As the title suggests, this is the story of re-enactors who portray life in Britain during the Second World War. Unlike ‘Promenaders’, those who simply dress in the style of a period, re-enactors pay attention to detail and historical fact when taking on another persona, representing the period and the characters they depict.
The book’s author, John Leete, is a well respected re-enactor, journalist and broadcaster with a number of associated publications to his credit. Through extensive research and his own archive material he is well placed to provide an insight into the valuable work of this dedicated group of people.
In his introduction Leete confirms the Home Front’s special working relationship with the Royal British Legion offering their unique services in order to raise money for the Legion’s commitments to service men, women and their families. The author identifies the skills of the re-enactor and their ability to bring history to life, providing education in schools, actively participating in events and, in a strange way, prompting veterans to tell those stories which would otherwise have been lost in time. It is those stories that Leete has skilfully compiled in this book.
Mixing past and present, the reader is introduced to a wide range of recollections including a matter of fact view of war as a seen through the eyes of a young boy who looked after his sister whilst his mother drove an ambulance; how he watched as a German aircraft chased a Halifax across the English skies; how his teacher bundled him and his class mates into the safety of an air raid shelter as the Halifax came down in flames.
We read about the lasting impact of the Big Band sounds as they echo through the ages and into the twenty-first century. There are accounts from those who heard the Church bells ringing their message of victory, instead of warning of attack. The joy of children, who in adulthood were reunited with their American GI fathers.
The book is well written, well illustrated and is packed with stories and anecdotes from Churchill to children, providing an additional layer to war-time history. It is little wonder that this book is endorsed by Dame Vera Lynn and the Royal British Legion.