Stories of childhood in WW2 and the lessons we can learn


“WWII London Blitz East London licensed under CCA2  source

I had an inspiring conversation recently with a group of people who were children during the WW2. They told me about doodlebugs (missile like flying bombs) and the sound they used to make so that you knew they were coming. They mentioned hiding under tables for protection and other sheltered areas they had in and around their homes. They talked about the bartering that went on as a way of life with icing sugar being swapped for some pork as an example. They talked about relatives who came back from the war who refused to talk about their experiences. One person welled up as they talked about how his father was in a reserved occupation which meant that he didn’t have to go and fight. He went on to reflect that he was possibly only alive because of his father’s occupation.

The thing that surprised me the most was the way they talked with smiles on their faces. Many of the stories were funny and they were choosing to remember the happier side of life, but the smiles continued even when I was told about a spitfire that crashed next to a school full of children. When I asked them if they were often afraid during the war they said no and they felt this was because of the camaraderie that they all felt at the time.

This was a generation that should have been messed up. Why were they not depressed?They experienced air raids and the loss of loved ones who had gone away to fight and yet their lives were not ruined by their experiences. In contrast today, we have a generation of young people who have so much and yet many of them are miserable.

  • Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm.
  • 0.9% or nearly 80,000 children and young people are seriously depressed (source).

There are lots of factors that are causing this, but here are three suggestions.

Children and young people today are isolated

In the 1940’s families huddled in a room to listen to the radio and often to stay warm. Young people today have their own TV’s and communication devices and they can exist in their own little worlds. Without a strong family bond or supportive relationships, they will be less resilient when things get tough.

Children and young people today have so much

When you believe that you can have whatever you want then a big, painful disappointment is not far away because it isn’t realistic to have everything. One boy is envied because he has the new XBOX One but secretly he is upset because he doesn’t have a Playstation 4. The nature of advertising is to leave us dissatisfied. Children and young people have so much, but they often are more focused on what they don’t have and this leaves them feeling sad and rejected.

Children and young people have an unrealistic expectation of what life is

As well as the advertising that leaves us dissatisfied, social media presents an unreal picture of what life is. Everyone posts about their amazing holidays but no one posts about washing dishes or paying bills (if they do, the rest of us ignore it). We view someone’s social media profile and we feel like we are missing out because we don’t take into account that they are presenting an image of themselves rather than the real them. FOMO or the Fear Of Missing Out is a recognized condition and you can read something I have written about it here.

Some thoughts about the way forward

Parents need to spend more time with their children. The key I think is to build strong relationships before they become teenagers. Spend time doing fun things, learn to enjoy life together and make sure that your only communication is not about you criticising or telling them off.

Something to reflect on: How can we change the way we live generally to help build community and to minimize isolation?

We need to learn to be content. Children and young people are often enthusiastic about raising money for the poor and needy. To get them to do this is ideal because it helps them to realize what they have. Often parents try to shield their children from the real world and I think this is a mistake. Children need to see how fortunate they are and to learn the true value of things. Several years ago my son had a Gameboy when he wanted a ds. We went to Bulgaria to work in a poor community and the children there were in awe of his Gameboy. The technology he had wasn’t cutting edge, but he began to see what it was worth.

Let God give you peace and contentment. In the UK in WW2, Biblical values were promoted and taught. Loving one another, looking out for one another, not focusing on worry, contentment etc are all part of God’s plan for how we should live. I believe that relying on God is the key to finding fulfilment in life and I pray that we would be open to him.

About honestaboutmyfaith

Hi, my name is Graeme and I’m married to a very patient wife. We have 4 children, 2 rabbits, a terrapin (and not a lot of peace and quiet!). I’m a Regional Minister for the Eastern Baptist Association in the UK (the views expressed in this blog are my own) and I am especially interested in making Church accessible to people who have no church background and also in how we disciple people in order to equip them to live out their faith in the 21st Century.
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