The title of this book appealed to me because I had just been researching the Second World War and life on the Home Front so that I could finish off my lesson plans for a school project. I'd been explaining all about evacuation and the Blitz and everyday life in the 1940's to the pupils and I was hoping for some interesting details and pictures that I could use to show them how the average Joe Bloggs lived in the war years, both in the Second World War but also the First World War, as this generation's sad lot was to endure two horrendous wars within their lifetime.
The book wasn't really any good for what I had planned as it follows the Foljambes, a decidedly upper-middle class family, whereas I wanted to focus on the poorer working class people who suffered even greater hardships, but I was nevertheless sucked in by the fascinating and poignant correspondence between those fighting on the Western Front and their loved ones back home. Living in Dunkirk, I was really interested to discover first-hand accounts of the fighting that went on all around us in Flanders. The huge number of Commonwealth War cemeteries with row upon row of plain white crosses and the battle-scarred remains of wartime bunkers on the local beaches mean that we really can never forget the terrible fighting that went on around here, but reading it first-hand as it happened adds a new level of horror and sadness to the things we already know. In these private letters, the emotion and heroics are real rather than Hollywoodian so that just makes them even more powerful and haunting.
Having researched my family tree and discovered ancestors who lost their lives in the fighting around Northern France and Belgium, I couldn't help but wonder if some of them had fought alongside the Foljambes. The personal letters combined with the archive photography really do give a powerfully evocative depiction of life in the war, both for those on the front lines and those back at home. It's both informative and fascinating and will once again show how much our ancestors, whatever their class, sacrificed for us during those horrific years.
RRP : £25
Publisher: J H Haynes & Co Ltd (8 April 2010)