My interest in World War II history centers on the home front rather than on the battlefield so it was only natural that I’d be drawn to Maureen Waller’s book about life in London during that time. Although London 1945 emphasizes the final year of the war, Waller includes many facts about the harsh realities before and after the war as well.
I enjoy watching films that were made during the 1940’s. To boost morale and encourage patriotism these films often glamorized the war. Modern day critics call this “propaganda”, but I find that label too simplistic. To me, the movies are an amazing thread in the fabric of WWII history and how people coped with the war.
The first half of the book reminded me of those films in that it highlighted the determination and courage of the English people to protect their homeland. But the second half of the book points out the devastating results of the war without a bit of sugar coating. The upheaval of community life due to bombed out neighborhoods, absent fathers, working-for-the-war-effort mothers and closed schools led to a huge increase in juvenile delinquency and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Single motherhood and abortion were frowned upon, which led to 50,000 babies being put up for adoption by war’s end.
We’ve all heard of the Blitz that ravaged London from September 1940 to May 1941, but I’d never heard of the V-2 rockets that devastated the city (what was left of it) near the end of the war. Neither did I know that England was bankrupted by its participation in the war and that food rationing continued on until the 1950’s. Many other hardships are detailed by Waller, making this book a treat for history buffs.