Monday, October 7, 2013

Home Front Preparations

I've really gotten stuck into my Home Front core rulebook.  Most of the research is done.  It's been great.  I've always wanted to know more about the British Home Front but I never had the excuse to get down and dirty with the research.  Now I have.  I'll keep researching, of course, as there's bound to be short falls in my knowledge but I know most of what I need to know.  I've read a number of non-fiction books as well as a few fiction books set in the era (mostly for flavor) and I've even bought a huge variety of different Home Front props from a wonderful store.  One day I'll use them for props.  I have a LARP in mind that I think they could be useful for.

Thus far I've used these replicas as background materials at my Home Front themed birthday party.  Such a shame I live in a rental or I totally would have blacked out the windows.  Since we can't so much as use blu tac on the walls I knew it'd be impossible unless I wanted to make correctly sized wooden frames with canvas covers and while that would be top points for accuracy it's a bit far to go.  Especially since I have glass sliding doors.

It's amazing the things you learn.  I think the main thing I've gained is an appreciation for the complexity of the time.  It wasn't all a bed of camraderie and roses.  There were black out gangs mugging people after dark, internment of German Jews in Britain and black marketeers selling medicine and governmental incompetence leading to dangerous air raid shelters falling down on people....  But there was also innovative governmental programs, an increase in recycling and a further breakdown of certain social conventions. 

Exhausted workers after long shifts climbed stairs to do their fire watching (though admittedly this duty was unpopular) and then trudged home to sleep before an air raid woke them up and sent them rushing to the shelters.  Sometimes they just rolled over and kept sleeping.

Housewives sent their children into the countryside, volunteered with various services, and had to mix waiting in long queues for an interesting vegetable with making packs for injured soldiers and dancing at night at the clubs to keep up soldiers' morale while their own husbands fought and died overseas.

There were children sent far from home, scavenging about countrysides after a lifetime in the cities, learning an entirely new way of life in homes that were sometimes kind, sometimes cruel, but who lived in homes that were sometimes straight out of the 1850s.

Then there were the soldiers returned from leave, perhaps lovesick for a woman seen all the more tenderly after conflict, rattled by their own losses and astounded by the devastation in bomb struck cities.  They tried to get the most out of the few minutes they had left with loved ones before they parted ... unsure if they would see each other again and uncertain as to who would survive as the Blitz could take civilians as easily as an enemy soldier could take a soldier's life.

It's a fascinating and terrible era made all the more compelling by its closeness to the modern era.  It really isn't that far ago.  The social mores are old-fashioned but recognisable.  The technologies are surprisingly close to our own if you ignore information technology.  The thought of being bombed in your home city is so alien and frightening to me and yet such a recent experience for a country so similar to my own.  I think that's what keeps me going back to the research.  That kind of curiosity.

Perhaps it's because I am such a horror fan, but I do love the setting and am thrilled to see Achtung Cthulhu and World War Cthulhu touch upon it although their focus is more global in scale then my enterprise.


  1. I've been doing research on the Blitz recently and I read a couple of books I really liked Zeigler's London at War and Juliet Gardiner's The Blitz. I'll also read Maureen Waller's London 1945 which wasn't as strong as the other two. I have Carol Harris' Blitz Diary, but I haven't gotten to it yet. It is a slim volume.

    1. Ooh, I'll need to track them down. At some point I'll put up a list of resources I've used, double checking all the way. At the moment I've most benefited from reading era-specific newspapers (i.e. the Daily Mirror) from those times using UKPressOnline.

  2. Shannon,

    I like this post. :) I'm a WWII fan.

    When I was young, WWII felt a bit far, but not too far away. Just out of my reach. The world still had a lot of connection with those times, though the changing face of America was pushing it back. As I grow older I realized that it was quite close to me. My father and uncles served in US, and Commonwealth forces. My mother and aunts told me of war time rationing and life on the home front.

    Great link to the props store! Have you received any of the items yet? I'd like to hear your thoughts on them.

    One of my future projects is to make a WWII display case in the war-games room. I have a list of items I want to collect. I also have a growing collection of real and replica items. I have real and copy medals, replica period maps, drafts notices, a copy of Eisenhower's D-Day speech, a piece of shrapnel that hit my uncle's jeep, my father's military records and service picture, authentic captured flag, etc etc. How do the MemPack Company's items look? Are the items just a cover sheet or is there anything inside them? IE can you read the inside pages of Wartime Cooking or the comic book? I think I'm going to be sending them some money if they are passable items.

    The dream future crown prize of the collection: I want a tank. It won't go in the basement though... Surprisingly, my wife is not against the idea -if we can make it work.

    all the best,

    David S.