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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict

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Wars bring huge change and upheaval in domestic and working lives. It was a constant struggle to maintain the comforting routines of daily life while families were separated by conflict.

Some of the reminiscences here tell what it was like to be evacuated as a child, or to learn of a lover's death by telegram; in others, women recall the way war brought new freedoms and the chance to prove themselves in traditionally male roles.

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Evacuation: When World War Two broke out, thousands of city children were evacuated to the countryside,while their parents stayed behind in the cities. Conditions were often hard and siblings were separated - but as this evacuee remembers, many children were wildly excited at their new life.
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Housing and health: Overcrowded wartime houses were often infested with bugs. In this clip a midwife recalls delivering a baby in a Birmingham terraced house that was crammed with twelve children and crawling with insects.
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New status for women: War brought new freedoms for women, including the chance to prove themselves in jobs which had been 'man's work' in peacetime. Women remember how 'music while you work' relieved the monotony of the munitions factories and how, for some, the end of the war brought a reluctant return to the kitchen sink.
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Returning: Not all wartime homecomings were happy ones. This Birmingham man was a little boy when his father came back from overseas service. He recalls how violent the event was.
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Food rationing: Rationing in World War Two brought hardship and people were forced to adapt - but for the first time they began to get information about healthy eating. The tone was paternalistic, though, as the 'radio doctor' in this clip shows.
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Clothing: Clothes rationing meant everyone had to make do during the years of World War Two. Relying on the black market and buckets of ingenuity, coats were made from blankets and underwear from parachute silk. Pockets, turn-ups and embroidery became unattainable luxuries and sewing an indispensable skill.
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Separation and loss: This woman, like many others, learned of her lover's death by telegram. She was just nineteen. Some young couples, not knowing how long they might have together, got married on impulse - sometimes in the space of a weekend's leave before the groom was posted overseas.
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'Bandwaggon' with Arthur Askey: 'Bandwaggon', starring Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch, raised the nation's spirits in the war years with comic routines in the music hall style. The jokes were corny, but audiences loved it.
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All change: After World War Two, life and relationships were disrupted, once again, as returning servicemen and women tried to settle back into civilian life. Britain was changing, with new freedoms expected, both socially and in the workplace. Young people claimed a new status in the family and in society.

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