“Millions of men – who in many cases had been away for years – returned to their families in 1945. But was it a happy homecoming? A new book tells their stories …”
Snapshots of gaiety and celebration – the street parties, the victory speeches – are how some people today think of Britain in 1945. But the years following the end of World War II were far from a ‘golden age’ of pride and self-confidence. The country was troubled though triumphant, subject to continued rationing and political change. Wracked by social disorder, austerity and disillusion, Britain was exhausted – and it was the return of those men who had fought for their country who seemed to be a root cause of the trouble. Demobbed is the real story of what happened when millions of ex-servicemen returned home. Most had been absent for years, and the joy of arrival was often clouded with ambivalence, regrets and fears. Returning soldiers faced both practical and psychological problems, from reasserting their place in the family home to rejoining a much-altered labour force. Civilians worried that their homecoming heroes had been barbarized by their experiences and would bring crime and violence back from the battlefield. ‘Problem veterans’ preoccupied the entire country. Alan Allport draws on their personal letters and diaries, on newspapers, reports, novels and films to illuminate the darker side of the homecoming experience for ex-servicemen, their families and society at large – a gripping story that’s in danger of being lost to national memory.