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 Post subject: War-related issues
PostPosted: 04 May 2017, 21:04 
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I'm starting a new thread - as suggested by JayB :D - to avoid taking over the book-related discussions :D.

A few starters for ten :D:
1. I really wish we'd seen Madge and Joey getting involved in war work. I'd've thought Madge'd've been well in there with the Jambusters!
2. I know it's for plot-related reasons, but I can't believe that Sylvia Leigh and Shiena MacDonald, who were both primary carers for children, would have been sent into the Armed Forces. Shiena might well have been exempt as the twins were under 14, and Miss Leigh would surely have been given the option of office or factory work.
3. Bride talks about how Miss Leigh can't "get off" doing war work now that Lavender is 14. OK, a lot of people were probably unenthusiastic about having their lives disrupted, but most people felt that they ought to do their bit, and it seems to go against the grain of the CS ethos to have people making remarks like that.
4. Do people think that the books are valuable as a source of social history about the war? Prince Philip retiring - at nearly 96, bless him! - is a reminder that we're now a long way removed from the Second World War. There's a lot of interesting stuff in Goes To It, in particular, about rationing and the Dig For Victory campaign.

I'll shut up now :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 04 May 2017, 22:01 
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I always imagine Madge getting heavily involved in war work. A bit like all the ladies in Angela Thirkell who had endless working parties sewing and knitting for the troops and evacuees. She seems the sort of person who would want to take part in community events and help with fundraisers for "comforts" for the troops.

Incidentally, one family in Angela Thirkell had evacuees but it was too much for the mother who had heart trouble, so they said they could only have officers billeted on them instead.

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 04 May 2017, 23:11 
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Thank you for the thread, Alison :)

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Do people think that the books are valuable as a source of social history about the war?

Yes. The social history of WW2 has been one of my interests more or less since I was a child, and books like this helped it along. I like the incidental details, like the journeys in HT and Gay. Gay and Jacynth's journey especially really does read like real life.

I agree about the improbability of Shiena and Miss Leigh being sent into the services. They could have been sent into factory work or some other job where they could still have had their dependents with them. What if there had been no money for boarding school?

Another thing that seems unlikely is that none of the CS mistresses went to do war work. You'd think Hilary Burn, for example, a young, fit and active woman, would have very much wanted to do something, given that she knew firsthand of the evil of Nazism.

EBD doesn't make a big thing of it, but I think she was sending a message that even schoolgirls could contribute to the war effort, by digging for victory, and generally getting on with things.

Some one on the HT thread asked in what circumstances someone could refuse evacuees. When I was doing some local newspaper research once, I came across a story about the authorities appealing for more people in a rural area to take in evacuees. The answer was that it was a fruit growing area and as it was early summer the fruit picking was about to begin. Nearly all the women worked in fruit picking, and would be out in the fields from first light. They couldn't take evacuees on top of that. (Then Dunkirk happened, and as this was near an area the coast, the question became moot.)

My mother was evacuated at the time of Dunkirk from a coastal town to a village in the Midlands. They'd previously had evacuees from Birmingham, who fitted all the stereotypes about inner city evacuee children, and were very dubious about taking in any more. These host families weren't middle class looking down on the working classes. It was a mining village and they were all miners' families living in cottages with no indoor toilets. They were apparently very favourably impressed with the children from the coastal town (who were also mostly from quite poor backgrounds), they were said to be marvellous specimens of English childhood, or words to that effect!

I know not all evacuees had good experiences, but Mum became very fond of her host family, and still remembers them and speaks of them and her time as an evacuee with great affection.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 05 May 2017, 01:10 
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We don't see as much of Madge during this time, and at various points she's mentioned as being heavily involved in the local WI. So I can see her being quite active on the organizational end of the local war effort - she's also good with people and has management experience.

The one person I would think would have leapt at war work would be Grizel. She hates her job, and teaching junior music lessons to well to do girls is not exactly an essential function. And it's something her parents couldn't object to the way they could to her training as a PT mistress or studying maths. I'm sure Mrs Cochrane couldn't handle the social stigma of banning her stepdaughter from doing war work.

I think the books are an excellent source of social history, given that they were actually written during the war, not looking back on it from a later time. So you get the attitudes directly as they occurred, and without the assurance that things would work out okay.

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 05 May 2017, 02:27 
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I also think Madge was doing war work although it is not specifically mentioned. In Highland Twins though doesn't Joey have to write the school Christmas play for the first time because Madge was too busy?

I have absolutely no idea who was eligible to join up or who was exempted apart from the obvious like school teachers and farm workers.

I think EBD put a lot into her war books to encourage her readers to be brave and have hope and also not ro dislike the citizens of other countries but only to hate evil. She also wanted to show the readers that the Chalet school was suffering alongside them.

There is also practical help given such as how to grow veg to help the readers.

I do think parts of the war books are so nostalgic and sad and real.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 05 May 2017, 13:51 
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I wonder if Grizel would have enjoyed war work? I think aspects of it would have been excellent for her (and she would have been excellent at it), but probably she would have chafed at the discipline involved.

I always just assume the adult characters are doing war work we don't hear about, and I can see why people would have resented being conscripted when they had other plans for their life. I just read a Thirkell book, The Headmistress, which pokes fun at the war work done by the middle class women. There is also mention of the various girls wanting to join the Wrens or the WAAF (I think?) and their parents wanting them to go to university instead.

Hilary is good with people and especially young girls - maybe she felt she could best help the war effort was by working with the young.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 05 May 2017, 14:53 
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Audrey25 wrote:

I have absolutely no idea who was eligible to join up or who was exempted apart from the obvious like school teachers and farm workers.

Although farm workers were, I think, technically exempted many did of course sign up, hence the wonderful Land Army. I have learned a lot about it since moving next door to an almost 100 year old member of it. She wanted to join the WAAF but says she "wasn't posh enough" so a friend suggested the Land Army. The selection board felt she was a bit too small and skinny but then one pointed out she had strong leg muscles so they took her.

She worked in greenhouses, growing tomatoes and cucumbers, and as a girl from the East End, was amazed to find the latter grew hanging down.

And those strong leg muscles are still serving her well - only this morning when the District Nurse asked to look at her heels, she flung one leg up with the grace and strength of a Can-Can dancer and kept it effortlessly in the air, leaving the DN gasping in amazement :D

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 05 May 2017, 16:44 
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The family did not stipulate officers only. The father said that he'd rather have the whole Barsetshire regiment camped in his garden and fields than have any more evacuees with teachers who did not actually look after the children in their care.

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 06 May 2017, 00:52 
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"Miss Annersley stood on the great lawn...Miss Wilson was at the back. Fire-watchers had not yet been established for this was the early months of the "Blitzkrieg"
"Goes To It" p197 (hb) p139 (Armada)

I think it's interesting that EBD expects people to know what a fire-watcher was but also explains away the difference between when the story took place and when fire-watching became established

Firewatchers for buildings were often the very people who worked in the buildings. As a employee, you could be required to fire-watch as your contribution to the war-effort (and fined if you did not do it!). I suspect that a lot of the CS staff would have not only been in reserved occupations as teachers but also been specifically designated as various wardens for the school.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 09 May 2017, 08:00 
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I may be wrong but I can't help thinking Miss Leigh and Shiena going into the forces was just EBD's snobbery showing. She couldn't possibly have had anyone even vaguely related to the CS going into a factory! :D

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 09 May 2017, 08:21 
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I think some CS girls do go into factory work - doesn't Elizabeth Arnett go to work in one that makes aircraft parts?

I do find it odd - and a real pity - that Grizel didn't get to go into one of the women's forces. The WAAF or WRNS would have been right up her street, and I think she'd have really thrived in that sort of atmosphere.

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 09 May 2017, 09:32 
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Didn't know anything about it until her funeral but my Gran was a firewatcher during WWII.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 09 May 2017, 15:22 
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So was my Gran, Liz K, they lived across the Dee from the Wirral and that's the area they were watching, I don't know how they communicated what they saw - so much of that day-to-day wartime information has been lost because no-one thought it was worth talking much about, afterwards.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 09 May 2017, 17:15 
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My father was an ARP warden - we had a stash of gas masks in a cupboard for years afterwards, as well as his uniform overcoat. I don't think much happened in the small country village where we lived


Last edited by ivohenry on 10 May 2017, 17:43, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 09 May 2017, 18:09 
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My mother too was a fire warden and yes we had a couple of gas masks in our attic. She worked for Imperial Tobacco in the north of Bristol during the war in a reserved occupation but for her war work she was on duty as a fire warden at the factory/office complex for, I think, two nights a week. She had buckets of sand and a stirrup pump to put out any incendiary bombs!

She recounted being absolutely terrified when the centre of Bristol was heavily bombed and being totally disorientated when she tried to make her away across the city the next day when so many familiar landmarks had been lost. She also spoke of her horror at the number of rats which appeared from around the old docks/warehousing district.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 10 May 2017, 02:26 
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My grandfather was an air raid warden and had the terrible job of digging people out of their homes after the air raids.

My mom has vivid memories of sitting outside and watching the Germany bombers over head and to this day she cringes at the sound of an air raid siren during a movie.

I think it would have been interesting if Joey or Madge had evacuated children from London etc.

Or if Grizel had joined one of the woman's services. I think she would have thrived.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 10 May 2017, 13:00 
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Liz K wrote:
Didn't know anything about it until her funeral but my Gran was a firewatcher during WWII.


My grandmother was a street ARP. Mother used to tell us, when we were small, about teaching by day and firewatching "down the docks" by night.

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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 10 May 2017, 13:20 
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My grandfather was a farmer so in a reserved occupation but was a member of the Home Guard. They lived near Avonmouth and once had an incendiary bomb fall in the milk cooler - best place for it as full of water.

My father lived in Portsmouth throughout the Blitz and was taught by some doddery old guy who'd been pulled out of retirement when all the younger teachers went off to the Army, so teaching may only have been an RO for women. His brother was evacuated but Dad stayed home to look after his widowed mother, who became so dependent on him that he and my mother had to wait until she died before they could marry :x

I really like the war period of the Chalet books but the Karl Linders episode is incredibly far-fetched.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 10 May 2017, 13:38 
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Teaching was a reserved occupation for both genders

People in reserved occupations could volunteer to serve elsewhere but this required the agreement of their employer which usually relied on the employer being able to find a replacement. So you have old teachers coming out of retirement to allow the younger ones (usually men) to take up other work.


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 Post subject: Re: War-related issues
PostPosted: 10 May 2017, 18:48 
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And married women being allowed to return to teaching!

Also the war seems to sound the death knell to the need for chaperones for young ladies? The twins and Sheena travel alone once they reach the mainland! Gay and Jacynth journey alone and after the war there is a flood of adventures depending on travelling alone: Carola, Katherine, Peggy.

My mother, 19 in 1939 always said the War brought her freedom from having her sister tag along. Plus daytime dancing!


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