Reading at War

Paperback
O ne of the popular myths of the Second World War is that the British on the home front united heroically in common cause against the German enemy. Reading at War takes a dispassionate look at the realities of wartime life in this typical English town in order to find out what really happened. The book uses vivid contemporary accounts from Reading's newspaper - The Chronicle - to present a fascinating picture of daily existence during this exceptional period in recent history. Alongside many examples of tragedy and heroism, there is ample evidence of less admirable qualities. There are court cases, for instance, that involved individuals who tried to evade conscription or to prevent evacuees from being billeted in their homes. The book also recalls the chaos of the blackout,the flourishing black market, and the ladies' page in the newspaper with its fashion hints for suitable clothing to wear in air raid shelters. Then there is the sometimes hilarious shambles of the ARP's attempts to prepare the local population for gas attacks and the local Home Guard's staged 'battles' on the streets of the town. Finally, there are accounts of the astonishing bureaucracy which developed as Britain went onto a war footing and came close to becoming a totalitarian state. Reading at War records the day-to-day preoccupations of local people in wartime and the antics of officialdom running riot. It recalls the expectations and fears of the residents, and their hopes for the future, and it leaves a graphic impression of ordinary people struggling to remind us of how much Britain has changed over the last seventy years. Stuart Hylton became interested in Reading's history through his work for Reading Borough Council, which involved using old maps of the district. He has published several other books about the town, as well as on topics of national interest.