Adolescents
in Creating the people’s war
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This chapter considers the status of young people in civil defence. Although adolescents were praised for their enthusiasm, there was some resistance amongst civil defence organisers and colleagues to accepting their service because they were seen as irresponsible and the work was considered too dangerous. Yet this age group often represented their civil defence work as the most active contribution they could make and as important training for their future military careers. Furthermore, youth organisers believed that participation in civil defence would improve health, reduce delinquency and produce good postwar citizens. The wartime status of adolescents also impacted their memories of civil defence service. They experienced a greater degree of freedom when telling their stories after the war than older volunteers, due to dominant narratives which have emphasised excitement and adventure in the war experience of the young. Moreover, those who served in the military following their time in civil defence had the authority to question hierarchies of service. Their stories continued to be framed by the rhetoric of the ‘people’s war’, but this generation rejected the central theme of ‘equal sacrifice’ to stress the continued value of their particular contribution.

Creating the people’s war

Civil defence communities in Second World War Britain

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