Saturday 17 December 2016

Guest Post: Freda Lightfoot on what life was like for women during the war

TITLE: Always in My Heart
AUTHOR: Freda Lightfoot

PUBLICATION DATE: December 15, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans.

Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least was safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil.

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has now fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation.

The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

What was life like during the war for women? Give a brief background on the domestic situation in the UK post-war.

Most women endured six years of war work and became much tougher as a result of doing men’s jobs. Sometimes their children were sent away as evacuees, so they would have no family life. They would worry over their loved ones, often receiving only censored letters, and could spend endless sleepless nights in shelters fearing they might be killed. They could even lose their homes if it was bombed.

By the end of the war they were exhausted, but the men did not always appreciate the traumas they’d had to endure. When their husbands returned they did not expect their wives to have gained a sense of freedom and independence. They still dreamed of the young and beautiful girl they’d married. Now she’d aged and that didn’t always appeal. Many women found themselves dismissed from their jobs when the fighting men returned, even though they might be war widows, or a deserted wife. Men too would often struggle to find work, or resent having to return to a boring desk job, finding it difficult to settle back into Civvy Street. The government insisted women return to wifely duties, keep house and produce and care for children, which to some felt like going back to prison. They were even urged not to wear suits or trousers, but to be bright and pretty females again.

The effect of war upon a marriage or relationship was not always good. Some couples were happy to be back together again and their love blossomed. Others were less fortunate, particularly if they’d suffered traumatic situations, or long periods of separation. Once back together they might feel like strangers, particularly true of hasty war marriages. Some wives had to deal with a shell-shocked or disfigured husband who suffered from nightmares, sleepwalking, outbursts of violence or depression. He might have turned into a bully if he was accustomed to giving orders. Children too would often react badly if they didn’t even know their father, having rarely seen him for years. The country too was in a mess, still enduring shortages and rationing, a lack of homes, jobs, and near bankruptcy. This was the brave new world that women had fought for and they needed infinite patience, tact and strength to rebuild their lives.

Always in My Heart by Freda Lightfoot is out now in paperback (£7.99, HQ Stories)

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