70 years ago - Will the next 70 years be as traumatic?

Arfer By Arfer, 2nd Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

Personal experiences of a child brought up during WWII

70 years ago - Will the next 70 years be as traumatic?

Over 70 years ago a rather insignificant little man with a toothbrush moustache and a funny haircut started something that the world would never fully recover from.
On September 1st 1939, the armies of the Third Reich invaded Poland. At dawn on that day, Hitler launched the most terrifying attack the world had ever seen.
Although events in Germany leading up to the invasion had caused considerable concern throughout Europe, the speed of Hitler's "Blitzkrieg" took the Poles by surprise.
On September 3rd, in a belated, but futile act of solidarity with Poland, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and France declared war on Germany.
By that time Poland's Air Force and much of her railway and motorised infantry units had been reduced to scrap. Hitler's Stuka dive-bombers systematically destroyed anything that could be used against them within the first 48 hours of the invasion.
In 1939 I knew nothing of the reasons for war, or details of declarations by the Allies or Axis. All I knew was that what most people feared, and had been talking about for months, had suddenly become a reality.
"WAR", screamed the newspapers, in headlines that filled half the front page.
That night I had a nightmare. German soldiers wearing gasmasks were pouring across fields and fences, along streets and dykes, killing and maiming women and children, dogs and cats, and smashing everything in their path.
I had no more nightmares after that. The six years of war that followed were worse than any bad dream.
During those years I felt - rather selfishly, that nobody was suffering more than the British. Hitler was directing his forces to make life unbearable for us.
Now I can look back after more than 70 years and realise how fortunate we in Britain were, by comparison with others in Europe.
It is a fact of human nature, that how ever bad conditions are, and whatever hardships are endured, we can always look back and remember the little chinks of light that shone through the gloom. We call them ‘the good times’.
In a world of ever decreasing food rations, blackouts, nights without sleep and very few items of good news, we can still look back and remember the good times of the war years.
It is not uncommon to hear people who lived through the six years of World War II talking fondly of collecting horse manure from the streets. Of being woken in the middle of the night by a wailing air raid siren, or of standing in queues for almost everything from a seat in the cinema to the issue of gas masks and basic food items.
Young people today cannot possibly appreciate or understand what children of the same age were doing 70 years ago. So much has happened in the intervening
Man has walked on the moon. Computers are commonplace and there are few families that do not own a car, washing machine, refrigerator, mobile phone and television.
In 1939 very few working class people owned a car. There really was not the same need as there is today. Most people worked within five miles of their home and the bicycle was the mode of transport. If one had to travel further there were excellent bus and train services. In England some form of reliable transport served every town and village.
Horse and cart was the basic method of delivery to homes. Horse and cart delivered bread, milk, coal and hardware. Even the ubiquitous rag and bone man used a horse and cart. So it is not surprising that the streets of 70 years ago were happy hunting grounds for juvenile horse manure collectors.
Why collect horse manure?
Food was scarce and strictly rationed so “Grow your Own” was the slogan on every bill board. Horse manure was the premier fertiliser, it was free and there for the collecting by bucket and shovel in every street.
The television we take for granted today was not available during the war years. The world's first regular television service began in London in 1936, but was discontinued at the outbreak of war. In those bleak years the only electronic media was A.M. radio, or wireless as it was known, and that was not the convenient system we enjoy today.
A radio receiver in 1939 was something of a luxury. Some were mains electric powered, but most were battery operated. Not the convenient matchbox or button sized batteries we use today. The domestic radios of the war years required two batteries, one that weighed almost two kilos and was the size of a tin of biscuits, the other, a glass accumulator, weighed almost as much and was full of sulphuric acid, rather like a car battery. It even had to be taken to a garage regularly for charging.
There were smaller receivers. They were called crystal sets. No batteries or power of any sort, but a set of earphones to listen in with, and a lot of fiddling with a cats whisker on a piece of quartz.
But whether the 'wireless' in the home was mains, battery or crystal set, it occupied pride of place.
70 years ago mum pounded the clothes on a dolly board, and washed them by hand. After rinsing, she put them through large wooden rollers on a mangle that she turned by hand to remove most of the water.
Times were different, and young people today should be aware of those differences to fully appreciate how past events have influenced their future.
Will the next 70 years be as traumatic? What lies in the future? Cold Fusion? Universal Solar Power? Migration to other planets? Visitors from space?
World War III?
Who knows, but will we be prepared?


Air Raid Siren, Blitzkrieg, Cold Fusion, Crystal Sets, Dolly Board, Food Rationing, Gasmasks, Grow Your Own, Hitler, Horse And Cart, Horse Manure, Mangle, Peace In Our Time, Poland, Stuka Dive-Bombers, Third Reich, War, Wwii

Meet the author

author avatar Arfer
PAUL ENGLAND, the eldest son of a minister, was born in the south-east of England in Essex during the Great Depression.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
2nd Oct 2010 (#)

Nice job!

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author avatar Ptrikha
19th Dec 2013 (#)

And we can never say whether we would have more such wars in the future? There still are people who can create a big war like situation.

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