What was it like for children growing up in rural Suffolk during World War 2?
Elsie and her family live in a small double-storey cottage in Bungay, Suffolk. Every night she lies awake listening anxiously for the sound of the German bomber planes. Often they come and the air raid siren sounds signalling that the family must leave their beds and venture out to the air raid shelter in the garden.
Despite the war raging across the English channel, daily life continues with its highlights, such as Christmas and the traditional Boxing Day fox hunt, and its wary moments when Elsie learns the stories of Jack Frost and the ghostly and terrifying Black Shuck that haunts the coastline and countryside of East Anglia.
Includes some authentic World War 2 recipes
Elsie tells of what it was like to live not only through the war itself, but also about food rationing and how her mother made the pennies stretch to feed her family. There are highlights in Elsie’s life of Christmas Day, and the rich fruit pudding complete with a lucky sixpence that she and her siblings looked forward to, and also at other times of the odd rabbit that her farmer father managed to catch and the rabbit stew it became after her mother had skinned and gutted it. There is also the alarming sound of the air raid siren, and how she had to flee to the garden shelter with her family, sometimes in the middle of the night.
As Elsie is a child, the book is written in quite a young style that is suitable for older children as well as adults. She thinks nothing of walking two miles with her siblings to play at a favourite spot, something I think today’s children would not even consider (indeed if they are allowed outside in the first place). She took as normal today’s privations such as icy bedrooms and having to share a bed with her 2 sisters, but she was glad of them for warmth.
With a diet augmented by rabbits and whatever else her father managed to catch, Elsie possibly fared rather better than children in London who were not evacuated. I’m sure she grew up healthier than today’s children, brought up on a diet of fast food and lack of exercise. Hopefully she would have been too young at the time to let the war’s horrors blight her later life.