Hampshire at War: An Oral History 1939-45

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Hampshire at War: An Oral History 1939-45

Incredible as it may now seem to those who were around at the time, the war against Hitler began over 70 years ago. To a modern generation, watching grainy newsreels of the Blitz, Dunkirk,the Battle of Britain or D-Day, these events are often as strange and remote as Agincourt or The Battle of Trafalgar. Yet there are still many people alive today who remember the heroism and sacrifices of those terrible days, both as serving members of His Majesty's Forces and as brave individuals facing privation and fear on the home front. For some, the war years coincided with their childhood, leaving indelible memories of bombsites littered with shrapnel and the blue sky above a theatre of war, as the RAF and the Luftwaffe fought for supremacy over the green fields of England.

Hampshire is a county with more reason than most to remember those six years crowded with incident. It was from the South Coast that some of the flotilla of small boats ventured forth to conjure up the miracle of the Dunkirk evacuation. Hampshire was in the front line during the Battle of Britain, as Hitler's Stukas tried in vain to knock out Ventnor's radar. Portsmouth, home of the Royal Navy, withstood the punishments of the Blitz. Southampton was also forced to endure the Blitz, as punishment for its crucial part in lend-lease and the Battle of the Atlantic. And finally, with the coming of the Americans, the entire county became a vast armed camp as the Allies prepared for D Day - the springboard to victory.

Author Pat Ross, celebrated for her previous studies of Hampshire folklore and local history, has woven together a fascinating tapestry of recollection from those who saw it all happen with their own eyes. Hampshire At War records these memories in the witnesses' own words, and is illustrated with contemporary pictures, some of which have never before been published. The genesis of the book was an oral history of Hayling Island's experience of Hitler's War.Surprised by the number and quality of the stories gleaned, the author then resolved to widen her research, and the completed book encompasses the whole county - plus contributions from beyond its borders. As a testimony to the grit and courage of Hampshire people, and as a memorial to those who did not survive to tell their own stories, this book will become a classic of its genre.