To be published on 24th January 2024. WW2 Classics 8
Nine years after Business as Usual, author and illustrator Ann Stafford is at war. She’s driving an ambulance in London during the Blitz, terrified but determined to do what she can to help other people when the bombs rain down. She’s living at her friend Daphne’s house, sleeping in the living room alongside other women volunteers on mattresses, being cooked for by the redoubtable Mrs Dove, and working her shifts at the ambulance station. She sees the nightly destruction of London’s buildings and streets close-up and death at first hand.
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Army Without Banners is about wartime on the Home Front.
‘Daphne’s hall looked very crowded. It had been an elegant hall, with a beautiful little Sheraton table and a Ming bowl. Daphne had always been very particular about her hall; she wouldn’t have letters and cards left on the table or allow you to stand a suitcase on the floor for more than a split second because she said the Ming bowl would be offended if you did. But now the hall was very dark and cluttered up with suitcases, shabby ones too, girt with string and straps; and heavy coats were draped over the stairs, in preparation for the sort of emergency in which the house was bombed but you weren’t and you wanted to arrive at a friend’s house with a change of clothes. A bucket of sand stood by the door and an inverted tin hat filled with apples, a leek, a pound of sausages and some knitting wool lay where the Ming bowl had been.’
Ann Stafford’s memoir about her experiences in the Blitz brings the past back to life, making her writing a fascinating report from the front lines of the Home Front in the darkest days of the war. Volunteers are her focus, the work of the women (and some men) who picked up the pieces and the bodies after the bombs stopped falling.
Her illustrations take us back to the streets and the people, daily sights caught by an observant artist and chronicler.
With an Introduction by Jessica Hammett, University of Bristol.
You may also be interested in these books about the Second World War
Margaret Kennedy, Where Stands A Winged Sentry: her diaries reworked as a memoir, of evacuarion from Surrey to Cornwall.
John Llewelyn Rhys, England Is My Village: short stories about flying in peace and wartime, that won the 1942 Hawthornden Prize
Rose Macaulay, Non-Combatants and Others: her WW1 novel, her 1930s anti-fascist journalism, adn her WW2 journalism and one stunning short story
Malcolm Saville, Jane’s Country Year: about the country convalescence of a young girl after being very ill in post-war London