being caught in the 1983 Harrods bombing, so it did come quite close to some of us.

The point of all the above :confused:

He wasn't so different from people today.

Idealistic in his early years
Fatalistic during the war
Realistic in later life.

And as for Churchill... he did some pretty despicable things during his premiership
but he rewrote history and we rarely see the real politician now.
Fantastic post, and what an interesting story. If you've read "Homage to Catalonia" by Orwell, you'll see why your father made the right decision not to go to Spain.

Churchill was indeed the right leader for the war years but a very complex person with a very mixed record outside WWII. The loss of the 1945 election is an indication that people at the time saw both sides of him, and his second term as prime minister wasn't a great success.

Cheers,

Nigel
 
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